While life is characterized by growth in a structured, functional manner, the necrophilious person loves all that does not grow, all that is mechanical. The necrophilious person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things… Memory, rather than experience; having, rather than being, is what counts. The necrophilious person can relate to an object- a flower or a person- only if he possesses it; hence a threat to his possession is a threat to himself; if he loses possession he loses contact with the world… He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life.

————-Erich Fromm, E. (1966). The Heart of Man. New York.

The new educational standards, which are starting to be implemented and will be in place by 2014, require that nonfiction represents 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools, and up to 70 percent by grade 12. In an article in The Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton explains how this removal of literature has come about:

Proponents of the new standards, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, say U.S. students have suffered from a diet of easy reading and lack the ability to digest complex nonfiction, including studies, reports and primary documents. That has left too many students unprepared for the rigors of college and demands of the workplace, experts say” (ibid).

David Coleman, one of the leading authors of the new standards and foremost executioner of literature, argued in the Washington Post article:

“Forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with . . . [that] writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a [expletive] about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is, can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me? It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood” (ibid).

Fiction and Literature make us human

Patricia Vieira, who teaches at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese of Georgetown University, recently started an undergraduate class that focused on Brazilian novels in English translation by asking students why they read literature. According to Veira, their “improvised answers amounted to a catalogue of the most salient points on the “literature-is-good-for-you” side of the debate.   Unsurprisingly, students were unanimous in saying that reading literature was crucial for their education” (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/04/201341564843772137.html).

Not only this, but many students believed that reading would give them a better command of the language and improve their competence as writers. Several commented that the textual analysis and interpretation skills they acquired by reading and discussing works of literature would be useful in other fields of study and in their future professional lives. A few also mentioned that literature offered them insights into other cultures and epochs, in this particular case, 19th and 20th-century Brazilian society. In short, students thought that literature was good for them in that it honed their interpretive, argumentative and critical thinking skills and broadened their knowledge.

Literature advocates stress that, in reading, we combine pleasure with learning and therefore make the most of the time allotted to relaxation in our busy schedules. Veira asks:

“But if literature is nothing more than a way to acquire skills and knowledge, could it not be replaced, say, by documentaries or by educational videogames?” (ibid)

Of course not.  Non-thinking activities like video games and online learning reduces literature to an antiquated past and with it, reduces the mind to an accelerated complex of hurried confusion without focus (See Nicholas Carr: ‘What the internet is doing to our minds’).

The need to justify the reading of literature is symptomatic of our age, when all activities should have an easily identifiable objective, such as Coleman advocates. The difficulty with literature, as well as with music or the fine arts, is that it has no recognizable purpose or, in Immanuel Kant’s elegant formulation, it embodies “purposiveness without purpose”.

Literature breaks the continuum of the everyday and makes us stop and think; this is exactly what the new assassins of education do not want. Does anyone really think that the one percent want critical thinking, thoughtful contemplation or moral development?  No, what they want is a society of robots and robotic human beings who will carry out their sordid plans to privatize the world without any complaint and with open arms.

Fictional elements of novels, plays and poems offer us a glimpse into a reality that is not our own and allows us to develop both empathy and courage – two values the reactionaries wish to strangle. Reading affords us an essentially human of experience: the realization that what is does not necessarily need to be, that things can be different and that another world is possible. But another world is possible is exactly what the purveyors of cyber robotization do not wish us to contemplate.  Thus reading literature is now considered subversive in the emerging world of Huxley and Orwell where manipulation and propaganda combine into a brutal form of repression.

Coleman and Gates, the proponents of common core standards are the new-age, cyber book burners.  They are the necrophiliacs of mis-education and the objectifiers of all that is human.

Will they get away with it, all in the name of progress?  Only you can answer this.