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25 September 2012


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 Larry Kart

The writing and deeds of the founding fathers speaks clearly of their reading, but I can think of few cultures that were/are more devoted to broad, deep, and hungry reading than the first-, second- and third generation Jewish-American immigrant culture that I am a part of. The curiosity, the drive toward self-education, was intense. My son continues the tradition, and I see strong evidence of this elsewhere. For instance, a fair number of Jews live in my north-of-Chicago suburb, and it has (not coincidentally, I think) as fine a public library as I've ever encountered in a town of this size -- and I'm a library connoisseur, having visited just about every one for many miles around.


Not arguing with you in regards to our testing being a joke, just pointing out that the favorite liberal boogeyman of 'racism' isn't the plague that ills our learning. A lot of it has to do with top down, one size fits all mandates from DC, especially No Child Left Behind.


Thanks! Looks like I should really read this book!


Standardized tests make it easy on the person doing the grading, they don't have to 'teach'.

They are also great money makers for testing companies.

Charles Dekle

Actually, Faulkner would be considered more wordy. "The Bear" has one sentence that runs for 30 pages or so. I read it in American Lit many years ago.

Here is a gem from Ernest Hemingway:

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
Ernest Hemingway
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/ernest_hemingway.html#mcotTJUhZ88BQyOC.99

When I was in high school I found a paperback volume titled "By-Line Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades" which chronicled a good bit of his literary life. I reread it many times and I think that it holds up well today.


I'm almost sure, but never read Wolfe. I Faulkner and he had a high opinion of Wolfe so another project...lol


I understand and I hope I'm just "remembering the good old days" (can I say that if they were before my own time?), but if this is so, why is self-mutilation climbing? Why are so many needing therapy and drugs. I realize that many things weren't available till recently and that things are cyclical I know that there are many things wrong in every society past or present, but people seem so much more isolated. Personal relationships being replaced by and carried on through machines seems to be affecting us detrimentally.


While agree parents share much blame, I was horrified by the primary documents we read in my History of Education class. Public education changed in the 19th and 20th centuries into being a tool to assimilate and train a working class of immigrants. Riots broke out in New York protesting the dumbing down of schools (I think by the very same class of Jews Larry Kart refers to).

In a republic such as ours, the state can't overtly control it's people. Propaganda, Pavlovian training, and mass entertainment are much more useful tools. Out modern factory school system teaches kids to endure hours of tedium and discourages independent thought. If the gov't actually taught kids to think, then they'd have a harder time controlling us. TV can replace community and commercials can keep a consumer society going. While Rockefeller did some great things with the national parks and such, he, Ford, Caregie, and I forget the fourth spent more on our educational system than did American taxes during their time. While they may have thought they were being altruistic, I'm suspicious much of it was largely self serving. Anyway, I'll take off my tinfoil hat now!


"Last week the Modern Language Association released its report on the 2011-12 Job Information List, the clearinghouse for full-time academic job advertisements in English and foreign languages. The annual report compares the number of job openings, their rank, and location with previous years’ job markets.

Hidden in the data is a big surprise. Compared with other national labor markets for highly educated professionals, the academic job market for English and foreign languages is doing quite well. If you are on the market this year, you have good reasons to be optimistic."



WRC and Jonf,

I don't think many discussions of the origins of the novel take it as granted that the Tale of Genji is the first novel, and there's certainly no scholarly consensus on the matter. JonF is closer to the plurality opinion, which yields the palm to Richardson's letter novels, and similar stuff written in the mid-18th century. There was a time when I personally (800 pages into Clarissa with 750 to go) wished that they'd moved the date either up or back a bit. My own choice would be The Golden Ass, the Apuleius version. This would have little backing due to the fact that it's not novel in the sense that many people wrote Golden Ass stories, but it's a rolicking, much overlooked read.

For what it's worth, Homer wrote (er, recited) epic poems. They have little to do with novels except in the most general sense that they deal with people doing things. And Homer has closer to 40 major translations than 4.


I agree with you regarding to politically correct teaching. It is a disease. What disturbs me is that apparently if you live ini a poor area you will automatically receive a poor education because your school resources are a function of the property taxes paid in that area.

People then commit the cardinal sin of blaming the kids for having received a rotten education - that is the hypocrisy at the core of those " choice" justifications beloved by Republicans and bigots.


Your theme is a common one and deserves some comment. A great many writers are both popular in their day and in perpetuity--obscurity is probably the exception rather than the rule. You have to remember that starting at the end of the 19th century many artists deliberately shunned popular acclaim. This gives us the mistaken impression that good writers always must order their own tombstones before gaining popularity.

