I saw this video, and just had to share it everywhere possible. Bill Moyers has it right, and more people need to wake up and pay attention.
Definitely related to what I said yesterday about inequality in literature, and real life.
I saw this video, and just had to share it everywhere possible. Bill Moyers has it right, and more people need to wake up and pay attention.
Definitely related to what I said yesterday about inequality in literature, and real life.
Yesterday, I read this article called “The Gatsby Curve: How Inequality Became a Household Word.” I initially clicked on the link on Twitter because it mentioned The Great Gatsby, and since I’m a nerd, I’m a sucker for when people use literature to explain things in society (see original tweet below).
The Gatsby Curve: how inequality became a household word – http://t.co/aywXdRGpPT
— Harvard Press (@Harvard_Press) December 16, 2013
Essentially Brendan Greeley points out the disparity between rich and poor, first recapping Obama’s recent speech in which he brought up the fact that currently, the richest 1% of America “has more than 288 times the wealth of the median family.” Greeley continues on to point out that income inequality shrank during the “golden age of growth,” but that since the 1980s, inequality has risen again, and in 2007, “income share of the top 1 percent had reached a level not seen since 1928, the Jazz Age of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby.”
So, hurray for the use of literature to help explain economic inequality.
Except not. I don’t want to turn this into a commentary on the current economic situation – but to ignore it given what I do plan to write about would be irresponsible. I decided to use the article as a segue into an examination of Donald Sutherland’s month-old interview with The Guardian, along with some other things.
In his words, “…it’s getting drastic in this country.” Citing several issues, including “[d]enying food stamps to ‘starving Americans,’” Sutherland states quite openly that he wants young viewers (and hopefully readers) of The Hunger Games to begin an “uprising against injustice.”
Really, he “wants young audiences to respond to the allegory. ‘Hopefully they will see this film and the next film and the next film and then maybe organise. Stand up.’”
This of course begs the question of what he wants them to “stand up” to, and being the educated and well-read man that he is, he understands that The Hunger Games “is a coded commentary on inequality.”
Well, hey now, isn’t that the trend with dystopian literature in general? There’s always some sort of inequality against which the main character and his or her compatriots struggle. Especially lately…just in the past few years, the following books have enjoyed enormous popularity with young readers:
The Hunger Games – Katniss et al. struggle against the oppression and, frankly, barbarism of the Capitol. The (mostly poor and hungry) districts send tributes to fight to the death in an arena while the rich elite watch, binge eat, and enjoy the spectacle.
Divergent – Beatrice and her cohorts are pitted against a controlling agency which deprives groups of people of normal human rights in order to try and determine the most effective way to establish a perfect society. There are underground groups of “factionless” who are outside of the “experiments” and generally viewed as a threat to the success of the controlling agency.
Matched – Cassia Reyes is “matched” at the age of 17. All of the Society’s citizens are matched based on their qualities and attributes, and all members of society have a routine that structures them – and their lives – for the best performance possible. There are “Aberrations,” lower members of the Society, with whom no one can be matched.
Those are just three of many of the recent dystopian offerings…others include Maze Runner, Legend, Delirium,…the list could go on for quite some time. Authors keep churning out “YA dystopian fiction” faster than I can read it.
Then there’s also 1984…and Brave New World, Animal Farm, Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver…again, I could go on for quite a while. We’ve had generations of Americans – and people around the world – reading these “coded” allegories about how a society that exerts unchecked control from an ivory tower – almost always – fails. Somehow, someone always succeeds in bringing at least a portion of the controlling entity to heel.
At about the middle of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie (forgive me for not remembering if the quote is in the book and probably not quoting correctly from the film), Katniss’ younger sister Prim says, “Since the last games, something is different, I can feel it…Hope.”
Being the reader (and wife of a reader) I am, I’m starting to see some interesting trends that make me think that maybe Prim is right. Maybe something is a little different. After all, the Pope has weighed in on the issue of inequality, much to the chagrin of, well, a lot of rich people.
Not only that, but more people have started to note the difference in treatment for the rich and poor thanks to some glaringly obvious examples of inequality. Take the recent news fury over the teenager suffering from “affluenza” who was sentenced only to probation after killing four while driving drunk (oh and he stole stuff first). There’s no arguing that the sentence would have been different had the boy not been a member of the “elite” Texas society. I know that if one of my students – poor and Latino – had committed the same crimes, the judge would have issued a far more harsh sentence.
