Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Explain to your students how what you teach contributes to the cultivation of human intelligence, to the growth of minds.

My field of English is easy to justify as a vital contributor to the growth of students’ minds, since dexterity in language is a fundamental power of human mentality, and an instrument for teaching all other disciplines of intellectual development, even music, art and mathematics.

The ability to speak and write English (or any other language) is our principal method to formulate, process and convey to others our thoughts and feelings. The more refined and subtle our linguistic powers, the better we can compose, articulate and share our comprehension of life’s experiences. Once the historic leap occurred from oral to scribal language, human beings became infinitely more capable of careful and complex verbal composition, which could be preserved and studied thereafter. Two-dimensional speech then added three-dimensional literature, breaking the time barrier.

Writing is tantamount to possessing another language than speech. With only speech by which to express yourself and communicate with others, what you would be able to convey would be halting, erratic, fractured and imperfect, never able to rise to elaborate development and extended coherence, always unpolished.

Thus, gaining mastery in written composition is fundamental to cultivating intellect, and the obvious way to learn to write well is to study the best writing, to assimilate into yourself the means and modes of effective and artful literary language, not only by osmosis but by analysis and conscious imitation.

First you learn to read, and then you learn to read better and better. From that point your own writing improves to the extent that your mimetic memory supplies you with grammatical, syntactical and rhetorical templates on which to pattern your own thoughts.

Furthermore, the study of literature can not only enrich your writing but confront you with the minds and sensibilities of variously cultivated intellects from whom you can draw both knowledge and inspiration.

Who you become and how you engage in this world derives chiefly from the powers and resources you develop through your mastery of written language, the best of which we call “literature.”