Should computer coding be written into high school curricula? Coding appears to be the latest education trend, according to New York Magazine: while nine out of ten U.S. high schools don’t offer computer programming, professionals are recognizing a need for more computer programmers in the job field. New York quotes Maria M. Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College: “We have a clear disparity between the needs of industry and the number of computer-science graduates we produce. We simply do not have enough students graduating high school with an interest in pursuing computer science.”
But despite the importance of computer science and programming jobs, Jathan Sadowski believes required coding classes could be detrimental to our high schools. He wrote for Wired on Monday that, while many view coding as an essential skill set in today’s technological world, mandatory classes could actually widen the country’s inequality gap:
We have enough trouble raising English literacy rates, let alone increasing basic computer literacy: the ability to effectively use computers to, say, access programs or log onto the internet. Throwing coding literacy into the mix means further divvying up scarce resources. Teaching code is expensive. It requires more computers and trained teachers, which many cash-strapped schools don’t have the luxury of providing … Focusing on the additional, costly skillset of coding — rather than the other more essential, but still lacking, types of literacy — is the product of myopic technical privilege. There’s a reason such arguments arise primarily from the digerati: In that world, basic access is rarely a problem.
At first glance, adding computer coding to educational curricula seems like a savvy step. Especially considering the difficulty of obtaining jobs in today’s economy. However, as Sadowski points out, there are limited opportunities available to educators and students. This limited time should be focused on the basics, first and foremost. Literacy and math are essential to students’ educational progress. Without that comprehension, they will find it difficult to excel in other areas. But the beauty of educational rudiments like math and English lies in their transcendence: children who understand the beauty of the written word, or delight in solving math equations, will have already cultivated learning habits essential to computer coding.
Could coding classes perpetuate the inequality gap? Only if we attempted to implement them on any sort of mandatory level. There is nothing wrong with learning computer coding. One could argue it’s like learning a musical instrument: it’s an excellent, interesting, and useful skill. But much like learning an instrument, there is a lot of time and money involved in coding classes. Joining a “code club” would enable students to enjoy programming, without exorbitant cost to schools.
Arguing that code is the “true lingua franca of the future” seems to give it an importance that devalues other beautiful, non-verbal languages. What of the transcendent language of music? What of art? Truly, it would be best if students could be well-versed in all these “languages.” Unfortunately, we haven’t the time or resources to teach all these wonderful subjects. But perhaps some students will seek out coding, music, and art on their own.
While many Americans give during the holiday season, the religious are most likely to feel charitable: according to a new book by David E. Campbell, American Grace, U.S. giving has always been heavily tied to religion. Those affiliated with a religion are most likely to contribute time and money to various philanthropic causes. But Campbell proposes that the actual motivator behind charitable giving is not God or a specific doctrine of charity. It’s actually the religious community, as he explained in a Thursday TIME article:
Rather than religious beliefs, we found that the “secret ingredient” for charitable giving among religious Americans is the social networks formed within religious congregations. The more friends someone has within a religious congregation, the more likely that person is to give time, money, or both, to charitable causes. In fact, even non-religious people who have friends within a religious congregation (typically, because their spouse is a believer) are highly charitable—more so than strong believers who have few social ties within a congregation.
Campbell goes on to propose secular, tight-knit organizations (such as atheistic churches) to help encourage charity amongst non-religious people.
But what is it about community, specifically, that encourages giving? Campbell doesn’t elaborate on this. Perhaps it is the love fostered through relationship. It could also be a sense of accountability derived from close community: if your best friend sponsors a child overseas, you may be prompted to do so as well. Community may also lend a feeling of immediacy to various issues: we may not be next-door to those fighting poverty, but we’re next-door to those fighting it.
This sense of immediacy may be one of the most important factors in charitable giving: The Atlantic shared thoughts Monday from bioethics professor Peter Singer’s “practical ethics” class at Princeton. He believes a feeling of remoteness can significantly affect giving:
It’s human nature to feel compelled to save those who are close to us—our immediate kin, our friends, the little boy we stumble upon whose desperate movements in the water tug at our hearts. It’s much harder to feel that sympathy for faceless children somewhere else (whether in another neighborhood in our town, or halfway across the world). Studies have shown that people tend to give more generously when they are shown a photo and told a story about one, identifiable, specific child.