Not only that, but the trailer for the new Captain America movie features Robert Redford, in his kind and avuncular way, letting a distraught Captain America know that “…to build a better world, sometimes means tearing the old one down…and that makes enemies.”
So it seems that a lot of people – both in the humanities field and otherwise – are attempting to draw attention to something. Isn’t that what literature is about? Orwell didn’t write 1984 for his health. Huxley didn’t dream up the fate of John the Savage just for dramatic effect. Hugo’s Les Misérables wasn’t just written as entertainment, it was written to call attention to injustices and inequalities. Books teach us things. Books give us ideas. Books manage to spread messages that would, in some cases, be otherwise impossible. I suppose Hugo said it best in his preface to his novel, and so I’ll leave it to him to make my final point for me:
SO long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.
So, I took the Which Jane Austen Character Are You? quiz online.
Though I tried as hard as I could to not choose quotes/ideas directly from Pride and Prejudice, I failed and ended up being Elizabeth Bennet anyway. Really, it shouldn’t surprise me – one of the reasons I love her is that we possess similar qualities. Wait, I’m proud and prejudiced?? No way! Seriously. I’m not. Maybe a little. I mean, after all, I believe people should only read good books (see my “Fifty Shades of Shame” post for more on that…). So I suppose that makes me a little proud. But she’s smart, quick-witted, stubborn, opinionated, outspoken, and she loves to read. In all of those things, I can absolutely relate to her.
At any rate, I suppose that’s how all of us book nerds are about the characters we most love – and those we hate the most (I’m looking at YOU, Caroline Bingley!). We love them or hate them the most because they exemplify parts of who we are, even if we hate to admit that they do. One of the best things about reading and teaching literature is encountering characters that help me understand myself – and others – more. Reading helps to create that empathic connection, that chance to have someone, albeit fictional, say to a reader, “Hey, I know what you’re going through, I did it too, or I’m about to, and this is how it ended up for me.” Sometimes, lessons learned by characters we read help keep us from having to experience certain things for ourselves. For example, now that I’ve [SNARK] read Fifty Shades of Grey, I know better than to get involved with billionaires who have a penchant for BDSM. But more on that book review later.
No really…we learn so many things from reading, whether it’s how to love or hate a character, to be like one, or to not make mistakes we’ve seen characters make. The ability to build empathy, to relate to others, is one of the most important things we can learn. Hopefully, people never forget that, and the world keeps on learning to understand each other just a little bit better.
Until next time…
Below is a piece that I wrote for a class in college. It was supposed to be a short story, though it ended up being something, well, “other” – more of a reach back through the years into the place I spent the majority of my time growing up. Seems so fitting to revisit it now, after I found out not too long ago that my grandmother’s home – and her lilac bush – are now gone forever, demolished in order to make way for a new housing development.
Here is the “story,” and below you will find photos of what her property now looks like.
One day my mother told me that my grandmother was getting old; she had started forgetting things, she was repeating herself, and when she was leaving church one day, she nearly ran into someone because she forgot to look behind her as she backed her car out of a parking space.
So, according to my mother, Ma would be moving to Colorado to live with us. My immediate questions were: where will she stay? How will all this work? What in the hell will Ma do in Colorado with no house of her own, no yard, nothing truly of her own available to “piddle around with,” as she always called what she did all day? And then, my thoughts turned toward the idea that I wouldn’t have everything I had grown up loving, and everything I went back to every time I visited Maryland. My grandmother’s house, the place of so many markers of my youth: the first time I tried to sneak a cigarette, when Ma of course caught me; the first place I ran away to – with only rags in my suitcase – when my mother made me mad (at that time we only lived about 100 yards down the road); all the breakfasts, all the dinners, all the things that every child should do with parents, but that I did with Ma instead.
My grandmother’s house was never as fancy as the houses my parents always liked to buy. Instead of fancy cabinets and shiny sinks, Ma had the antiquated yet useful old cabinets where the dark brown, false-grain facing had started to peel off long ago. Her stainless steel sink, still shiny because of her incessant scrubbing, had the original faucet and handles, ones that somehow always loomed large and imposing to me. Her kitchen was home to an old table set that had ugly brown, orange, and yellow flower-patterned backs and burnt orange seats that your legs stuck to in the summer; the set could have been, and probably was, as old as my mother. The floor was the color of a goldenrod crayon, and the tiles had those weird pock marks in them. Some of the edges of the tile had long ago started to chip apart, and I spent hours as a child picking at the pieces that had chipped corners.
