Sunday, August 07, 2011

We Can't Teach Students to Love Reading - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Rarely has education been about teaching children, adolescents, or young adults how to read lengthy and complicated texts with sustained, deep, appreciative attention—at least, not since the invention of the printing press. When books were scarce, the situation was different: The North African boy who later became known to history as St. Augustine spent countless hours of his education poring over, analyzing word by word, and memorizing a handful of books, most of them by Virgil and Cicero; this model was followed largely because no one had many books, so each one was treated as precious. Augustine's biographer Peter Brown has commented that some of Augustine's intellectual eccentricities are the product of "a mind steeped too long in too few books"—something that can be said of almost nobody today.

Even after Gutenberg, this assumption of scarcity persisted, as George Steiner has noted in an anecdote about one of the leading scholars of the Renaissance: "The tale is told of how Erasmus, walking home on a foul night, glimpsed a tiny fragment of print in the mire. He bent down, seized upon it and lifted it to a flickering light with a cry of thankful joy. Here was a miracle."