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8 thoughts on “Fuggetaboutit”

  1. In Ben’s blog post above (“Fuggetaboutit”), two phrases from his first sentence there (“the paralysis of analysis” and “experiencing the flow” got me thinking again about my most recent, VERY slow and thoughtful read through Pirsig’s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If I mention this book any more I am probably risking excommunication from this blog, but this whole traditional versus CI approach to language teaching seems more and more to me to be just a reflection of the much larger philosophical dilemma of modern society that is really the core subject of his book. Ben, shut me up if necessary. I don’t want to distract this wonderful blog community with my, at times, seemly abstruse ideas.
    The Paralysis of Analysis
    “Walk into any of a hundred thousand classrooms today and hear the teacher divide and subdivide and interrelate and establish “principles” and study “methods” and what you will hear is the ghost of Aristotle speaking down through the centuries – the desiccating lifeless voice of dualistic reason.”
    – p. 370, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Language is not an object that is “used”. Langauge is not a phenomenon separate from humanity, as if it were some “other” that we “use” as a medium of communication. Language is simply our highly developed way that we interact with the world around us. Language is us. Language is our conscious, meaningful experience of the world around us. Language, to be sure, has never been some”thing” for humans to learn.
    Definition of Quality
    “In our highly complex organic state we advanced organisms respond to our environment with an invention of many marvelous analogues. We invent earth and heavens, trees, stones and oceans, gods, music, arts, language, philosophy, engineering, civilization and science. We call these analogues reality. And they are reality. We mesmerize our children in the name of truth into knowing that they are reality…But that which causes us to invent the analogues is Quality. Quality is the continuous stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. All of it. Every last bit of it.”
    – p.255, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art…, gives the very essence of the world around us – the very essence of life itself, the word Quality. Quality, he insists, is not a descriptor of subjects or objects in the world around us, but the reverse: Quality is that oneness of life that, only in our human response to it, becomes in our minds subjects and objects. Our typically dualistic response to the world around us (“I am me, that is a tree”) is but an analogue to what is really the one Life Force he dubs Quality.
    In our day-to-day lives, it is only during moments of reflection that we call our meaning-full self-expression our “language”. Otherwise its an invisible part of our every waking moment. Our language is such an integral “part” (there’s that tendency to objectify everything…) of how we experience life around us that to divorce language from the reason it exists – to react WITH and therefore COMMUNE-icate with others – is to zap it of its very life force, to remove it from the Quality that gave “it” its very existence.
    Experiencing the Flow
    “In my mind now is an image of a huge, long railroad train, one of those 120-boxcar jobs that cross the prairies all the time with lumber and vegetables going east and with automobiles and other manufactured goods going west. I want to call this railroad train “knowledge”…In terms of the analogy, Classic Knowledge, the knowledge taught by the Church of Reason, is the engine and all the boxcars. All of them and everything that’s in them…[But] a train really isn’t a train if it can’t go anywhere. In the process of examining the train and subdividing it into parts we’ve inadvertently stopped it, so that it isn’t really a train we are examining…The real train of knowledge isn’t a static entity that can be stopped and subdivided. It’s always going somewhere. On a track called Quality. And that engine and all those 120 boxcars are never going anywhere except where the track of Quality takes them…It’s the leading edge of the train of knowledge that keeps the whole train on the track. Traditiional knowledge is only the collective memory of where that leading edge has been. At the leading edge there are no subjects, no objects, only the track of Quality ahead…The leading edge is where absolutely all the action is. The leading edge contains all the infinite possibilities of the future. It contains all the history of the past. Where else could they be contained?”
    – p.288-289, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Getting our students to, as Ben says, “experience the flow” is to take students to the only place that language has true purpose: to the leading edge of our experience of life and of each other. If we can, through our CI approach to teaching language, get students to focus NOT AT ALL on language (as if it were some object with structure) but COMPLETELY on the exchange of meaning, then we are flying down the track of Quality, not disservicing them with a desiccating, lifeless examination of some static, derailed, objectified version of language that fits in a boxcar. Language is experienced, not talked about.

  2. Not at all abstruse, Brian. You are just able to define, defend, illustrate, and articulate, via Zen and the Art… something that rarely crosses the minds of language teachers, at our great loss – that language is far from what we think it is. The passages you cite above kind of prove that. Language education, indeed education in general, has been pummeled by illusory, mental, greed driven (the textbook) robotic forces for a long time now. Now it is gaining some of it’s strength back, ironically getting it’s strength back by the very robotic thing that research is, Krashen’s monumental work. Krashen is so much like Jung, who himself could not use pure empirical research to be believed by the robots around him, and yet who held the key to an understanding of the deeper mind. And all Jung did was point to the shamanistic nature of real healing. Now, as in so many fields like depth psychology, so also are things are coming back into balance in the field of education. Blaine Ray is an incredibly important figure in that work. He is very much like Jung. And that is why John Piazza and Robert Patrick are in on this, breathing life back into an idea, if you will, that never really died. Latin is not a dead language. That’s ridiculous. That is why when Kate Taluga spoke once about her Myskoke language merely being asleep, she meant it. If we think about the book, Brian, it is screaming to us that languages are symbols for deeper things that represent deeper aspects of life and it is in the way that we must learn to use language – and impart it to our young ones – that signals our overall health. Language and how we use it is so much a reflection of our health. And we have been very very very sick for a very long time. But now we are going back to a new classical age in many ways, as per:
    …traditional knowledge is only the collective memory of where that leading edge has been….
    Things are changing. You are describing the beginnings of this change. That’s what’s going on and why you should keep us informed of how you see this at every turn – your comments and your voice in this community have become quite important to all. Your viewpoints are very unique, very heart based, very helpful to others. Please keep this stuff coming. And don’t give another thought to your grammar. Ironic, isn’t it?