The back room always inspired my curiosity, which stemmed from the fact that my grandmother hung some of her clothes in a makeshift closet she’d made in there, and I could never figure out why she just didn’t use the closet in her room. I liked helping her use the washing machine she had in that room, because she had one of those “old-time” wringer washing machines which she always took special note to caution me about: “Don’t you get your fingers too close to them wringers, they’ll git you.” I always wanted to know, though, just exactly what the wringers “gitting” my fingers would feel like, but for one reason or another I listened to her, and never did my fingers get “git.”
The front room also contained Ma’s double-sink cast-iron wash tub. Even though I liked Ma’s washing machine, I loved watching her wash clothes in the sink even more because she would use an old-fashioned washboard, the kind that you can only find now either in the back hills of Tennessee (where she’s from), on Antiques Road Show (which she loves to watch), or at a Bluegrass festival (where they probably use a more updated version than hers). I would set my chin on top of the worn edge of the tub and watch Ma’s fingers, gnarled like tree branches tired from holding up the weight of the sky, work stain after stain out of wash cloths, underwear, shirts, and pants, and listen to her constant, melodious humming. The washtub looked less comforting, though, whenever Ma would tell me it was time to get cleaned up. I was always a busy kid, what some might call a tomboy, and I was forever getting into mess after mess, most of which Ma would have to take care of. When it was time to come back in, Ma would holler out the door for me to “come in and git youself cleaned up,” and then I knew I was in trouble. “Cleaning up” for Ma was not just a simple cleaning up, but an extended hair-washing event over the cast-iron tub, and then heading to the bathroom to clean everything else in the tub. The hair-washing most often included Ma using those very same capable stain-fighting fingers to loose every speck of dirt from my head. I still don’t think I can get my hair that clean.
Ma’s living room had older than old dark green shag carpet, the color of very healthy evergreen trees, worn down in the areas where we walked a lot, to and from the bathroom and the kitchen. She had this old television, too, which only got the really boring channels. Whenever Ma sat and watched that big old TV, she was by the window in her gliding chair, the kind that has the footstool that glides too. She had to sit next to the window because that way, if she heard a car disturbing the gravel of the driveway, she could make sure of who it was; if it was family, she would jump up from her chair and meet us at the door.
The small bedroom that I would rather frequently call my own was no bigger than some closets. There was room enough for a bed, the clothes in another makeshift closet that hung to one side of but nearly over it, and no more. The room always smelled like mothballs, because moths were everywhere, and Ma didn’t want the nicer clothes in the closets (which were full, I discovered eventually, that’s why she kept the clothes in the third closet out in the back room) getting full of holes from the moths. Before I had moved in with Ma, the room was her sewing room. She had an old Singer sewing machine, inside of a genuine old Singer standing sewing machine case, and one of my favorite sounds growing up was the steady ch-ch-ch-ch-ch…ch-ch-ch-ch-ch of Ma using the pedal to run the machine. Ma was always sewing something: she hemmed my pants, shirts, and skirts and she patched and sometimes made pants and any other thing you could ever want or need.
The best part about Ma’s house was the yard. What a yard – it went on forever, and Ma would mow it herself. She would use the push mower around the edges, taking care to make sure that she got every last blade of grass. Then, she’d wheel the riding mower out of the garage, and if I was lucky, she’d let me do that part, even though she said I always went too fast. The main part of Ma’s yard, the part I always played in close to the house, had lots of trees and Ma always had to take care of those too. Ma would walk around through the yard and beneath the trees with that wobbly, slow saunter of hers that made her seem lackadaisical, something in reality she never was. She had pine trees, oak trees, big trees, little trees, wisteria, forsythia, a dogwood my mom and dad dug up and stole from someone ages ago, and the Lilac bush. I loved that Lilac bush. Year after year my grandmother would cut it back, and it killed me each time because I didn’t understand then what she kept trying to tell me: cutting it back is the only way it can grow. If you let it get too overgrown, it won’t look as good, or have as many blooms, and it will get out of control. I loved the blooms, the scent of them, and I still do.
