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136 Responses

  1. veronica d says:

    I’m not familiar with the specifically Christian books, but it’s a good list, if somewhat boringly conservative. Which, it’s fine to read Marx, but much has happened since him. Thus an understanding of leftism through the lens of Marx and only Marx will miss much.

    Which no doubt is intended.

    Anyway, I guess it is a good list for churning out fulminating culture warriors.

    I notice there is no science or math, which maybe that is covered elsewhere. However, a bunch of young adults armed with old school philosophy standing toe-to-toe with young adults armed with science, empiricism, semantics, and cognitive science — I think the latter group will have better arguments. The former group will be really good at talking in circles and using words that don’t mean very much.

    But that’s the great thing about math training. Know your semantics! Show your work!

    In any case, the culture war is not won with arguments or philosophy or science or smarts. I wish it was. I prefer smarts. But anyhow, that ain’t the way things are. The culture war is won with marketing and cool.

    And trust me, we queers got cool down pat. I’m waaaay coold. I can dance. I have purple hair.

    These people do not worry me much. They’re dinosaurs, clueless about that bright flash on the horizon. That said, I feel sorry for these kids. Some of them will be queer. Even those who are not queer, they are inheriting a dying ideology, one built on denial and judgement, one out of step with the world. Thus, they will live isolated lives, in their weird subculture, but one that wishes it were dominant, wishes it were not isolated. Thus their lives will be an endless exercise in petty and stupid conflict.

    They are a hindrance to human flourishing. It’s sad.Report

    • zic in reply to veronica d says:

      Thank you, @veronica-d

      I agree that reason and rationality isn’t going to win culture wars.

      And I, too, feel sorry for those kids; some of whom are queer, and half of whom are female.Report

      • veronica d in reply to zic says:

        @zic — Good point on the women.

        (And now I’m going to lose all my feminism points! Please don’t tell my Tumblr friends!)Report

        • zic in reply to veronica d says:

          Ha. There’s so much else unpalatable here that this old injustice seems relatively normal in comparison. Easy to forget. I expect the pushback from recent SCOTUC liberalism will be new limits on lady parts, it’s the easy social compromise when it’s not you (or your daughter) pregnant.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

      Someday, the only people who will have read Marx will be the homeschooled.

      Well, and people in the BDSM community.Report

    • James K in reply to veronica d says:


      I notice there is no science or math, which maybe that is covered elsewhere. However, a bunch of young adults armed with old school philosophy standing toe-to-toe with young adults armed with science, empiricism, semantics, and cognitive science — I think the latter group will have better arguments. The former group will be really good at talking in circles and using words that don’t mean very much.

      I agree that science makes better arguments if we’re defining “good” as “comports more with reality”, which is certainly what I think of as a good argument. But the types of people who set a reading list like this aren’t children of the Enlightenment like you or I are. They already think they know The Truth, os its not surprising they’d focus on materials to help them sound persuasive.Report

  2. Kim says:
    Meh. The joshua list isn’t the worst list of books ever (give them credit for not being conservapedia).
    Spinoza should be on this list, though.Report

  3. Chris says:

    Well, at least there are some great books on that list. It’s like they’re navigating a pretty narrow path through the history of Western writing, sticking to a canon within the canon.

    And sad to say the 8 (almost 10%) women on the list are more than you’d see on some others.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    This list is actually encouraging. Its a surprisingly broad-minded list that covers a diverse range of topics and includes some of the most important books in the Western canon. The really strict Calvinists used to hate every book accept the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and some Protestant text’s like Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Hopefully, the books would spark the intellectual interest of some of the home schooled kids and wean them into mainstream ideology.

    I’m not really sure what people in Generation Joshua want the United States to look like. Probably some mystical version of America in the early to mid-19th century with modern technology. Attempts at Protestant theocracy didn’t work even when the United States was much more Protestant in demographics. The Catholics fought back against this and they fought back hard. The first voucher debate in American education happened because Catholics, and not without good reason, saw a lot of public schools as being de facto Protestant schools because of things like required reading from the King James Bible. Catholics wanted tax money to support Catholic schools just like tax money supported Protestant schools in their opinion.

