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tv   Discussion on Beach Books  CSPAN  March 19, 2016 3:30pm-5:01pm EDT

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weekend it is authors sharing new releases. >> watching the non-fiction authors on booktv is the best television for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and dive in the subject. >> booktv weekends bring you author after author and spotlight the work of fascinating people. >> i love booktv and i am a c-span fan. >> here is a look at books being published this week. in the envoy, it contributions as u.s. ambassador to afghanistan, iraq and to the u.n. and natalie more reports on racial segregation in chicago in the south side. in john quincy adams we look at the life of american's sixth president. and also being released this week is the great departure in
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which the history of immigration from eastern europe to america between 1846 and 1940. michael lynch looks at the impact of technology throughout the digital age in the internet of us. and in the end of alchemy, the former governor of the bankf of england argues the development of paper mun aand credit are equally responsible for economic benefits and volatility. look for these titles in bookstores this coming week and watch for interviews with the authors in the coming weeks on booktv. >> welcome to the release of the national association of scholars new report. i am the president of the fashion
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national association of scholars. in 2009, a young man heading for a seaside vacation in mexico picked up an unusual heavy book for beach reading. an 800 page tome on the life of an 18th century immigrant. the story took possession of the man and he emerged from his reading of 2004 alexander hamilton which is now the hottest ticket on broadway. the play is widely noted for many things including its exact fidelity to the historical facts. beach books are not light reading and the right beach book can kick up a lot of sand. as it happens, one of the top five most assigned common readings for college freshman last year was also a book about the obstacles overcome by an
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immigrant. it is enrique's journey had offers a harrowing account of a 16-year-old boy making his way across mexico and through the texas border in larado. one of the books turning point is it is written at level appropriate for fifth graders. well welcome to the launch of the new edition of the beach books. this edition covers books assigned in the summer of 2014 and 2015. we have a lineup of speakers to
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break the campagna bottle over beach books number five. we will hear from the executive director who conceived of studying common reading programs as a way to illuminate what colleges value. she wrote the first four reports and established the subject as something that book professors and the general public take seriously. we will hear from the nas director of communication, david randall, who wrote the report. he joins the national association of scholars only on october 1st and his first assignment was the synesise an analysis. he did astonishing good work in the last few months. we will have stimulator on for
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questions and answers. our keynote speaker is the former director of research and analysis at the national arts center and senior and editor at first things. let me add how grateful i am firstthi -- first things is launching this report. the quality books shape the minds of the coming generation and it is a matter of urgent concern to them as it is to the national scholars. but professor can explain this much better. >> thank you, peter. thank you were coming here. it is not happy news to speak
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about higher education as an english teacher about some of the reading choices made by the colleges every year. what i am going to do here is layout some of the background about why colleges even have these programs at all. and actually to give a little bit of sympathy for the problems that they are facing when they do assign these books and what they hope these programs, which can run all year long, they select a book, read it, spend a few weeks on the organized programs, bring assignments into the courses that are oriented toward the book. the author becomes very important to attend and so it is a long process. but just the assignment to read the book over the summer. they want it to be an extended
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experience. they want them to spend time with the book. why? you have courses to take. you graduate from high school. you have been admitted to this institution. why pile it on? the last thing you want to do is read books over the summer. briefly, i chose three major problems that schools face today with their incoming students. this actually is not so much the hyperselective institutions but actually it affects other institutions as well. one is they read one book.
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there is no common reading now either in american life, in general, or in the school curriculum. i ask students in a class if i refer to a book, i teach american literature, someone name two or three out of the 20 students who read "the great gatsby" the most poplar ones for high school reading are "to kill a mockingbird" that is probably the pomost poplar but still abo 20% of the kids have read it. there was a report on this a few years ago. this is a unique actual condition in american life.
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for 150 years in the schools and out of the schools the bible was the book everybody knew. the bible was everywhere. it was in political discourse. it was in school reading books. in the american primmer, the biblical versus were there. you heard it read in church and at the dinner table. that book was common to everyone. i have my american literature students read portions from genesis and liviticus and the sermon on the mound. so when i say president obama used the phrase time to put away childish things and does anyone know where that came from? that is much later than the simple sermon on the mountain.
