This is an essay we had to read for my English 110 class. ***It really made me think. ***And that's the idea.
Anyways, have a read and perhaps we can discuss why my prof calls this "the most dangerous essay I have ever read"
FYI: Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 until 1984 (with a very small break in 1979). ***He is considered one of the most brilliant politicians and thinkers in Canadian history. ***If you compared intellects, Trudeau is to Bush as Everest is to a molehill.Originally Posted by [bQuote[/b] ]Don’t You Think It’s Time To Start thinking
By Northrop Frye
A student often leaves High School today without any sense of language as a structure.
He may also have the idea that reading and writing are elementary kills that he mastered in childhood, never having grasped the fact that there are differences in levels of reading and writing as there are in mathematics between short division and integral calculus.
Yet, in spite of his limited verbal skills, he firmly believes that he can think, that he has ideas, and that if he is just given the opportunity to express them he will be all right. ***Of course, when you look at what he’s written you find that it doesn’t make any sense. ***When you tell him this he is devastated.
Part of his confusion here stems from the fact that we use the word “think” in so many bad, punning ways. ***Remember James Thurber’s Walter Mitty who was always dreaming great dreams of glory. ***When his wife asked him what he was doing he would say, “Has it ever occurred to you that I might be thinking?”
But, of course, he wasn’t thinking at all. ***Because we use it for everything our minds do, worrying, remembering, daydreaming, we imagine that thinking is something that can be achieved without any training. ***But again, it’s a matter of practice. ***How well we can think depends on how much of it we have already done. ***Most students need to be taught, very carefully and patiently, that there is no such thing as an inarticulate idea waiting to have the right words wrapped around it.
They have to learn that the ideas do not exist until they have been incorporated into words. ***Until that point you don’t know whether you are pregnant or just have gas on the stomach.
The operation of thinking is the practice of articulating ideas until they are in the right words. ***And we can’t think at random either. ***We can only add one more idea to the body of something we have already thought about. ***Most of us spend very little time doing this, and this is why there are so few people whom we regard as having any power to articulate at all. ***When such a person appears in public life, like Mr Trudeau, we tend to regard them as possessing a giant intellect.
A society like ours doesn’t have very much interest in literacy. ***It is compulsory to read and write because society must have docile and obedient citizens. ***We are taught to read so that we can obey the traffic signs and to cipher so that we can make out our income tax, but development of verbal competency is very much left to the individual.
And when we look at our day-to-day existence we can see that there are strong currents at work against the development of powers of articulateness. ***Young adolescents today often betray a curious sense of shame about speaking articulately, of framing a sentence with a period at the end.
Part of the reason for this is the powerful anti-intellectual drive which is constantly present in our society. ***Articulate speech marks you out as an individual, and in some settings this can be rather dangerous because people are often suspicious and frightened of articulateness. ***So if you say as little as possible and only use stereo-typed, ready-made phrases you can hide yourself in the mass.
Then there are the various epidemics sweeping over society which use unintelligibility as a weapon to preserve the present power structure. ***By making things as unintelligible as possible, you can hold the present power structure together. ***Understanding and articulateness lead to its destruction. ***This is the kind of thing that George Orwell was talking about, not just in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but in all his work on language. ***The kernel of everything reactionary and tyrannical in society is the impoverishment of the means of verbal communication.
The vast majority of things that we hear today are prejudices and clichés, simply verbal formulas that have no thought behind them but are put up as a pretence of thinking. ***It is not until we realize these things conceal meaning, rather than reveal it, that we can begin to develop our own powers of articulateness.
The teaching of humanities is, therefore, a militant job. ***Teachers are faced not simply with a mass of misconceptions and unexamined assumptions. ***They must engage in a fight to help the student confront and reject the verbal formulas and stock responses, to convert passive acceptance into active, constructive power. *** It is a fight against illiteracy and for the maturation of the mental process, for the development of skills which once aquired will never become obsolete.