    America is much more diverse demographically. The non-Protestant Americans aren’t going to magically disappear or go along with attempts to make Protestantism more prominent in American life. Neither are the non-religious Americans or LGBT Americans or anybody else that disagrees with them. Our Calvinist theocrats are never going to have the numbers or power to make things go their way even if they can do some rather frustrating things at the same.Report

    • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Hmm… I can think of some positive adjectives with which to describe this list, but “broad-minded” is not one of them.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Chris says:

        The list isn’t very multi-racial in that the only non-white author listed is Sun Tzu but it does cover a broad spectrum of topics and thought that could be interpreted in many different ways. It includes authors from the Antiquity to the present and from very different Western cultures writing about different topics and themes. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a naughty sex comedy while Dostoevsky is Dostoevsky.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        You’ve not had to deal with spending time with people who refuse to consume any form of artistic endeavor that isn’t the Bible.

        Compared to that, this is positively refreshing!Report

        • Murali in reply to Kim says:

          Chris lives in texas. I’m pretty sure he has dealt with such people.Report

          • Kim in reply to Murali says:

            Chris lives in Austin (and I’ve heard what Randy(S*P) says about Austin…). Chris did live in Tennessee, but I’m not sure how whacko it was back then (It’s worse now — check the CDC if you don’t believe me).

            And I hope Chris doesn’t go out hiking in Texas, for his sake.Report

  5. Lurker says:

    Very clever of them not to put Moby Dick on their list of bog-standard classics. IMO, Moby Dick is rather deeply heretical. (One of my favs!) If the goal is indoctrination, putting Dostoyevsky on the list may be a mistake.

    I like that they have a section of books critical of their worldview, but I think the use of the word “hostile” to describe those books is sort of a tell. Though, they aren’t really hiding that they are trying to indoctrinate, I suppose.Report

  6. Vikram Bath says:

    As someone who has assigned recommended reading before, I’m not sure the list matters. The people who do more than the minimum will find good books anyway, and the others won’t touch any of it.

    I agree with @veronica-d that it is a bit narrow. There are entire subjects missing. At the same time, even if the list were broader, since it is a recommended list, people might pick and choose whatever narrow subset of books that is most interesting to them anyway.

    On the other hand, if a homeschool student were to succeed in reading *all* of these by the time they turned 18, I’d be pretty impressed even if that was all they had done. I get the impression that a lot of people graduate high school without having really read a real book from cover to cover.Report

    • Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I’m just imagining myself trying to read Pascal in high school. It would have been so far over my head that speaking in relative direction would no longer have made sense.

      Hell, most intelligent adults I know can’t make heads or tails of Pascal, as almost any talk of the wager will show.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Vikram Bath says:


      My original comment contained of “Realistic High School Reading list”

      Flowers In The Attic – VC Andrews (female)
      Tarnsman of Gor- John Norman (male)
      Dragons of Autumn Twilight – Margaret Weiss/Tracy Hickman
      Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean M. Auel
      Communion – Whitley Streiber

      Then I realized that it was a little dated.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    You know, if the high school graduate actually does end up reading all of these by the time he or she is 18, I have no reason to consider that anything but wonderful.

    If we were to compare it to the reading list of any given modern high school, how does it stack up?Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      I admit that with a few exceptions (Reagan? Heinlein?) it struck me a lot like selections from the St John’s reading list.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

      Depends on the school and how advanced they are in English. (There’s also the fact that reading lists and literature curriculum are often bounded by how much flack the principal wants to take from parents, and it’s a very ‘squeaky wheel’ scenario).

      Speaking for my local district — Marx wouldn’t fly at all for instance. It just wouldn’t be allowed, and screw what the English teachers wanted.

      Pretty much the bulk of the “prior to the 20th Century” is in our local curriculum, at least for the AP students. That’s at least roughly the right number of works, by the right authors (or very similar ones) for 4 years of High School.

      The modern stuff skips around more, and of course they don’t teach philosophy, history, or ethics in English class — so specific works along that line aren’t covered.

      That list is particularly light on poetry, however.Report

      • zic in reply to morat20 says:

        That list is particularly light on poetry, however.


      • Jaybird in reply to morat20 says:

        Yeah, it is light on poetry… but my complaints about this list is not “they shouldn’t be reading *THAT*” (well, with the exception of Meese’s book and Lewis’s Space Trilogy) but “maybe not my first choice, but they should also be reading this, this, that, and where in the hell is Josephus?”Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      Twelfth grade social studies was an introduction to Western philosophy in my class. We got to early 20th century socialist thinkers like Rosa Luxembourg. Our English literature was also rather broad minded. Besides the usually like Shakespeare, A Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird; we read Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldman, A Wizard of Earthsea, Frankenstein, and bunch of other unusual selections. The joys of an academic high school with a large Jewish population.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      Twelfth grade social studies was an introduction to Western philosophy in my class. We got to early 20th century socialist thinkers like Rosa Luxembourg. Our English literature was also rather broad minded. Besides the usually like Shakespeare, A Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird; we read Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldman, A Wizard of Earthsea, Frankenstein, and bunch of other unusual selections. The joys of an academic high school with a large Jewish population.Report

