Are Books Good for Us?

Those of us interested in education tend to assume that reading books is a good thing. Books improve us, we believe, or at least certain kinds of books improve us. They exercise our intellects, expand our imaginations, ‘open up new horizons’ and furnish us with good examples to imitate in our own lives; they increase our capacity for empathy, teach us to “think critically”, and “advance our competence in the written and spoken uses of the language”. This is what we tell ourselves. But is all of this true? Are books necessarily good for us? In 1944, Sidney Hooks pointed out that “[One critic] has boldly claimed that the resistance of the French underground is to be accounted for by the classical education its heroes received.

He blithely disregards the obvious fact that the men of Vichy received precisely the same kind of classical education, and read the same books”. Are the claims, then, that literature improves us widely exaggerated? Where did this idea come from? And what if poetry, far from ‘saving our souls’ and ‘healing the State’ (as George Gordon thought it could) is, to the contrary, as Plato taught, a real danger to the health of our souls and the health of the State?, Dr Stephen McInerney considers this “ancient quarrel” and its ongoing relevance to contemporary pedagogy.

This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.

$0 Limited

<p>Those of us interested in education tend to assume that reading books is a good thing. Books improve us, we believe, or at least certain kinds of books improve us. They exercise our intellects,

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25 Nov

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