Guest Blog by Fiza Pathan
In the wake of the present war in Syria one tends to wonder how can humans be so cruel & merciless? Is it possible that humanity has degenerated just the way old vegetables get soiled with fungus in a Tupperware can? Is there any remedy to war, terrorism, rape, homicide, genocide, suicide, murder, abuse etc., According to me there is one unique & yet unusual way of putting an end to all the evils of our world…….the reading of good classic literature!
At first on hearing my suggestion one would wonder if I was making a joke as, how can a book change humanity? Well, for most of us who are well aware of history, we have in its annals certain places where books however harmless they seemed from the outside….were heralds of change sometimes for the better & sometimes for the worse. Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ was one such book during the early phase of the 20th century that sparked hate among the hearts of so many people against their own human brethren.
On the other hand Thomas Paine’s ‘The Rights of Man’
influenced a whole nation including America towards the overall emancipation of man & democracy. Yet another book ‘On The Origin Of Species’ by Charles Darwin changed the way we looked upon ourselves as human beings. Many such books can be quoted written by many authors who have by their efforts, molded our present. It would therefore be incorrect to state that books cannot change people…..in fact, books can change the past, present & future in ways unimaginable.
In this context, where does classic literature stand? According to me from all types of literature, classic literature should be given prime importance in every manner possible, if we have to save our future from being destroyed by our very ignorance.
Could the reading of good classics avert many man-made disasters?
Yes, where classics are concerned, everything is possible. For if we do agree that books have acted as milestones in history ‘good & bad’……and if we do not want our children to make the same mistakes we made or their ancestors made, then I believe that the reading of classic literature must be taken up on a grand scale immediately by all parents, teachers, counselors & other educationists.
For those of you who do not comprehend what I mean by ‘classic literature’ I refer to those books that have been written so well in the past that they have been cherished by generations as wholesome books of literature, art & ethics. I’m talking about ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘The Red Badge Of Courage’, ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘The Railway Children’, ‘The Odyssey’, ‘The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, ‘Little Women’, ‘The Invisible Man’……I’m talking about literature with morals as well as a rich story……I’m talking about ‘the classics’.
All classics written by revered authors of the past that have lasted from generation to generation according to me should be made mandatory in our modern day education system. I don’t want to sound like a Judgement Day preacher but, the gruesome happenings of the world around me does not make me quite optimistic either unless certain action is taken on the positive front at once. By making our children & students read good classics which project & promote morals like peace, tolerance, dignity of labour, honesty, justice etc., we will be cultivating the fertile ground for a much better society than what we have got now.
How is this possible? Why by just reading, reading & READING.
In my latest book ‘Classics: Why we should encourage children to read them’ in one chapter, I’ve even analysed how my students have become better people by just molding themselves on the values they have gained by reading classics. I have seen this work & with a group effort. I know that the love for classic literature can spread not only within our own society or school…but throughout nations & cultures.
With the help of novelists like Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Alexander Dumas, Anna Sewell, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, J.M.Barrie, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lew Wallace, Bernard Shaw, E.Nesbit, Jack London etc., we can promote a healthier society for the future generations to come. It is said a pepper seed cannot produce a mango fruit, thus by allowing our children to only indulge in materialistic pleasures will only lead to negative forces plaguing our planet……as it is doing right now.
Through my experiments with classic literature I’ve only seen it benefitting my students. Infact, the 7th graders the other day were feeling troubled with the affairs in Syria & one of them innocently stated that: “Fiza miss, I’m already against anymore wars & so are my children even before they are born.” To which his twin sister added: “My grandchildren are seconding his children.”
For is it not true, that only ‘war begets war’…..if we sow the good seeds of enriching classics, won’t we be helping our own people to prosper?
If anyone yet presumes that classics are old, ancient & decadent & they cannot be connected with our present…..then what does one have to say about:
1) The terrible destruction in ‘War Of The Worlds’
2) The racial discrimination in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’
3) The child labour in ‘David Copperfield’
4) The fear in ‘The Diary Of A Young Girl’
5) The treachery in ‘Treasure Island’
6) The corruption in ‘The Pickwick Papers’
These may be old texts but their themes are running on ‘full house’ mode even till this day. If we allow our children to read classics, we will not only be enlightening them intellectually but, also morally. It does not take a doctor in literature to see:
1) The love in ‘Little Dorrit’
2) The sacrifice in ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’
3) The charity in ‘David Copperfield’
4) The faithfulness in ‘Greyfriars Bobby’
5) The friendship in ‘Peter Pan’
6) The love for animals in ‘The Call Of The Wild’
7) The bravery in ‘The Red Badge Of Courage’
8) The kindness in ‘The Prince & The Pauper’
One only need name a classic & one will realize that from it pours out all the good qualities that one would want to observe in all our children. In the end, all classics do not end happily but I know that our future can, so also the civil strife in Syria. May our education change to a moral humanity based one …let’s read a classic a week!
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