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okay. i don't want to say second corinthians. over the years, the schools grew more secular and for a few decades there was a common core curriculum. in 11th and 12th grade where you had a set of american works that most students did read. you know those short stories like the scarlet letter by hawthorn, walt whitman, emerson, huck fin, gatsby, hemmingway. this was solid in the '60s and
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'70s but multi culturalism came along and broke it up. the promise was we would have those works being read but a richer set of traditions. more literature by women and minority authors and this would build greater knowledge. so we would have an african-american literary tradition people would know to go along with other traditions. that isn't what happened. what happened was that instead of having a bigger tradition that everyone would read portions of it became all over the place. teachers are largely allowed, or school districts, allowed to select their own works. common core does not have a required reading list. it has a recommended reading list and it is largely ignored in the implementation of common
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core we don't want to tell people what to read. we don't want to get to that because you start excluding things and telling people what to do and it is going to be too narrow. this leaves us with people who haven't read a common book and if people don't have some cultural things in common you cannot build a culture out of them. the schools in the report often talk about community. they are right. one of the ways in which you have a community is people read the same thing and have the same cultural backgrounds. this is one problem. the lack of any common readings the program tries to address. students don't like to read is the second problem. they don't read on their own much.
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we might want to talk about "harry potter". that is the one thing you can mention in class most of the students know. at this point they may have just seen the movies. we are pretty far behind the b publication in their lives at this point. but they don't read very much on their own. i am give you numbers on this. this is from the 2014 american freshman survey. a large survey project housed at ucla going back to the mid-60s. these are first-year students and four-year college students. not two-year or vocational. but four year institutions. the rate of reading for pleasure. how often in a week do you read for pleasure? how many hours do you log was the question. this the largest cohort with 31%
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answering none. nearly one third of them never read for pleasure. less than one hour. 0 minutes to one hour 24%. 1-2 hours a week 22%. we are only about three quarters of the students reading as a negigable activity at best. college is going to ramp up the reading requirements on your own. you are not knowing to see a teacher every day who is going to go through a few pages with you at a time. you will have to be a self-starter, on your own. if you drop out the teacher
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doesn't care. there is no baby sitting here. no parachute for you. so if you just disappear, this is letting you know you have to get used to going through a 2-300 page book and live with this book over time. many english teachers say it is getting harder to assign a book over 200 pages. doesn't go with the rhythm of their life. they cannot read a few pages and go back and read a little more. the one book program tries to get them to be more book-ish. that is the intent. some people say they don't read because they don't have time to read because they are piling up so many hours of homework. this is problem number three.
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this is where the american freshman survey comes in on homework time. this is what students report. not how many hours of homework they are assigned. how much homework they actually do. here is studying homework hours per week and these are four-year college students. less than two hours a week. 29%. three to five hours 27%. six to 10; 21%. that is not much more than an our a day all weekend long two hours of studying time. you get below that what about an hour a day for nearly 60% of the four-year college students. so it is not homework that is taking away reading minutes from them. it is not making them less
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book-ish. we have to get them there. colleges are partly graded on retention. dropouts look very bad for institutions. the obama accreditation issues can come into play. there is a lot of pressure to keep kids there on the campus. let me add one more factor to this that relates somewhat to the reading factor. if you don't read on your own, you don't to that much work, how don't know very much. the knowledge level that students come into college with an abyss. last year's sat's reading scores
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were the lowest in 40 years. act does the college-readiness and only 46% of students taking the act, and the vast majority are going to college, only 46% are college ready meaning they can get a b minus in a freshman english class. most get c or below. the sat writing test in 2005 last year the lowest scores ever. the scores have gone done every single year except two years when they were flat. this is what is happening. if you look at the national assessment of progress. the nation's report card given to 12th graders. in geographic areas, only 12% of 12th graders proficient.
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same with u.s. history. in civics, only 24%. so you have very low college levels. if i am in a clas and refer to the french revolution i have to explain what that is. i cannot just assume that the students have historical civic knowledge about things. this is another issue that the one book reading can solve. you select a book that has a lot of accompanying knowledge. you select a tale of two cities and you get something about the french revolution which carries over. you want to select a book that is knowledge rich.
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it is going to bring cultural literacy to them that will again fill out those big gaps in their heads. so that is what the one book program is ideally going to do. it is going to address those. did you want to tell us if that happens? >> thank you for coming out on a night they are predicting snow and mardi gras and thank you to first things for hosting us. i wanted to get a little background and david is going to tell about the findings. we got started in 2010 when a faculty member told me about the book his college was assigning was something called common reading. i didn't know what this was.
