On reading and attention:
Too few boys and girls seem to know the simplest facts about reading. When a student comes around with a baffled look, saying that he has spent several hours each evening doing the assigned work but “don’t seem to get anything out of it,” the case is usually easy to diagnose: “Do you study in a room by yourself?” “No.” “Then, do.” Sometimes the answer is “Yes, I have a room of my own,” in which case the next question is, “Do you keep the radio on?” “Yes.” “Then, don’t.” Jane Austen could write novels in the family parlor and some people can think in a boiler factory, but it is foolish to take the hardest hurdles first when the power of attention is so rare.Barzun’s observations remind me of a 2006 post I wrote about finding a good place to study. That post is also (still) available in Renzai’s Japanese translation: 勉強しやすい場所. Google Translate makes a sometimes lovely mess turning it back into English: “It is easy to do and study anywhere, it’s various colors.”
Jacques Barzun, Teacher in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1945).
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