OWL Magazine Korea

Lead with Reading by Lee Ji-sung

Lee Ji-sung was a writer who gained significant popularity in the early 2010s. With his book “Lead with Reading,” published in 2010, he sparked a “Classics Reading Craze” in Korean society. Riding on the popularity of the book, his previously published work “Dreaming in the Attic” also gained attention and elevated him to the ranks of bestselling authors.

In addition to “Lead with Reading,” Lee Ji-sung authored various self-development books, but “Lead with Reading” remains the book that brought him the greatest fame.

“Critiques of Lee Ji-sung’s Works”

In the early 2010s, Lee Ji-sung gained great popularity and became a central figure in the humanities craze, attracting attention with his recommendations of classical literature. However, subsequent criticism arose due to discrepancies between the realities presented in “Lead with Reading” and his recommendations for classical literature reading lists. Some questioned the credibility of his other works due to the unrealistic advice, such as suggesting high school students read Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” or recommending “History of Science” for financial studies, insisting on reading these works in the original rather than in translation.

“The Book that Positioned Lee Ji-sung”

Nevertheless, in the early 2010s, “Lead with Reading” garnered significant popularity and aligned well with the atmosphere of the job market seeking “humanities-oriented talents” at the time. The book resonated with the author as I faced the situation of preparing for graduation and simultaneous job hunting in my fourth year of university.

“Lee Ji-sung’s Leadership Concert in 2011”

In September 2011, Lee Ji-sung was invited to Sungkyunkwan University, where I was attending, to hold a “Leadership Concert,” and I was present at the event. Although I was not familiar with Lee Ji-sung at the time, I was able to encounter his book “Lead with Reading” after listening to his lecture.

“Importance of Reading Classical Literature”

The book consistently emphasizes the importance of classical literature, reading, and contemplation. The author suggests that all great individuals of the past read classical literature tirelessly, and that was the key to their education. Even in the United States, there is a stark difference between public and private education systems, with private schools focusing solely on classical literature from middle and high school onwards, a practice that continues in universities. However, the public education system in Korea closely resembles that of the United States, as our educational system has adopted the principles of public education in the United States.

“Emphasis on Humanities Education at the University of Chicago”

Since the appointment of Robert Maynard Hutchins, a staunch advocate of classical literature education, as the fifth president of the University of Chicago, the university has emphasized humanities education and produced a remarkable 68 Nobel laureates. Compared to the single Nobel laureate from Korea, former President Kim Dae-jung, this represents a significant difference, highlighting the impact of humanities education.

“Education System Originating from Prussia”

Our current public education system originated from the Prussian Empire, designed to produce soldiers and laborers. This system aimed to fill the shortage of manpower by establishing schools specialized in educating soldiers and factory workers. Consequently, the foundation of our current education system lies in the system aimed at producing vocational soldiers and factory workers.

“Carl Botte’s Education Method Focused on Classical Literature”

As an alternative to this public education system, the author discusses the education method of Carl Botte. Botte, a German, conducted research based on educational books written by figures such as Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi, as well as literature on education in ancient Greece and Rome, to successfully educate children. He advocated for education focused on classical literature and employed methods that were more nurturing than authoritarian.

“Reading Methods for Classical Literature”

The book also introduces five methods for reading classical literature, emphasizing the importance of contemplation. It argues that reading without contemplation leads to no benefit, echoing the sentiment expressed in the Analects: “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

“Importance of Contemplation”

The latter part of the book explains cases where individuals, despite reading extensively, did not see any results, attributing it to the absence of contemplation. The author emphasizes the importance of contemplation, citing the example of great figures throughout history who all enjoyed contemplation.

“Shakespeare and Comedy Concerts”

Although not directly related to the book, the discussion of classical literature led to thoughts on comedy concerts. There was once a popular program in comedy concerts that featured a similar structure to Shakespeare’s works, utilizing techniques like anadiplosis, where the end of one sentence leads into the beginning of the next. This illustrates how trends from the past, such as those found in Shakespeare’s era, continue to influence modern culture.

In conclusion, exposure to classical literature can provide valuable insights and ideas, making “Lead with Reading” a fitting title for a book that emphasizes the importance of reading and contemplation in personal and intellectual development.

“Lead with Reading”