Friday, July 18, 2008

Conservatives Against Reading

Charlotte Allen at Minding the Campus attacks the "one book" programs on campuses. I've never understood the conservative hostility toward reading books. I write in my "Patriotic Correctness" book (which, by the way, would be ideal for a "one book" program, hint, hint) about right-wing efforts to sue the University of North Carolina to stop reading. And for Allen to call Barbara Ehrenreich's reporting "superficial" because she spent "only" a few weeks at each job is just mind-boggling. It is true that lots of students don't bother to read non-mandatory book assignments, even if they're given the book for free. Does that surprise anyone? It's tough to get every student to read assigned books when they're paying tuition and getting graded on them. Nor does Allen present the slightest evidence that students would rather read The Great Gatsby than a contemporary book, or that they learn more from it. These "one book" strategies may be imperfect ideas with imperfect books and imperfect implementation. But surely, given all the idiocy in most orientation and student life programs, "one book" plans are a bright spot for intellectual life on campus.

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