Historians tend to think in terms of precedents. Reading the post, and the thread, I'm reminded of the odd practice in cigar factories of appointing a lector, or reader. Factory managers hired a lector with a good, strong voice to read to their workers, keeping their minds occupied while their skilled hands wrapped tobacco leaves in tight rolls. Although the lector was paid by the owners, he was able to suggest his own readings - and the selection was typically left to a vote of the workers themselves. Novels, newspapers, political tracts - the selections were eclectic. But the results were striking - manual laborers receiving all the fruits of an education they never would have been able to afford:"We were the best politicians in the country," claimed Herman Baust. 'They would talk on every subject of the country -- what the Congress was doing, everything. . . . They were very well read people." In Manchester [NH], the Belgian cigar makers sometimes got into fights over issues. "Once in a while two of them would go outside and have it out," Frank Shea remembered. "Out in the street." While political and economic discussions could heat up the atmosphere, there were times when the shop would become so quiet, "you could hear a pin drop."The most famous such reader was Samuel Gompers, who used the education he gained to organize the skilled cigar workers, and went on to create the American Federation of Labor. There is real power in knowledge. And while the lector began in Cuba, and never spread beyond some percentage of the cigar factories in this country, online lectures are accessible to anyone with internet access and speakers. Not universal, of course, but far from uncommon. Anyway, great list.
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