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where i wanted to find out if other colleges were doing this and it turned out 300 colleges across the country were advertising this one book for college freshman. we put together a list for the first time. peter and i had subject categories to focus on the themes in the book and look at the trends among what was most poplar in the books. we gave our own analysis of what this means for higher education more generally and started a list of recommended titles colleges could pick from as better books for next year's pick. common reading programs were on the rise at the time so everyone involved was looking for a one-stop place to go learn what books were being assigned and what the trends were. so we unknowingly created
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something that was very useful for people and it has now become their go-to source. it has been sited by the mla and their national conference, faculty members come to us when serving on committees for selecting the book. we included aerobic common -- included every common reading we could find and because of that this is the only comprehensive list like this. each year we have done a new edition and it has taken on a life of its own. i have spoken with a lot of people who coordinate common reading programs and they are faculty members and administrative workers who want students to love reading. they are concerned with communities because they see there is a lack of intellectual
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community but they get stuck using templates and patterns that have been setup and are expected for the way the party runs. they use large committee to select the book by poplar vote instead of having a few well-read people chose good books for all of the students. they don't assess whether students have actually read the book. they don't have a test or grade to hold them accountable. they also try to bring the author to speak on campus which is fine but limits them to choosing contemporary books. they don't think outside of the box of what or colleges are doing. one way nas has been encouraging common coordinaters to think
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outside the box is encouraging classics. when i say classics i am thinking of that in a generous way and not limiting it to roman classics. but the things mark was talking about. dickins and twain and agustine. works that stood the test of time and are considered of value and importance. coordinators we have talked to have given a lot of push back as to why they say they cannot or don't want to assign older, classic books. so i have collected these objections and answered all of them in the last section of the report. the very last pages.
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i have 25 so far and thought of another couple while sitting here. my hope is to say yes, it is possible to those more difficult, more challenging and better books and still accomplish the things you want to do with these programs and make the most of this opportunity. one of the objections is because this is not for a grade if students don't like the book they will not read it so the only hope we have to get the students read is pick a book they will read. so our yaub is find out what they want to read and we will assign that. in principle it is a good idea to pick books they will enjoy but in the long run it doesn't help them. the whole reason people go to college instead of reading the books at home you like is to
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have your mind informed by people who know more than you. another push back i have heard is the classics are elitist and for the privilege. to that, i say it is a privilege to read these books, and we should give that privilege to as many as we can. a lot of people, and especially the ones taking the trouble to go to college, you hear them talk about giving more access to higher education. if we want to give people access to what are we opening up their world to something truly hire. we have two people in the essay that agree with us. one is bruce gan, the creator of
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the great books curriculum that has been used across the country in community colleges. he has shown that anyone can benefit from and enjoy reading the great books. the other is linda hall who is a professor of english at skidmore college. she refers to herself in her essay as a liberal feminist. she sees value in letting books cool for a while and letting them prove themselves over time before assigning them as common readings. she also thinks colleges are trying to accomplish too much with just one book and that common readings programs should be reevaluated. so i am really grateful to have gotten to have had these conversations and others through these last few years with this project. i now place the baton to my
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colleague david randall who has taken it up with great talent and skill and it has been gratifying seeing him notice things i haven't noticed. so i will let him share the findings. [applause] >> thank you. i would also like to add again thank you very much to first things and mark who personally did an awful lot to make this possible. i would like to thank everybody else ought nis to worked when with me. many are not here tonight but it is a wonderfully better thing because of everything they have done with it. now, i have been talking an awful lot about beach books with everybody over the last few months.
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just today i had a conversation with someone who had a common reading in 1967 at boston university. he was assigned adventures of idea in 1933; a history of intellectual history combined with the effect of history on mankind history in general. this is what was considered a reasonable common reading in 1967. four of the fairly common readings. garbology; a non-fiction book about the problem of too much trash. you have "march" a graphic
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memoir of john lewis and a comic book written at a fourth grade level. we have "enrique's journey" and the account of an illegal immigrant and it is meant to influence current policy. a great many of these common readings do. ...
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common reading. what the report is, something about what the common reading programs are. i would like to emphasize they lean toward the problems with the books they choose, which are very limited and not as good as they could be. all that en route to what we could hope for and i will be unduly optimistic and hope for something better despite all that we have been hearing about the problems. you know what common reading is, summer reading, everybody reads it. it is everywhere. 360 colleges a year, elite colleges, public, private, half
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of the top hundred universities of liberal arts colleges. it is meant to build community for a reason. because, this is what they are aiming at. it is important to talk about what they want to do with it. community ultimately means i care enough about this book to read it. i care enough about this book to talk about it with my friends. if i do that, the theory goes, i will take my college education seriously. i will not drop out of college. it is a student retention program fundamentally. it is unfortunate that it has to be done at a fairly low level. that is what they are aiming at. that is what they want to do.