  8. zic says:

    I just want to point out that this is leadership training for those home-schooled students who really stand out; it’s not curriculum of home school students; the blanket org, HSLDA, publishes curriculum; this is for the cream of the crop so educated.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

      What’s the reading list for the Cream of the Crop in the schools that we approve of?Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Everything. But it includes Unix manuals, Java source code, and a bit more practical psychology than represented above.Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird I’m not playing a gotcha game here. I am not qualified to evaluate the list; so I asked people who are — the commentariat here. And I asked because I was sort-of surprised at some of the things on it. I’m interested in people as whole people, not as cartoon stereotypes, and actually searching out things to rebut my own biases; this struck as an opportunity to do that very thing.Report

        • Kim in reply to zic says:

          It’s a list that will teach them sophistry, the ways of rhetoric that are suited to… those who lead. I wonder how many of them will get the rest of the lessons?

          I know they shan’t be taught how to anger others, as that’s a relatively new field, and not terribly conducive to the discipline they’ll be taught.Report

          • zic in reply to Kim says:

            Kim: It’s a list that will teach them sophistry, the ways of rhetoric that are suited to… those who lead.

            This gets at some something I wondered at: is there a particular bent to the sophistry here? Something missing that would make one a well-rounded sophist? (This is one of those mornings I regret college wasn’t in my past.)Report

            • Kim in reply to zic says:

              My college career was spent far more in the sciences, and sophistry isn’t a strength of mine (I suppose my writing around here might show that?)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

          Well, is there a comparison we could make?

          At this point, we’re looking at an apple.

          What kind of apple is it?

          Without another apple to compare it to, it may as well be golden with “ti kallisti” written on the side of it.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to zic says:

      zic: this is for the cream of the crop so educated.

      This is a little weird too though. Are the Chronicles of Narnia only for the cream of the crop? If this is advanced material, then what do most kids read?Report

      • zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The stuff the umbrella company, a non-profit, Christian home-school publishing company, publishes.

        Reading through the parent boards, the parents in question are really concerned about outside material from non-approved thinkers. And the bible, of course.Report

  9. morat20 says:

    Just glancing at their 20th Century literature — either they’re perfectly happy to have their students question authority, religious or secular, and figure things out on their own — or the people who made that list didn’t understand several of those books.Report

    • zic in reply to morat20 says:

      I’m guessing they have discussion groups to shape/rebut/etc.; they’re training these kids to be the generation to take back America; read the first link.Report

      • morat20 in reply to zic says:

        Possibly, but Heinlein in particular is a risk — unless you control all the other books they read. 🙂

        All in all, the list is pretty solid in general — I’m speaking just the literature (not the ethics, philosophy, or history works). . My wife could probably spot the gaps — works that should be there that aren’t (you know, missing periods in the evolution of writing, that sort of thing) but other than there being WAY too much Lewis and Tolkien on there and too light on poetry and short works (which might not make the list anyways), it’s solid enough.

        Ah, wait. I do spot one gap: Enlightenment philosophers like Locke (there are enlightenment philosophers on the list. But the ones that are missing? The deists pushing for democracy, deliberately broken from the prior foundations of Christianity and divine rights) . In the context of the other books on philosophy, history, and government — skipping Locke and his peers is going to skew your understanding of the historical basis for American government.Report

        • zic in reply to morat20 says:

          I do spot one gap: Enlightenment philosophers like Locke.

          That’s the first thing I noticed, and what prompted the question.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to morat20 says:

          @morat20 @zic

          Locke is there with the Second Treatise.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to morat20 says:

          Locke is listed third under “Politics and Economics.”Report

        • Chris in reply to morat20 says:

          Are you including Locke as a deist? Because.Report

          • morat20 in reply to Chris says:

            Huh. I thought he was a more classic Deist, rather than sauntering vaguely away from orthodox Christianity. (My literature and history classes were, alas, a long time ago)

            In any case, there does seem to be a bit of a light touch when it comes to the rationalists and their impact on American history. Which isn’t surprising considering the source, which aims to highlight the other side.

