25 February 2011

The ability to read and to express oneself clearly...

I want to post this very well written treatise for you to read:
It is written by David Orr for Oberlin Online.


Here are the things that stood out to me:

"They have taught, in other words, a pseudointellectual contempt for clarity, careful argument, and felicitous expression. "

"If we intend to protect and enhance our humanity, we must first decide to protect and enhance language and fight everything that undermines and cheapens it."

"From the perspective of the center, the merger of ABC and Disney is OK because it can see no difference between entertainment and news"

" Finally, since language is the only currency wherever men and women pursue truth, there should be no higher priority for schools, colleges, and universities than to defend the integrity and clarity of language in every way possible. We must instill in our students an appreciation for language, literature, and words well crafted and used to good ends. As teachers we should insist on good writing. We should assign books and readings that are well written. We should restore rhetoric—the ability to speak clearly and well—to the liberal arts curriculum. Our own speaking and writing ought to demonstrate clarity and truthfulness. And we, too, should be held accountable for what we say."


I was reading to find what the writer thought of as a practical way to change the trends of which he wrote. The suggested culprits to avoid or do away with were:
ad agencies, answering machines, internet, things that prevent us from attending public readings.

I have never attended a public reading. When I consider it I think it could be interesting but I also think how much cozier and probably more relevant it can be to have books read aloud in one's home. I do read aloud to our family. We go through phases where we do it less and then we experience an increase of the activity because we realize that we enjoy doing it and have been missing having the experience.

I cringe when I read a newspaper these days. Last night I sat down to peruse a copy of our high school's newspaper. I was surprised to find that my tendency to want to slash and edit was about equal to that of our local paper. I find our local paper appalling in its presentation and poor use of language and grammar.   For a high school paper I still had higher hopes, but I found it to be above my expectations, given the state of our local paper.

As time goes on (and it does, thankfully) I find that I am more compelling drawn to words. I find words exciting; words that express feelings and images in a way that seems unimaginable. I frequently use the dictionary in my NOOK ereader so that I can read a definition and not just assume that I have a complete understanding of the word from the context of the sentence in which I came upon it. I find that I feel compelled to find better words and grammatical structure for the conveyance of information.

Of course I want to encourage the proper use of language and grammar for others too. I use this site for that at times. I also encourage our children to read; and then I encourage them to read some more.  Writing reviews of the books that I read helps me to formulate my thoughts and assists me in becoming a better communicator.

Our family has just gone through a minor lull in our reading together aloud. We are, once again, on an upswing in this arena...and I love it. Matthew and I just finished reading a book together and I will be trying to find time to write a review of the book; it is one I wish to do justice to so it will take time to write a thoughtful review as it is a book that is very delightfully complicated in its prose and subject even though it is a work of juvenile fiction! What a delight! Elijah and I are in the midst of a joint reading of a very technical book on a scientific subject and are enjoying it immensely.

When we read aloud together I take turns with the persons with whom I happen to be reading, generally.
Matthew is suffering from vocal chord nodules so reading aloud together can give us an opportunity for him to practice proper usage of his voice. It can also further wear his chords and so I must often read more than he does and that is okay.

The book that Elijah and I are reading is very technical. There are many scientific words and explanations used. He typically has no problem with reading technical words. The lengthiness of the sentences, however, mixed with the advanced terminology, can become tiring for a nine year old boy. I have him read a paragraph here and there and then I take over for as long as I feel I should.

The book Matthew and I just finished reading is one that I read to Aaron and Marlo in the spring of 2003. I realized that it was the perfect book for Matthew and me to read together. The title is: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. The book Elijah and I are deeply involved in is The Lost Moon by Jim Lovell. I also read that book in the spring of 2003. (I have recently found that my internal cycle or desire for rereading books is set on about five years!)

I would love to hear your thoughts with regard to Mr. Orr's article.


  1. I'm afraid it's a losing battle Ang! The very essence of the newer generation's choice of communication - texting and Twitter, et al - undermines and cheapens the English language. And from the perspective of a returning student to a private college, it really seems to me that many of the professors have jumped on the bandwagon. I think the very institutions that should be upholding the beauty of our language are fearful of losing this new generation of learners. Hopefully this makes sense. I only read your comments and not Mr. Orr's treatise.

  2. Belle, when you have time I think the entire article will be meaningful to you.
    What you say is a shame but I would hope that there are ways to reach a generation, even on their level, without compromising things that matter and have lasting value.

    I am pretty aware of modern technology and use a lot of it. I don't however compromise things that matter and have lasting value. When I text I generally text in complete sentences that are capitalized and possess proper punctuation. I do the same on sites such as Facebook. I am not one to "throw the baby out with the bath-water." I am one who will combine things to my best advantage; I'll text in complete sentences. But that's me... Oh! I do insist that our kids text me in complete sentences too. I know, I'm just impossible. As long as I pay the bill, they can do it my way; and it will affect them in a positive manner over time.

    I encourage all of my readers to find things that they can do to preserve the richness and beauty of language. I believe that the littlest efforts often make some of the biggest differences.


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