These books are no doubt published more for the satisfaction of parents than for drooling infants, but the publishers heed the latest advice from the child-development specialists, who stress the importance of reading to infants early and often. They testify to a craving for a common core of literature that was foolishly dropped from high schools and universities. Feminists railed against Prince Charming mounting a white horse to ride to the rescue of Cinderella, but Elizabeth Bennet's Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice" remains a hero in both book and film. Other literary classics have followed as the focus for adults in book clubs, as new parents and older grandparents discover what they didn't read when they were younger and now wish they had.
"Has there ever been a moment in American life when the humanities were cherished less, and has there ever been a moment in American life when the humanities were needed more?" Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, asked the graduating class at Brandeis University. He, like a growing number of others, is concerned about the obsession with speed, utility and convenience that results in the neglect of substance and content.
When academics at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report called "The Heart of the Matter," seeking more emphasis on the humanities and social sciences, the politicians greeted it with the usual breast beating, lamenting the lack of literacy in the schools, but with little result. That's because educational change must come from those closer to the problem: the parents and teachers who can demonstrate the importance of the humanities to an integrated life, and corporate and business leaders who can insist that college graduates know of the humanities and something besides spreadsheets.
Steve Jobs knew the importance of fusing metaphor with machine and sought innovators with a background in the liberal arts to work with engineers to create Apple designs. Norman Augustine, former head of Lockheed Martin, has long argued the importance of both the arts and science in education. Employers, he says, want the skills the humanities teach -- critical thinking, weighing interpretations, and analytical clarity. Humanities majors scored 9 percent higher than business majors on the Graduate Management Admission Test when applying to business school.
Trends in childhood development come and go, and just as Baby Einstein toys that played Mozart and Beethoven did not composers make, teething on "Moby Dick" won't create another Herman Melville. But this trend encourages great books that teach great lessons. It's not even too late for Woody Allen to read "Moby Dick."
Write to Suzanne Fields at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.' To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
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