It's been quite a while since I've had one of my pauses to reflect on the state of Amarikuhn edgykayshun. Perhaps it is time to do so, with the death of John Taylor Gotto, who did so much to try to awaken the "edugarchy" (as Gary Lawrence and I called it in our book Rotten to the (Common) Core), and the wider public to what is going on. At one point, Gotto observed that the "fifty minute bell" inoculated students against the idea that any subject discipline was worth any intense and prolonged reflection. Rather, students were herded from one class and one room to another, and by the time "roll call" and "attendance" was taken and announcements were made, ten precious minutes had passed, leaving the teachers who took their responsibility to deliver their subject material and the tradition it represented, but forty minutes to do so.

In other words, in the "sound bite world," life speeds up, learning - which requires an investment of time, time to pause and reflect - slows down and is shut down entirely, by a system deliberately designed to do just that.

Which brings us to today's article, shared by Mr. V.T. And it's one of those articles that, in itself, is meant to be reflected upon:

This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write

Consider just the three excerpts quoted from that 1897 textbook:

"One of the quickest ways of learning to know good English, is oral reading. For him who would write the language it is therefore a great economy to learn to read it. It is an invaluable habit to read aloud every day some piece of prose with the finest feeling the reader can lend to it. In no other way can one so easily learn to notice and to remember new words. In no other way can one catch the infinitely varied rhythm of prose, and acquire a sense of how a good sentence rises gradually from the beginning and then descends in a cadence. This rise and fall of the sentence is not merely a matter of voice; it is a matter of thought as well. …

If the student reads aloud from writers whose work was natural, unforced, original, he will gradually come to see his own ideas more clearly, feel his own feelings more keenly."

"To gain new words and new ideas, the student must compel himself to read slowly. Impatient to hurry on and learn how the tale or poem ends, many a youth is accustomed to read so rapidly as to miss the best part of what the author is trying to say. Thoughts cannot be read so rapidly as words. To get at the thoughts and really to retain the valuable expressions, the student must scrutinize and ponder as he reads. Each word must be thoroughly understood; its exact value in the given sentence must be grasped.

"To the habit of memorizing, many a person is indebted not merely for high thoughts that cheer hours of solitude and that stimulate his own thinking, but for command of words. The degree to which the language of modern writers is derived from a few great authors is startling. Shakespeare’s phrases are a part of the tissue of every man’s speech to-day. Such writers as Charles Lamb bear Shakespeare’s mark on every page. The language of the King James version of the Bible is echoed in modern English prose and poetry. It formed styles so unlike as those of Bunyan, Ruskin, and Abraham Lincoln. Most teachers would declare that a habit of learning Scripture by heart is of incalculable value to a student’s English.”

Forget about that part of reading Scripture, even for a literary purpose. It simply doesn't "skim" well.  And you can forget about oral recitation, too. When I was in public school, I had to be able to recite the preamble of the US Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and yes, even the occasional Shakespeare soliloquy. And that was in the seventh grade. We had to stand at our desks, and recite them, perfectly, with Mrs. Rosine overseeing the whole process. We also had to be able to spell. It wouldn't work today, because students can barely read, much less recite, much less take a pen or pencil and write a coherent sentence.

But what really caught my attention here is the emphasis not only on recitation, but on reading slowly. I have to admit, that resonated, because I am a  ploddingly slow reader. I even take notes in my books as I read; they're full of underlinings, notes in the margins, post-it notes when the margins won't provide enough space. It's laborious work. It requires slowing down, pausing, re-reading passages.

It's not a process for someone in a hurry to gobble up information and regurgitate it in a constipated tangle of unrelated factoids. It's not "speed reading." (And while we're at it, has anyone ever investigated how speed reading techniques might be connected to the disappearance of proper verb conjugations, or the proper use of definite and indefinite articles, reflexive or demonstrative pronouns, and so on, or the other atrocities passing for written English in today's schools?  I can't think of any, but I suspect there's a connection to the speed-reading craze of the 1970s, and today's mess, where the attitude to a Shakespeare soliloquy is "Can't he get to the point?")