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it is worth talking about how they do it because that gets you to the sort of book they end up on. it is voluntary overwhelmingly. even when they say it is mandatory, they are expecting they have to have students be willing to do it. they don't have much in the way of an enforcement mechanism. they make them simple, easy reading. they don't think they can get their students voluntarily to read them otherwise. that is number one. number 2, once you decide it is voluntary, you have to make sure it appeals to as many students as possible. and not unimportant that it appeals to as many professors as well because you want common reading to be incorporated in
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the classroom as well. that is why you have these huge committees in charge of selecting them. the university of cincinnati is my favorite because they had 21 people doing this. people read 150 books, an enormous investment of time. cincinnati, 21 people, many of them 15, 12, very large committee. this is meant partly because the professors are supposed to think what their students will like. you have a chemistry professor's who knows what a chemistry student will like and do business administration professor will know what an administration student like that the english professor will know what an english major likes. you are trying to get massive buy in across the discipline on the part of the student and professors to include a course as well so you have a book about the love life of marie curie.
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i am not joking. by in by everybody and buy in is what they are tasked to do. they are not asked to get a good book, they are asked to get one that is broadly appealing. if being asked is your first priority to get a good book you won't get a good one. the institutional structure is set up that way. you are trying to get recent books as well and that is in the mission statement. they think if students care more they will see the author or the subject of the book, they want someone who can come to convocation or a lecture in the fall so they will go for a recent book because you cannot get william shakespeare to come and visit your class no matter how hard you try.
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and i have. you are going to get people who are american. there is a peculiar parochial knowledge he. part of the point in going to the college, the only people you are were learning about are those americans who are on the circuit of common reading. it is very parochial. you get the recent stuff. it is supposed to be appealing. it is all memoir or biography and young person memoir, young person biography, 70% is popular nonfiction written in extremely direct lack of style. there is no variation, it is all the same sort of thing.
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henrique's journey, someone who has founded a nonprofit organization, someone who has overcome adversity to get to college, there are different scenarios but it is all the same. one should add to this, they are less varied, not just the same homogenous book, it is literally fewer books. the most popular books are the most recent books, the ones published in 2012, published this past year, these are the ones with double-digit selection. when you choose more recent books you choose fewer books. the older the book is the more various it is likely to be. when you are talking about intellectual diversity there is
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a narrowing of focus. add to all this there are political -- it is all skewed in the direction of progressive books and partly this is in the mission statement themselves which say we want to talk about social diversity, timeliness, we want to talk about civic engagement. many words not objectionable in and of themselves that are part of the archipelago of jargon which is going to skew you in another direction. add to this people who are choosing the books all themselves tend to be progressive. they don't seem to realize there are books which don't follow the particular political direction. because you are trying to get consensus, it tends to be soft.
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you do not have books on the environment because talking about the environment isn't going to raise anybody's hackles. lowest common denominator progressivism. i am saying all this not for the political point as such. the point is it restricts the universe of possible books that much more. in addition to all the other limitations you have got, you can only get books on the profess of limitations, it means you have a very narrow range. it would not be so bad, the entirety of what is read at 350 colleges a year, it is a
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problem. i want to go from that video, what can we hope for, what can be done better, there is some decent stuff out there. you have a classic selection, george bernard shaw's nature barber. the college of concordia having an interesting book about modern china, the narrative of frederick douglass is a classic work. johnson edwards editing the diary of david brainerd. you have good book says honorable mention. it is not impossible to choose them and they are working right now for too few of these
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colleges. the point is they do exist and they do seem to be working. therefore we do have some recommendations for what can be done better. we would like to get rid of the extra curricular goals and make it academic goals, don't worry about building community. how do you text, they have a goal that is impossible to tell, confined to academic goals, actually be able to tell what you are doing is working. we would like them to have smaller committees composed entirely of people who love books that have a great experience of it. we would like them to integrate the reading into class es. you can test for swimming knowledge, you can test for whether you read a book over the summer. it is not impossible to do.
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we have a recommendation that it might be better to make college more selective, if you can't get your current student body to be able to be willing to read, able to read, one challenging book in four years, maybe you should make the standards a little tighter. aside from that, we have some confidence in students and some confidence in colleges. we think simply going to the best existing standard practice of the common reading programs will mean a marvelous improvement. it is working for colleges that do it and it can work for other colleges. and focusing on classics broadly
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defined, even more wonderful but the best existing practices can make a real and practical improvement in students in higher education, and i want to leave you with that. there is hope for the future, based on what already exists. thank you. [applause] >> technicians for the question session. i will be making nonsense noises. i thought maybe i could say a word about the two top ones this year, a book chosen by the
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largest number of colleges, the other westmore, the most popular book in the country. 15 or 16 separate colleges. it is about the other westmore, about the other one. westmore, who wrote the book, is a rhodes scholar, a man who is a white house fellow, illustrious career, read some place in the newspaper a little script about someone with his name who grew up in the same city, baltimore, who was convicted of murder and serving a long-term in prison. the other westmore was a drug dealer, crack dealer, had a hard life. the coincidence of names is pretty much the entire story.