For all the time that I spent with Ma as I grew up, I never really talked to her much after I moved to Colorado, or even since I found out she was moving out here, and I don’t exactly know how it ended up that way. Maybe it was because I always felt a little awkward when talking to Ma, because even though I had spent so much time with her when I was younger, I had seen her as Ma, not as a person with interests or the capacity to do any other non-grandmother things that she might have done. I just didn’t know what to say to her or what to ask her. I could ask her how church was, but I didn’t really care. I could ask her how the rest of the family was, but I didn’t really want to know about that either. The thing I knew I could ask her, though, every spring, was how the lilac bush looked, and she would tell me the blooms were good, they smelled nice, and she had put some on the kitchen table.
Ma was never a very emotional person, either. She didn’t say “I love you” often, even though it was a family thing to say just that every time someone was leaving, even if it was just to go to the store around the corner. Ma just said I love you with every washing of my hair, every time she picked me up from the bus stop, and every time she put my clothes through her washing machine. Now all I could think of was Ma’s house and how she loved being able to take care of her yard, and everything else, including herself. Undoubtedly, she’d go crazy here in Colorado with so few trees, if any, to prune and so little grass to mow.
Two weeks or so after our phone conversation, my mother flew back east to help Ma pack. My mom carefully packed up my grandmother’s sewing machine in a carry-on bag and brought it to Colorado on a plane; the stand, however, wouldn’t fit, and so it stayed. Ma’s knife that she liked to use to cut up fruit made it out here, as did her clock, her skillet for baking corn-bread, most of her clothes, and her family pictures. Ma left her house, her lilacs, and her life, behind.
Not too long after she got here, I was taking her around for some errands because she never did get a new driver’s license after she moved. My mother said she was intimidated by going through the licensing process all over again. Ma needed to get her hair cut, she wanted to buy some fabric to make herself a new cooking apron, and she needed to pick up a few things at the grocery store. On the way to run the errands, I saw lilacs blooming along the side of the road. I pointed them out to my grandmother, “Look, Ma, lilacs, and they’re blooming, too.” Ma turned her head to look, wrinkled her nose up under her big old bug-eyed sunglasses the way she does: “Yeah, I believe they is, ain’t they?”
On the way back home from errands, which put us on the same side of the road as the blooming lilacs, I pulled over. Ma, humming quietly in the seat next to me, abruptly stopped as I slowed down. As I pulled up next to the bushes, without asking what I was doing, Ma said, “Ahh, my, you gonna git yourself in trouble, ain’t you?” I smiled at Ma and said “Nope.” I ran from the car, quick as I could, because Ma was probably right, yanked off some Lilac blossoms, and ran back. I handed the delicate, fragrant blossoms over to my grandmother. “There you go, Ma, Lilacs just like you had.” As we pulled away from the side of the road, I looked sideways over at my grandmother, smiling, her nose buried in the blooms.
Yes, that’s right…after holding out for forever, and feeling buried by work and so many other things, I finally gave up and decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Why? Well, as Neil Gaiman said, we all need an escape sometimes, and sometimes the heavy fiction I am so prone to reading is just not good to read in the midst of a school year. Also, friends of mine – and my mother-in-law (YIKES!) – have read it, and they seemed largely unaffected by it (both literally and intellectually), so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to read just the first book of the series. After all, an escape is fine every once in a while: a balanced approach is always good, right? After all, I try to read “real” literature the majority of the time.
So why do I feel shameful about it? Not because of the content – I’m not prudish, though I am being quite deliberate about hiding the book from my 13-year-old daughter’s eyes, as she is unfortunately rather knowledgeable about the book’s reputation. Part of my feelings of shame come from the fact that I consider myself well-read, and well, I feel like reading the book is a bit below my usual standard of Austen, Shakespeare, Atwood, and even my usual escapist reads (Tolkien, Martin, Rowling, and I will admit I even read the Twilight series, though I justify that digression by saying all of my students were reading it and I wanted to be able to talk intelligently with them about it).
I feel shameful partly because, to mark my place in the book, I am using my Jane Austen bookmark…on it is her famous quote from one of her less popular, though still noteworthy, novels, Northanger Abbey: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” The operative word in the quote, of course, is good, and that of course begs the question of, “What is a good novel?” Well, Lynn Neary has some idea, and she reported on it way back in June of this year (five months is, of course, a lifetime in today’s digital world.)