What's really happening, I fear, is that the splits we see all across our culture - from politics to the arts - is a fundamental one, and there's really no common ground between the two. It's that split between those who think Google is a library, and replaces a library, and those who know not everything is on the internet, that occasionally, one has to dig through the stacks, blow the dust off a book, sit, and read, and reflect. The one turns us into Pavlovian machines, tapping a keyboard, and pushing "enter" and out pops the informational meat we're salivating for. Problem solved, reflection, slow pausing to think, not needed nor necessary. The other reminds us we're human, and come from a long tradition and history, from Christ to Kant, with people reading, writing, reflecting, elaborating or critiquing.

Americans use "quote", the verb, to mean the noun, "quotation," because they don't even know the difference between the two any more. "Let me read you a quote from Milton." Milton would have already left the room as soon as that sentence was uttered. Into the vacuum left by our non-reflective "kulcher" steps the narcissist and his feelings and reckless abandon with words. We hear the solipsistic turn on every television news broadcast, in every attempt to have a serious conversation about anything. "How do you feel about that?" has come to replace "What do you think about that?" And the reason for its ubiquity in conversation is simple: people don't think, because they don't want to take the time. It's the secular version of the revival tent meeting. Read the Bible? In Greek? The Church Fathers? The Greek Philosophers? The Medieval Scholastics? The Renaissance Humanists? Luther? Calvin? Kant? or even, Hegel? No, the personal experience and testimony, divorced from all that came before, is much easier. It's more fun. It's self-validating. And besides, if you ask what someone thinks about something, you actually have to waste your time and listen to what he or she thinks about it! We've forgotten, entirely, that the journey is a part, and the largest part, of any answer.

It's much easier to skim through a text, to "mine data" rather than understand information, to think about it, and how we got "here" from "there". As the article says, good speaking and ability to write, comes after a long period of listening, and reading, others.

Ok... rant over.

See you on the flip side.


  1. I’m 70 and I still have poems I had to memorize in the 4th grade rolling around my head. In Flanders fields the poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row …

  2. Ploddingly slow reader, as Joseph wrote, describes my reading. I really never learned to skim. My books too are marked up to the hilt. I can’t get a thing out of my reading unless I ‘hear’ the words and make sense of the exact flow. Of course, this is called subvocalization and is frowned upon by reading teachers. But it’s what I do. When I come upon a word that I don’t know I look it up and write the best definition of it that fits the writer’s context. I write this word and its definition at the bottom of the page.

    I enjoy reading over and over again a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that I find particularly interesting. not only for the information therein contained but for how the writer has formed his* thoughts and strung them together. For me, this is a good way to learn how to better write.

    You should see my Joseph P. Farrell books. They are literally covered with underlinings, brackets, highlighter marks, and margin notes. It takes me a good month to plow through one. I’ve learned not only about high strangeness but how a real scholar writes about it. Thanks.

    P.S. I hate seeing the far too rapid evolution of our language that high tech is causing. I’m lost. And too, I hate seeing how people are writing with no capitalizations and no punctuation marks. But I’m old (75)

    *Above I used only the masculine pronoun, he. I’m not politically correct.

  3. . . . Could not resist the opportunity you allow on your site and open forum for one to engage in a useful “rant,” especially, one about this lengthy, linear, and, often, imprecise communication form one refers to as, the language conundrum that is used to educate (or is it, edgykayt). . . Much appreciated. . .

    One must ask, “Is anyone, with the power of speech, ever its master?”. . Because, I ain’t, . . Heh

    . . . A noted playwright, the Bard of Avon, still seems relevant today as he was centuries ago even if some details of Shakespeare’s past have been questioned. . . Some folks ponder the notion that he still walks the stage he used to use to portray humankind’s daily situations of conflicts and emotions through his cleverly worded expressions. . . Almost as if an ethereal presence larger than life remains. . . How those worded expressions seem to have taken on a life of their own, though, having first started out in England. . . So much so that the language used during Elizabethan England seems a remote shadow of what is used in the USA today. . . Yet English is not the only language spoken, written or read in this land of liberty. . . One need only consider the brush strokes of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean calligraphy. . . Or the Cyrillic alphabet of Russian, and other non-Slavic languages of eastern Europe as well as Spanish, French, German, and Nordic group (to name a few variants) let alone speaking and writing with them as those native users seem to do so easily despite westerners and their respective languages. . . There are, after all, over six thousand (6,000) languages spoken by up-right sapien-sapiens. . .