How do we combat this geographical apathy? Interestingly, Singer points to research as an antidote: he instructs students to research four organizations, and determine which is the most meritorious. Through this exercise, the students “learn that their money will always go much further overseas: that a very small amount of money for an American can be life-saving to someone who is desperately poor. In other words, they learn about the tenets of effective altruism: how to evaluate organizations for transparency and benefits, and figure out which forms of aid are the most cost-effective. This is information that tends to inspire more giving.”
But Singer’s research-based tactic takes the human face away from charity—and according to Campbell’s research, this human face is an essential facet to long-term giving. Additionally, while it makes most logical sense to put your dollar where it will have the greatest practical benefit, Singer’s “effective altruism” distances the giver from the need. If community and immediacy are key ingredients to philanthropic giving, then this method—while useful in a utilitarian sense—may falter faster than community-fostered giving.
Nearly every day, an article pops up on Twitter stating, “We need more women to become [fill in the blank].” From engineers to CEOs, writers to philosophers, women are told there is such-and-such a position they must fill in order to bring balance to the galaxy. To further this goal, Germany has created a new plan:
According to a new agreement between the parties negotiating to form Germany’s next governing coalition, supervisory boards for companies registered on the German stock exchange will need to be at least 30 percent female starting in 2016 … From the U.S., where women held only 16.1 percent of board seats by last count, it’s an intriguing experiment to watch for several reasons. Government-directed quotas are potentially unconstitutional, and even private companies seeking to set quotas have been told affirmative action plans need to meet pretty strict requirements to survive an equal protection or Civil Rights Act-based challenge. But many of the folks following women’s lack of progress on Wall Street would like to see the U.S. be, well, a little more Teutonic.
It’s an interesting proposition, and seems to promote a sort of necessary balance. But there are some problems with this idea of “egalitarianism” that Micah Mattix identified well in a Tuesday TAC post:
On the one hand, it is asserted that there are no differences between men and women; therefore, every vocation, every position type, should reflect the country’s gender ratio. If the ratio is not reflected, it is the result of some injustice, again because there is no reason other than discrimination for fewer women in this or that vocation. On the other hand, is asserted that having more women in a certain profession or vocation would make it better because it would add something that was missing. But if there is no difference between men and women, what could possibly be missing?
To put it simply: these articles argue that there are no differences between men and women as such. They believe men and women only differentiate on an individual basis. But if this is true, one shouldn’t need gender quotas to help promote a “missing” element.
Now, if women are truly being discriminated against, then this is a problem. If women were failing the bar exam because of a discriminatory system, or if a company refused to hire women CEO’s simply because of their gender, it would be a serious problem. But this seems better remedied on a case-by-case basis than through a statewide quota.
Germany is a democratic country. If women aren’t vying for certain company positions, might it be because some don’t actually want those positions? According to Katrin Bennhold, that’s the problem: in a 2011 New York Times story, she said gender stereotypes (specifically, “the mother myth”) perpetuated throughout Germany’s history have deceived the female populace. She quotes Angelika Dammann, the “first and only female board member at software giant SAP”: “We are still very far from a situation where it’s as normal for women as for men to want both a career and family—even among young women. When you have children, you’re expected to stay home for a significant period; otherwise you are considered a bad mother.”
Perhaps this is a backward question; but must all women want both a career and family? If women deserve the right to pursue whatever vocation they want, then shouldn’t they be allowed to choose family over career? Should the girl who dreams of becoming a “homemaker” be forced onto the supervisory board of a company simply to fulfill some gender quota? No one seems to suggest such a thing. Yet the mothers who choose family over career are treated with a sort of disdain, as if they’ve been brainwashed by an ancient “mother myth.”
It seems only fair that women should be able to choose any vocation, whether engineering or motherhood—not in order to fulfill some gender quota or to appease the feminists of their age, but purely out of love for the vocation they pursue.
Where I grew up, autumn is a season of first fruits. Work-hardened hands are connected to soft, generous hearts. Heritage is plowed into your heart-soil, tradition resonates in everyday rhythms, and praise is the crop that bursts forth from rich hard earth.
My farmer great-grandpa (we called him “Grandpa Dad”) would hold me on his knee, calloused hands cradling my four-year-old frame, and tell me stories. He painted pictures with soft, deep words: of silent movies and driving a four-horse team at age eight. Of his father, who traveled west in a covered wagon and homesteaded in wild, bare Idaho land. I can still see his handsome, wrinkled face; still feel him pull me into his strong, cologne-spiced hug; still hear the rich velvety tones of his voice—a voice that would always melt into chuckles of peace and praise.
