Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Getting off to a good start. . .

I know people who managed to get all the way through college without reading a play by Shakespeare, or attending a course in American history. And as near as I can tell, for every literature and history course that I took, and that they avoided, their future net worth doubled. Not that I’m bitter – we history and literature majors will always find gainful employment as “good communicators” (some of the best memo writers in the workforce today).

Now obviously, many very bright people have little interest in literature or history. They may be dull as bars of soap, but it’s no crime. There’s good news for some of their bright children, however. It is pleasing to see that UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science is making incoming freshmen read a book on the roots and legacy of a Civil War era speech before they even arrive for classes.

Quoting from one of the university’s web pages:



Over the summer, all newly-admitted L&S students will receive a copy of Lincoln at Gettysburg in the mail, along with a message from the deans asking them to read the book and come prepared to discuss it. When they arrive during Welcome Week they will find opportunities to talk about the book with professors and fellow students in a variety of contexts, ranging from one-time discussions through semester-long Freshman Seminars. On the Same Page activities will culminate in a three-day campus visit by Garry Wills, who will talk with groups of students and faculty and give a public presentation on September 26 in Zellerbach Hall.



What a neat program – a book club in which every participant is nearly guaranteed to read and comment on the selected text. Will it cause some new student to rethink his or her preprogrammed career studies? Will there be one less chemist or petroleum engineer? Nah, but there will be some better educated ones.

4 comments:

Drew W. said...

I can see the dean there awash with advance copes and review copies for consideration for next year!

dw said...

Yes, indeed -- and books covering a wide spectrum of topics.

Drew W. said...

I would make em all read "Mill Springs".

Jude said...

I own this book, but I haven't managed to read it yet. That's probably because I know a Garry Wills book requires a certain commitment (as well as a nearby dictionary). This is a great idea. And they get to meet Garry Wills. Wow.