In the report, she quotes research that “shows that as young readers get older, they are not moving to more complex books. High-schoolers are reading books written for younger kids, and teachers aren’t assigning difficult classics as much as they once did.”
She also quotes author Walter Dean Myers, a popular choice for inner-city teachers of readers. He had the following to say about fan mail:
“I’m glad they wrote,” he says, “but it is not very heartening to see what they are reading as juniors and seniors.” Asked what exactly is discouraging, Myers says that these juniors and seniors are reading books that he wrote with fifth- and sixth-graders in mind.
Also, Anita Silvey, author of 500 Great Books for Teens had this to say of students she surveyed:
“Every single person in the class said, ‘I don’t like realism, I don’t like historical fiction. What I like is fantasy, science fiction, horror and fairy tales.’”
Now, I love those genres (maybe love is a strong word for the horror genre but it applies to the rest). There’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, as I quoted Gaiman saying in a previous post, the genres – singularly or together – are responsible for nudging imaginations into gear and helping people to imagine – and do – more.
However, the problem is, as Neary outlines,
“Last year, almost all of the top 40 books read in grades nine through 12 were well below grade level. The most popular books, the three books in The Hunger Games series, were assessed to be at the fifth-grade level.”
Most of the assigned books are novels, like To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men or Animal Farm. Students even read recent works like The Help and The Notebook. But in 1989, high school students were being assigned works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Emily Bronte and Edith Wharton.
The Notebook? And I didn’t just italicize that because it’s a book title. I do know that in my former school, 9th and 10th grade students read books such as Divergent, and other dystopian novels. I myself did a lit circle for my seniors that included the titles Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, Life of Pi, and Like Water for Chocolate. Why did I choose those titles? Well, because they ranged in level of difficulty and allowed my lower – and second language-learner – students the ability to access literature (Like Water for Chocolate). Then, the difficulty level increased, until the highest-ability students were reading The Handmaid’s Tale. Problematically, the most difficult novel I assigned is judged as a 9th grade reading level. So are Brave New World and Like Water for Chocolate, while Life of Pi averages around the 7th grade level. At least, according to Scholastic. I will argue that I had to consider the reading ability of my (below grade-level) students, and also that the “reading level” of the book does at times depend on what the teacher does with it. Are the students reading just to read and say they did, or are they analyzing figurative language, motifs, character archetypes, etc. As Margaret Atwood says (in the aforementioned book, no less), “Context is all.”
At any rate, back to my shame, and back to where I’m actually going with all of this. No, I’m not arguing that we should revert back to a completely canonical method of teaching literature. I understand that encouraging students to read is important, and meeting them where they are in terms of ability is important. However, the most important thing, as Neary pointed out in her report, is that, the majority of the time, we are not pushing student readers to reach higher once they achieve a certain level.
I’ll use my daughter as an example. Currently in the eighth grade, she is reading the Twilight series. Yes, I know, but she literally had to beg me (she reads so much it’s difficult to have enough books in the house appropriate for her age level). The agreement we came to, though, is that she read one book from the series, then a “real” book. So, after reading the first book, she read Wuthering Heights. Of course I made the connection for her that Meyer referenced the Brontë novel in the first Twilightnovel, and that reading Brontë would help her understand the series better (gotta love sneaky mom logic)…and amazingly, she liked the novel. Her only real comment when reading the book was, “Mom, Joseph talks kind of funny.” I reminded her that Hagrid did as well in the Harry Potter series, and told her to read it aloud as she had with Hagrid’s speech. She got it. She liked the book. The challenge, I will admit, based on this experience, is getting her interested in more challenging books. Personally, I didn’t start self-motivated reading of “heavy” classics until I was in high school – and beyond.
All of this is really to reinforce the idea that literature is how we access the experiences of others, either through the products of their imaginations or otherwise, and how we learn to imagine. Also, it is to reinforce the premise of this blog: we have to be able to value and hold tight to the humanities, and encourage access to them whenever possible. As clearly demonstrated by Lynn Neary’s report, American society is losing ground when it comes to reinforcing the value of reading good books. Reading a variety of books is important. Reading nonfiction is important. Reading fiction is important. Reading is important. Reading is the basis of our learned culture and history as a human race. If we start to only read books that, well, lack in merit and lack in substance, what are we learning – and teaching – about our culture?