Every fall, we sat around the rough wooden picnic table, shucking golden sweet corn: Grandpa Dad, Grandpa Wally, Daddy, my brothers. Grandpa Wally was a pepper-haired man with an infectious belly laugh, who waltzed with me as a baby and always told me, “Grace, you should go to a school out east. You should see the world.” He put on his overalls and work boots, and worked while the sun slumbers. To bed at 8 p.m., awake at 4 a.m. His sweet corn, fresh beef, and brown-speckled eggs filled our stomachs year round. Face brown and wrinkled from the sun, teeth glinting with gold eyes glinting with humor, his bass voice made the floor tremble. He raised five children to the gospel truth, to hard work, to the golden laughter of peace and praise.
Our Thanksgiving table was always heavy-laden with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, all the food our stomachs could hold (and more). We weren’t all farmers, but we shared our labors, prepared with soft and calloused hands alike. We found rest for our souls at that table, though sometimes that meant words were left unspoken—stuffed under the rug or left outside the door in chilly November air.
I never appreciated that time when living it. There was a casual, steady reliability in it. There was no reason to expect anything else. Grandma’s candles and china, her careful place settings—they never changed. Neither, I thought, would we. But people change and move with the seasons. When I look out on sunsets and leaves painted cinnamon, I think of home. When I see a field of tall, golden-crowned corn, counting their glorious rows, I remember the harvest—always given to family.
I remember the warmth of Grandpa Dad’s red flannel shirt, his straw hat perched on snowy white hair, and his straight white teeth smiling joyously back at me. Though he passed on to glory at 96, I still see him in the harvest. His life trained ours—to work for God and for family, to give back the first fruits with praise.
I remember my Grandpa Wally’s words when I was about eleven years old: “Grace, when you grow up, you should write a story about me.” It was said jokingly. But the tan farmer with a twinkle in his eye, who waltzed and laughed and cried with me, taught me something invaluable about life: if you don’t share it with your family, there is no joy. He gave, and gave. He and his father put their shoulders to the plow, bore the fruit, and poured it forth with thanksgiving. Then they started over.
This age of impatience chokes the remembrance out of thanksgiving. And without remembrance, we grow ungrateful. We no longer have the strength, patience, or time to dig the hard furrows or sow the slowly-growing fruit. We demand, and forget to serve. Thanksgiving becomes a time of “dealing with” relatives, a time of bearing the silent torment of kinship. Family alienation threads its way through the holidays, bearing thorns instead of fruit. How do we redeem the crop?
Sometimes it starts with one seed, or two. Sometimes it starts with one farmer, willing to fight the horrors of Depression and drought to bring forth a harvest. I peel back the memories like a cornhusk, and stare at the golden treasure beneath. Memories of the flat farmland, the vibrant saffron sunsets, making applesauce with my sister, mother, and grandmother: they draw tears and smiles of peace and praise.
This will be my first Thanksgiving away from home. But the thanksgiving will not change. Family, wherever it lies, brims over with offering, tears, and laughter. The praise comes as we give our first fruits, wherever we might be.
The Internet has changed the way we communicate. Most commonly, we see its effects permeate our grammatical discourse: the pronouncement of “selfie” as word of the year was perhaps the best indication of this. But our conversations have also changed in a deeper sense. According to some observations by Atlantic contributor Andrew Simmons, it may help some teenagers release emotion:
On Facebook, even popular students post statuses in which they express insecurities. I see a dozen every time I log on. A kid frets that his longtime girlfriend is straying and wishes he hadn’t upset her. Another admits to being lonely (with weepy emoticons added for effect). Another asks friends to pray for his sick little sister. Another worries the girl he gave his number to isn’t interested because she hasn’t called in the 17 minutes that have passed since the fateful transaction. Another disparages his own intellect. “I’m so stupid, dad told me to drop out,” he writes. Another wonders why his parents are always angry, and why their anger is so often directed at him. “Brother coming home today,” another posts. “Gonna see how it goes.”
It seems social media may encourage less benign emotional expressions, as well. Relevant Magazine posted an article last week lamenting the angry discussions that often boil over on Facebook. “You log into Facebook and it has happened once again,” author Brandon W. Peach writes, “Some broad political sentiment sparks a flame-war and everyone seems to want to weigh in with a jab, meme, ad hominem attack or (arguably worst of all) a wall of text that begs for you to ‘see more.’” Sometimes, truly insightful discussions can take place on Facebook. But too often, a posted article or controversial status open up Pandora’s box, unleashing a swath of ridicule, offense, and disdain.
