The Affective Functionary Action
WE GREET with bounded enthusiasm judge Wm. Overton's decision in the Arkansas creationism case. "The evidence," he said, "is overwhelming that both the purpose and effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools." He spoke also of the inappropriateness of such advancement by the "organs of government, of which the most conspicuous and influential are the public schools."
Two cheers for that. We do need to be reminded as often as possible that the public schools are organs of government. We're reserving the third cheer for a judge who will someday decide that any advocacy of received dogma is inappropriate to organs of government.
It was not because the Founding Fathers were enemies of religion that they saw fit to prohibit the establishment of religion. It was rather because any established sect or persuasion would constitute a privileged faction against which all others would be at some disadvantage in the "free practice" of religion. Religious factions differ in then, beliefs, and when government is forbidden to favor any one faction, it is in effect warned that what the people believe, and how they come to believe it, is none of a government's damned business. The "we" who held certain truths to be self-evident were "we, the people," not a government, but the makers of a government that was to be a creature of the people who made it.
It was supremely fortunate for us that those who gave us the Bill of Rights were not government functionaries bestowing gifts upon the people, but people themselves, requiring of government and its functionaries certain guarantees as conditions necessary to the consent of the governed. No long-established government like ours as it now is, operated by a self-perpetuating corps of functionaries little troubled by transient elected officials, would voluntarily forbid itself the power to influence not only the beliefs of the people but everything else that might sway the consent of the people.
Jefferson held that the functionaries of any government would, if they could, "command the liberty of their constituents." Had he been able to read the future, he might also have warned us that those functionaries would seek to modify the behavior of their constituents, to instill in them officially sanctioned civic and personal attitudes, to facilitate their group membership through training in interaction skills, and to afford them packets of materials and role-playing strategies to help them out with the clarification of their values.
All those things are done by a faction of government functionaries, deciding among themselves what their constituents need to know, what they don't need to know, how they should feel, and what they should believe. We have surrendered the full benefit of the First Amendment by permitting what was to have been our creature to become both teacher and preacher. We think those Creationists ought to inquire diligently, find the right case, and go back to court-not to seek special favor, but only equal treatment before the law. Even the ACLU might help, if their aim is to expel the government from all precincts of that Affective Domain.
The Same Old Witchcraft
District Literacy Definition
(From somewhere either in or near Minneapolis.)
The literate person is one who has acquired the skills of reading, writing, mathematics, speaking, listening, problem solving, acquiring and using information, and judgment making. Further, the literate person is one who has developed a feeling of self worth and importance; respect for and appreciation and understanding of other people and cultures; and a desire for learning. The literate person is one who continues to seek knowledge, to increase personal skills and the quality of relationships with others, and to fulfill individual potential.
THE TRUTH, at last, can be told. That Aristotle fellow was, in fact, not a literate man. He never developed positive feelings about barbarians. Indeed, the more he came to learn about them, the less he appreciated them.
Franz Kafka wasn't literate either, you know. Like so many other illiterate "writers"--who can count them?--he was never able to develop any positive feelings of self-worth and importance. Hemingway was always shooting off his mouth and never became a good listener. Eliot made some positively anti-democratic judgments, and Mark Twain made some really dumb ones. Even Norman Mailer is said to be utterly illiterate in the quality of his relationships with others.
But don't worry about it. Our schools are doing everything they can to assure that we will be less and less troubled by such pseudo-literates.
The true literates are in the sphere--or is it the arena?--of education. In that sphere, or field, it is almost impossible to find anyone who hasn't developed impregnable feelings of self-worth and importance. So unreservedly do they respect and appreciate other cultures that they never fall into the error of finding anything respectable or appreciatable in their own. The quality of their relationships with others is amazing; they never, never disagree or contend, and they always hail enthusiastically each other's bold innovative thrusts and experiential programs of excellence. And what could be stronger testimony to their fulfillment of individual potential than the fact that they have somehow persuaded the rest of us to pay them for all the stuff they do?
Now all of that, as you can discover from the handy District Literacy Definition shown above, is the real heart and guts of true literacy, pure and undefiled. What little it seems not to include--reading and writing and the acquisition of mere information, for example--will simply have to be re-understood in the context of the more important aspects, which may also be perceived as being facets, or else parameters, of district literacy.
Reading and writing are, of course, quite useful. How else, after all, will our children grow up to understand the labels on medicine bottles and write letters of application for jobs and increase personal skills in the solution of Rubik's Cube? Indeed, the promised day of universal mass education through non-print electro-multi-media and relationship-quality encounter sessions may not come as quickly as many of us would like. And even then it will probably be useful if the masses can figure out the wall posters. So we will have to teach some reading and writing into the foreseeable future. However, reading and writing can be overdone, as the examples above must prove. People can sometimes, even in schools, become addicted to reading and writing, using them as crutches. Reading addicts especially often become--well, we had better say it right out--they become critical. You show us a student who would rather read some book than fulfill individual potential through creative interaction with representatives of other cultures and age groups, and we will show you someone who will always have difficulty with increasing the quality of relationships with others.
