Read or Perish


Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a short note today as I continue to read, reflect and do some research and writing on my Civil War and Gettysburg Staff Ride text, even as I get ready to lead another staff ride to Gettysburg this weekend.

Those that follow me and read my articles on this site on a regular basis know that I am a voracious reader, especially when it comes to history and biography. Frankly, I am amazed about all that we can learn just from the accounts of those that have already made the same mistakes that we are intent on making, because ultimately, there is nothing new under the sun. The fact that so many supposed strategists, thinkers, and policy makers are too ignorant to remember the past, ensures that the same mistakes will be made over and over again with more and more bodies filling the body bags of hubris.

I have been adding books that I have read over the past few months to my “read” list on my Facebook page, and there were a lot more than I remembered as I worked my way through my stack. If you add things to your Facebook page, movies, books, music or television shows, Facebook will provide lists of suggested titles that you can browse. This of course includes books, and not surprisingly to me, most of the books that were suggested were various forms of fiction or children’s books. There were a few literature classics among the suggestions and a host of Bible books. What I noticed was there were few books on history, philosophy, political science, world affairs or even theology listed.

I was troubled by this; not because I am against people reading fiction or children’s book by any means, but typically those books, with the exception of some of the children’s books are for entertainment, not learning. As entertainment they are fine, but since almost everything else in our culture is geared toward entertainment I wonder where people are being challenged to think critically, and not simply be sponges for the sound bites offered by the politicians, preachers and pundits who dominate so much of our airwaves and the internet.

Barbara Tuchman wrote, “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

Sadly, many people in this country and around the world are sadly deficient in knowing any history at all, and much of what they do know is based on myth. This is dangerous, historian George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But I think that Howard Zinn said it the best:

“History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history–while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance–might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.”

Have a great night,


Padre Steve+



Filed under History, leadership, philosophy

2 responses to “Read or Perish

  1. Randy Gee

    Steve, I love the quote by Howard Zinn at the end. Since Common Core is the latest educational antidote, emphasis is place mainly on English/Language Arts and Math; history is placed on the “back burner.” My district has spent money on new (Common Core) math books; it will spend money on new (Common Core) English/Language Arts textbooks. No money will be spent on new history textbooks. The set of books in my classroom for 8th grade U.S. history is bad. Covers are torn off, chapters are missing, spines are off, and profanity has been scrawled on the pages and inside covers over the past 10 years. Yes, the last time a new history textbook was adopted in our district was 10 years ago. Find the truth is not a top priority; high test scores are the priority.

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