Today’s Readers, Tomorrow’s Leaders … Perhaps

By Kevin Currie-Knight


Something interesting happened in 2020 that changed my view of the importance of books and snobbish attitudes about their importance. I found out that an author I admire, Jon Ronson, had published two works that I didn’t know about: The Butterfly Effect and The Last Days of August.

Ronson is the type of author whose work I automatically buy the minute I hear of it because I find it so enjoyable. So I looked in vain for new books Ronson had produced. Frustrated, I did a general internet search for those titles, without the word ‘book’ in the search, and that did the trick. These were in fact new works. However, they were not books but podcasts. It required a subscription to an audiobook service, but I procured them and, like Ronson’s other works, I eagerly took them in.

Here’s why this situation changed my view about reading’s importance. Up until this point – aside from a few early documentary films – Ronson worked primarily in the printed word, which is where he experienced his success. These newer works were deliberately done as podcasts. [He’s since produced another: the excellent Things Fell Apart.] To make things even stranger, these new works were indistinguishable in substance from Ronson’s general style of quirky journalistic writing. They consisted of him reading the same types of prose he would normally have written, where the only difference was that quotes from interview subjects were now audio excerpts from those subjects.

If works like this can be – and are now willingly produced as – podcasts, what does that say for the cultural importance of book reading? This was and is interesting to me, particularly because I’m a professor working in Education, and a former special educator who worked with many students for whom reading was either a challenge or an impossibility. In fact, when I left high school teaching, I was in the midst of trying to convince my school district to make heavier use of then-cutting-edge Amazon Kindle readers, which had large-print and text-to-speech capabilities that I knew could help my students.

As any linguist or historian of language will tell us, writing is a new technology compared with speech. And the dominance of the written word is as recent as the printing press and subsequent efficiencies that have reduced the cost – and increasing the availability – of books.

I confess not to know the details of this history, but in this process, we gradually created a cultural snobbery around books, and it hasn’t gone away. My in-laws – one of them a former schoolteacher – have a sign in their library that says, “Today’s readers, tomorrow’s leaders.” (I suspect it once hung in the schoolteacher’s classroom.) The implication is either that reading is a sign of, and requires, intellect, or that it is the most reliable way to absorb the type of information that makes for leadership.

But can we really say that in the age where authors like Jon Ronson or Malcolm Gladwell are turning their attention to audio formats over written ones? Of course, I know that Ronson and Gladwell aren’t exactly Darwin or Locke. But neither are most of the authors that schools regularly celebrate kids for reading, like Shel Silverstein or Judy Blume. “Today’s Readers, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” places its emphasis – as schools and the wider culture generally do – on the medium, at least as much as the content in the pages.

Yet, reading is in a medium, and like all media, we can separate, at least to some degree, the medium from the content. That’s what discovering Jon Ronson’s podcasts helped me to understand. They easily could have been written as books, and conversely, the audiobook versions of his books sound almost identical to his podcasts. The medium is different, but the content is virtually identical. And let’s remember, one of those venerated authors we regularly read in school – William Shakespeare – wrote plays that were never intended to be encountered primarily on printed pages. Watching and reading a play are more divergent experiences than reading or listening to a Jon Ronson story. But to some important degree, the same content can be conveyed through different media, and it is the content, not the medium, that seems of primary importance.

When people ask me whether reading is as important in today’s world as it was in the past, I still answer with a resounding “yes!” If anything, we live in a world more saturated with written text than at any previous point in human history. With the rise of texting and instant messaging (what John McWhorter calls “fingered speech”), kids and adults now write out conversations that previous generations would have spoken. The internet and the ubiquity of devices to access it means that the written word is everywhere.

But that same internet and those same devices also mean that other ways of conveying ideas are also everywhere. Audiobook sales are surging, and factors including the decreased costs of production mean that more books are available in audio formats than ever before. Podcasting has become its own industry, and as a subscriber to a podcast service, I listen to scores of podcasts that do exactly what Ronson’s did: take a narrative that could have been written and speak it out.

I have no desire to kill books. If you looked around the room in which I’m writing this, it would be obvious how much I love them. And surely, books and other printed formats can do things audio formats can’t. First, book reading is silent, so I can read a book anywhere [all other things being equal]. Also, while books are linear, it is quite easier to jump around in them – going back to rehearse a passage or forward to check a footnote – than with audio formats. While some audiobook players have “highlight” features where you can excerpt a passage for later reference, annotations are easier to make with print than audio. Lastly, because print reading is a visual medium that requires undivided attention, complex texts (and sentence structures) are often easier to read than listen to. (For instance, there is an audiobook version of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason; but were you thinking about consuming it, I’d quote Kant himself: ought implies can.”)

