As a person probably fitting the description above :-), I feel qualified to
reply. For the record, I'm a working engineer, having earned a B.A. in
Biology and an M.S. in Computer Science - I believe that sets me apart from
I too was "forced" to read HF in high school and was not particularly
impressed - at the time. It was OK, but that was it. What turned me on to
Twain was a college freshman enlish course where "Letters from the Earth"
was asssigned. Now I was impressed. This course and this book ultimately
resulted a lifelong interest in MT as well as a significant collection of
But, to address the questions at hand... It is not hard for students to
discover the works listed by ms. O'Connell. They simply aren't interested.
When I go to a book store I rarely see people looking at the
classics or looking at poetry. I see them everywhere else, though. It's
probably a "culture thing". It's not that they're adverse to reading, they
just don't read literature. I'm guilty of this. My wife has a fair
of the classics - and reads them. I tend to go for the "Atlantic Monthly"
when it arrives each month. Am I missing out on something? Of course, yet
I continue to walk past those books.
As for "when did college become about saving time and work, instead of
engaging in genuine study and discourse", a long time ago, I think. For
many, a college education is a means to an (economic/professional) end.
A college has become a glofified trade school for many. Sure, there are
students with a deep interest in learning but I think that they're in
the minority. I hope I'm wrong, but that's how I see it.
Digital Equipment Corporation