Does all this online emotion carry forward into real-time conversations? Forbes contributor Donna Sapolin doesn’t think so. In a Monday post, she shares a conversation she had with her son after a power blackout. He told her he was happy for the outage, because it led him and his friends to have a deep, meaningful conversation. She ponders:
It seems the younger generations are deeply hungry for meaningful face-to-face interactions but feel they have to devise a new approach in order to get beyond shallow chit-chat. This isn’t exactly surprising considering that the bulk of Gen X and Y communication takes place via texts, social media posts and email, and camaraderie takes the form of things watched or played together on screens. We’ve deemed these generations to be the most connected, but they may, in fact, be the most disconnected.
Facebook friends do not constitute true “community.” They are virtual presences, people we cannot see, hear, or touch. In discussing (or arguing) sensitive and personal topics with other users, it is impossible to know the immediate impact of our words. We cannot see furrowed brows, bit lips, or clenched fists. Thus, online discussions become immensely dramatic, sarcastic, and inflammatory—much more than usual face-to-face conversations.
If Sapolin is right, true face-to-face discourse is becoming more rare, even as our online presences devolve into emotion-spewing excess. How many high school students who pour out their souls online will have meaningful conversations with their grandmothers on Thanksgiving? How many people will Instagram pictures of turkey or post a “Happy Thanksgiving” status on Facebook, but never deeply converse with those they are breaking bread with?
To occupy our present space, with grace and candor, is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges of our technological age. Virtual reality’s isolated safety beckons appealingly to us. But if there’s one thing social media is teaching us, it is that there are better forms of communication—deeper, truer, sweeter—than it can offer.
The first book I read by C.S. Lewis was, perhaps obviously, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was immediately captivated, and Lewis’s writings became an integral part of my growing up. He was the first author to introduce me to theology and philosophy. During college, his space trilogy offered a delightful escape from textbook reading. But it was also during college that I first encountered C.S. Lewis skeptics, people who criticized his tone and style, deriding him as a not very “serious” scholar.
In a sense, they’re right. Lewis was very jolly. Most of his books seem to glow with laughter. His humorous writing showed that one needn’t divorce serious subjects from good humor. Perhaps this is why some angst-ridden existential types seem to dislike him so: Lewis (even at his most serious) refuses to take life too seriously.
Their dislike of his work could also stem from his casual, friendly writing style. Some people have said C.S. Lewis sounds as if he’s talking “down” to his readers. But his style is only childish in the sense that it is grammatically simple. His pithy writing welcomed readers of all ages and backgrounds. It makes sense that this would anger some intellectuals: most academics write for each other, not for the ordinary reader. Yet that is what Lewis sought to do. When writing books like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, he did not merely have Oxford scholars in mind. He presented his readers with lucid arguments on a variety of theological problems. His books could make any churchgoer feel like a scholar.
Ariel Levy’s story of miscarriage ran last week in the New Yorker and exploded across the country, receiving a resoundingly positive reaction from empathetic readers. When the Dish picked up her story, their readers also responded with an outpouring of comments describing the grief and pain of miscarriage. This bursting forth has opened a door, shedding new light on a previously unseen grief. Melissa Lafsky Wall explained the reaction Monday in her piece “Giving Voice to the Silent Sorrow”:
I never heard of the “silent sorrow” until a few months later. Learning that a phrase existed for women who’ve miscarried made me even sadder. Its presence means that there are untold armies of women marching grimly through life, carrying their silent sorrow like a wound patched up with duct tape, and no one even knows what they’re suffering. Pain will always accompany losing a pregnancy. But silence — that part is optional.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview a mother who lost three children to miscarriage. This is her story. My hope (and hers) is that it will keep the conversation going, and help other grieving mothers know that they are not alone, and that every lost child counts.
Mike and Katie sped along a country road in Fruitland, Idaho. The local hospital was on the other side of the Snake River in Ontario, Oregon—thankfully, only minutes away. It was only a few days after Katie’s 20th birthday, four months after their marriage in an old Idaho schoolhouse.
Katie prayed frantically. “I don’t care if this baby is handicapped, I don’t care if this baby doesn’t have an arm or leg,” she thought. “I just want this baby. I want this baby alive.”
