I started to see triadicity everywhere whether or not it was referred to as such. Triangles always worked. One instructor at the University of New Hampshire read a few paragraphs from Susin Nielsen’s young adult novel We Are All Made of Molecules. In it, Stewart describes his mother’s death as the collapse of an equilateral triangle in which his father, mother, and he makes up the triangle’s sides. It reminded me of the sad reliance on dualistic philosophy in the Common Core, in American politics, in many American churches’ hermeneutics, and in Constitutional construction. Like Stewart, I visualized a triangle with a missing base in order to cope with a tragedy.
“But pray, sir, why must I not teach the young gentlemen?” “Because, sir, teaching young gentlemen has a dismal effect upon the soul. It exemplifies the badness of established, artificial authority. The pedagogue has almost absolute authority over his pupils: he often beats them and insensibly he loses the sense of respect due to them […]
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 […]
A federal trial court judge’s clerk usually handles the prisoner petitions. When I clerked, I would read the petitions, research them, and write an order for my judge to sign deciding the case. Most of the research was in constitutional law because prison administrators have a lot of leeway in running their prisons with only […]
An irate parent called the school office this week. In her most recent newsletter, his daughter’s teacher had ended a sentence with a preposition. He told the office he was going to take the matter up with the school board. The young teacher’s principal confirmed to her that she had erred. The teacher was pretty […]
Teaching grammar to children who don’t see themselves as writers ensures that they will neither see themselves as writers nor learn grammar. Teaching grammar as a strategy for writing will ensure that students who see themselves as writers will write pinched prose. Writing is a way of thinking, and pinched writers become pinched people. When […]
Here’s a worthy little book to get you caught up on the sorry state of school essay instruction. I got The School Essay Manifesto: Reclaiming the Essay for Students and Teachers to find out some better ways to write first drafts before shaping them into literary analysis essays. Thomas Newkirk, the author, does describe three […]
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 […]
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.
[This article appeared first in The Journal of the Virginia Writing Project‘s winter 2008 issue. I have made a few minor changes to it for publication here. My thanks to the Project for permission to republish. I discuss the philosophical underpinnings of my objections to the prevalence of literary analysis essay assignments in high school […]