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Who needs serious reading nowadays?
July 22, 2012 - 8:27pm

Inspired by this post by my virtual colleague at the University of Venus, I decided that once again I will address the issue of the importance of reading. At first glance, my statement sounds like an ’ideological’ statement, but it is far from being one. As someone used to reading as much as possible, regardless of the domain of study (but especially political science and history books), I find it very often painful to discover that books do not play an important role in the life and time management plans of many current students, future intellectuals and elites.

But, despite my opinion, the reality seems to send a different message from my wishes. Through my various contacts with former and current students – from the basic university level to the Ph.D. students – I have discovered that some prefer to find their inspiration in various abstracts of articles or books without being at least curious to explore the classical sources for their approach. Most likely, the bibliography includes many books published after the year 2000, but few from the beginning of the 20th  century, for instance. It is true that the rhythm of publishing is amazing and it is very difficult nowadays to cover all the classical sources needed, but on the other hand, without those sources you can hardly understand at times the base of the theoretical constructions. For example, you cannot write about leadership without mentioning the works of Max Weber whose perspectives were used for a long time in post-WWII studies about leadership and power. The examples could continue.

When it comes to writing as such, I can read between the lines that the time spent by putting words onto the paper was not the happiest experience of the student’s life. Instead of considering the challenge of using the opportunity of this student work as an occasion to improve the knowledge and the style, many young graduates-in-the making prefer to hire ghost writers that will write their papers. From the comfort of their big campus in North America or the UK, they can better spend their free time while a poor student  from South-East Asia or Africa, without too many chances to ever enroll in such a big academic centre, is doing the work for a remuneration of less than the daily salary of a cleaning lady in New York City. I am not approaching this issue from the perspective of social inequality, but from the problematic perspective of many middle-class elites that will soon enter the academic market, and who knows, one day they might be teachers too. A recent check on how often you can find the various freelancer writers’ network offers for Ph.D. ghost writers shows they can be had for as much as $800, with a delivery time in a maximum of 20 days.

But back to the problem of reading, I think that in many respects, in many classrooms, the teachers failed to make the connection from the books printed on paper to the e-book or Kindle-books. If you love to read, you will prefer to enjoy the pleasure of reading regardless of the technical support. If you do not know why you need to read, you will prefer to use the computer for chat and games.

However, it is never too late to start reading and summer time could be a good start for changing your daily habits. Let’s hope that the glass is half full, and the shelves of the libraries are full of enough books for anyone interested in somehow changing his or her academic life perspective.

Berlin, Germany

Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.

 

 

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