What is reading, writing and talking good for in today's society?
What is reading, writing and talking good for in today’s modern society? Is it education, culture, prestige we seek, or simple self-edification – learning for learning’s sake? We live in a world of information, in a world of technology, and in a world of bureaucrats suppressing our individuality and creativity resulting in a “sense of powerlessness on the part of the average person.” (Miller 62 quoting Kaczynski). Yet, the American film industry, television, politicians, even the new genre of graphic novels incorporate the themes, ideas and stories from classical and canon literature. They fascinate our young people and our society in general. Miller refers to Amis’s Richard Tull and his work as being full of culture – “…work that is replete with veiled literary references…” (Miller 7) As teachers, we must instill the desire to learn and an appreciation of literature – irrespective of the genre, irrespective of the fact that is canon or not – in our students. If we do not, we commit the sin of denigrating the artist to the lowest level of society, namely the criminal and of “…assaulting the pieties…of reading and writing by showing artists to be indistinguishable from criminals.” (Miller 7)
Jon Krakauer’s character Chris McCandless, in the novel, Into the Wild “…stands as evidence that there continue to be real readers who invest the activities of reading and writing with great significance…a reader who savors the words that others have produced, who seeks guidance from the printed page, who dreams of inhabiting the landscapes that his or her most-admired authors describe in such loving detail.” (Miller 11)
In his autobiography, Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez states very simply, “It is education that has altered my live. Carried me far.” (Rodriguez 4) When he finally feels confident enough in his ability to speak English, Rodriguez raises his hand and volunteers to answer a question. He states, “That day, I moved very far from the disadvantaged child I had been only days earlier. The belief, the calming assurance that I belonged in public, had at last taken hold.” (Rodriguez 21) This is how we must get our students to feel – everyday, about education, about school, and about literature.