Reading

A writer-editor-teacher’s quote of the week #12

“The whole scope of the essay is to recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits, which we now follow staunchly but mechanically, vainly imagining that there is a virtue in following them staunchly which makes up for the mischief of following them mechanically.”

– from the preface to Matthew Arnold’s 1867 essay, “Culture and Anarchy”

*This quote is particularly apt for the Deep South, because the “present difficulties” of Matthew Arnold’s day in Victorian England were very similar to those in our region: mass unemployment and desperation among the most vulnerable classes, polluted and filthy living conditions in poor areas, gross inequality, and lots of people working very hard for low wages. What was Arnold’s answer: to educate people well enough about the true beauty of humankind so that they were thoughtful enough not to be satisfied with circumstance of degradation.

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