There was a time when I would have thought that anyone would agree that being a literate person is a good thingliteracy, by which mean more than a mere ability to read, I also mean a decent knowledge of what has been written, at the very least by significant writers in the world (however one defines that).
But since leaving University, I have discovered that, no, in fact, most people don’t think that waY at all. I should have seen it before; while one of my two siblings shares my bookish interest and some of my reading habits, most of my friends and family aren’t literary sorts of people. My old man does have a good background in BritLit, especially anything pertaining to the colonies, but his interest these days is mainly in Wilbur’s Smith’s adventure novels set in Africa (perhaps recalling a little of his youth) and my Mom is mainly interested in New Age books, explanations of how to read auras and cure diseases and injuries with mysterious powers controllable only by the trained mind.
Granted, were those powers actually tenable, they’d be useful. Far more useful than, say, a deep and wide knowledge of what’s been written in the fantasies of novelists in the last few hundred years, the imaginings of SF writers and political authors. Why, indeed, should I read through my first Graham Greene novel? Why should I not instead go get a book on
perl PHP coding* (the library at my university probably has many such books in English) and learn that, so I can rebuild my website using WordPress, with as many authors and weblogs as I want all running off the same server?
Well, no arguments against learning perl or in favour of using Movable Type, but here’s a good reason to go back and dig into Dickens and Greene and Waugh and Maugham and the rest. In the apparently ongoing campaign to encourage people to value being educated, knowledgeable citizens instead of ignorant television-fed consumers, here is