It begins in February. Parents scour websites in the often-competitive sport of hunting for summer camp options. The goal is to keep our children happy, occupied and perhaps even learning something during the long summer.
Summer camps are a relatively new invention, introduced in the early 20th century.
“P.S. please excuse this scribble and burn it as soon as you read it. Good by.”
If you spend days in university archives reading the chicken scratches of everyday folks from the 19th century, then you will run into lines like this. And when you do, your eyes may get big. A request to destroy or keep private a letter oftentimes means there is something juicy.
The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.
It has become cliché to note that we live in a world of information overload. Being cliché, of course, does not make it any less true. We professors are well aware of our inability to keep up with the fantastic production of new knowledge in our own specialties, yet the torrent of words overwhelms not only scholars but all readers. Who can possibly read all the books, magazines, journals, newspapers, blogs, tweets and posts worth reading? And what is worth reading, anyway?
This deluge is often ascribed to the digital revolution, and indeed the internet and pervasive connectivity have greatly expanded our reading options. Nevertheless, the historically minded will recognize in our current situation merely the ongoing ripples of earlier information revolutions.