typical high school required reading

Book Culture

Why required reading is hurting America

Connor Grooms
Aug 19, 2013 · 3 min read

Required reading has long been a tenet of schools. Every year, there are books that each student is told to read, most of which the student wouldn’t have read on their own and don’t want to read. When adolescent kids are required to do something they don’t want to do, for a long time, they develop a dislike for the activity in general.

Thus, most kids coming out of America’s high schools hate books and don’t want to read. A third of them will never read another book after high school.

Those who move on to college are required to do even more reading. Books are used as a means to an end- passing classes. The result is young adults who don’t like reading and only do it when they have to meet some external test of knowledge. 42% of college graduates will never read another book after college.

These young adults will grow up to be adults, with families. And 80% of families have not bought a book in the past year. In fact, 70% of people have not even been in a book store in the past five years. Kids read a lot when they see their parents reading, not when they are told to read. When parents don’t like reading, their kids usually don’t become readers either.

This is really scary.

Reading is immensely important and valuable. All of the successful people I know are voracious readers. Personally, I know that reading is responsible for most of my knowledge and skills.

If people aren’t reading, they aren’t accumulating new knowledge, new skills, new ideas. They also aren’t experiencing the pleasure of reading and learning. I would kill myself if I could never read again.

I think reading is an indication of curiosity. When I become interested in something, I go read about it. Old reading drives new curiosity and interests. It’s a wonderful cycle, one that the majority of Americans (and most of the world) don’t go through.

This is hurting our country. When the majority of our citizens aren’t actively improving themselves, learning and being curious, the intelligence of our country as a whole degenerates to mindlessness.

Reading encourages critical thinking. A lack of critical thinking encourages groupthink and mental laziness. Groupthink and mental laziness are toxic. Groupthink kills companies, and it can certainly destroy a country too.

Lets zoom out to take a look at the big picture again: Required reading > dislike of reading > lack of reading > lack of critical thinking, knowledge > groupthink and mental laziness > degeneration of America.

There are certainly other factors that have led to the poor mental state of our country, like mass entertainment. And America is not alone in our lack of reading, either.

Look, too many people are stupid. You know it, I know it. It’s not politically correct, it’s not nice, but it’s true. Reading is a cure for stupidity.

I propose an amendment to required reading in schools: kids choose the books. Or, any solution that actually encourages reading and curiosity. Ultimately, an educated population is the only way forward.

Addendum: I’m talking about nonfiction as much as fiction.

Source for statistics: http://www.statisticbrain.com/reading-statistics/

Connor Grooms is a professional adventurer. Every month, I travel to a new country to master a new skill — like poker, rock climbing, or DJing. Visit OneMonthMaster.com for interviews with amazing people, videos of the adventures, and insights on how you can learn the same skills extremely quickly.

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