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one of them goes on to lead a good life, the other goes on to lead a terrible life, they are both growing up in the same city, why did it happen that way? one goes on the road in one direction and the other the opposite direction. a lot of chin pooling, we don't know whether state or circumstance or whatever it might be, there is a lot to think about, the other westmore had a lot of bad breaks. the reason this gets assigned as much as it does get assigned is it allows the white students to feel entirely guilty about this. they should have empathy for the other westmore. they should realize the other westmore made some bad choices too. it stands in the middle of our black lives matter moment where we can think deep thoughts about injustice in american life and it is a book about injustice but it is not entirely about injustice because the other
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westmore is a bad dude, crack dealer who participated in a gang murder and went to jail. that is what happens. that is what happens some of the time. there is just mercy. this poor fellow is living in rural alabama. there is a murder committed 11 miles away. two killers were also blocked. cook up a story to make this guy not very energetic, by the story, convicted and sent to jail on death row until brian stephenson, the author of the book takes up the case and after years of effort exonerates and shames the prosecutor, police, this is written 20 years after the guy is sprung from jail, dying of dementia, has not had a life after jail, story would be
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a real page turner, well worth telling about how injustices of a great sort, stephenson isn't going to leave it there. he takes this as emblematic of the nature of the american justice system which grinds down the poor minorities and provides no real justice except the occasional who parachutes in like brian himself whose book, partly memoir, partly storytelling, is likely other westmore, written at junior high level. there is this thing that i refer to, examined large chunks and asides grade leading level to it, the other westmore comes in at eighth grade level. when we say the book chosen for common reading are easy books it is not just our opinion.
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there is hard data that backs that up. are we ready to go? it is time to ask questions. i am going to start with one. mark your comments, that you are pretty unhappy with the choices your colleagues are making in english departments and elsewhere in the university. could say you are in favor of a kind of censorship. >> we need a core curriculum, we need a common body of work, this brings coherence to a culture and allows us to let things work themselves out over time.
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we shouldn't trust our judgment about contemporary works. very often we are wrong and the test of time is a very good one. you read something you thought was fantastic, 20 years later it looks awfully dated. in that short time, talk about censorship there is a limited amount of time in the day, the school day, you have to make choices, good choices are bad choices? the cost is very high. college is a short period in some people's lives. this is their only chance to read many of the great works of civilization. they won't read the most likely when they are out of college. a professor will guide them through, other students are reading the same thing, when you ask students, ask people ten years after college, what do you regret most about college they don't say i wish i went to more parties. they say i wish i took more
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courses in art history, i wish i took a little more shakespeare. i realize now college was a unique intellectual growth time. if the faculty can't provide the resources to make that happen we need to get other faculties. >> i want to ask you. [applause] >> some carefully worded criticism, i am wondering if you had to choose the one common reading that applies to a whole college or a bunch of colleges, what would your pic be? >> it is only for the college where i am on the committee, i do not want to impose on anybody
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else. i will pick jane austen's persuasion which is a beautiful book, relatively brief book and a book about second chances. that is a lesson we all need but i would love to talk about the fact that we get second chances in life. >> i want to ask you a question. books can be about things that are near at hand or far away. how do you come out on the near versus far spectrum? >> a very abstract question. the thing that comes to mind is colleges use the word relevant. we need books that are close to what students experience today, they need a book by an author of their same race or near to them in age, the same background
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sociologically. that might have merit but it is also good to get us out of the things we know to help us know things outside of us and getting outside our current era bias es is a valuable thing, like you said, things that we think are the right way for all time but are limited to our current current age. >> far away, robinson caruso, gilgamesh, how far do you want to go? >> i like both of those. >> the point about relevance, there are things that are ancient that are relevant in young people's lives. if anyone knows of a better rumination on adolescent peer
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pressure than augustine's study of what happens in the pear orchard i don't know what it is, i mentioned this earlier when we were talking, that section where hector has won after achilles left the field. he brings his army outside the walls of troy and they are doing good but start to turn. i made a mistake, they are running back inside the walls. doesn't want to show any cowardice. he is standing outside the walls, his mother and father, get inside, get inside, the walls of troy are impenetrable, they are standing back and he sees this point of light coming toward him, the great warrior
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achilles. at that moment hector's courage melts, he loses his will. you take numb 100,000 teenage boys in america today, and if you find twee 10 of them who don't know that experience that guy is coming to get me, middle school, the neighborhoods they live in or on the football field, the basketball field, that kind of experience is altogether relevant. >> i am going to repeat your questions for the sake of c-span. >> i want to echo what mark said and challenge the idea of far and near. i think far is near.
