I like to tell a joke about politicians. I even included it in an earlier blog post. I’ll repeat it here. Pediatricians recommend that children’s exposure to media shouldn’t be allowed until they’re at least two years old. And you can see why when you look at Washington and realize the people holding offices were all raised with televisions in every house.
I was looking to see how accurate I was and found this quote on the internet, “[they] have a weaker understanding of other people’s beliefs and desires….” While you might think this quote applies to many politicians, it’s really from a study of preschoolers who have a TV in their bedroom. (I’ll include a link at the end.)
We used to have politicians who weren’t afraid to work with people in the other party. Now it seems as if the only things that get done are those that will help in the next election. And, it’s not just politicians who have trouble these days. When I was young it was fun to talk late into the night about politics with someone who’s views were different than your own. Now people are afraid to talk politics lest someone take offense and unfriend them.
I wanted to start by talking about the problem before I went into what J K Rowling did. But then, you already know what she did. She wrote Harry Potter. She got people to read, especially young people. And what’s the big deal about that you’re wondering. It’s all in how reading affects the brain.
Reading changes your brain. Readers form more connections within their brains when they read. Readers have more empathy towards others, as they are drawn into stories and identify with the characters. Elizabeth Eisenstein in her book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, says that the invention of the printing press which allowed the general public access to books and knowledge sparked the “Unacknowledged Revolution”. This revolution came from the growth in individual thought that came from reading.
The printing press was invented in 1440. This was followed in the next 100 years by the Protestant Reformation, the spread of the Renaissance across Europe and the Scientific Revolution. These were followed by the Age of Enlightenment with its values of liberty, progress, constitutional governments and the separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are a couple well known figures connected with the Enlightenment.
You can see the power of reading and what happens when more people read. And that is why I have hope for the future. When all these people who grew up reading Harry Potter come into power, they’re going to make the world a better place. Thanks J K.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.