The Conversation January 30, 2023 by Alex Bacalja

We must be honest with each other and recognise we don’t really know whether reading literature makes us better people.

I am reminded here of Franco-American literary critic and philosopher George Steiner. He questions the idea high literacy can civilise individuals, by reminding us of those SS officers who would spend their evenings listening to Bach and Schubert and reading Goethe and Rilke, then go to work at the Auschwitz concentration camp in the mornings.

It would be wonderful if school reading could help heal us, process our emotions and develop empathy.

For now, we must put our faith in English teachers. We must trust them – without interference – to select texts for our teens. They know how literature can support the learning needs of their students better than anyone else. And they have spent their entire working lives specialising in the craft of teaching and supporting reading.

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