She remembered how happy they had been when they found out she was pregnant, only five weeks after their August wedding. The following months were gloriously normal. Katie had terrible morning sickness, and puked on the side of the road during a Thanksgiving vacation.
But in December, she began bleeding. She thought to herself, “Maybe the doctors can stop it… maybe the baby can still live…”
But the baby was gone. Friends told them helpfully, “It’s just your first baby, you’ll have another one.” Others said, “You weren’t very far along, it’ll be better the next time.” Katie smarted under their words. Her arms hung limp and empty, aching for her child.
Katie had three normal, smooth pregnancies between 2002 and 2006: the three boys, Braden, Nathan, and Ian, were healthy and boisterous.
When Ian was eight months old, Katie found out she was pregnant with her fifth baby. At 19 weeks, the family went in for an ultrasound. Everything was fine. Katie had begun to feel her baby’s little kicks. She hoped it was a girl.
China announced last Friday that it would change its one-child policy, offering a little more flexibility to select families: if either parent is an only child, parents are now allowed to have two children. The nation’s Communist Party leadership made these changes after seeing the damage its one-child policy has wrought demographically on its populace: the Wall Street Journal reports that China faces maturing growth, a wide wealth gap, pollution, and the world’s most unbalanced sex ratio. This policy was not changed out of a desire to grant freedom, human flourishing, or strong family structure. It was motivated by pure practicality.
While that utilitarianism isn’t bad, it is not necessarily good either. It means that many parents who want more than one child will still be banned from having them. The government will still dictate the reproductive rights of Chinese parents.
This is not to dismiss the magnitude and importance of this change. The policy has remained unchanged since its formation in 1980, and is one of the largest experiments in state-enforced demographic engineering. But if China made this choice purely out of perceived utilitarian necessity, will it ever grant parental freedom without constraints? There is a likelihood that China could swing from one controlling extreme to another: if there is a shortage of children in China’s future, might they begin mandating married adults to have at least one child? Some sort of 1+ child policy?
This change does not indicate that China’s leaders are ready to diminish their control on society. Rather, this exception to the one-child policy is yet another example of attempted population control. Throughout China, local “family planning service centers” will remain in business. And it is likely that, especially in country regions, the one-child policy will continue to have a scarring effect. The Atlantic highlighted some of these dangers in a Monday article:
…the policy has often been administered with brutal force, leaving behind a painful legacy of illegal abortions and sterilizations. The fines are far too expensive for most in rural China to pay, and a lingering preference for male offspring has led to a spike in sex-selective abortions and even infanticide.
There are several problems that may persist under China’s one-child policy, changed as it is. The aforementioned illegal abortions and preference for male offspring (thus accounting for the country’s unbalanced sex ratio) are two of these. The practice of forcing abortions is another.
In addition, the worst demographic damage has already been done—and will take time to reverse. Forbes contributor Gordon Chang wrote Monday, “China’s future demography has now been set for at least a generation. Population-boosting policies rarely work, but when they do it takes decades for them to have a noticeable effect. What Beijing officials are doing now is both too little and too late.”
The motivation behind China’s one-child policy still remains: control. The government tells only certain parents that they can have only a certain amount of children. This is not freedom. One hopes that the deleterious results of China’s one-child policy will, with time, begin to fade. But before that happens, the country’s undergirding stance on liberty and ethics will have to change.
“A crime is happening in our schools every day,” wrote Peter Cohen and Jeff Livingston in a Wednesday Atlantic column. That crime being inflicted upon America’s innocent schoolchildren: their agonizing lack of wall-to-wall Wi-Fi. The McGraw-Hill president and vice president write,
At work and at home, most of us live our very wired, connected lives—moving between wi-fi zones as we give little thought to the millions of schoolchildren around the country who go to school every day without Internet or broadband connections, without access to 1:1 computing, and without the benefit of modern handheld learning devices.
In light of this injustice, U.S. Department of Education official Richard Culatta told this year’s SXSWedu festival that “angry mobs of parents should be storming schools with pitchforks,” according to the article. How have these students managed to survive school without Internet access constantly at their fingertips?
Thankfully, salvation is nigh: President Obama’s ConnectED initiative “aims within five years to connect 99 percent of America’s students through next-generation broadband … and high-speed wireless networks in schools.”
