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Information and Knowledge

Editorial by Ruth Hill Viguers

With the season of graduations upon us we will be hearing many speeches extolling wisdom and the other virtues that young people will need for their roles in the future. Recently I heard a speaker explain that “bookishness” was not enough, that book knowledge had to be teamed with knowledge of life, with experience, before a man could be wise. He was right, of course, but it is unfortunate that bookishness is so often equated with the possession of information alone, as if to inform were the sole aim of books.

Perhaps this conception is not surprising when the emphasis all through school is very apt to be on preparation for tests which prepare for more tests, which, if one is lucky, pave the road to college. In rebellion one high school student asked, “Once in college will we then be able to learn for the sake of learning, or must we continue to prepare for tests to prepare us for more tests to prepare us for more tests? When does this testing end and real learning begin?”

The flood of informational books may be proof that we have retrogressed to that period when education was seen only as the acquisition of facts. Children learn from every experience they have, every person they meet. They also learn from everything they read, and the fine, creatively written books — whether they are fanciful, purely adventurous, or factual — should not continue to be buried by the masses of repetitious informational material that pour into the book market. One wishes there could be a clearing committee to help eliminate the wastefulness of the simultaneous appearance of almost identical material from several publishers, or the serving up of the same old stew embellished with new garnishes.

“I like books of knowledge,” said Paul Hazard, “. . . when, instead of pouring out so much material on a child’s soul that it is crushed, they plant in it a seed that will develop from the side. . . . I like them especially when they distill from all different kinds of knowledge the most difficult and the most necessary — that of the human heart.”

From the June 1961 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

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