For all the benefits of reading, there are also a number of benefits of listening. Oral communication, remember, has been around far longer than print. Kids learn to speak before they learn to read. All of this is because speech is the more natural medium for us. Reading involves a complex fusion of many different activities: recognizing and organizing letters; forming those into phonemes; recognizing the strings as words; comprehending strings of words as something more than strings of words; etc. This is why reading disabilities are so common: if one of those parts fails, you can’t read [either at all or without serious support]. If anyone still doubts how much more brain space reading requires over hearing, have a few beers or puffs of cannabis and read; now listen to a podcast. I have no doubt which one will be harder.

Because of this, I can listen to an audiobook or podcast while on a treadmill or performing some other rote activity. There are also books that I think translate better in audio. Now that I’ve listened to Jon Ronson’s podcasts, I am more likely to “read” his books in audio format. And the reverse of the Kant audiobook (yuck!) is reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I tried the print version, but because she is a master at dialogue written phonetically in a Floridian black dialect, the audio version made for a richer experience that I suspect is closer to what she intended. [1] Audio can convey inflection in a way the written word can’t (except highly imperfectly through punctuation, a reader’s imagination, and now emoji). [2]

I’ll say again that I am not against books. I am against the over-appreciation of books as some type of intrinsically superior activity, and the under-appreciation of audio as a means of conveyance. Today’s readers might be tomorrow’s leaders, but we live in a society both richer than ever with text and alternatives to it. It has never been more important to be text-literate, but it has rarely been easier to be text-illiterate, as many ways as there are to receive information.

“Today’s readers, tomorrow’s leaders” should be loosened significantly. I’m not sure how to do it while keeping the cute rhyme scheme, but here’s a pass at my broader version: “Today’s info-vores, tomorrow’s overlords.”


[1] For a different reason, I prefer consuming James Baldwin’s essays in audio format. They are written in beautiful and sometimes winding sentences, but always with a certain poetry that I find is richer to my ear than my eyes. When I read them, I translate them to audio in my mind anyway. Why not cut out the middleman?

[2] On a related note, I find that I enjoy reading philosophers and other intellectuals most when reading lectures they’ve given. Even if the lectures were written, the fact that they were written to be given as speeches seems to change what they wrote, usually to a simpler format that is easier for ears to follow.


30 responses to “Today’s Readers, Tomorrow’s Leaders … Perhaps”

  1. This is one where I must depart from you quite sharply. I’ll just make a bunch of somewhat loosely connected points, rather than try to organize some sort of systematic objection.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    1. With literacy among my students being some of the worst I’ve seen in 30 years of teaching, I can’t think of a worse message to come from educators than one that further diminishes the importance of reading.

    2. The medium is *everything*. Young people are already bombarded with images and sound 24/7, and we know the damage it is doing. That an educator would think it a good idea for what little time young people spend in quiet engagement with words on pages to be made even smaller or eliminated beggars belief.

    3. Hard cases make bad policy. We should not design an education system or philosophy around a tiny percentage of special-needs students. We can address difficulties in reading among these students, without fundamentally transforming our pedagogy for the other 90%. And there is every indication that the LD statistics are significantly inflated, especially in the current cultural moment.

    4. Accusations of “snobbery” are equaled and nullified by counter-accusations of “insecurity.” Neither is of any use in crafting good policy. Either it’s a good idea for kids to read or not.

    5. Related to [2]: Given our current sociocultural landscape; one in which young people are spending more and more time swimming in digital images and sounds; overstimulated, jittery, and ragged; distracted to the point of having almost zero attention-span with all the dilettantism and shallowness that follows; to insure that young people can sit quietly, undistractedly, for extended periods of time, so as to dive deep into extended and complex stories and ideas and arguments is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING we can do. And it is absolutely essential that our educators understand this and not work against it.

    Educators are currently having a *lot* of difficulty sustaining the public’s trust, along a multitude of vectors. In my view, we’ve brought a good amount of it on ourselves, and I say that as a 30 year veteran Professor, married to a 15 year veteran public high school teacher. This sort of thing will only make sustaining that trust even *more* difficult. And rightly so.

