Great Ideas alive in South Africa

Busy reading Alex Beam’s 2008, “A Great Idea at the Time” – a work he himself describes as a “brief, engaging, and undidactic history of the Great Books.”  I have to say that the book makes a valuable contribution to the memory of Dr Mortimer Jerome Adler inasfar as it mentions his name – not always positive but most certainly worthy of note. I have to say though,  as a so-called non-white  South African, I hope that the US readers review carefully Beam’s reminder of the criticism levelled at the canon of the Great Books – that women and black writers were excluded. I will humbly recommend that America do what we in South Africa are doing – we are finding the great literature by South Africans, and we are using them in our schools because we find that, even though some of them have never even heard of Adler, they write of the great ideas. This, of course, brings us to two logical questions: What is the benefit of digging up a graveyard of memories of a dispute about who was in and who was left out? How can American schools make the most of the literary heritage that is hers in today’s classroom?


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