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that is what we do in english class es. >> far is near if we look at it correctly. not sure what the question is. comment. >> is it a phenomenon of the original problem? if you have faculty with responsibility, they can't decide to come, classic works for college reading it seems unusual that all their usual objections to white centric white male culture for their one book for summer reading.
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i can't see how to resolve this problem without solving the more egregious problem of lack of interaction will encourage of saying to kids you will read these books. during your college years. >> not sure i can repeat that verbatim. >> it represents the abdication of intellectual authority on the part of teachers, won't solve this problem without addressing the bigger problem. >> we have lost the core curriculum so we no longer have anything we can rely on. this one opportunity, i feel like this is a possibility to bring that back and that is what we are trying to do. it is not a core curriculum, it
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is far from it. and it is representative of the larger loss. it is possible and it is our task to show colleges why there is a need for these kinds of books and why they are important. >> the bankruptcy and colleges, leave it there, something like the faculty reporting reading. >> what is the ideal makeup of the committee? not the english department or members thereof but the faculty on campus who read the most. >> students should select their
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own books. >> i don't know. the pens on what you want the book to do. >> people who read -- >> the right answer is members of the national association of scholars -- >> one word in defense of english faculty, i had some interesting conversations with friends of mine who are disciplined, a number of them -- english faculty, and western civilization and history and
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faculty. there is some sense if you are going to become an english professor, you will get a sense of literary quality and a nontrivial sense of john done. there are people in english discipline, there are actually a fair number that are pretty good. any selection criteria you use will not be perfect but having some way for the english department to obtain it would not be bad. one more shout out, pretty good people. >> one thing that strikes me is figuring out -- a critique of
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processed food. essentially the time that we see the processed intellect and the technology made it so easy to have data information that the liberation -- the question is how you get organic intellect, non-process whole food type intellect which is not as appealing as non-scholar that permeates the environment. >> how do you get non-processed intellect out of blended ingredients? ashley knows the piece about the blended ingredients approach, you were telling me about this
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new form of kindle style reading. >> a new program you can use to send out digital copies of the book, to know what page they are on, how fast they are reading, if they are trying to game the system by clicking through because they can't possibly be reading that fast and you can know what days of the week they are reading and whether they finished the book when they said they did. >> it is getting worse, not better. and what do we do to create that more complete mind? >> it is up to the faculty to model this for students and up
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to colleges to aspire to that and not be content with formulas, preprocessed material, ready-made answers and something faculty can do and what their job is and it is our job to encourage them to do that. >> i preface my question with a point of information that the author was a graduate of college high school, public schools. it seems to me that statistic suggests the problem is we are not doing the job of lower education that we need to.
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a few little endeavors to try to catch up, you never do that? >> is there any merit to the idea that the problem is a k-12 problem for students by the time they reach college or a lost cause if they had a good foundation? >> of course. when we include the home life growing up in homes, many of these kids, the first three or four years of reading with parents as often socioeconomic faith. kindergarten is too late for a lot of kids. three thousand words of vocabulary that is -- the gap only widens as schooling goes on.
