Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: learning

Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning and Magic . . .


We’ve been having a conversation on this blog for 5 of the last 16 days—every Monday and Wednesday… Blog Conversations

The last go-round went into the shades of meaning of two phrases and how they lend themselves to explaining different approaches to our experience of reading.

I ended up saying:

Reading, with concentration and empathy, will help you escape into books as well as escaping with books—you can live inside the book; and, you can internalize the book’s world to help shield you from
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

Which lead on to two comments, the first from Australia, the second from England (I’m over here in the U.S.A.…):

“The only grammar I learnt at school came from learning a foreign language. I learnt how to write by reading a lot and then under the care of a wonderful teacher, who, every day of my school life, asked for a paragraph of creative prose from each member of the class. We always wrote it in class and then read out what we had written. One day a student stood up and asked: ‘Why do you make us write such unhappy pieces?’ The teacher smiled and said: ‘I have never given you any topic to write about. You have written what you are feeling.’ It was true: we were confused adolescents. We escaped into our own little worlds and the rest of the class escaped into the small worlds we had created…we had never heard of transitive or intransitive :-)”

“I suppose I knew about transitive and intransitive when I did A level English but those phrases about books can be interpreted just as well without understanding grammar. After a while some readers just seem able to feel how to write, and read, without knowing too much grammar, which is why the new emphasis on grammar rules in Junior School English is a waste of time. By all means teach punctuation and discuss nouns, adjectives and adverbs, but what else do most people need? I agree with reciting tables (and poetry). Children will find that useful when, like me, they have forgotten most of the grammar they learned at school.”

So, before I add to the conversation proper, I’ll explain the title of this post—Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning, and Magic . . .

I got “learning” and “magic” from the etymology of Grammar:

“late 14c., ‘Latin grammar, rules of Latin’, from Old French gramaire ‘grammar; learning’, especially Latin and philology, also ‘(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo'”

So…

Both of those comments (from Australia and England) came from accomplished authors…

The first noting that grammar was only an experience related to learning a foreign language and the second putting grammar in the closet of things not worth a tremendous amount of attention…

I’ve even heard, from an English teacher in college, that the grammar we use in English is taken directly from Latin—weird, eh?

Yet, the first commenter brought up a glowing remembrance of writing creative paragraphs (an implied use of grammar) and the second made reference to understanding the structure of language by Feel, through experiencing it, while forgetting any grammar learned…

I am certain there are folks who spent many hours of their lives studying grammar, and continue to think about it for hours, and use what they learned and pondered—building a written piece from its bare skeleton out—applying the flesh as a mere necessity to hold the bones…

And, there are a flock of folks who are somewhere between that last group and our two accomplished authors…

Then, there are the crowd who one might call language fundamentalists—blowing themselves up in public over rigid ideas of what words are for…

Sure, there are some who write things poorly—concatenations nearly impossible to read—swerving all over the highway of meaning…

And, finally, those who put words down because something Magic, deep inside, moves them to relate creations that can enspell us into other worlds…

So, from confused and sad adolescents, pouring out their hearts, paragraph after paragraph, to those who’ve “forgotten” their “grammar” yet still tell stories—moving through Grammar toward Learning and Magic…

By the way, my favorite definition of Magic, from the Oxford Dictionary of English is:

very effective in producing the desired results

I’m sure I’ll eventually move away from so much etymologizing…

Still, once again, we’ve had some sort of “conversation” here…

And, if you feel like adding your thoughts and/or feelings to it, do, please, leave a comment :-)
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#Libraries & #Learning: a #Survey


Surveys can be extremely misleading—those having skewed methods to produce biased results.

The survey featured today seems, to me, to have been conducted correctly—here’s their methodology page

And here’s a statement from the organization behind the survey:

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions.”

The fact that the survey is about Americans and their libraries might be considered valuable by the majority of readers of this blog; but, minorities can be extremely important—so, I hope folks in countries other than the USA will share information in the comments

I’ll share some of the major findings and leave it to those needing more detailed information to visit this link —> Libraries and Learning:

“Library users think of themselves as lifelong learners”

“Library usage continues to evolve”

“The number of those visiting library buildings is trending down, while the number of library website users has leveled off”

“Those who use libraries and their digital materials are more likely to be parents of minors, women, under age 50, and better educated”

“Library users self-identify as lifelong learners and as people interested in new information”

“Library users are major technology adopters”

“Library users stand out as ‘personal learners’”

“Recent library users are more likely to cite benefits from personal learning than others”

“Those who use library websites are more likely to be professional learners in many contexts”

“Those who use libraries feel relatively satisfied with their performance in learning situations, particularly women, blacks, Hispanics, those in lower-income households and those ages 30 and older”

“Notable shares of Americans do not know that libraries offer learning-related programs and materials”

* To find more information about libraries, click on the word in the Top Tags widget, further down in the left side-bar (this post may be at the top of the archive {since I’ve tagged it with “libraries”})…
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Education For Writers ~ Did Your Teachers Help You Learn?


