Studying literature will build 'soulware' of society

It is very good that more local stories are being used in teaching English literature in our schools (More local stories in syllabus a welcome new chapter; Aug 23).

Hopefully, more students will now find interest in a subject hitherto relegated to being "useless", not least because of the difficulty in getting an A grade in it.

However, the intrinsic value of doing literature makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Studying literature improves vocabulary and communication skills, facilitates participation in conversations, widens horizons, promotes understanding of the human condition, and trains one to think critically.

All these are useful qualities that are also needed at the workplace, especially among the higher echelons of an organisation.

Literature is also a great civilising force and the "soulware" of a society, being the conscience, interlocutor, imagination and memory of the people.

It will produce individuals who are more empathetic, tolerant, thoughtful and imaginative.

A nation is judged not just by its economic power but the nature of its society.

Are we so caught up with materialism that we are oblivious to the richness and diversity of our people and our history?

Do we esteem the businessman more than the artist or writer?

May we never fall to the fate of having, as poet Robert Frost wrote, "nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope".

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2018, with the headline 'Studying literature will build 'soulware' of society'. Print Edition | Subscribe