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also, i would add that culture has never pressed down on adolescence like it does now. mostly because of all the media and digital devices. young people consume, absorb, are flooded with youth-oriented media, websites and communications all the time now and it buries them, and fully in place by the time in college, colleges are looking at so many things in their lives scripted them and geared them against --
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they are resistant to a lot of intellectual demands that go into college life. the career and money side, if you want to be an engineer, you have got to do this if you want to become an informed citizen or a discerning consumer of good taste, you got to do these things, got to absorb these things. that argument doesn't go very far. >> one more thing on the side of hope if i may, someone has to do it. let us assume college cannot solve every problem that has accumulated, that doesn't mean it can solve nothing and it
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doesn't mean changes in what colleges do won't help? a nontrivial number of people, thousands, maybe millions over the course of years and it is not always immediate. i will give you my happy dramatic anecdote. one of the first class es i ever taught, i was a cop and got shot in the chest. as i was recovering at the hospital i wanted to do something else with my life, wanted to come back to college to be a high school teacher. his first go around in college planted the seeds, he hadn't been the perfect college student by a long shot the first time around but there was the second time around and something made him want to come back. no need to be a pollyanna i guess but neither should we think the changes we can make will have no effect whatsoever
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at some point wonderfully in the future. >> you take jane austen seriously. >> two short questions, do you think about classics made into a film might work if an actress or director comes to the campus, do you see -- and none of the books seem to have gunfire? >> world war the was assigned. >> turned to ashley. there are many books on the list that have been made into movies, so many that early on we created a whole column on chekhov. is there a movie? many of the books already have movies, others have movies in
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the works. moviemaking as part of the apparatus. persuasion has been made, there you go. my philology is not up to date. the issue is can we improve the marketing of classic books via other media and is that a good idea? >> the thought is only if the author comes to speak will we have an event for students, colleges have gotten really creative. we have art competitions, open mic night, military demonstrations, science experiments, one college as a shakespeare festival every year, different book by shakespeare,
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and university of wisconsin, had a no impersonator come to campus. a dead author can always get an impersonator. >> if a movie exists they will watch the movie and not read the book. >> breakfast at tiffany changes course. >> i don't think i can repeat that. >> has any thought been given why only one common book is assigned? why not a rotation where one year you have something from the science department, history, another year art and mathematics and literature that way?
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why not indeed have some sort of testing or assignment, in high school whether the curriculum is good or not? >> the three part questions are why not more than one book, rotation, discipline and the third one? >> something specific. >> i will dispose of two of those quickly. the question of whether they will actually read it to magnify more reading is done. it is not very common but it does happen. some colleges do test, and you question why more don't do it but the third rotation like discipline i have not heard of. >> i have not but i think it is
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a great idea. >> the rationale for choosing literature, the reason to read, to expand your mind, step out of your time and your culture and your age and your race and your gender and imagine what life is like in another era. kind of harry potter fantasy literature. cultural progressive. is that kind of rationale never been used to select literature? it is not the western canon but an active imagination.
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has that argument ever been used? >> has the argument been put forward, based on the imaginative distance from the here and now, thinking of fantasy literature, the biggest embodiment of that, i think that is related to my near versus far question but i will turn to david on that because he is a much stronger fan, rooted in the realistic. >> in effect i think that is what they think they are doing now. they are two troubles. one is their sense of what is different is based on very
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narrow categories of modern multiculturalism which in effect means somebody from somewhere else in the year 2010 is presumed to be remarkably different from us and there is no sense how greatly much more differently people were 500 years ago. some sort of diversity being chosen, the other thing for science fiction, one of the most common fiction things done but not because it is new and different but it is the default genre fiction people read and movies that they see. i love science fiction and fantasy but when it is chosen it is usually because it stretches the student less but not more. >> fiction is very rare.
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nonfiction is more than 70% of the books chosen and of those nonfiction most are memoirs. a lot of the subtitles are my journey, my struggle, my year in blank. very me focused. >> a fair amount of these are exposed as for odd. three cups of tea worked out to be a piece of fiction masquerading as memoir. >> a problem with student engagement, how do we know about engagement -- the issue is how many times have we heard publish or perish? forced to sneak out areas of research where none have gone before trying to find something
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new and different, and the scholarship you are encouraged to pursue in modern academia follows trends similar to the themes found in these books, trying to be different, resulting in scholarship and you find professors not engaged in student education. >> how much of a factor does training after originality to avoid the perishing part of
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publishing have on delegated the reading of material to the university and allow these themes of race, class, gender? >> i can speak for the humanities and softer areas of the campus. we have a bargain in place between faculty and students. the bargain is on the faculty's side i will show up to class, give you a syllabus and a decent lecture and go away. you are going to do what you are supposed to do on a syllabus and take those tests and get a
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decent grade. don't spend much time talking in my office or too much extracurricular contact. i don't want to talk with you for 45 minutes about why she is getting up in the middle night and washing her hands, walking the halls, let's not get into that. you got the assignment, you know what to do, i will see you later at the exam. i won't bother you too much, you don't bother me too much and the system will continue going. >> we believe in the virtue of efficiency, reading books is too slow. >> is reading books just too slow for students and that is why colleges have dumbed down there reading lists? >> one gets the sense they even try to know. it is not their priority. it is not that difficult to read if you spend some time on it.
