Part II, What, Me Read?

 

richard mitchell quote on writingIn part two of a 3 part series (see below), Professor Bertonneau shares his observation that we live in a post-literate world, and not even an illiterate (or aliterate) but oral society, but a sub-oral wasteland where students often do not even have adequate words to use for thinking, let alone writing.

As Richard Mitchell said:

Language is the medium in which we are conscious. The speechless beasts are aware, but they are not conscious. To be conscious is to “know with” something, and a language of some sort is the device with which we know. More precisely, it is the device with which we can know.

Professor Bertonneau says, in part two, that while it may be amusing sometime to chuckle over a few student howlers:

We should not forget, however, that the tortured prose corresponds to dim and cloudy thinking and that this same dim and cloudy thinking will one day define the prevailing mental climate of our society. Many students seem content to be what their counterfeit educational experience and a spiritually toxic popular culture have made them. They remain sullen but resolute in their vapidity and self-absorption.

As Richard Mitchell said:

If we want to pursue extended logical thought, thought that can discover relationships and consequences and devise its own alternatives, we need a discipline imposed from outside of the mind itself. Writing is that discipline. It seems drastic, but we have to suspect that coherent, continuous thought is impossible for those who cannot construct coherent, continuous prose.
…. An education that does not teach clear, coherent writing cannot provide our world with thoughtful adults; it gives us instead, at the best, clever children of all ages.

Professor Bertonneau explains the pains he takes to make sure his students understand the basic issues of chronology, and how to do such basic things as counting down to the year 0 and then counting up from there, and yet, the majority of his students remain confused, believing 400 B.C. to come before 800 B.C.:

As my Manhattan pal Steve Kogan says, “BC” obviously means “Before Comprehension.” Steve also points out that chronology is as fundamental to a sense of history as addition and subtraction are to mathematics (think of coordinate geometry) and that this student deficiency argues for a remarkable failure in many compartments of the K-12 curriculum.

Note to self:
Review these articles-

The Teaching of Chronology
The Correlation of Lessons
The Book of Centuries

And quit procrastinating on time-line work with the youngest two Progeny.

The Professor discusses the student penchant for passive voice and what that might mean. Our friend Timotheus disagrees with him, but we agree with Richard Mitchell (and Professor B.).

He concludes part II with this painful description:

Perhaps the accurate description is that students show imperviousness to knowledge that stems from their inability to remember in some orderly way what they have read. I mentioned earlier the inability to reproduce the simple elements of a story in their proper order. Purely oral people can do this. Homer’s poems were based on an oral tradition that bridged a gap of four centuries during which there was no literacy of any kind in the Greek world. The fact that so many contemporary college students cannot do this suggests that our situation is an unprecedented one. Everyone should be concerned about it.

Note to self: Step up on the narrations.

Review this article.
And this one.
and also this:
Some Thoughts on Narration

The form of narration is not as important as the process. The most important point is that they need to review the material in their own minds, prioritize it, organize it, think about it, and select episodes or other material that they want to tell about. When you ask them that seemingly simple questions, “Tell me what we just read about,” this is exactly what happens.

Charlotte Mason, v. 6

Charlotte Mason, v. 6

 

The third part in Professor Bertonneau’s series is here.

Here you will find his first article and the second.

I mentioned it here.

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    i’m SO glad you’ve reminded us of this post. it’s something i’ve been thinking about lately. we’re looking at essay writing as a skill, but particularly as helpful now that we’re thinking toward college and scholarship applications. i’m so thankful for many years of oral and written narrations (timeline and book of centuries work, as well) that have provided unobtrusive basis for and training for writing skills. as i’m looking over teaching them essay writing, i’m realizing they already know most of what they need to know! which is glorious.

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