I’m reading a book about the economy right now. I don’t suppose that’s too surprising, given that we’re in the most complicated, difficult economic situation in history. (I don’t think I’m overstating that. Even The Great Depression can’t say it was subject to the velocity of change—the downward plunge—we’re seeing, thanks to the immediacy of the global economy.)
So anyway, I’m reading one man’s informed opinion about where we are, what it means, and what might happen. I never read books like this in college. In fact, I could not have imagined signing up for a course with “Econ” in the title. But here I am, many years later, wondering about economics, how those principles govern commerce and what it all means to the arts, to our food supply, to standards of living here, there and everywhere.
I may be wondering about those things, but at least I have the means to learn some answers thanks to something else I learned as a student of English: I learned how to read.
If you’re majoring in English, you’re learning a lot about how to read. Not just words on the page (you knocked that down in elementary school, no?). You’re learning how to read for sense and meaning. You’re learning how not to be thrown by long sentences or unfamiliar vocabulary. You’re learning to follow an idea from the top of the chapter to its end. You’re reading for style and to know what it adds to sense. You’re reading between the lines because you know there’s something to be found there.
We’re living in complicated times, and I can’t help but think they’re going to get more complicated and more difficult before some light shines in the distance. Getting some idea what it all means depends, in part, on learning from people who have some idea (not “pundits,” by the way). The ability to read, really read, undaunted by complexity, turn of phrase or length of thought, puts you in a position of making some sense of convoluted, technical and controversial ideas and events.
Add to your list of advantages: Clarity and reasoning (about complicated subjects), logic, expression and patience (with long passages). You don’t suppose we’d have any reason in work and in life to call on those abilities right about now, do you?