More and more universities are telling incoming freshmen to read a book over the summer. One college says the purpose is to promote “a shared intellectual experience” and “campus-wide dialogue”; another college says its summer reading program “is an important first step in building a cohesive, dynamic, educational community.”
However, the National Association of Scholars just issued a report called "What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside of Class?" It tells what books are recommended by 290 colleges. These scholars found that the books are more suited to Oprah’s Book Club than universities. “Rather than asking students to rise to college-level study, they shrink college-level study to the comfort zone of the average student.” The books selections are usually "short" and "emotional.” The most popular book this year is This I Believe, a collection of essays on personal philosophies gathered by National Public Radio. The second most assigned book is Enrique’s Journey, the story of an illegal immigrant boy's trip from Honduras to the United States. These books offer “little if any intellectual substance.”
70% of the books “promote a liberal political agenda or advance a liberal interpretation of events.” Not one of the books advocated conservative political ideas. Only three books represented traditional values, and those were selected by religious colleges. The most popular topics were multiculturalism, immigration and racism. After that came environmentalism, animal rights and food issues. On the whole, the books presented what the report called “a distinctly disaffected view of American society and Western civilization.” There were no works of classical antiquity, Shakespeare, or any Renaissance writers. Three colleges ditched book assignments altogether and told students to watch a DVD instead.
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