  2. I’m inclined to say “Hear, hear!” to Dan’s reply.

    No, I’m not a reading snob. If somebody prefers an audio-book or a podcast, that’s fine. But, for me, I prefer print. I can set my own reading pace, as I think about what I am reading. The pace is not forced by the narrator. I can skim past the boring parts. And I sometimes come back to those if I decide maybe they weren’t boring after all.

  3. “With literacy among my students being some of the worst I’ve seen in 30 years of teaching, I can’t think of a worse message to come from educators than one that further diminishes the importance of reading.”

    Agreed. Who’s making the point you are claiming is the “worse” message you describe above? If anything, my point more powerfully gets to your point: we live in a text-saturated world where unlike at any other time in history, you can’t even converse with your friends if you aren’t literate! But being literate no longer means you HAVE to do it through long-form print. You surely can if that’s what you’re into, but there are other media that can be used. And learning to think no longer REQUIRES long-form print.

    “The medium is *everything*.”

    If that were true, the Ronson situation I described would literally be impossible. It happened. Hence, while the media and content are in a mutually-causal relationship, they can often be separable.

    “We should not design an education system or philosophy around a tiny percentage of special-needs students.

    Where did I talk about designing school policy or deriving grand messages about it from my reflection?

    “Accusations of “snobbery” are equaled and nullified by counter-accusations of “insecurity.”

    Okay. I don’t see how, because nothing I’m saying here is trying to force or shame anyone into acceptinig my verdict of what is best for them to do.

    “Related to [2]: Given our current sociocultural landscape; one in which young people are spending more and more time swimming in digital images and sounds; overstimulated, jittery, and ragged; distracted to the point of having almost zero attention-span with all the dilettantism and shallowness that follows; to insure that young people can sit quietly, undistractedly, for extended periods of time, so as to dive deep into extended and complex stories and ideas and arguments is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING we can do.”

    Attention span need not necesarily go through reading. Nor is reading the only alternative to Tik Tok. To my mind, the comment here – resting on assumptions like those – demonstrates my point. People puut reading on the top of their cultural hierchy by equating it with things it isn’t NECESSARILY connected with, like developing intelligence, being the onlly viable alternative to devices, and developing longer attention spans.

  4. One more thing about reading. Reading engages the imagination in a way that narratives delivered through visual and auditory media do not, precisely because one must fill in the phenomenological details, something that is diminished in movies and audiobooks. Precisely what Kevin says is so great about these media is what makes them diminished in this regard, in comparison with printed texts.

  5. There are no necessities in nature, so looking for them here is nothing anyone should be doing.

    And I read the piece pretty closely. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting it.

  6. I have no problem with folks preferring print. I only have a problem with the cultulral and educaitonal message kids receive that reading long-form books is some type of superior activity, or necesarily correlated with sophistication, intelligtence, etc.

    And I think what you mention are surely benefits of print over audio. I mention some of them in the essay. Then again, I’d just add that audio comes with its own advantages, such as being able to do it when doing other rote/menial things, having dramatic potentials that the written word can’t offer alone, the fact that it can be done communally, etc.

  7. We could do a lot worse than pushing reading “to the top of the cultural hierarchy,” given how low a value it seems to have today. The idea that serious book-reading is a dominant force today is just at odds with every development I have seen in education over the last 20 years, all of which have gone in the opposite direction.

  8. Like so much else in education, these well-meaning developments will only make the gap between elite- and non-elite education even more pronounced, with the effects on the socioeconomic fortunes of the top and the bottom becoming even more skewed than they are now. People going to Princeton will still develop the myriad skills associated with long-form reading, while those who go to their local community college or regional Uni, will not.

  9. I don’t think you are deliberately misrepresenting me, and the fault may be that I expressed the nuance poorly. But I do not understand how ‘reading has certain benfits audio doesn’t” constitutes a valid objection to what i said. I actually said that very thing in the essay.

    There are benefits reading has over audio. There are benefits audio has over reading. Part of my point is that it works both ways.

  10. With regard to the skills we are talking about here, I think there is zero benefit to audio over reading, other than for specifically disabled people. I have nothing to say about additional benefits, distinct from the skills attached to serious book reading.

  11. Here, I can confidently say that you HAVE entirely unhinged your comments from the piece you are commenting on. I simply did not make policy prescriptions, so objections that policy prescriptions I never made based on things I never said would be disasterous are beside the point.