  3. Forgive me if I posted this some time ago, but I keep thinking of the exercise they have teachers do to feel what it’s like to have autism, or another related processing disorder: They ask the group to make up a story together, going from one person to the next in a circle, adding one sentence to a story. But they first say you are not allowed to use the letter R or S, or some very common consonant. All of a sudden, your analytical mind takes over, and things go very slowly, almost robotic. This would be a great exercise to have language teachers do.
    Philosophical digression warning!
    while we’re talking about the irony of influence, it was Pirsig who got me interested in ideas at 18, then Jung, and ultimately led me to fall deeply in love with… ARISTOTLE. He is not the dualistic robot, in fact his influence is what saved our western tradition from being consumed by the Platonic/Augustinian (ironically turned into Manichean) dualism that threatened to dismiss anything worldly as evil. He has subsequently been embraced by dualistic robots of the academy (McKeon, etc.) and now is held up by people like Pirsig as the founding father of robots. But there is much more to the story, as with these methods we are exploring more and more deeply. As I mentioned to Bob the other day, CI turns our attention away from the BS busy work mandated by the robots, and toward the inner work of preparing ourselves to be honest and present (i.e. not robots) with our students and with ourselves. What could be more philosophical than that? Forget Plato’s cave. Aristotle offered his own version of the allegory of the Cave, in which the trapped inhabitants made their climb out of the darkness to arrive not in the dream-world of the forms, but HERE, IN OUR WORLD, TRULY PRESENT.

    1. …CI turns our attention away from the BS busy work mandated by the robots, and toward the inner work of preparing ourselves to be honest and present (i.e. not robots) with our students and with ourselves….
      No wonder there is a pushback against that. Becoming fully human is probably the hardest thing there is to do. When we at 18 years of age in our freshman survey classes were presented with the cave image, we can hardly be expected to grasp anything more, and even the essays that we wrote about it for a grade didn’t make much sense, because we were too young to grasp that image, and we were fresh out of schools that were, in fact, very robotic in nature, so it is no wonder that I never even heard about what Aristotle has offered. Even in reading what you wrote here, John, I am consious of a million points of light going off, being extinguished even as you say those words about becoming present in the world, while a million TV sets go on. Now let me see if I have this straight. You are thinking that if Latin were made linguistically interesting, made into something fine for the palate, something that tastes good to the students like that article by Philip Shultz about dyslexia, then maybe we could return to reading things that make sense like Aristotle and thereby move forward into another Golden Age and away from the Age of Machines? That would be cool!

  4. Brain, Ben and John–
    Thank you so much for this discussion. You keep pushing me forward in my own thinking. I have been beating myself up as a learner because I am not acquiring my language. Oh, I am using it with my Master, but it isn’t sticking. It isn’t sticking because it isn’t compelling. It isn’t what I want to learn, it is just words and I am hanging up in the grammer of it all.
    Thank you for inspiring me to just read words. Albeit there isn’t much of interest to me written in Mvskoke that I’ve found yet. Treaties aren’t very compelling to me. But, I am on the lookout for something more recreational. And my Master is a place to begin asking for resources to that.
    Keep up your deep work. It means a lot to us all as we explore and experience Quality.

    1. Ditto what Kate says. This is all resonating on a deep level for me. Way deeper than me “trying to become a good teacher.” As if I even know what that means. More like helping me to be who I am. And maybe in the constant practice of redirecting of my energy toward this I can model it for the kids that are in front of me, so that they might have a chance to feel the energy and power of who they are rather than march through life reacting, cowering, escaping or just playing charades.

      1. And honestly, jen, that is why the simplicity idea is so important. I don’t see how we can walk in simplicity and peace if our lives are constantly in turmoil as we try to complete the next pointless task required by our administrators in their world of control. I now find myself frequently cleaning up my work area at school, which is a first. My goal is to have only my Matava script book and my laptop around me when I work there. Those Quakers had it right about cleanliness and simplicity. How can we teach well, breathing slowly and waiting for the next cute answer if our lives are a mess from too much busy work and too many rude kids? For any of this to work for us, we must make the rules work when we are teaching, and we must have a way of giving the administration what they want easily and quickly so that we can retain balance in our lives. That is why Jennifer I won’t forget about putting everything that my DPS administrators want from me in terms of content objectives etc. here on this site so that they can be used by others, who don’t have the benefit of an experienced TPRS team around them and some of whom are alone in trying to tie CI to ridiculous demands.

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