Saturday, February 26, 2011


What trait best indicates the eminence of your education?

Your facility with language.

Your mastery of your mother tongue.

There is no more important ability for you to build and refine than reading well, writing well, listening well, and speaking well.

Such literacy is the foremost trait of a well-educated person because language is our principal medium of thought and communication.

While numeracy is also vital, it may be regarded as another kind of language skill—likewise music, dance and the other expressive arts.

Though all of these skills enhance human capabilities and creativity, nonetheless, verbal language skills stand foremost and should be the central mission of schools and colleges to develop.  How?

1.    You must read much: many kinds of writing, read both silently and aloud.

2.    You must write often, for writing facilitates your thinking; it articulates and clarifies what is inchoate and incoherent in your mind; it allows you to expand and expatiate; it lets you preserve and transmit your thoughts over time and space.

3.    Finally, you must speak impressively, an ability born largely of your prior reading and writing, but also of your attentive exposure to eloquence in others.  As in all things, you learn by following good examples, by imitation and emulation.

In thus asserting the primacy of reading, writing and speaking skills in education, I do not mean to diminish the importance in the various disciplines of the content of their studies, which is what you will read, write and talk about.

But whether you study literature or economics, history or philosophy, physics or psychology, language will always be the medium of your learning, language specialized to the subject, but still language.

Master it.