  12. Ok. If I completely misunderstood the purpose of the piece than I withdraw. I can’t tell you what you meant, only what I read.

  13. So, given that it seems I may have entirely misunderstood the point of Kevin’s piece, let me sum up what I *thought* I was responding to.

    1. We have a demonstrable crisis in serious, long-form reading. One can see it just in what students today are expected to read in a typical college course of mine in contrast with what we were expected to read in college back in the day. One also can see it, if one makes a similar comparison between what my daughter was expected to read in high school versus what we were expected to read back in the day.

    2. This crisis has not only had en enormous impact on education, in terms both of what is being delivered as required for a standard degree and what is being accomplished in terms of outcomes. Anyone who has been teaching for the last thirty years will have seen this. I would say it is the number 1 topic of conversation amongst faculty, when discussing these matters among themselves.

    3. Someone in education then comes along and writes a piece that goes roughly like this: We shouldn’t be valorizing long-form reading anyway! There are other modalities that are just as good in many ways and in some ways even better! And reading is hard and involves lots of moving parts, some of which can go wrong, which is why there are so many reading disabilities. And Content is more important than Medium anyway. Etc.”

    Now, I think mine was a reasonable reaction to this, from someone who thinks long-form reading is of great importance. But if I’ve entirely missed the boat, then I withdraw it.

  14. “Like so much else in education, these well-meaning developments will only make the gap between elite- and non-elite education even more pronounced, with the effects on the socioeconomic fortunes of the top and the bottom becoming even more skewed than they are now.”

    This, x 1,000.

    Where I live, recent research has shown that the reading skills of 12 yr. old pupils are abysmal. Kids from better socio-economical backgrounds still do OK, but those who aren’t so lucky are close to functionally illiterate. De-emphasizing reading & writing skills really is the last thing we should do in education. If more emphasis on reading & writing skills means that less time goes to listening to podcasts or whatever, then so be it.

    Another thing: to understand how oral communication works and what it does, good reading skills are indispensable.

    The speech of some populist may sound very convincing. But it’s only when you read a written version of what he said, that you discover all the rhetorical tricks, all the unspoken and doubtful assumptions etc. Good, critical listening skills cannot be developed without good reading skills.

  15. Paul D. Van Pelt

    If someone herein has already said this, my apology for redundancy. A long time ago, a Canadian said: The medium is the message. He was a bit ahead of others of his time.

  16. When Augustine arrived in Milan to teach literature and elocution he paid a visit to Bishop Ambrose. At the Bishop’s house he was astounded to find Ambrose silently reading a book, a practice unknown to Augustine who speculated that it might be that auditors might question him on difficult passages. All reading in his experience was done vocally and indeed it is claimed by Alberto Manguel in his book ‘A History of Reading’ that silent reading did not become common until C.10. Your own voice became supplanted by the voice in your head and thereby your subjectivity was accentuated. It is a cool (McLuhan)experience opposed to the hot experience of being read to by way of a podcast or audiobook which annihilates the intense privacy of the lone reader for a collaborative enterprise imbued with values which are not your own. You are more a part of a public.

    All the modes of reading are valuable but the primary must be the Ambrosian at least while ‘silence please’ notices are prominent in libraries and reading rooms.

  17. Doug Crites

    Perhaps it’s getting old, but I fear that reading in general is on its way out. There will always be readers, but many of the bookstores here in Seattle have disappeared in the last few years. During my career, I often took the bus to work, and in the 90s, many people would have a book in their hand. By the time I retired in 2020 that was largely finished. People would sit there and text or stare at their phone.

    But intellectual and artistic curiosity will always be limited to a small fraction of the population. Growing up in a blue collar neighborhood, none of the father’s I knew showed the slightest interest in art or showed any intellectual curiosity (with the exception of a few TV shows) and to see books in a house was somewhat rare. In her craving for more murder mysteries, my mom took us to the library every week. And that is how my sister and I discovered sci-fi, adventure novels, etc.

  18. “William Shakespeare – wrote plays that were never intended to be encountered primarily on printed pages.” Historically uncertain. Marlowe of course didn’t really care, since for him “publication” meant poetry; but Ben Jonson was quite concerned to see his plays in print. What Shakespeare’s view on the matter was, is unknown – he also was a published poet, but he was also an actor; and probably involved in the production staff of his theater as well. That would mean concern over the consistency of the texts used from performance to performance, especially in occasional revivals.