So, there is my shame…I, a proponent and defender of the humanities and lover of literature, am reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
A month ago yesterday, Neil Gaiman gave a lecture at the Reading Agency in London. Yesterday, I gave his speech to my AP Language and Composition students to read. I had two motivations for doing so:
1) They are learning to analyze argument, and Gaiman’s argument is so overtly stated it is a great place to start, and
2) They need the added push to help them understand the importance of reading fiction in helping them become productive and literate members of society.
I could summarize Gaiman’s lecture (published a day later by The Guardian), but that would be redundant in this age of digital access, especially when I’ve provided a link. What I would like to do instead is to explain why I think he’s right, and how I know for sure that he is.
First, he calls the need for libraries, reading, and daydreaming “a matter of common humanity.” Well, yes, because reading teaches us “lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over.” That, to me, is what rescuing the humanities is all about, and that is the main reason why I think he is right. Of course it helps that I am an English teacher and I love to read already, and I love it when prolific, popular writers such as Gaiman make an “impassioned plea” for reading, and when that plea subsequently goes somewhat viral on social media outlets like Facebook. It also helps when he compares a book to a shark to help explain the endurance of books. Best simile I’ve read in a long time.
Now to why I know he’s right. I know he’s right because he mentions the alarming growth of the private prison industry in the United States, and the connection between illiteracy and prison populations. What was most startling about him relating this anecdote is that I learned there is now an algorithm used to determine future prison needs…using the percentage of 10 and 11 year olds that can’t read. Scary, but true. You can read more about it here. I know even more so because I teach the type of students he was referring to, and I see the truth of this alarming indictment in my classroom every day. As part of the program in my school, we have a set time in every Language Arts Classroom to read – usually 30 minutes out of a 100 minute class period. The students who read for pleasure – and it’s nearly always fiction – do better in my class than students who, in their words, “hate reading.”
I also know he’s right because for time immemorial, literature – accessed most often through libraries – has been about access to “freedom of ideas, freedom of communication…access to information” Not only that, but libraries are a foundation for education, which as he points out is ongoing; it doesn’t end when the day at school or university ends. What I thought of as I read this particular portion of his speech was that even within literature itself, specifically futuristic dystopian literature, books are always in short supply. In Fahrenheit 451 they were burned; in Brave New World they didn’t exist, except for on the “savage” reservation; in 1984 they were banned, or rewritten to serve the purpose of the party; in V for Vendetta (the movie, forgive me for not having read the graphic novel) books were outlawed; more recently, in contemporary young adult dystopian literature, books – and in some cases even writing – are taboo. As I was reading fiction the other day (as I often do, because I like to escape my crazy hectic days even for just a few minutes at night), I came across a quote in Veronica Roth’s finale to the Divergent series that struck home, and seemed eerily relevant to Gaiman’s point:
…a system that relies on the uneducated to do their dirty work without giving them a way to rise is hardly fair.
Hasn’t this been the case throughout history? Access to information of all types has been a means of education, of upward social mobility, of changing our paths, of grabbing our bootstraps, let’s say, and taking off for new frontiers. Or, in some cases, of being able to escape from a prison of poverty and lack of education to find a way out.
So, Gaiman is right. Libraries, reading, and daydreaming all give an escape – a good one – that provides us with “skills and knowledge and tools that [we] can use to escape for real.” Let’s hope we remember our dependence on the humanities for progress, as well as freedom, and continue to provide that access to knowledge for the future generations.
Yet again, NPR made me think on the way to work this morning. I heard about how Denver now has a shared workspace called Galvanize, a place in which workers from various technology-based companies come together to work, and most importantly to share ideas.
I immediately thought to myself, “Algonquin Round Table!” and “nerdfest that gave birth to Frankenstein!” Both of those groups paved the way for developments in literature and ideas and making connections – among other things.
I think it’s great that there are ways for companies to share space and ideas and think together (or, as the story points out, share a cup of coffee or a beer at Galvanize’s bars). I also think it’s great that many teachers allow their students the chance to collaborate about their work and share ideas.
And then of course I had to wonder where the real opportunities are for today’s writers, authors, anthropologists, sociologists, etc. get together and discuss ideas. Yes, I understand that the internet is here for us to collaborate and share ideas in a variety of ways. However, I believe face-to-face conversation and collaboration are invaluable when it comes to actually making true connections and also true developments in ideas, literature, and, well, the humanities field.
For something as valuable to the human experience as the humanities, we should make more of those connections happen.