09 November 2015


People used to be intelligent and well-educated back in the 19th century, way more than today - the times of unlimited possibilities and global progress. Paradox but true.

It was my exact thought when I started reading Sherlock Holmes: The complete collection the other day, and stumbled upon a paragraph that said: "...Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility in the case of one trained to observation and analysis. His conclusions were as infallible as so many propositions of Euclid..." Last time I read the stories about Sherlock Holmes was at the age of 13 or 14, naturally, the level of comprehension at my current 28 is completely different. The first question that came to my mind was "How many people in the 21 century actually know who Euclid was?" And the more I read, the more similar questions kept occurring.
Young students mostly do not like to read classical literature, because they falsely assume it is boring. And if you try googling "classical li..." the option "classical literature" comes up third in the row, right up after "classical liberalism" and "classical languages", which in my opinion is somewhat sad. Not that liberalism and languages in their classical appearance are not interesting - very interesting, indeed - yet apparently it is what excites people of the 21 century way more than classical literature. Or literature at all, for that matter.

It would appear so because young people cannot imagine what they are going to read about if the describable events take place during the times when people didn't use modern language, modern brains, didn't possess modern interests, mobile phones, television and - oh good God - the Internet, hence the whole narrative would be deadly boring, to say the least. Let me bring another quote “The problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn’t have time for it” from an article which was published in New York Times in 1939, the era when television had only started gathering it's pace. As you can see, there actually was life before television!

The most depressing bit of global disinterest in classical literature lies in a  complete lack of wish to find out and understand history, the way of life and thought process of people during different years in the past. I recently finished reading "Ivanhoe" by Sir Walter Scott - a story that absolutely deserves an article of its' own. The book tells us about the romantic times of knighthood in England during the 11th century. One would think there was no life in 11th century whatsoever, people in the mass were savages, only ate raw meat and massively oppressed women.

Turns out in the 11th century they actually had much more understanding of what is right and wrong than most of the people have nowadays, ladies were very much respected (well...you know what I mean), they did have an idea about what vegetables were for and some actually even followed fashion! Yes, they were definitely dark times and everything was so different, yet so similar, but it is all the more reason to find out how different and how similar, isn't it? After all, there is nothing new under the sun. Times and entourage may change, but passions remain. The best guide to life lies in classical literature that has it all already described.

Yes, the achievements of our generation in technology and global progress in its' general sense is no doubt appalling. The point I am trying to make, however, is that on an individual scale at least half of the civilised population is illiterate and undereducated. Often willingly! For one simple reason - people do not like to read serious literature. We are so busy with social networks today, and television and other fruits of technology progress that we may simply not have time. While in the 19th century one of the limited (from our point of view) range of entertainment people had was reading, and a lot.

How many students do actually know the basics of their profession after having graduated? I don't even mention understanding basic biology and geography, let alone history or philosophy. The sad truth is that many ridiculously don't differentiate between "you're" and "your", as we all know.

Just imagine the level of ignorance of the coming generations, because let us be honest, generally, every parent is a role model for their kids, whether either of them wants it or not. If we don't read, neither will our children. It is no secret that educated people always feel more confident, they are thirsty for knowledge and they manage to find time for everything and magically combine social network obsession with self-improvement, among all other talents. Every parent would want for their kid to be among this section of the population. Well, it is all in our hands, all the more it is one of our main duties.

Social networks, television, and the Internet is actually a really great thing in the right hands. If only people were not so concentrated on creating online the life they don't, in fact, live offline, but on self-education instead, our generation would actually make a little step forward in making the world a better place. As far as I know, you can even visit museums and exhibitions never leaving your computer, not to mention read books for free and watch endless educational films on YouTube. I heard BBC is good at producing them, you should check out. Something a lot of people can afford today - unlike our fellow ancestors from the 19th century, who had to be divided by classes, hence had been denied the right or simply could not afford to study. Use it. 

And before you start arguing and trying to prove with foam at the mouth that we know more than we actually might think, just look at this random Examination tests for 8th grade in 1912 I found on the Internet. To how many questions can you give a legible answer without consulting Wikipedia first? Yes, so do I.

It certainly is a big problem of our generation. And I only hope that having finished reading my reflections, you will close your laptop and open a book. Don't forget, our kids do take after us.
Image borrowed from http://www.bloomberg.com/

1 comment

  1. I love your blog - something really interesting for once :-)


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