Monday, February 12, 2007


"Democracy assumes the protection of the values that contemplative reading makes possible."
James Carroll

Don't miss James Carroll's provocative lead op/ed piece in this morning's Boston Globe at:

He notes that historically, when vast number of people were illiterate, reading was a group and/or public activity; most people needed someone educated to read stories aloud and disseminate information. At some point, people became literate and could not only read individually to themselves, eventually they read silently without moving their lips when reading.

"This marked a move away from authoritarian literalism to the imaginative autonomy of the intelligent reader. Here is the most important implication of reading as a wholly interior act: To perceive is to interpret. Truth has no meaning apart from its meaning in the reader's mind. Silent reading is thus both the sign of and a means to self-awareness, with the knower taking responsibility for what is known.

This inescapable individualism is the bedrock principle of democracy, a form of social organization that became possible only when contemplative reading was widely enabled by the mass production of the printing press, and the popular education that followed. .... But democracy assumes the protection of the values that contemplative reading makes possible -- the self-awareness of citizens, their privacy, their capacity for willed interiority. Only because of such reading is each one a center of knowing, thinking, choosing, and acting. But what happens to consciousness when such values are put at risk?"

What happens indeed? That is one of the questions the NCBLA hopes to address at its national summit Democracy @ Risk to be held at the Library of Congress, spring 2008. For more information go to:

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