    . . . Knowing firsthand that it is not easy to recite those phrases in form as the poet wrote one gains an appreciation for their meaning over time and the skill that is needed to muddle through a few phrases. . . It requires thought – lots of it, too, and that takes time and energy and a certain self-discipline to move forward with the chosen task. . . There’s even some sense of accomplishment by finishing one of those phrases from memory. . . There once were minstrels who passed along the news of the day for those who couldn’t read, but intensely listened, gratified that they could learn of news important enough for the minstrels to pass along. . . Memories then seemed to be acoustically tuned. . .

    . . . Strangely enough ‘the world does seem a stage’ each individual must play a role upon. . . Each person must engage it though. . . Reading, writing, and arithmetic are similar in that they must be engaged to gain some usefulness from them. . . “What is a child to know of the stage [the world] if one’s parents disengage from the child expecting others to assume that responsible role of nurture / nature?”. .

    . . . Children, generally speaking, that have books read to them by parents who engage the task of teaching as they’re growing and learning, seem to have a greater handle on reading, writing, and arithmetic later on. . . There’s a purpose behind the scheme that some parents adopt even if they’ve been short changed of their own parental-book-reading-time when they were younger and impressionable. . . One might ask, “Why bring this up or suggest other languages be considered when referencing your “Amairikuhn Edgykayshun?”. . Another question, “Have you ever lost your power of speech and had to quickly relearn something of it?”. . Or, “What difficulties do victims of head trauma have when their speech centers have been altered and disrupted from what they had learned to use as language up to that time of loss; or a stroke-patient who’s had their blood circulation temporarily shunted from their speech-center areas of the brain and associated communication centers?”. . These situations are not the norm from a traumatic or acute frame of reference, but require a learning curve, a re-learning curve, to regain some mastery of what was lost. . . A sense of purpose is paramount, but so is why the use of letters, numbers, written-spoken-read, and sounds are important in the first place and not just as imitations because doing so is taken for granted or because most others seem to do so for reasons they know not, but just do. . . To be less diplomatic, that which IS, is not a yak-ah-thon in the first-place to have any one narrative forced and one’s presence pushed aside as second fiddle in Being. . . One does not seem to come into the world at birth as a gifted orator reciting verse and rhyme verbatim in all the languages and alphabets conceived. . . Those skills seem to come later, but in an accelerated capacity when opportunity and exposure allow. . . A fast-synaptic construction within the brain is useful, but not invulnerable, and there’s the aging process associated with the sensory apparatuses that is far more subtle and no less important a consideration for adaptation. . .

    . . . Audio-books and their associated transcripts have helped many to read, write, and speak as that method (audio and printed transcripts) engages an additional sense, the auditory (acoustic) sense, even relieving some eye-strain in the process as one listens to what is said and not simply hears what is said when the material is interesting. . . This combination of sensory use reinforces the other while aiding comprehension of the topic material. . . Verbally reciting the volume helps to further associate linguistic skills. . . Becoming interested seems directly related to upbringing and source exposure. . . If one were able, one would have audio-books accompanying each written text. . . Audio-books work well with those folks visually impaired, too. . . There may well be something “Rotten-To-The-(Common) Core” with “Amairikuhn Edgykayshun,” but it’s not impossible to remedy once one understands that it, too, is a several century’s old paradigm in need of shifting, if not, a re-evaluation of how information is transmitted-received-retransmitted by more diversified users. . .