You laymen would better appreciate the true meaning of literacy if you could only see hyperkinetic reading behavior for what it really is--yet another of the countless hitherto unidentified learning disabilities. This should be perfectly clear to anyone who takes the trouble to consider what effects hyperkinetic reading behavior must have on true literacy as defined above:
v Because he is often exposed, and without appropriate professional guidance, to diverse and conflicting opinions, and the all-too-often cunningly persuasive rhetoric of people who really have nothing more to express than some ideas of their own, the hyperkinetic reader often lags behind his classmates in Judgment Making. He is all too apt to say, either to himself, thus exacerbating his disability, or aloud, thus disrupting a whole class and spoiling a perfectly good lesson plan: "Well, maybe, but on the other hand" And just think what that can do to the quality of relationships with others!
v The hyperkinetic reader not infrequently abuses the Acquiring and Using of Information in unprogrammed acquisition (and inevitable misuse) of information not conducive to the Respect and Appreciation of Other People and Cultures but only to the Understanding of the same. That will just not do.
v Hyperkinetic readers almost invariably read works that do not appear on the school district's list of suggested readings, so that they often find themselves perplexed and troubled by materials written at much too high a grade level. Reading, after all, is supposed to be loads of fun. When it becomes a struggle, and especially when it causes negative feelings of doubt and questioning, the hapless reader may fail to develop that Feeling of Self Worth and Importance appropriate to literacy.
v And these people who always have their noses stuck in books usually won't even Listen!
Among the great successes of our schools is the fact that they have always been able to prevent serious and widespread outbreaks of hyperkinetic reading behavior syndrome. This is a remarkable feat, since most young children, even when they first come to school, already exhibit morbid curiosity behavior and persistent questioning behavior, dangerous precursors that must be replaced quickly with group interaction skills and self-awareness enhancement. (Children who are properly preoccupied with themselves and with some presumed distinctions between individual whims and collective whims hardly ever fall into hyperkinetic reading behavior syndrome.) Although a few intractable cases can still be found, we realistically expect, and before long, to eradicate this crippling disability and usher in the age of true literacy.
Our only problem, as usual, is with the public, where outdated and narrow-minded misconceptions about true literacy can still be found. We must educate the public. Again. It's time for every literacy district to promulgate a District Literacy Definition. That'll teach ‘em.
And a few words from Emerson
Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four is not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right.
The Molinari Module
Linguistics has become a magic word in language instruction of today. Vigorous activity during the past 25 years has stretched linguistics beyond the esoteric enclaves of graduate departments of modern language departments and brought it cascading down through the high school and elementary grades. There is, indeed, a curriculum and instruction revolution underway.
BEHIND every Great Movement, every collective convulsion of the human mind, there is usually A Book, the book, the fount and origin of ideas and inspiration. Suicidal melancholiacs slept their last sleep with Werther under their pillows. Fervid supermen conned amid the carnage the cryptic Mein Kampf. Our land once swarmed with door-to-door drummers who had memorized How to Win Friends and Influence People. Even American educationists are People of a Book; every day in every way they practice and exemplify the lofty principles and noble aspirations so piquantly and imperishably expressed in that classical paradigm of practical pedagogy, The Little Engine That Could.
The passage quoted above is intended to demonstrate the "Uniqueness" of a proposed "module" to be named "Linguistics in Language Arts Teaching." The proposer is one L. Molinari, a professional of educationism here at Glassboro; and if you think that vague references to supposedly widespread and general practice make a dubious demonstration of uniqueness, it must be because you are not a professional of educationism. Or even a Little Engine. You have to think you can, think you can. You have to find that magic word and stretch it until it cascades beyond those esoteric enclaves where the big engines hog all the glory, vainly dreaming that mere scholarly concentration and the routine collection of mere facts can some how take the place of esteeming yourself, and of trying oh so hard.
It is an interesting (albeit mere) linguistic fact that the Little Engineers love the word "module." What, after all, is the Little Engine itself but a module, a teeny-weeny module plugged in to take the place of a big and strong module? And it serves just its well, thus demonstrating that desirable behavioral objectives can be achieved without regard to special powers and skills. Now that is both democratic and humanistic, and it would be really swell if only Amtrak could learn the trick of it.
A module, of course, is better than a course. Although this module proposal makes, for some reason or other, no mention of the fact, the teacher-trainees who end up in the module will first have taken a course in linguistics as taught in an esoteric enclave, i. e., as mere subject matter insufficiently related to the needs of a professional. It is only when they get to the module that the trainees will actually "become familiar with linguistic concepts as they relate to elementary language arts instruction." We can't reasonably expect teacher-trainees who've had nothing more than a course in linguistics to "develop an understanding of the nature of linguistic science," or to "be able to identify the components of those models known as Structural Grammar and Transformational-Generative Grammar," or even "to be able to name the elements that constitute a language." For stuff like that, a course won't do. It takes a module.
In fact, the lucky teacher-trainees who pass through this module will even be able to "define the linguistic definition of grammar"! Those esoteric enclavists just don't have the kind of mind that it takes to establish and achieve the behavioral objective of definition definition. For that you need a professional, one who is nonesoteric enough to point out that "the content of this module is important because it deal with material that is vital to elementary language arts curriculum." It can only be an awareness of definition definition that can produce the strange and subtle distinction implied in the assertion that, at least in this case, content deals with material. Now that's linguistic. That's a level of language art that you probably won't find very often in esoteric enclaves, where they can't even teach their students to name elements or identify components.
This marvelous module is a recent emanation from the depths of Glassboro's POD-EPIC program of superior excellence in teacher-training, and we are heartened to see it. We've been worried about those people. Since the board of trustees, about fifteen months ago, urged them to start putting out papers and articles about their excellence, the POD-EPICists have fallen strangely silent.
It's good to know that they're still around, and that the spirit of the Little Engine still stirs them.
We urge them on. We think they can, we think they can. And we're sure they will. They, of all, know best that no engine is too little to pull a great big bandwagon.
Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jarre; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous.
P. O. Box 203 Glassboro, NJ 08028
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