Off the top of my head, the list of wildly popular writer in their day includes: Virgil, Horace, Cervantes, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Dickens, Goethe, and Mark Twain. On your list, Melville's Typee was a best-seller. Poe was quite popular wherever he was read. Neither made much money not because people didn't like them, but because of a lack of a copyright law at the time. Faulkner won a Nobel Prize for Literature. So did Hemmingway for that matter.

I also have to stand up for Mark Twain. He wasn't constantly broke, as is so often said. He had some problems when young (who doesn't) but he married rich and made tons of money. For one period of his life, roughly ten years in length, he was in financial difficulties because of a series of bad investments (not his profligacy, though that didn't help). He declared bankruptcy, but then went back to work and eventually paid back all of his creditors in full, even though he didn't need to. For the rest of his life, he allowed others to manage his money and died quite comfortable.

Norbert M. salamon

a grea book, his other writngs are also interesting and of intellectuao value.

Norbert M. salamon

As an indication from Canada [North Alberta] a tacher gave ZERO to a student who did not do his assignment. The Teacher was fired, for it is administrative policy that there is NO ZERO
MARK for any reason.
Moreover, some educaation official wrote an editorial Calgary Herald], inidcating that the STUDENT learned form this that not following administrative directive can lead to job loss.
If there is any wonder why the Western Civillization loosing to the rising eat, uch dat will clearly inidcate the downfall.

Norbert M. salamon

In the oral traditon of Homer, Jewish scholars and the Talmud etc, and similar important intellectual products of various cultures survived for long before the Guttenberg Press revolutionaized cultural transmission in Europe [the press was a Chinese invention far before it was reinvneted in Europe].


My first experience with Homer was getting the Illiad in cartoon format when I was a pre-schooler. I guess my parents wanted me to have a classic education. Like many other 10 year olds, I started to learn English by trying to read Playboy. They actually did get many good writers.


Let's bear in mind one truth about the United States as highlighted by the anecdotal evidence revealed in these posts. It is extremely hard to generalize given the size and increasingly variegated nature of the country. That is apparent even in a single classroom. When I spoke from a university perspective, I had 3 or 4 schools in mind. I have no direct knowledge, for example, of students in elite private colleges these days.

So let's distinguish obvious, nation-wide trends from particulars. In the first category: greatly diminished knowledge of the world and of history; the pernicious effects of social media that go beyond time wasted; the dissolution of family life except in front of the TV(s); and, not least, the loss of any common standards as to what an educated person and and educated citizenry mean (important even when inevitably many never have met them).

A last thought, the life trajectories and personal circumstances of the young people we're talking about will vary enormously - even when demographics, etc are constant. The impact on our collective life is more readily discernibe - and it's not good.

Medicine Man

The cost of making films is indeed considerable, but even poorly received films are re-cooping their costs these days with DVD sales and international marketing. There is also a lot of fat that can be trimmed in the way films are marketed and distributed.



When I was an undergraduate arounf 1960, the professor teaching us epic poetry was asked if an American epic was possible. His response was that this would not be possible because the population of the United states no longer had enough shared values to enable the creation of something that would carry the ethos of a nation that no longer had an ethos. It is fifty years gone now since his words. How much truer it has become. IMO it is valid to ask how "variegated" we wish the "nature" of the country to be. I write of a collective soul and not anything about race or descent. A nation's literature carries the collective Jungian essence of a people. We have largely abandoned that essence in pursuit of the madness called multi-culturalism. Now the national culture is bound up in strip malls and reality shows about unreality. we will pay a price. pl

Charles I

Read his novels too, so long ago, one was Birds of Prey I recall


"If you live in a poor area you will receive a poor education."

This is not necessarily true. It depends on the students as well. Atlanta School District (majority black) recently had a giant cheating scandal where the chamber of commerce, administration and teachers were in cahoots helping their students pass.


Compare the money thrown at the Atlanta School District and the results above to a poor, rural, majority white county and the results are a bit startling.

Why did the Chicago Teacher's Union strike? Because they didn't want to lose their jobs because Shitvarious and D'sheeena refuse to learn, and that's the standard they would be judged on.



If history is any guide, there will be a violent conflict. I believe Enoch Powell correctly forecasted the end result in his rivers of blood speech.


Have you read "The underground history of education in America" by John Taylor Gatto?? the Education system is about indoctrination not education now...


Babak Makkinejad

You are right; if novel dies it will join Poetry, which is already dead.


Congratulations! You have located one of the Ur-WASPs.

The following passage is striking in its endorsement of public education:

Be it remembered, however, that liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees for the people; and if the cause, the interest and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute abler and better agents, attorneys, and trustees. And the preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks, is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country. It is even of more consequence to the rich themselves, and to their posterity. The only question is, whether it is a public emolument; and if it is, the rich ought undoubtedly to contribute, in the same proportion as to all other public burdens, -- that is, in proportion to their wealth, which is secured by public expenses.

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