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On Books
February 1, 2011 - 10:00pm

I wanted to write my next post on something completely different, but after recently reading a series of articles and discussions published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I determined a change of menu was in order. I simply felt that any other subject is not worthy to be addressed now, and driven by this sense of high urgency, I started passionately drawing in my mind the writing plan of this post. I was only once disturbed by the irony of the situation: I was supposed to write a short essay addressed to those who ceased considering reading an activity deemed of precious interest. In conclusion, to whom do I write? To those already convinced of the fascinating power of books?

Before the brainstorming following the lecture of the aforementioned references, I was fully aware of the simple fact that there are people whose daily professional activities don't allow them enough time for reading as a hobby. But I also have had the huge pleasure of meeting people with exquisite literary tastes, even though they don’t possess an impressive academic record or any high education qualification. Sometimes, it is a matter of luck to fall under the beneficial influence of an intellectual environment or to share the presence of an inspiring person.

But those articles share thoughts about the reading disfunctionalities of individuals enrolled - by or against their own will - to achieve a university status and, by thus, to improve their chances of professional achievement. And they were not interested in or paying minimum attention to written words. And then, I am reminded that several times I've met people with an above-the-average academic background who share their feelings of fatigue about learning something new or even reading more than one book per month. Although in their late 20s, they confessed of "having enough" of permanently being challenged to read something new, including the literature strictly related to their professional field.

For me, this is a proof of a very limited and dangerously self-sufficient way of non-thinking considering that after reading - let's say - 100 books and writing a couple of scholarly papers, one has reached the maximum level of knowledge and this is enough for the rest of one’s life. Ironically enough, this unidimensional pattern of thinking is widespread in an era when neuroscientific studies are demonstrating old wisdom: the process of learning is dynamic and most be continuous. The more you learn, the more you know. You stop learning, you will forget.

It is unrealistic to think that all those enrolled in universities will end up as outstanding scholars. But the lazy mind pattern of behavior is cutting short the chances of many students to reach outstanding results, with direct effects on their human development.

After this short soliloquy, I am desperately trying to answer the question: For whom are we writing for? Probably, part of the answer is to be found somewhere in the philosophy of the education systems. But this is only a probability that needs an extended and unmerciful analysis.

Berlin, Germany

Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a PhD candidate in history at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, with a background in Political Science. She has been a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.




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