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All Books Are Fiction

March 6, 2019

An Educator:

One of the topics I tend to worry about is education. I worry about it because our country is being very slow to change the way we educate our young people. We are not preparing them for the future.

I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for this concern. Moreover, to educate myself on the topic, I’ve read many articles and books about education. I’ve also solicited ideas from and conversation with colleagues in the education business.

A recent book that I read is The New Education: How to revolutionize the University to prepare students for a world in flux, by Cathy N. Davidson. Subsequently, I recommended it to an educator friend. I was surprised by her response.

I Don’t Read Non-Fiction

After listening politely, she said in a firm voice, “I don’t read non-fiction.” I remember showing surprise but responding in a non-judgmental way. I didn’t pursue the conversation even though I was quite curious. I will follow up at some point. Since she is retired, has she decided that all the years of being required to read non-fiction to keep up with her certifications was enough? Does she only want to read fiction as a way of breaking from the past? Or does she find it more challenging to follow the author’s character and plot development?

It started me thinking about my reading habits — which are exactly the opposite of hers! I only rarely read what is categorized as fiction. And then, it’s generally science fiction.

I Don’t Read Fiction

In my mind, reading fiction is pretty close to being a waste of time. I view it as not quite as bad as TV, but close. I believe I have way too much to learn about human nature and our physical world. Why “waste time” reading about make-believe stuff?

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my view wasn’t recognizing the basic facts of human nature.

All Books Are Fiction

Unless you are thumbing through the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook, or some other book of mathematical or scientific tables, you are reading the product of fallible and biased human beings. Everything we write is based on a limited and incomplete view of reality. So, in that sense, all books are fiction.

The business author Patrick Lencioni springs to mind. He has written many books that I readily recommend to my colleagues, friends, and clients. His leadership and organizational governance books are all written as parables. Fictional companies, fictional employees, and timeless management principles all combine to make easy reading and enjoyable learning.

Not Changing My Mind

Having said all that, I’m willing to admit that I do read fiction. However, I will not change my mind about TV! Yes, friends point out to me that there are many excellent documentaries available to watch and learn. The books I read don’t have advertisements encouraging me to purchase things I don’t need.

If I were to use videos to learn (and I do that with Podcasts, Adobe Creative Suite, and YouTube), it would be through internet applications, not the traditional cable TV mess.

How about you? Do you learn best through visual means or reading or listening to lectures?

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