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i don't think slowness is the problem, just sheer lack of interest. >> i can see how much of a high achiever world spending all summer long to read the novels of henry james doesn't sound very productive, doesn't go along with the building a resume, doesn't go along with internships. i can see how what you are saying sounds inefficient in terms of the high achiever focus on so much of their lives. if there high achievement is not directly oriented around books, 200 years ago it would be
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expected of leaders and civilized nations to have done there reading in plutarch. these are lessons in leadership, good lessons and bad lessons. george washington stage of cato for his troops to watch out of his play because he thinks this is an important thing, what people should know. those things don't seem to go with success in the temporary world, other activities of building up your social media time or networking in certain ways or doing things that can go on a resume. >> we need to change what we value as a society. >> two more questions. >> tell me i am being too
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cynical. if the faculty, if the time on campus is to resist this common culture and create a community by assigning a book, creating a community of people who resist community? >> a paradoxical question here. are beach books programs and attempt to create a community by resisting larger principles of community? >> you would not choose classics if you are trying to create a community of people in this community. >> this is a reference to the anti-culture on campus, the character that is disliked, dislike is too soft a word for the inheritance of western civilization, rejection of all
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that in favor of what is new and breaking on our shores of the sea of a new culture. >> i want to add one more goodwill thought. people who serve on these committees do not serve on a selection committee, they are dedicated to college. they may not have made choices i like, they put in the time. they got more of a sense of community than the ones who walked off without doing any community service at all. among professors and faculty. so you got some bias among people selecting the book, those who care about college and students. >> i asked the question are they on that committee? they volunteered for it because they want to control what every student has to read and they don't want the wrong books in students hands. >> like plutarch.
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>> yes. >> you bring up a good point that contemporary books that are no longer popular in a few years limit your community to those readers at that time and if you read a classic it connects you to the generations that have gone before and will come after you. >> those generations are dead. >> and future generations. >> faculty itself is contradicting itself. >> last question. >> understand this element we have, like the university, and there seems to be an ad on.
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the university redefined itself as a political force and these programs, when you think about community you are thinking of political community. part of that -- >> is that a question? >> i am just saying. >> there is the possibility we are being too gentle about this. there is a political subtext to these books, political agenda driving this forward. and scholars are friendly to that point of view.
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and the presentation on this what we are writing about, trying to reign it in a little bit, clearly some element of goodwill in the selection of these books. they could do a lot worse. it is not an agenda -- something else, and outcast united, another children's book about a multicultural soccer team in south carolina, a do-gooder, a bunch of immigrant kids around the world whose prospect are bleak and their lives are transformed. >> peter?
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>> adapted for young people by warren st. john. >> he put 100 pages out of it, the shorter version is suitable. >> the spirit of this whole enterprise, and they are united in coming together in opposition enterprise in which they generate a new more wholesome culture and that is one reason books, not just classics in the classical sense but books written before they were born were so huge. 91% of the books signed in common reading programs around the country this year, after these children were born, 91%.
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it is as though the written word hardly existed before they did. hints that there might have been something written in english earlier but you have to go to some faraway colleges in utah and places like that, there is a major exception in new york city, this is not a story, uniform disgrace everywhere, 250 colleges this year find them, they have taken an easy path into a world in which the books they assign are not challenging, the content of them is overtly
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political. there is a quality of intellectual squalor that has overtaken this enterprise. as an organization the national association of scholars's duties to be optimistic, try to find something that can redeem this enterprise. colleges will not go back and re-create some kind of core curriculum, a common reading may be only a band-aid but at least it is a band-aid. let's find the best band-aid we can. henrique's journey and just mercy don't make the cut. we need something a little better than that and some persuasion on the part of those who do like to read can go a long way. every single person in this room is here because books have changed your life. something that turned on your life and made you somebody who wanted to read for the rest of your life and you care about that and we want you to take that caring into this public discussion. it is great to publish a 200 page report about this and say
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it is a sad situation but all of you have friends and family members who care about these things too. we urge you to go out and talk about this, get a conversation started about better books for the beach or beyond the beach, not just sand castles but something more substantial. thank you for coming. thank you for having us. [applause] >> i am giving away copies of two of my books. mark put some of his books up here. either buying or selling, you can make a choice. >> those are half-price, actually. >> thanks again for coming. [applause] >> you are watching booktv on
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c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> this weekend, first lady laura bush on booktv to discuss the progress of afghan women since the start of operation enduring freedom in 2001. on afterwards, former bush administration official looks at the growth of presidential power during the obama administration and this weekend, kaplan talks about the history of cyberwarfare. for a complete television schedule, booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. ..
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>> former nfc a and cia director michael hayden recalled the decision he made as director of both agency following the events of september eleventh. in the coming weeks on afterwards, nancy: on the : on the challenges that women face in politics. and the potential of a female president. then we ask for voter fraud. also coming up former congressman talks about the guiding principles he follows in his professional and personal life. this weekend, former bush justice department offici


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