So Long, Holden

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, February 07, 2013

So Long, Holden


A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it mandatory for at least 70 percent of books studied to be non-fiction.

Why? 

To ready students for the workplace.

So books such as J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.

Such as?

Recommended Levels of Insulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory by California's Invasive Plant Council.

I kid you not.

Some of you may not like Lee’s work, much less Salinger’s. But let’s agree on what is going to be lost, shall we? It’s a single word:

… imagination.

And with imagination, the love of reading itself.

As I wrote in A Mind for God, I love to read. As a young boy, I can remember devouring Ellery Queen mysteries on long vacation drives; taking a hot bath and reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder; curling up in the bay window of a local library, as cascades of rain dripped down the glass, with a harrowing tale of Blackbeard the Pirate. I still have the copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, worn from countless readings, given to me on my 12th birthday by my grandmother. To this moment, the perfect day is one with a sky full of dark and heavy clouds, promising a furious storm or inches of snow, with a fire in the fireplace and a book waiting to be devoured by my side.

My love of reading as a boy grew into something altogether different when I became a follower of Christ in college. Reading took on an urgency that it had never held before. Attending a secular university as a new Christian was not an easy task. I was surrounded by very bright people who were not Christ-followers, and were eager to explain why. 

To hold on to my faith, much less contend for it, would demand fulfilling the Bible’s clear and commanding exhortation to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). I knew I had to out-think those who were challenging my faith; and to out-think them, I knew I had to out-read them. From this, reading moved from merely reading for pleasure to reading for purpose. No longer did it matter whether I enjoyed reading; it had become essential.

But if I hadn’t been given the love of reading early on, and had my imagination sparked by Oompa-Loompas and Orcs, Almanzo and sailing the seven seas, I wouldn’t have had the mind for C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Little wonder that a monk in Normandy penned these words in 1170: “A monastery without a library [sine armario] is like a castle without an armory [sine armamentario]. Our library is our armory.” This was certainly the conviction of the apostle Paul, who even from his prison cell in Rome implored Timothy to be sure to bring him his books (II Timothy 4:13).

And I am confident that in both cases, the books at hand were not all non-fiction.

So let’s prepare our children for the workforce. But in the process, let’s not fail to prepare them for the world.

James Emery White

 

Sources     

“Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum,” The Telegraph, Wednesday, January 13, 2013, read online.

James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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