I’ve just published Readers’ Liberation(Oxford University Press), which in a fundamental way is inspired by what I learned at City and Country 50 years earlier.
The book is a history of independent readers—that is, readers who chose their own books, exercised their own critical judgment, questioned authors, and didn’t rely on the opinions of critics or professors. That is something C&C always encouraged, simply by mandating an hour of quiet reading in the Library every day. We could read whatever we liked, but we had to read. That taught us the most important lesson that any school can teach—that reading is an endlessly fascinating and emancipating experience. In glaring contrast, public schools today have been hijacked by Common Core, which offers prepackaged snippets of literature accompanied by simple-minded questions. I deconstruct a Common Core anthology, which looks like something deliberately designed to make students hate reading, and usually succeeds in accomplishing that. I recommend scrapping all the high-priced textbooks and reading specialists, spending the money saved on library books, and then telling each student to pick one and read it. That certainly worked at C&C.