The following precepts are the fruit of time I am spending right now trying to better understand the role of Language Arts in the high school curriculum.
- Language is fundamental to human flourishing. Without some facility in communication, man is unable to express himself to another, limiting him greatly in the expression of love.
- Love is more powerful than persuasive force. By this I mean that the sophist (who desires to control others through speech) is inferior to the one who passionately pursues truth in himself and others out of a love for truth. Without beating it to death, this precept depends then upon the three oppositions to sophistry stated as…
- Truth exists.
- Truth can be known.
- Truth can be, and should be, expressed, and that expression should be done from a motive of love for the truth and for the ones seeking it.
- So at its base, the learning of a language, or the bettering of oneself in a language, should come from a center of love for truth. I will not develop a whole supraset of thoughts here about truth, God, the Logos, etc, but this is where it belongs.
- Language is an art. All language has science within it (there are rules to grammar, logic and rhetoric that must be learned) but it is correctly considered as an art (something the student learns to “do”). To be precise, the above mentioned three arts comprise together the Language or Grammatical Arts (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric) but these are so closely aligned and dependent upon each other that they can be referred to jointly when studied in English as the English Language Arts. Emphasizing knowledge of the subject rather than requiring facility with it will do great damage to the student’s understanding and ultimately love of the subject. This confusion of science and art is a major flaw in contemporary education. This leads to a number of sub-precepts…
- Each art has its basic actions or fundamental skills. For language, this seems to at least imply an artist who can read, write, speak, and listen well.
- Art must be demonstrated. With language this means all the actions common to the art must be modeled by the master teacher, and then practiced by the student under the watchful care of the master.
- Mastery of an art is assessed by a master seeing the student perform. So all Language Arts teaching must involve both formative and summative assessments of all four basic functions in language. A good English teacher makes his students speak, read, write, and listen often and with constant coaching on how to do it better.
- All art needs a muse; some thought must precede the act of language. This seems the basis for centering the English class on great literature.
- Great literature provides great thoughts for the student to springboard from into their own expressions (both oral and written).
- Great writing becomes a model for the student’s own attempts at the art.
- Broad reading in great literature (meaning from different times, places, and purposes) will provide a full palate of materials from which the student can work to build their own enlarged understanding and expressed wisdom.
- The Language Arts should constantly induce love of words (Grammar), sentences (Logic), and those works of art they produce (Rhetoric). Given how broad these three Arts are, this is obviously simplistic, but should contain the basis of a good English class.
These musing have kept my mind swirling around the central concepts of Love vs. Power. Far too much of education today is not about bringing a student toward the same love the master has for their subject, but rather coerce each other toward mutual power. The teacher of today wants students who perform well so their job is secure. The student of today wants a good grade so they can get the most financial reward from their “education” as is possible. The sad fact seems to remain that while many “read” their way through an impressive list of books in school (or bore themselves with the Sparknotes available in lieu of such reading), once the grade is gone they have no love for or desire to continue reading for pleasure and real growth. We may have to rethink the national literacy statistics.