            OTOH, I’m not sure you can really grasp what was going on — both in Europe and in America — in the 1700s and 1800s without realizing how big a shift the rationalists were from what came before.Report

            • Chris in reply to morat20 says:

              Oh I agree that the rationalists are important, though I think the divergence from the Scholastics is sometimes overstated, particularly on issues directly relevant to their politics, like tolerance, freedom, and human dignity.Report

    • Murali in reply to morat20 says:

      It seems to me that a Christian Dominionist in 21st century America has to be sufficiently anti-authoritarian to buck the rather obvious secular trend. The problem, of course, is ensuring that they defy only certain sorts of authorities and not others.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    I find it intriguing. Chris is right that it is the canon within the canon.

    I wonder what they get out of some of the texts though. Lee is right that A Midsummer Nights Dream is a naughty sex comedy. Most of the jokes in that play are about very earthy subjects and three of the main characters are Faeries!!! What are they teaching about Midsummer? Henry V and Julius Ceaser seem more predictable.

    The inclusion of Bonhoeffer is interesting because he is largely associated with the Christian Left. He was appalled by American racism and preached at an African-American church in Harlem.

    There are also a surprising number of Catholic writers on the list. I would think this group would be opposed to Papistry.

    The literature section is largely Christian and conservatively oriented with a pastoral streak. I would bet money that they skip over Orwell’s unrepentant socialism but many people do. Libertarians have long loved Animal Farm and 1984. A libertarian friend of mine was shocked when I told him that Orwell always saw himself as a democratic socialist. Notice how they are not reading Homage to Catalonia, The Road to Wigan Pier, or Down and Out in Paris and London. They aren’t even reading 1984 (might give the wrong message). They are reading the most conservative of T.S. Elitot’s works.

    The economics and modern politics section is typical of modern conservatism. They are teaching Marx but in a know your enemy kind of way. They aren’t teaching John Rawls or other modern liberal and left writers.

    But most of these books are stuff I read in college in classes like Renaissance Europe, The Problems of Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, London and Paris: 1500-1800.

    My hope would be that you get some curious minds who are not too brainwashed and can go discover the Road to Wigan Pier or Homage to Catalonia after reading Animal Farm. Even better would be people who realize that Marx was correct a lot of things.*

    *Some one on another blog once noted that a lot of conservative Republicans moan about how labor/work are not valued anymore and they are basically repeating Marx’s theories on Labor and Value and Alienation without realizing it.Report

    • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:


      If you’re going to engage with political thought in the 21st century, even if only as a know thy enemy sort of way, you’ve got to know Rawls (But I may be biases here). But its surprising (or perhaps not so surprising given that they want to indoctrinate) that they are not giving Hayek’s constitution of liberty.Report

  11. Saul Degraw says:

    Some interesting gaps:

    Chris covers that this is largely Western section but I expected that.

    Here are some interesting gaps from the Western Canon:

    1. Antigone is an interesting choice and a bit of a feminist one. They lack other Greek playwrights though. Where is Aescheylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides? They went with the Greek playwright who showed man as they are!

    2. There is nothing about Judaism or Islam on this list at all. I find this somewhat surprising. Christian evangelicals tend to have a curiosity about Judaism even if it is only because they have strange ideas about the role Jews will play in bringing about the Second Coming.

    3. I would add a whole lot of literature but stuff that is obviously more secular. Where is George Elliot? Edith Wharton? Virginia Woolf? Toni Morrison? Chaim Potok? J.D. Salinger? James Baldwin? The literature section (including plays) seems the most strangely censored. I guess Shakespeare is considered safe because he is Shakespeare? But Frankenstein is a work of the radical Romantic era. Blake or Wordsworth seem like safer choices for Christian right-wingers. Shelly was married to Percy Shelly who was a radical atheist. She also was the daughter of Mary Wolstonecraft who wrote an early Feminist classic. How are they going to prevent curious kids from figuring this out?

    Robert Frost was also rather liberal in his politics.

    4. With the exceptions of Locke and Montisqieu, the Enlightenment is locked out. Where is Voltaire? Hume? Spinoza? Decartes? Kant? Vico? Diderot? Rosseau?

