Allan Bloom starts his volume Shakespeare’s Politics (1964) where Flannery O’Connor leaves off: “The most striking fact about contemporary university students is that there is no longer any canon of books which forms their taste and their imagination.”
I teach high school English to hang around writing. Like most people, I learn best when I teach, and I hope to learn writing by teaching it. It has always worked for me with the other strands in our English curriculum. Teaching grammar, for instance, has helped me to learn a lot of grammar I […]
Rubrics therefore perpetuate the idea that a text can be read only one way and is, consequently, subject to a single standard. The rubric’s poor example, therefore, helps to keep poor readers reading poorly. . . . Part of fostering the art of reading, and the art of writing with it, is “rejecting the preoccupation with some illusory unspecifiable absolute or ‘correct’ reading or ideal reader” (Rosenblatt 140), the notion of a false absolute that rubrics tend to perpetuate no matter how subjectively their cells are written.
You took driver’s ed to learn how do drive a car; you didn’t have to take a course in automobile mechanics to get your license. Am I right? So how about English grammar? They tried to teach me about adverb clauses, past participles, and indefinite pronouns. Just so I could write, I guess. But I […]
Toulmin’s broadening of the notion of reason to include moral and practical concerns mirrors similar efforts by Locke and by Montessori, the latter of whom in discussing the Western world’s “moral paralysis” states that “reason today is hidden under a dark cloud and has almost gone down to defeat. Moral chaos in fact is nothing but one side of the coin of our psychic decline; the other side is the loss of our powers of reason. The pre-eminent characteristic of our present state is an insidious madness, and our most immediate need a return to reason.”
Still, the moral component persists in me. I guess it’s my hard-wired Calvinist-Strunkist upbringing. I still like to read a sourpuss like William Zinsser (On Writing Well, itself recently released in a thirtieth anniversary edition) just in case I’ve really backslidden. After reading that Times symposium this evening, I reread Strunk and White for the first time in five years. I’m happy to report that, unlike the last time I read the little book, I’ll have very little to unburden myself of in confession tomorrow.
Last week, I failed to secure the conviction of the five-paragraph essay. I start with the excuses. I haven’t practiced law for over a decade now. The judge had no concept of the learned treatise exception to the hearsay rule. The jury found against us by the thinnest of margins: three to two. The majority […]
On Modern bestsellers: a lack of 18th-century leisure and 19th-century boredom. Having dropped out of Little Dorrit after the first trimester, I am determined to see Bleak House through. I’ve been listening to a delightful audio recording. I woke up on an elliptical machine from a protracted daydream yesterday, though, and found that I had […]
I don’t think the New York Times‘s “outrage” over preschool suspensions or the implementation of its suggestions found in today’s editorial will amount to much. I submitted this comment: I wonder if the inappropriate discipline of preschoolers is in part due to, and not counter to, what the editorial board describes as “the very mission […]
[This] is a criticism of the tendency to burden institutions, especially educational institutions, with the impossible task of selecting the best. This should never be made their task. This tendency transforms our educational system into a racecourse, and turns a course of studies into a hurdle-race. Instead of encouraging the student to devote himself to […]