Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Reading

Add to Google Reader or HomepageIt has been over a month since my last post. House projects and television seem to have taken up way too much of my time. – I am the boob who watches the tube… although it has been fun watching the “Tour de France.” (Congratulations to Cadel Evans; the first Australian to win the Tour de France.)

I have also been reading The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. My sister-in-law bought me the book for my birthday and it has been fun reading about the Americans who went to Paris in the early 1800’s to learn/improve their skills at the center of art and medicine. (I know I am being redundant but must say again that I admire the French expression for relative-by-law. I think belle soeur – beautiful sister – is so much more friendly than our legal term.) But I digress…

David McCullough is a great writer. He weaves together the stories of so many famous, adventurous Americans from their correspondence with families and friends in the states and historical events. He writes about artists, writers, architects and doctors including the artist Samuel Morse (also of Morse code fame.) I have been struck by the adventurous nature of these men and women and by the beautiful style of their writing.

I was also struck by his references to Democracy in America by Alexis deTocqueville which the author described “as clear-eyed and valuable a study of America as any yet published…” To me, the most striking observation that deTocqueville wrote was about education: “the originality of American civilization was most clearly apparent in the provisions for public education.”

Given what appear to be the prevalent attitudes and direction of our country, I am guessing that a 21st century deTocqueville would now say that America has lost its compass because it has cut its investment in education. We expect our teachers to do more while cutting their salaries, their benefits, their classroom resources. Then we blame the teachers for the failures of the schools. What is wrong with this picture?


  1. I just heard about The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris from an elderly woman who, when traveling in England and France, missed an opportunity to visit Paris when their young son cam down with the measles. She highly recommends the book also and it has allowed her to "visit" Paris many years later. It sounds like good holiday/winter reading. I was glad to hear your recommendation also.

  2. David McCullough compiled so much information on the Americans in Paris during the 19th century. It seems amazing that he found so many letters.

    A very interesting read.