In this excerpt from an 1818 letter, Thomas Jefferson sees fiction as a “great obstacle to good education.”
Why? Do you agree? Does popular literature–e.g. romance novels, crime and detective fiction, science fiction, tales of vampires/witches, etc.–poison the mind? Please respond as specifically as you can: provide examples, explain your reasons, and include appropriate details to support your ideas.
“A great obstacle to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so bedecked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards all the real businesses of life. This mass of trash, however, is not without some distinction; some few modeling their narratives, although fictitious, on the incidents of real life, have been able to make them interesting and useful vehicles of sound morality…For a like reason, too, much poetry should not be indulged. Some is useful for forming style and taste. Pope, Dryden, Thompson, Shakespeare, and of the French, Moliere, Racine, the Coneilles, may be read with pleasure and improvement.”