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November 20, 2008



Jim - sounds like an interesting book. In Bill Bryson's "Notes on a Small Island" he comments about visiting Kelvingrove gallery and observing a "working class" man and his boy conversing about great works of art. He thought this working class intelligentsia was distinctive to Glasgow, but I think it probably exists in places like Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield as well. However, do you think that we are losing this working class intellectualism? In an age of sound-bites there has been a proliferation of the "everything you need to know about ..." type books (of which Bryson is the author of at least one). An issue with these books is that it creates a pub quiz like knowledge, that is a knowing of some facts without any real understanding.
A similar, but different, book to Rose's might by Nicholas Boyle's "Who are we now?" I've not worked my way through this yet but have dipped into the chapters "Understanding Thatcherism" and "After Thatcherism".

Jim Gordon

I wonder if "working class intellectualism" is the right phrase. Working class intellectual hunger had the radically practical end of self improvement. Jones' book is exploring the discovery and pursuit of education through reading and cultural engagement as a form of such working class self improvement.Intellectual development was a means to an end, such desire for self-betterment originating amongst those outside elite educational systems, now seeking personal freedom and social empowerment that comes through informed independence of thought.

As to whether we are losing this....? I think as we move from a reading culture to an information culture, and as education becomes ever more vocationally focused and lifelong learning becomes more available, the opportunities for self-development are still there. And there are many people from less privileged and resourced backgrounds using them. But...access to education works at several levels, and a society which controls the resources that enable education, has the power to impose its preferred goals and purposes.

But I'm just half way through the book and I know Jones' research rasies the issue you have mentioned, Brodie. Let me come back to it when I've finished the book. Thanks for the good comment though.

Jim Gordon

Following Brodie's comment and my response I came across this (can't find original context but will go looking):

If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries.~John F. Kennedy

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