Welcome to everyone’s least favorite part of the semester. Suddenly, after a restful Thanksgiving break with friends and family, we’re thrust into the whirlwind of reading period and finals that just seemed so comfortably far off. All the tests, papers, and projects that were daunting from a distance are now right in our faces. As a result, many of us put our blinders on and plow through to the finish—which is only natural.
All too often, finals period is the season of cramming and frantic catch-up. It’s realizing what you’ve put off or coasted through, and being forced to pick up your own slack. While there is so much talk at many liberal arts colleges about reading critically and writing skillfully, many of us (during this time especially) read and write with little intention. We skim, underline, and highlight, to coax the main points out of our readings, and we get little out of it.
There are a million technological innovations that allow us to do everything quickly. We can gather information and spread it faster than ever before, as every media critic has repeated countless times. This is all well and good; progress is crucial. But for the most part, we should read more slowly.
Now, I’d like to clarify, I’m not saying that no one reads carefully at Tufts. And, more importantly, I’m not saying all things truly deserve to be read carefully. What I’m advocating for is simple: we should try when we can read more slowly, with more deliberateness, and with more thought. Finals period is not necessarily the best time to start, but it’s the time that most clearly underscores the problematic way that many of us read. We read for a purpose that is other than reading itself: to synthesize, analyze, or summarize.
I am not claiming anything revolutionary in this idea: a “Slow Reading Manifesto” already exists on its own website, articles penned in The Atlantic and The Guardian have made similar pleadings to mine, entire books have been written on the subject. But I don’t want to toss around any blame for this problem. I won’t argue about how the Internet is shrinking our time spans, or that we no longer possess an appreciation for classical literature—these things may or may not be true.
What I will say is this: find what you like to read, and read those things deliberately. Pay attention, and enjoy them. Reading for leisure is seemingly unheard of during college, but it doesn’t have to be. I joined the Observer, and stayed with it through long nights and early mornings, because I care about the writing that makes people read in this way. Over the last three years of midterms and finals, there have been times when I lost sight of this intention, as we all have. I’ve read entire books in one sitting before a class discussion, or skipped readings altogether when time was tight. I spend too much time reading to continue it in this way; it sucks all the enjoyment out of it.
With that in mind, here is the final issue of the Observer for the semester. I hope that you’ll find something in these pages that interests you and take the time to read it slowly.