    5. There is nothing on Art History. Where is Ruskin?

    6. There is no Thomas Jefferson. Is the Declaration of Independence too radical? Does it bring up too many enlightenment ideas and ideals? How do you square the idea of a Christian Nation with “We hold these truths to be self-evident….”Report

    • morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Voltaire! Knew I was missing one. Voltaire is a pretty solid curriculum choice in many High Schools. Spinoza and Descartes not so much, but I recall some shorter Descartes.Report

  12. Chris says:

    I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore, God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus and Democritus and Epicurus. For it is a thousand times more credible, that four mutable elements, and one immutable fifth essence, duly and eternally placed, need no God, than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced, should have produced this order and beauty, without a divine marshal. The Scripture saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; it is not said, The fool hath thought in his heart; so as he rather saith it, by rote to himself, as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it. For none deny, there is a God, but those, for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip, than in the heart of man, than by this; that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened, by the consent of others. Nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects. And, which is most of all, you shall have of them, that will suffer for atheism, and not recant; whereas if they did truly think, that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves? Epicurus is charged, that he did but dissemble for his credit’s sake, when he affirmed there were blessed natures, but such as enjoyed themselves, without having respect to the government of the world. Wherein they say he did temporize; though in secret, he thought there was no God. But certainly he is traduced; for his words are noble and divine: Non deos vulgi negare profanum; sed vulgi opiniones diis applicare profanum. Plato could have said no more. And although he had the confidence, to deny the administration, he had not the power, to deny the nature. The Indians of the West, have names for their particular gods, though they have no name for God: as if the heathens should have had the names Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, etc., but not the word Deus; which shows that even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the latitude and extent of it. So that against atheists, the very savages take part, with the very subtlest philosophers. The contemplative atheist is rare: a Diagoras, a Bion, a Lucian perhaps, and some others; and yet they seem to be more than they are; for that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are by the adverse part branded with the name of atheists. But the great atheists, indeed are hypocrites; which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling; so as they must needs be cauterized in the end. The causes of atheism are: divisions in religion, if they be many; for any one main division, addeth zeal to both sides; but many divisions introduce atheism. Another is, scandal of priests; when it is come to that which St. Bernard saith, non est jam dicere, ut populus sic sacerdos; quia nec sic populus ut sacerdos. A third is, custom of profane scoffing in holy matters; which doth, by little and little, deface the reverence of religion. And lastly, learned times, specially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do more bow men’s minds to religion. They that deny a God, destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts, by his body; and, if he be not of kin to God, by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature. It destroys likewise magnanimity, and the raising of human nature; for take an example of a dog, and mark what a generosity and courage he will put on, when he finds himself maintained by a man; who to him is instead of a God, or melior natura; which courage is manifestly such, as that creature, without that confidence of a better nature than his own, could never attain. So man, when he resteth and assureth himself, upon divine protection and favor, gathered a force and faith, which human nature in itself could not obtain. Therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself, above human frailty. As it is in particular persons, so it is in nations. Never was there such a state for magnanimity as Rome. Of this state hear what Cicero saith: Quam volumus licet, patres conscripti, nos amemus, tamen nec numero Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Poenos, nec artibus Graecos, nec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terrae domestico nativoque sensu Italos ipsos et Latinos; sed pietate, ad religione, atque hac una sapientia, quod deorum immortalium numine omnia regi gubernarique perspeximus, omnes gentes nationesque superavimus.Report

  13. greginak says:

    Of all the wonderful Orwell out there they would pick Animal Farm. I’m sure its because the evil commies are nipping at our heels but what a waste. I’d bet they would teach him as being a conservative also.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      That’s more of a Middle School book as well.

      If we start saying “this should have been read in 6th-8th grade!”, we can move half of Enlightenment and all of 20th Century over.Report

    • 1984 is usually read as specifically anti-communist, though he aimed it a totalitarians of all stripes, And, of course, his largest complaint about communists is that they betrayed the democratic and socialist true Left.Report

      • gregiank in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Yeah 1984 was about all dictatorships. I’ve heard, and i’m sure you have, recent conservatives try to redefine Orwell as a conservative. Which is spectacularly clueless but that is the age we live in.Report

        • The story I’ve seen more than once is that towards the end of his life he turned away from socialism, hence Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). Never mind that in Why I Write (1946), he wrote:

          The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.


  14. Doctor Jay says:

    This list doesn’t seem terrible, though some of the choices seem off. For instance, I have no idea why someone would choose Julius Caesar over Macbeth. The latter is short, to the point, and contains some of the most memorable speeches ever. I would probably choose Much Ado About Nothing over Midsummer Night’s Dream, but perhaps the makers of the list thought the fairy tale stuff would appeal to younger people more, and it’s a closer call. Henry V is probably the best of the history plays, but frankly, you could drop it altogether to make room for something else.

