By Meredith Farkas | June 1, 2005
I found this link via Nexgenlib-L and I found it so amusing/horrifying that I had to share it with everyone. Human Events Online, which is a conservative journal, came out with this list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Apparently, they polled a group of conservative scholars who came up with this list:
1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
2. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education by John Dewey
6. Das Kapital by Karl Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes
Ok, the first three are no-brainers for a conservative rag, but Democracy and Education? That’s just kooky. Do these people really believe that teaching students critical thinking skills is a bad thing? You really must read the commentary under each choice, because it is definitely the most amusing part. I have a hard time taking anything seriously that includes the phrase “Evil Empire”.
Some of the honorable mentions are interesting as well. Here’s a selection:
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead
Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
Basically any book that questions capitalism, religion, a woman’s place in society, sexual mores, or advocates the role of science, social welfare programs, and consumer and environmental safety controls is considered harmful. Are people really that afraid of debate?
I guess I could never think of a book, in and of itself, as harmful. I’ve read most of those books and I have not started a workers revolution or killed anyone. I’ve also read Robert Nozick, F. A. Hayek, John Locke, Adam Smith and other authors who are loved by conservatives. While they have influenced my thinking, they have by no means made me a conservative — just a more informed human being. Most of these books (both the “harmful” ones and books by those authors I’ve just mentioned) are read in colleges around the world by people who end up becoming leaders in their fields. Reading things that promote different viewpoints encourages critical thinking and helps people to determine what their own views on these subjects are. People who think of books as harmful really don’t want people to think. They don’t believe that people can be trusted to make up their own mind about things. It’s an idea they have in common with the same totalitarian regimes they hated so much.