Paul Acampora (acampora) wrote,
Paul Acampora

If we really wanted to raise boys that read…

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting opinion piece today by Mr. Thomas Spence entitled, “How to Raise Boys That Read.” Mr. Spence is an Ivy-league educated lawyer who runs a publishing company (the modestly named Spence Publishing Company) that focuses on a mostly (but not exclusively) right-wing readership. In his piece, he offers several reasonable points including:

1. A full experience with literature is a good thing.
2. An educated citizenry is vital to a functioning democracy.

I agree. Also, I have to respect Mr. Spence’s willingness to stand in opposition to the anti-intellectual bent that so many of his conservative brothers and sisters have embraced.

But somewhere along the line, Mr. Spence’s essay started to grate on me.

Is it when he makes not-so-subtle fun of teachers and librarians? (First he builds them up as experts, and then he knocks them down as gushing idiots.)

Is it when he takes publishers to task for making a profit? (A very odd point to make within the pages of the WSJ I have to say.)

Is it when he uses C.S. Lewis in support of the proposition that we stop bringing books down to children’s level? (Is he talking about the same C.S. Lewis who recast Jesus as a talking lion or is there another one that I don’t know about?)

Or is it when he poses his thesis in the form of a question so that it doesn’t really seem like he’s got an agenda of his own?

It’s all that and more.

Overall, Mr. Spence does a good job spray painting a gauzy film of truthiness over his entire piece. But he does not present an accurate picture of reality. And his solutions, like so many Republican red herrings these days, are simply bait and switch, name-calling exercises with no real point or substance. (See the new GOP Pledge to America for a wordier example.) A solution that cannot be implemented is not a solution.

What if we really wanted to achieve a higher level of literacy, education and democratic engagement in America? What solutions would truly get our children from here to there?

As the Wall Street Journal should know, capitalism is a system in which you generally get what you pay for. If our nation’s boys can’t read, then it’s because that’s what we – as a nation – are buying for them. With that in mind, here’s my modest proposal for how we might work together to achieve Mr. Spence’s admirable goals of increasing literacy, improving education and generally bolstering a free American society:

Raise taxes to support libraries, school districts and public colleges and universities that can authentically educate our nation’s children.

Raise taxes to support public and private research and development programs, which – as any Fortune 500 CEO will tell you – will create jobs, lead to breakthroughs in health, science and technology, and inspire young people.

Spend less time and fewer resources on exercises, efforts and fake pundit opinion pieces designed to divide our communities.

Instead, let’s put time and money into creating a shared national focus on issues that really matter.

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