    . . . Despite the proliferation of certain devices the printing press remains a vital tool for education by replicating printed text allowing it to be distributed, but it need not be the only adjunct to accelerated learning and information retention while tying up one’s hands and vision. . . Acoustics work really well given initial time and patience and work very well with oral reading skills as each reinforces the other skill while they’re applied. . . There is a level of bone conduction one’s voice contributes to as feedback to the brain while one verbally speaks that helps with word formation. . . One uses this combination to think deeply as it engages more of the senses for the sake of comprehending more clearly. . .

    . . . One could go on about certain trends that seem to be hidden for the moment, but aiding and abetting those who seek to undermine useful methods for the worse, albeit, a subjective perspective, through controlling mechanisms for their self-serving goals might seem self-defeating and one doesn’t pay for the same territory twice, so to speak. . . Those insisting on controlling narrative are not to be underestimated as it is a multi-lane bidirectional pathway after all. . . What’s fit for the gander is fit for the goose. . . How not to be roasted can be tricky as those geese need to flap their wings to fly rather than fry. . . Establishing a purposeful goal seems easy enough to talk about doing, but working out the specifics into actions remains to be done to move forward. . .

    . . . All the world is indeed a stage – A stage of learning for all observant and diverse folk at every stage in their lives. . . It’s not business as usual. . .

    1. Richard, many pertinent observations. Thank you.

      I am reminded of the “Scrubs” episode where a lady had some kind of brain tumor or lesion that caused her to respond to conversation in song. They built a whole episode around what it might be to ‘be’ in that person’s perception of reality. It was actually sad when they operated on her (to save her) and she lost that ‘ability’…

      There is also the issue of Savants. Often, they are disadvantaged in other ways, but what they CAN do is astounding. Whether this is activating the 80-90% of the brain that is seen as ‘unused’ or some removal of a ‘reducing valve’ that makes us Only Human, these “odd” folks are operating well beyond Genius in limited areas…

      1. . . . “. . . respond to conversation in song,” you say? . . . In some ways that seems similar to what one might observe of an individual with a neurological condition referred to as synesthesia, but not quite, since the response to conversation is still verbal only with a tweak – it’s in song. . . With synesthesia one responds to a stimulus with another sensory or I guess a in another cognitive way with another sensory interpretation. . . The details most certainly in a psychology reference somewhere under synesthesia. . . There’s purported to be dozens of sensory combinations that could fit the characterization of a synesthete. . .

        . . . Mentioning “Savants,” one was reminded of Marilyn vos Savant who, as I recall, had an intelligence quotient exceeding 200 or something. . . Anyway, I regularly use the mnemonic “S M A R T” she wrote decades ago when pursuing a research tangent and for just about anything else that seems to need a thinking through. . . Works really well, too. . . One needs all the help one can get. . .

        . . . The term “Savants” applying to a type or class of person is less familiar. . . One must not get out much and had to look that one up. . . I wasn’t aware that there was a term [Savants] used in referring to a classification of people, although I knew of Marilyn vos Savant by that SMART mnemonic of hers. . .

        . . . One has a great uncle who founded L’Arche en France (The Ark in France) in 1964 that has become a multi nation care facility for those folks called mentally disabled. . . My uncle takes a different view, an alternate view of life in general which seems to run in the family. . . Educating those folks of L’Arche en France and elsewhere requires a different mind set which also seems to run in the family and is known to be a two-way multi-way pathway of all involved. . .

  4. at risk of us all agreeing with each other, i’ll add to the rant. had a couple thinks to learn in a somewhat alien subject in a hurry a few decades ago. like my life depended on it. into the mix of my target topic, i added speed reading books. all pretty much the same. refinements mostly on skimming. it is do-able but not enjoyable nor serious about whatever subject is chose. i still use it. probably the most valuable part all authors share is to use your free hand to move over the page with the line you’re reading. regardless of intent, this will improve speed, comprehension and quality for reading outloud.

    btw, for any here with new kids or grandkids coming, “the read aloud handbook” is one of the best baby shower gifts we’ve given. iq (for what it’s worth) is determined most by the age at which a child acquires language. any and all luangage. our brains are all equipped at birth with all that’s needed. throats and palates develop later. so get those babies learning asl immediately at birth and beyond and get them reading soon after with “the read aloud handbook.”

