A few weeks ago, a new book came out on the history of the Great Books, with a rather snide view of the project. Today in the Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz' article "Lessons from the Great Books Generation" reports on the public's huge interest in this collection of classics during the '40's, '50's, and early '60's, and their relation to "today's more fleeting culture."
Ironically, in the late '20's, one of the Great Books founders, Robert Hutchins, was worried about information overload. "The reiteration of slogans, the distortion of the news, the great storm of propoganda that beats upon the citizen 24 hours a day all his life," means "that the people must save themselves by strengthening their minds so that they can appraise the issues for themselves." He had good reason to worry--the Soviets, Nazis, and Fascists were rising to power during this era.
Attacked in the late '60's by "radicals" (see my take on conservative they truly are here) who now dominate academia with their New Left views, these books have been hounded out of most curricula as the works of "dead white males." Sadly, even the University of Chicago where Hutchins was president at the tender age of 29, has eliminated most of the core curriculum of classics which he introduced in the '30's.
I only wish the minions of today's sorry educational institutions would take to heart Hutchins statement "The best education for the best is the best education for all. I am not saying that reading and discussing the Great Books will save humanity from itself, but I don't know anything else that will."