A wonderful essay in this morning’s New York Times’ Schoolbook blog asks “Is Literature Necessary,” and it opens with this pop quiz:
“Now, what I want is facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root everything else out.”
Who said the above?
- a. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and educational gadfly
- b. Michelle Rhee, staunch proponent of standardized testing
- c. David Coleman, author of the Common Core standarda
- d) Thomas Gradgrind, a fictional character created by Charles Dickens in the 1854 novel “Hard Times.”
Funny, as I try to understand the times we live in, I find myself thinking of literature even more than history. I think about 1984 and Brave New World and other strange eras when the times were “out of joint.” And the other day, trying to imagine how to resist a certain kind of intellectual conformity, I remembered Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading.
Yes, we need literature. And history. And science. And civics. And lots more.
And you need to read this article.