Tag Archives: thought and thinking

Lewis H. Lapham (1935- ), former editor of the American monthly Harper’s Magazine from 1976 until 1981, and from 1983 until 2006.  He is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly, a quarterly publication about history and literature, and has written numerous books on politics and current affairs. 

“As many as six out of ten American adults have never read a book of any kind…”

Some things about education (1989):

“Schools serve the wishes and expectations of the society to which they belong.”

In the spirit of re-arranging the American system of education, “citing the authority of Thomas Jefferson…I can imagine Jefferson’s purpose translated…that would train…students…  [with] curricula…directed toward two fairly modest tasks: the teaching of languages, history, and mathematics; and the instilling of intellectual confidence.”

“The study of languages and mathematics provides the student with the tools to work at the trade of learning.”

“A student reads the classical texts because they induce the habit of thought.”

”A thorough knowledge of a few writers instills in the student the confidence that he cannot derive from selected passages printed, usually in bad translation,  in an anthology chosen by a committee of pedants.”

“All students should learn the rudiments of writing, reading, history, and arithmetic…ceaseless reading (literature)…writing (letters, explanations, narratives)…calculations (bills, rates, balances)…ceaseless study of historical chronologies.”

“Jefferson assumed that roughly 90 percent of the population was ineducable: he meant that most people were not suited to the atmospheres of the higher learning.  Certainly everybody has a right to go somewhere, but not necessarily to academia.”

“Too often it is thought that an education can be acquired in the way that one acquires a suntan or an Armani suit, as if it were an object instead of a turn of mind.”

“An education begins with two or three teachers and six or seven texts (maybe books, maybe equations or fossils or trees) that introduce the student to the uniqueness of his or her own mind.  After that it’s a matter of educating oneself.”

“The best American minds, or at least the most generous and imaginative of American minds (I think of Lincoln and Melville and Edison), tended to be self-taught.  Expressing a sentiment that Jefferson probably would have seconded, St. Augustine observed that it is possible to learn only what one already knows.”

LHLaphamLewis Lapham







%d bloggers like this: