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Umberto Eco: “How school teaches us not read books”

December 19, 2011

Umberto Eco explains how school teaches us not to read books:

This is an excerpt from a longer program at the New York Public Library, here is the full presentation:

(HT: Kris Merino)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 21, 2011 7:03 pm

    I would disagree somewhat. For example, although Sylvia Nasar’s book Grand Pursuit may be a but thin for an economist, it does seem to help place books in relations to other books at the time. Hence we now know that A Christmas Carol was considered to be an attack on Malthus’s beliefs about poverty, roughly, starvation takes the surplus population and we shouldn’t do too much to disrupt nature’s course. Probably Malthus is somebody that I would never read unless Nasar persuades me otherwise.

  2. December 21, 2011 8:38 pm

    Suzanne — interesting. But Nasar’s book was not the first to note this; indeed, the connection is pretty obvious from the text of the Christmas Carol itself. I’m sure you recall the following lines:

    ‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

    ‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

    ‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides-excuse me-I don’t know that.’

    I cannot imagine a more direct attack on Malthusian thought.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 21, 2011 8:44 pm

    Good quote. Yes, I saw that. I mentioned Nasar’s book because it suggests to me that perhaps Eco is not so familiar with the new style of wide-ranging overview book that Nasar has written. It may be disappointing to the specialist because it intends to give an introduction with all the connective tissue for autodidacts. Funny how no one in the clip could provide autodidact for Eco as an English word!

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