The problem with the internet is that it is so bloody indiscriminate. A young person online has no way of knowing that an online version of Plato's Phaedrus is better for him/her to read and learn from than an online screed from some tinfoil-hat wearer going on about missiles taking down Flight 800. The idea that the internet puts everything out there, and the person reading it has to apply his/her discriminatory powers to culling the wheat from the chaff, dodges one crucial question: where the hell are young people supposed to have learned these "discriminatory powers"? The Great Books project did something that's considered "rude" and "elitist" in this low, degraded post-Western age. It dared to say: "look, kid, it's like this. Here are the Great Books of Western Civilization. We probably missed a few, but these are pretty much the best of the best. They've stood the test of time -- in some cases, millenia of time. So just take our word for it, and get reading!" I wish we as a society still had the courage and faith in the best parts of our shared heritage to be willing to dictate to our young people like that. These days we're more concerned with pumping up their all-important "self-esteem." Twenty years from now, I believe our young people will hate us for betraying them that way.
Molly Rothenberg, a student at St. John's in Annapolis, Md., told Mr. Beam of comparing notes when she was a sophomore with a fellow graduate of the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. St. John's sophomores study works by such authors as Aristotle, Tacitus and Shakespeare. Her friend was attending Bates College in Maine. "She told me they were studying Rhetoric," Ms.
Rothenberg said, "and they would be watching episodes of 'Desperate Housewives' and listening to Eminem. They were going to analyze it. I just laughed. What could I say?"