    meanwhile, back to my rant: i still use speedreading (careful scanning) as well as careful and enjoyable reading. depends on who and what. thank you doc, i careful read here.

    what i’m curious about now is how and who and why we’re being cheapened and dumbed down. i’m on a kick lately drilling down behind and around q-anon. besides quinn michaels (intriguing if not troubled lad) i got led to robert david steel and dug up sarah westall and james (boots) rothstein. mostly it’s a group of folks figuring various plausible scenarios splaining the trump phenomenon as well as what we’re talking about here.

    guess what interests me most in steele is that he’s stating routinely most of what we recognize here and adding some of his own expertise to clarify what’s possible and what’s likely. and it’s all about as surprising as his prediction was for korean reunification.

    please somebody, take a look here and give me some links to gander at to counter and/or balance steele and all.
    Robert David Steele – Trump’s major reform plan
    this link chimes in directly with doc’s topic here
    Robert David Steele – War of The Worlds

    it’d be nice if this wasn’t just another version of foster gambles hope and change libertarian work.

  5. Context is important. While I agree with your general ‘rant’, there are honest justifications for some of this decay:

    On the ‘skimming’ side, there has been a massive explosion of information. The days when DaVinci could make a stab at learning the knowledge of humankind is looong past. Today, one can either ‘skim’ to try to keep-up with general knowledge, or dive deep and specialize at the cost of being blindsided in another area. Technology has driven us towards the right brain (details) at the cost of the left brain (intuition).

    On the ‘thinking versus feeling’ debate, perhaps you do not remember Dr Strangelove? In the fifties and sixties, ‘thinking’ humans – who would not deeply ‘feel’ – almost brought the planet to nuclear armageddon. Part of the Flower Power revolution was to expose that state of affairs. That was when ‘feeling’ was brought back into the picture, as a Fail Safe (sorry) for the grotesqueness that ‘thinking’ alone could come up with. Both are necessary, to produce a sane world. (Of course, retreating into ‘feeling’ alone is just as bad as retreating into ‘thinking’ alone. That produces mobs and ‘what, me worry?’ culture.)

    In short, we need an educational system that balances left and right brains AND balances thinking and feeling… (Rant over.)

    1. After years of reading I skim w/the best of them; and virtually stop when trying to digest an intriguing concept. I’ve read sentences over & over, ad nauseum until I got it.
      The computer/screen reading has added to the skimming factor.
      Yet now the forces are being marshalled to pull us away from the screen and pushing voices.
      The pusher man is now talking…
      [Its context is expanding exponentially].

  6. Humm…. your rant reminded me of finding an old Harvard undergraduate exam from around 1870, where a quarter of the exam was to be conducted in fluent Latin. The questions were asked in Latin, the essay had to be written in Latin. I dare say, I doubt anyone today could do that exam.. I am sure if someone tried to give the exam, students there would be in an uproar over some sort of lack of political correctness having the students to this in Latin. Can you imagine in 1870, a student at Harvard challenging a professor over an exam like this?

  7. In the globalized neo-liberal economy with jobs being outsourced to the lowest bidder education has come to be equated with social promotion. College graduates become the managers. Education is therefore a means to an end. Punctuality, diligence, self-presentation, teamwork and political correctness are the requirements for success, not originality, curiosity, creativity or insight.

  8. With the shutting down of brick and mortar chain stores and I will bet schools are being targeted for shutdown. Aldous Huxley Brave New World will be coming sooner than six hundred years after Ford throw in 1984 into the mix no tv or film version of both these books do them justice. Books are windows into the past, present, future and the last thing our elites now want is a thinking public in the past, yes but not today the dumber the better.

  9. The education model has been changed to encompass the new robotic paradigm w/AI as a major player. “They” believe in increasing man’s capacity and education will resemble military training, as they augment humanity, integrate it w/machine/computer.
    Basically weaponizing the young at an early age. The program seems to be where the robot is taking the primary center stage; not the other way around.
    No doubt, DARPA is leading the way; although professing otherwise.