    “it is the content, not the medium, that seems of primary importance.” That is simply not the case. What is the content of Finnegan’s Wake? Sum the content of Gargantua and Pantagruel. The moral of the story of Don Quioxte is actaully made most explicit in the final chapter – what need we of the preceeding million words? The point is that this assertion is demonstrably false case by case.

    “With the rise of texting and instant messaging …, kids and adults now write out conversations that previous generations would have spoken.” That is a kind of writing, I suppose, but it is not the kind of literacy demanding concentration and attention. (Frankly, I don’t consider it writing, I consider it “texting,” just as it has been rightly called – throwing out poorly composed speech at recipients browsing for ‘the message’ because they’ve been convinced “the content is of primary importance.”)

    The skills involved in reading a book; writing a book; writing in response to a book one has read – are far more varied and psychologically far more profound and intellectually richer than texting permits of; although certainly one can “text” a whole book’s worth, usually by dictating it to a faithful scribe. (But why do that? unless there is something intrinsically valuable about the bound text one can hold in hand and linger over and wrestle with and somehow come to terms with.) And these skills are acquired in stages, by degrees – the more difficult text one learns to read, the greater degree of literacy required. To read, to really read, requires a painstaking effort to think through the memorized thinking of the author or authors. Reading an entire book – especially a particularly difficult book – is itself a process of learning. Not simply acquiring information or confronting another’s opinions or point of view; but a learning in a kind of thinking one may have never experienced before. The conclusions Hegel reaches in the the Phenomenology of Spirit are largely wrong; but I learned more about the process of thinking itself than from any book I’d read previously.

    That can probably be said of great number of books by a great number of readers. Readers tend to fall in love with the books that provide the learning experience that increases their thinking and broadens its horizon. Those who hate Hegel might find it in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations or James’ Varieties of Religious Experience – or perhaps in novels or poems – Moby Dick or Ulysses; Gertrude Stein’s How To Write probably doesn’t teach anybody how to write, but it certainly provides an opportunity to develop one’s thinking. Wordsworth’s Prelude is said to have had important impact on certain writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    “And the dominance of the written word is as recent as the printing press and subsequent efficiencies that have reduced the cost – and increasing the availability – of books.” If that were true no Christian would have attended church until Gutenberg. (Hint: It’s called “Bible” – “the Book.”) What you’re talking about is the development of generalized education towards mass literacy – a develpoment partly fueled by the Protestant insistence on the necessity for good Christians to read and come to terms with the Bible themselves. The written word was always considered dominant, but now it was in the reach of individuals without clerical guidance.

    With the collapse of literacy – and social media and “texting” are mere signs of this collapse – this liberating moment is in peril of passing. Eventually we will wind up with political clerics who will not need to guide us through any book, but rather through the dictates of the Party and the boistrously illiterate leaders who dominate it, not through words but through will. (We’ve already glimpsed what this might be like through the years of Trump and his political clerics on Fox News.) I don’t know that we can resurrect the book or the mass literacy that would benefit from this. I do know that the loss of book literacy is a great cultural catastrophe. That makes the future of what might possibly be considered civilization in the West quite uncertain.

  19. (I should point out that the sign “Shakespeare” does not signify the performance of any play, except for certain histroians. For us, now, it signifies a whole set of phenomena, including books, reprints of the plays with scholarly annotations, popularizations, academic studies and criticism, essays (including one I contributed here some time ago), as well as lectures, podcasts, films, debates in learned journals and popular magazines, etc., etc., etc…. This is important because your positivist understanding of what a text is, what and how it communicates, elides the evident fact that any text is embedded in a moment of cultural history and participates in that moment or disappears into the margins of it. That very fact weakens your case ‘exponentially,’ as might be said. And just to be clear: If one values the legacy of Western Civilization, whatever its problems, then “book snobbery,” as you call it, is absolutely essential to that legacy, whatever the difficulties and risks books and their reading involve. It increases intellectual sophistication and challenges developmentally any native intelligence. No one doubts that one can be intelligent without reading; but reading certainly contributes to the further development of intelligence; and denying that is a mistake, and possibly tragic in the longer narrative unfolding of history.)

  20. Two themes strike me as significant here. The first is the “snobbery” theme (which other commenters have also touched on). It is explicit in the very first sentence and variations of this theme are woven into the subsequent content. Most of it is implicit. Even the fulsome praise of a particular campaigning journalist could be seen to play into this issue.