A writer begins to learn the moment they’re born.

First mom and dad are the teachers—maybe siblings and friends—then, the grades of school

In an essay I published 15 years ago, about my own education, I wrote:

“As I sit heresurveying the territories my learning and education have each secured, I see the utter dependence of education on the quality of the learning that fills it; and, more importantly, the need for clearly-defined, comprehensive goals of education to insure proper learning. I’m also aware of many other people called ‘bright’, ‘exceptional’ or ‘natural learners’ who are as chaotically confused as I was….

“This is an educational universe in which learning is a tool that acts to expand the potential for humanity’s education. Did that seem like a circuitous definition? Well It was meant to be.”

Back in March of 2011, I published the post, All About Kids And Creativity—worth checking out if you feel you got a bad education

That post has two videos of Sir Ken Robinson who says that his mission is “to transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence.”

The videos are called Do Schools Kill Creativity and Bring On The Learning Revolution!

Seems to me that any serious writer (even if they’re writing is all humorous) either has, or wishes they had, fully utilized their creativity and intelligence

Yet

Many of us grew up in educational systems that tried to cram information into our minds—turn us into Good Little Social Units

If I may be briefly blatant: Good Little Social Units are not creative writers—they may be “good” writers but their work doesn’t inspire or invigorate or vivify.

I had to work hard, for many years, to dismantle the parts of my mind that got indoctrinated in Social-Unit-Education.

Then, I had to learn new ways to release my ability to LearnOld English leornian “to get knowledge, be cultivated, study, read, think about,” from Proto-Germanic *liznojan (cf. Old Frisian lernia, Middle Dutch leeren, Dutch leren, Old High German lernen, German lernen “to learn,” Gothic lais “I know”), with a base sense of “to follow or find the track,” from PIE *leis- “track.” Related to German Gleis “track,” and to Old English læst “sole of the foot”.

Sir Ken Robinson has a new video called How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

I would Love to see your thoughts and feelings about what he says, in the Comments :-)

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Forcing Kids To Learn To Read . . .


Is it possible a child could be hampered in their cognitive development by urging them, too early, to read?

In the previous post, Were You Forced To Learn Reading Too Early? (which includes links to scientific resources), this was quoted:

“Some [children] are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many more years.”

Even though that post was published last September, I recently had a comment that said:

“’No Child Left Behind’ introduced in the US has exacerbated the issue. Scandinavian children don’t read until 8 or 9, and Waldorf Education pushes age-appropriate reading into grade 2 and 3. The last thing you want to do is kill a child’s passion for reading by force feeding them books and then testing them too early. This is setting them up for failure.”

That statement was made by the parent of two children living in a small mountain town in British Columbia, Canada.

They have a website devoted to early childhood development thoughts and research and recently posted the article, Education System Pushes Kids to Read Too Early, which says:

“As kindergarten has taken on the task of reading, more kids are found who need to repeat kindergarten or a ‘transitional’ first grade classroom. As kids progress through grade school, learning disabilities increase, particularly visual-processing types. The language center in the left hemisphere of the brain won’t form for most kids until they are between seven and nine, and later for boys than girls. When kids are taught to read before this, certain problems arise, particularly in spelling and reading comprehension.”

If you have very young children, have close friends who do, or are intellectually curious, do go read the whole article.

If this sounds like the isolated issue of a few people, check out a Google search for “reading too early”.

Were you forced to read too early?

Are you aware of the extreme variability in when particular children are ready to read?

Do you feel this is an important issue?
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What Do You Know? ~ How Do You Know It?


Reading and writing both need knowledge to function and both give knowledge if done right.

Publishing should contain knowledge from both readers and writers.

From the previous post, Do Writers Always Know What They’re Writing About?:

“Over-used, old writing maxim: ‘Write what you know.’

“Misunderstood, old human maxim: ‘Know thyself.’”

And, in the post, The Knowledge A Writer Needs . . ., I postulated four broad areas of necessary knowledge: Reality, World, Social, and Self.

The question today is, When Do We Begin Learning?

Kindergarten?

One year old?

After our first breath?

Annie Murphy Paul is a magazine journalist and book author who writes about the biological and social sciences.”

One of her books has a fascinatingly long title: The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves.

She’s also wrote, Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.

From that last title, it becomes apparent her position is that we all begin gathering knowledge in the womb

Does this knowledge change the maxim, Know Thyself, or the “rule” that a writer, Write What They Know?

Do, please, enjoy watching this video of Annie as she explores learning before birth and do, please, leave a comment :-)


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