    Now I love me some Tolkien, I read it at age 14, and I’m happy to see it on a list, but it’s a bit much, along with all that C.S. Lewis. I’m kind of a fan of Lewis, but I’d probably limit the list to Screwtape.

    The thing that really stands out to me is the lack of representation in the 20th Century works. No Toni Morrison? No Their Eyes Were Watching God?, or The Color Purple? When are they gonna learn that many blacks, and thus many black writers are quite conservative?

    We weren’t going to see Malcolm X on this list, but might not we see something that’s much more palatable, such as The Invisible Man. I don’t think these exclusions are intentional, it’s not a consciously white supremacist list, or else To Kill a Mockingbird wouldn’t be on it. So it’s just kind of clueless.Report

    • Kim in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Yeah, I’d do Macbeth in a heartbeat. And Hamlet — they gave the college students a choice, and they chose Hamlet. Because it’s just that foundational. And Romeo and Juliet, because it’s just so filmable.Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to Kim says:

        I’m pretty sure that the list is meant for high-school age and below, and I’m not sure that that age group can really “get” Hamlet, as opposed to a college-age group. Of course, there are always a few students …Report

        • Kim in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          I’ve read things in school that quite frankly everyone hated, because they were so out of touch with the agegroup.

          Hamlet wasn’t one of them. It may be the sort of book that you return to, again and again, but it’s not a tale of dust and desert, a man pondering the infinite as he grows old and grey.Report

  15. aaron david says:

    Well, the fact that they have The Man Who was Thursday makes up for any holes in the cannon.

    Dunno, seems like a pretty good list to me and much better than my sons honors English reading assignments from high school. I would like to see some Bulgakov, Flannery O’Conner and maybe some Zora Neale Hurston. But you can’t have everything in life.

    I would have been curious to see the reactions if it wasn’t presented as part of the Jousua project, and just as a “what do you guys think of this list” kinda thing.Report

    • morat20 in reply to aaron david says:

      I believe this is a recommended reading list that I suspect covers the entirety of the high school years. As in “It’s recommended you read these before the end of High School”.

      Offhand, it diverges from the more common English lists (mind you, school districts being so independent even within states means there’s no common curriculum, so I’m talking generalities here) in mostly the history and philosophy. Which makes sense, as English classes in high school focus on composition and literature. I encountered some of those other works in government, economics, history, etc.

      The actual literary works are pretty much in-line with a regular English education, although as I noted above — it lacks certain staples and is almost devoid of poetry and short works.

      It’s not a bad list at all. Like I said, heavy on Lewis and Tolkien but it’s not supposed to be a ‘well rounded English’ list. Light on poetry, female writers, and honestly I’d tweak the 20th century stuff a bit myself. It’s not terribly representative. Given it’s a supplemental list and not a curriculum, it’s certainly not bad.

      The meat is in the non-literature stuff — history and philosophy, where it shows more of a bias but at least includes contradictory works. Although like with everything, the actual lesson plans and guidelines would show whether that’s done decently or not.Report

    • Chris in reply to aaron david says:

      Bulgakov, with his anti-Bolshevism, seems like an obvious choice for them. I guess they felt like Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Tolstoy were enough Russians for them.Report

  16. DensityDuck says:

    I’m not sure Homer ever wrote any epic poetry about getting the flu but I’m not sure what else The Illiad could be.Report

  17. DensityDuck says:

    It’s obvious why Starship Troopers is on the list–rah rah sheepdog bullshit–but there’s actually rather more going on in that book than just “oh, military service is the ideal form of citizenship, you should prove yourself worthy before you can vote”.

    But the thing is–and this even is mentioned in the book, albeit with just a tossed-off-line–the real thing the book is about is, “what if there exists an objective moral code and we figured out what it was?” Because that’s what is happening in that book. Federal Service isn’t a certification, and it isn’t training; it’s a filter that sorts out everyone insufficiently moral as proven by that code. If you aren’t able to be as moral as you need to be, then you can’t pass the tests; you’ll fail unconsciously, by accident, as an impulsive result. Like it says in the book, you take your finger off the button for one instant and you’re gone; because the system is set up to find people who don’t have to decide to keep pushing the button.