    Human has become obsolete.
    How much do you spend on educating an obsolete model. Best to augment it; enhance it; chip it; integrate it; interface it w/the new world robotic order.

    No she or he; just it.

  10. 2B or not 2B, that is da ? wevva iz betta to take up umms ‘gainst a see of crap, or by going NA NA, snuff ’em.
    .. UR all a bunch of cowuds.

    you means we carnt wate until we get Matrix infusions of life the universe, and, well, everything, including how to flie those helicoptas? for those who read is a terrific resource, esp. for older books. If I goof off reading a paragraph, I go back over it. I keep a notebook handy for further reading from referred books (reading up on the NWO like a cancer grows). one day I should learn latin, old greek , german etc.

    Hitler wanted the surviving locals of the eastlands educated enough just to read the road signs. that is the plan for the NWO, and not even that with GPS and self driving vehicles.

    Robert Heinlein – Time Enough for Love – and Digesting Literature.

  11. The Enlightenment put blinders on the Renaissance.

    I have been noting how people tend to be uncomfortable, like physically and mentally uncomfy, with not knowing something. If they can’t ask and be answered by the Google, they can’t stand it.

    I will quote (well played, sir) from the first chapter of my upcoming book:

    To empty your cup means to clear your mind of that of which you know. There is a big difference between knowing and doing. Knowledge has levels low to high, knowledge is vast and wide, and it has tremendous depth. If you are full of what you know where do you put the new stuff you find?

    Useful knowledge with flexibility burbles close to the surface as the cup drains and fills and will always deliver a new wrinkle of understanding as you grow as a player.
    Many disc dog freestylers are seeking the answer. Searching for it, like Google. And the Answer™ as in “the Truth”. Truth is, there is no answer, and no objective truth for you. Sorry, that’s just not how life works. Don’t hate the playa, hate the Tao.

    Searching for answers requires knowing the question. Desires are not questions. “I wanna vault!” If you go to a search engine to get the answer,”How to Do a Disc Dog Vault?” You’ll get an answer of 1 way to do a vault. You will achieve your goal of “I wanna vault.” “Do you know how to vault?” “Yup.” That’s a pretty small cup, and it’s already full.

    What about doing it with your dog? What makes a good vault? What vaults are good for my dog? How can I make vaults more safe? Where do I need to put it? When do I need to put it? When matters!!!?


    There are so many questions; important questions. These questions rarely get asked because people walk around with full cups of limited experience. Filling our cup from the internet has become so easy that we are only comfortable if our cup is full and it loads fast.

    It’s OK to not know or to not understand something. Seeking an answer to something you didn’t know is how you learned every thing you know. If your cup is full there is nothing to learn and this book will have nothing to teach.

    Welcome to the Tao of DiscDog

    Thanks for sharing, Joseph.

  12. A rant? Hardly. Like most of your observations this one is a vaccination against the bacterium of psychological fantasia. While listening to the political gesticulations on Fox and Friends as I read this, I found the contrasts in your argument particularly sharp and surgical. Even news channels are becoming reality TV–which is neither real, nor real TV. While living in a stream of psychoses one must inevitably stop long enough to catch one bearings lest one be swept downstream and off the cliff into oblivion. This is one of those moments.

  13. Living word is angelic. After two world wars against European orators, the world has become a silent place. We no longer care.

    The green-eyed monster, propped up by superpower and prostitution, deserves its own kangaroo court, at the end of a rope.

    Communistic classrooms are kangaroo courts in lynch mobs. There is only one remedy – the Runic amendment – patristic exegesis.

    Steed is friend of elder,
    and always helpful on move,
    in horse hoof splendour.

  14. I about had it with Western Europe and the current society. As far as I am concerned it can go down the tubes, nothing worth saving. Yes, it is a shame that all beautiful Western will be shrouded and lost in history.

    Future is elsewhere, Russia, China, India? Who knows. The rot Western society has produced (America, EU) is so shameful murderous and anti-life better be quelled now and preferable without war.

    It is hopeful there are still countries left that see the Western system is not adaptable in copying, if not, our earth is in danger and therefore life itself.

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