    The word “snob” and its cognates are highly charged and associating them (as Kevin does) with defenders of traditional educational or literary values immediately creates an unhelpful dichotomy and gets people’s backs up.

    I am not sure how to take it. As a clue to ideological commitment? As a deliberate provocation? Or merely as an unfortunate word choice and so a red herring as far as the key themes are concerned?

    However one takes it, it is a distraction and unhelpful in an area where dispassionate analysis and clear thinking are desperately needed but have been largely abandoned or at least subordinated to various social and political causes and agendas. As others have emphasized, recent educational trends and fashions have only served to exacerbate the social divisions which presumably well-meaning educators have set as their primary goal to eliminate.

    The other theme I wanted to mention was “naturalness”. “All of this,” Kevin writes, “is because speech is the more natural medium for us.” Yes, reading does not come naturally. But isn’t this the whole point (of education)? Wasn’t formal education set up precisely to teach us the sorts of things which do *not* come naturally?

  21. My own two cents is that reading will help you write better. It will improve your spelling and grammar. I also like the written word because I can skim it to the parts that interest me easier than listening. Did you ever try to listen to a newspaper podcast? If so you likely appreciate the importance of being able to skip around and read what you want. And I think writing will always have an important place for that reason.

    But I believe my education has extended much further than my formal education, largely thanks to the increased audio options. When I used to drive quite a bit I would listen to “books on tape” as in the literal cassette tapes. The technology and options increased considerably including being able to listen at faster speeds! So I have been exposed to many more ideas than I ever would have if I was confined to reading. I agree some slow readers might be smart people that hopefully will be able to blossom intellectually with these new mediums.

  22. It may be that the reading is preferable to developing skills. But I think some people – even if they are not disabled – learn better from listening than from reading. We read and listen not just to develop “skills” but also to gain knowledge.

    Audio has the benefit that you can listen to it while driving your car or doing other menial tasks like cutting the grass. So it is the quantity of knowledge and concepts you can imbibe through it that makes it important. Like the title says many future leaders might use this medium to gain knowledge that is important to their work were as in the past it was only through reading. I have learned so much more thanks to audio formats than I ever could 50 years ago.

  23. Reading good writers unquestionably has had the greatest impact on my own writing than any other factor.

  24. I tend to think younger people are not as educated as we were either. But consider the ACT average test score. You would think it would go down since there are 2xs as many students are taking it as there were in 1992-93. After all our population did not double in that time. And you would think there is at least some correlation between the likelihood you will do well on the ACT and you actually taking the test.

    It seems to me students are actually learning *more content* today then they did 30 years ago. And that is the point of how these different media can be helpful in education.

    Are they able to *think* better? I am not sure. I suppose you could look at tests like the LSAT and see how students are doing on that test as compared to earlier years. Doesn’t the GRE have a critical reasoning section as well?

  25. I agree reading good writers improves a persons writing. But I do not think reading great *thinkers* translates to better writing. I was a pretty decent writer until I fell in love with philosophy. Some philosophers can think and write. But I am not sure there is a correlation.

    Many fantastic writers can’t think.

  26. Marc Levesque

    Kevin, interesting, for real.

    Dan wrote “to insure that young people can sit quietly, undistractedly, for extended periods of time, so as to dive deep into extended and complex stories and ideas and arguments is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING we can do”

    Curious about ideas of what can help insure that kind of change.

    – – –

    When Kevin wrote “Something interesting happened in 2020 that changed my view of the importance of books and snobbish attitudes about their importance”

    I didn’t read that as him losing his attitude on the importance of books, but as him losing the attitudes he considered snobbish. The rest of the essay seemed to me a personal exploration, a chance to open discussion on various topics.

    So I don’t think most comments were really relevant, but I appreciate Mark’s observations and clarity.

  27. Marc Levesque

    > So I don’t think most comments were really relevant,

    A lot of, not most.

  28. Here’s a thought experiment. You are a teacher. You set an essay topic for your students. The two best essays are equally excellent. Essay 1 is based entirely on written sources. Essay 2 is based entirely on podcasts and YouTube videos. Do you give them the same mark?

    I would. I think it would be wrong not to.


  29. I would not. Especially, if the written sources had been through rigorous peer-review and the podcasts/YouTube videos had not.