Under the McGraw-Hill mindset, teachers couldn’t possibly teach without access to the newest plethora of educational apps and software available online. Students, so accustomed to their digital devices, couldn’t be expected to learn via old-fashioned methods. It is not fair to insist they write with pencils and read dusty old books. They need an interactive, online experience from classroom to hallway to cafeteria.
It’s not that students don’t have Internet at school. Most of them do—but in some locations, it is limited and/or slow. This makes it difficult for students to access the latest interactive educative apps with the appropriate speed, apps that just happen to be sold by McGraw-Hill. Cohen and Livingston also note that “Cisco, a global leader in IT, recently recommended that the FCC put more money into the Obama initiative.” One can understand why, given how many more one-room libraries and small schoolhouses are in need of $20,000 Cisco routers. As they so adroitly put it, it’s time “to get our schools on the superhighway,” notwithstanding the failure of high-tech schools to live up to their lofty promises.
Otherwise, we might foster a generation of nerds who enjoy learning the old-fashioned way: students who enjoy doing actual science experiments, who write out their math homework on antiquated graph paper, who read print books and are forced to practice such antiquated skills as handwriting. Failing to shovel our money into technical solutions to our educational problems, Cohen and Livingston say, “would make us all complicit in what could otherwise be considered one of the greatest crimes of the 21st century.”
George Vanderbilt, a late 19th century heir to the family fortune and builder of the Biltmore Estate, reportedly read 3,159 books during his lifetime (approximately 80 books per year). He kept a list of the books he had read in a diary; his last book was Henry Adams’ third U.S. history volume.
Most of us wish we could amass the knowledge that represents. Books give us insights into the perceptions and perspectives of foreign minds. They widen our horizons, and foster our understanding of beauty. But few of us will surpass Vanderbilt’s reading achievements (unless we inherit large fortunes and thus become able to amass and devour the contents of a 10,000-book library). We lack the time available to Vanderbilt; he had neither work nor Twitter to distract him from his reading. Reading takes time—and in our technological, time-driven age, we’ve become ever more aware of how time-consuming reading can be. New Yorker contributor Rachel Arons wrote Monday of a recent proliferation of speed reading apps on the market:
As we’ve transitioned from print to screens, we’ve started clocking how long reading takes: Kindles track the “time left” in the books we’re reading; Web sites like Longreads and Medium include similar estimates with their articles (total reading time for “Anna Karenina”: eighteen hours and twenty-two minutes); in June, Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of Reddit, published a book with a stamp on the cover advertising it as a “5 hour read.” … The fact is that little of what we read on the Web today is formatted in discrete pages, so it seems logical that, as reading online continues to supplant reading in print, hours and minutes will become increasingly useful units for measuring our progress.
I used to think that, if I tried really hard, perhaps I could read as many books as Vanderbilt. When I realized that this was probably an impossible goal, it felt something like a punch in the stomach: it was a moment of finitude.
Because of that moment, I could empathize with a girl I recently overheard talking with friends at Capitol Hill Books. Browsing the overstuffed shelves, she mentioned that bookstores often scared her, because she realized she “would never be able to read them all.” It’s only a matter of time before we realize that our to-read booklists can easily surpass the bounds of reason. There are so many tantalizing stories lying outside our grasp, and never enough time to read them all.
Some reject the infinitude stretching before them by deciding not to care. There’s too much to ever possibly absorb, and we become frightened and disheartened by the realization that we cannot have it all. Some become reading automatons, determined to absorb as much information as possible before they die. Speed reading apps, despite their usefulness, can turn reading into a personal competition or race to win. This often takes the joy out of reading, and makes it a chore (though for some, competition may enhance the experience).
When we can, we should read for quality’s sake: savoring every book, re-reading the ones that enchant us most. Yet at the same time, not every essential read is worth savoring. Speed reading is useful for the accumulation of necessary knowledge. Slow reading is essential for the appreciation of written beauty. Perhaps our best reading choices lie at the junction of quality and quantity: we can speed read tedious or secondary works, then slowly absorb the masterpieces worth relishing.
Few of us will meet or surpass Vanderbilt’s incredible standard—even if the speed reading apps may help. But do we really want to read 3,159 books? The Preacher observes in Ecclesiastes, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” At some point, even the greatest bookworms must set down their books and live the life that enriches our readings with understanding. After all, that’s the lesson of the bookstore’s infinitude: our lives aren’t long enough to chase after the endless.