    If this seems terribly arbitrary and subjective, remember that Starship Troopers was written around the same time as Game Theory was getting big. It was conceivable, at the time, that questions of morality could be rendered into equations and “solved”, the same way the Prisoner’s Dilemma could be turned into an optimization problem. And Starship Troopers used that to sidestep the question of “what if the wrong people got to be in charge”, because in that book’s world this would be like suggesting that the wrong people could be charge of thermodynamics. In the world of Starship Troopers, the Trolley Problem is solveable (and solved).Report

    • It’s a Heinlein trope that eventually everything would be completely understood and quantified. Remember the Calculus of Statement from Blowups Happen? Or how in Waldo it could be proved that the power transmitters could not fail, now that the Uncertainty Principle had been proven false? Or the tossed-off line in Gulf that the scientific version of semantics was suppressed by the government because it could be used to prove mathematically that everything they said was BS? Though that one’s probably RAH being on the General Semantics bandwagon.Report

  18. veronica d says:

    I think a few of you are missing the point on this. This list is not intended to indoctrinate these young people in evangelicalism. Nope. That is not needed. These kids are already indoctrinated. And in fact, one expects that most of them will stay involved in the insular side of the evangelical media bubble. That is all assumed. It’s in the air they breathe.

    No, a list such as this is intended for something different: these are the holy warriors who will be expected to step outside the bubble and engage with us, and if they have not read the key books we have read, then they operate at a disadvantage.

    Well, some of those books, those that can be adequately critiqued within their framework, those with which they can engage. They can probably skip Foucault and Derrida, read them in summary and learn what they need. (Actually, I suspect that is true in general. Anyway…)

    Also, I wonder if this curriculum is being developed in concert with the right-wing universities? If so, then what is missing here will be filled in there. Will the college-bound evangelicals go on to read Rawls and Rorty and Quine?

    Anyway, the point is this, these young people will be applying for jobs in politics, and they will interact with those of us in the secular world — and they are meant to be stealth. They need to speak our language. If they cannot, if they have only read C. S. Lewis and not much else, if their only mode of discourse is ranty-right-wing-mc-rantypants, then they will stick out in unsavory ways.

    None of this is surprising. Their only Asian title is Sun Tzu.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

      If this list is to train children from the home school Evangelical background to engage with people outside the bubble than they are even less prepared for the task than I thought. Most people, even very avid, readers don’t read most of the stuff on the list. They might be aware of some of the philosophy through osmosis but I really doubt it. I really can’t see how getting their missionaries to read things that most people would be clueless about is going to help.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’d deeply love to live in a society where the average person possessed at least some knowledge of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Dostoevsky, Dickens, and company but that isn’t going to happen. Hell, I can’t somewhat mocked for admitting to read history rather than watching the Bachelorette a few days ago. To most people, even technically well educated people, the past is the past and is to be disregarded.

        VeronicaD, I think your wrong about the person of the list. I think that this for Evangelical homeschoolers attempting a deeper education than normally associated with Evangelical homeschooling. It is progress in many ways.Report

        • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

          @leeesq — You’re missing the point. This is not to train missionaries. It is to train stealth culture war operatives. And indeed, they will be shoulder to shoulder with the left’s elite. Read again the quote that appears in Zic’s first paragraph. This is their stated purpose:

          “These children are to be trained in God’s original plan for the U.S. to be a Christian nation, and they will grow up to invade all levels of the U.S. government and society and reclaim the U.S. for Republican, conservative Christianity.”

          You are not being cynical enough.Report

          • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

            The right does stealth operatives exceptionally poorly.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

            Even if your right on purpose, I’m really not seeing how this reading is going to help them be stealth culture warriors because it is really out place with most people’s education these days. You might be entirely right on the goals but I can’t quite grasp how reading the Great Books of the Western Cannon is going to help because most ordinary people do not read the Great Books of the Western Canon anymore.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            This is why I’d be interested in reading the list that enlightened people like us think schools should be teaching.

            I think that it would illuminate the whole “Look at how these people are trying to indoctrinate children!” debate.

            But I would, of course.Report

            • morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

              You could try Common Core, but you won’t find much there. Specific literature choices are generally set much, much further down.

              Book lists are generated over the summer, but if my local district is representative — at least half the stuff a student reads K-12 is rarely changed. (Certain Greek plays, certain Shakespeare, medieval British lit, and a long list of foundational American literature).

              The is at least half “set by the overall department” and books may drop off and on every year or three. The remaining is chosen by the teachers, often from a list generated by the department.

