An Active Care For Language

Although I am still enjoying Blue Calhoun, this afternoon (in fact, this whole day) has found me immersed in educational theory and visions about what practices and programs could best serve our students in their remarkable task of becoming educated adults.  I've been skimming back through an old book I read for fun (I'm such a geek) some years ago called Against Mediocrity: The Humanities in America's High Schools, and I was once again struck by so many truths, especially in this article entitled "On a Background for Teachers" by Peter Pouncey.  In the section entitled "An Active Care For Language," he explains the importance of this element for all teachers:

To know what words mean and to use them exactly is fundamental to any self-knowledge, to any critical sense, and therefore to any education properly defined.  (135)

The fact is that too often we write carelessly, and we read carelessly, and our whole society is the poorer for it. (137)

And this bit from the conclusion by Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch, the editors of the volume, knocks my socks off:

As a society, we have understood that every citizen must have the education that is necessary for him to be free, to choose wisely for himself how to live responsibly and well.  Though we have occasionally slipped into the false (if, for the educator, beguiling) supposition that years of schooling alone would bring virtue and benevolence, for the better part of two centuries we have at least recognized that ignorance brings nothing of value to anyone, rich or poor, black or white.  Hutchins, Mann, Dewey, and Jefferson would all have dismissed as arrant nonsense the suggestion that subjects we know as "the humanities" were suited only to the education of elites.  In their day more than we perhaps now realize, the humanities were the essence of all education above the level of basic literacy; and common wisdom recognized that it was by acquiring such an education that the citizens of a democracy could best govern themselves., that the children of the poor might become members of the upper classes, and that the members of a free society could thereby become truly equal. (240-241)

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