              In High School, you can bet you’ll cover Greek plays, Shakespeare (at least 4 plays, multiple sonnets), a very long list of poetry (by time frame, complexity, subject, etc), works of American list that are considered to be foundational or highly representative of or historical note, and then a number of more modern works fitting into whatever theme or concept you’re working towards that year.Report

        • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Who mocked you for reading during Bachelorette? And why are you interacting with this person at all?Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Chris says:

            Professional reasons. It was for choosing reading about the Ottoman Empire more than watching tv like the Bachelorette. I think she meant this in a somewhat playful way but a lot of people do tend to perceive deep reading as boring and can’t understand why I might like it.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

      They’re doomed to failure.

      The post-Western Culture folks don’t need to read anymore. They’re beyond that now.

      Dorky McDorkerson sitting there talking about Western Civ may as well be talking about Video Games or D&D.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d says:


      I find your analysis of the situation compelling. I find the choices deeply perplexing. How are they going to engage in the culture war by reading Chesterston? Though wiking the plot of The Man who Wasn’t Thursday makes it sound like they want to be deep cover.

      I just don’t see how it is supposed to work.Report

    • zic in reply to veronica d says:

      This is exactly correct, @veronica-dReport

  19. Autolukos says:

    Lots of Chesterton, Lewis, and Tolkien comes with the territory, I suppose.

    Maybe because I was raised Catholic, I find their Christian choices to be heavily weighted towards the recent. Augustine is the only Christian before 1000 on there, and he is in the general philosophy section. Where are the Lives of Roman martyrs, where are the other Church Fathers?

    Secularly, it’s a crime that Thucydides and Hobbes don’t make it.

    The Hostile Worldviews section is the most jarringly Western section to me; not a whiff of Islamism or broader anti-colonialism. Very much aimed at their American peers, I think.Report

    • James K in reply to Autolukos says:


      The Hostile Worldviews section is the most jarringly Western section to me; not a whiff of Islamism or broader anti-colonialism. Very much aimed at their American peers, I think.

      That makes sense, once they’ve defeated their domestic enemies they can use the US military on their foreign ones. Why waste time arguing with people you can bomb?Report

      • Autolukos in reply to James K says:

        Given that we’re mostly an urban people, I’d be fairly pleased to learn that their domestic enemies aren’t a people they’re willing/able to bomb.Report

        • James K in reply to Autolukos says:


          They can’t bomb you until they gain control of the government, so they have to out-argue you. North Korea and IS aren’t standing between them and the levers of power.Report

  20. Vikram Bath says:

    While researching something else, I came across this post of something that was in an instructor’s guide of a very popular Christian curriculum. This was under American history:

    325-250 BC – carthaginian trade; exports: lumbar, gold, and furs

    250-100 BC – coins issues, north america mapped

    100 BC- 400 AD – Roman traders active in America, Roman currency adopted

    69 AD – Jews settle Kentucky and Tennessee

    132 AD – second wave of Hebrew refugee

    450 AD – flight of north African christians to America

    500 AD – Libyan science and mathematics flourish in west North America


    • Jews settle Kentucky and Tennessee

      Shalom, y’all.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      This seems vaguely consistent with Mormon beliefs. Reading through the comment section a few of them made the same connection. Whether there’s anything to that speculation or it’s just History-Channel-gone-weird bs I couldn’t say. Or particularly care.Report

    • Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Many, many years ago, when the internet was populated primarily by crazy people (i.e., the late 90s), I knew a guy who believed everything Fell had ever written about the New World’s pre-Columbian interactions with the Old World. I mean, he believed it with a religious fervor, such that everything he saw confirmed his belief. In some ways, it highlighted for me how reliant we are on experts for so much, and how important, therefore, some sense of the consensus among experts can be.

      Still, I’m surprised to see some of Fell’s dates even mentioned in 2015. Most of the people who’ve even read Fell are dead or living in shacks in the woods somewhere writing their manifestos.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

        I read through the curriculum publisher’s website. They explicitly state that they don’t think it’s possible for any one writer to get everything perfectly, so they seek to get a collection of resources and encourage parents to work with kids to triangulate on the truth. “Triangulate” is the word they used.

        I have to admit that sounds appealing in theory until you see a list like that. I’m not sure how that’s going to help anyone.Report

  21. Stillwater says:

    Seems to me this list is a pretty good grounding in books that allow the homeschooler to actually communicate with folks. Find some common ground to talk about things, both literary as well as political stuff. It also strikes me as a good foundation for the type of leadership role these kids are being groomed to play. You know, leading a resurgence of something narrow and antithetical to “liberalism”. So, not bad, really. (How’d Dostoevsky get on that list?)Report