Sunday, November 18, 2012

Historically Illiterate

The last few weeks I have been on a tirade on the subject of standards.  Particularly due to Stapleton Kearn's blog about workshop students not knowing the masters in art of the past and somehow tied in with all the election chatter on Facebook.  To make this connection clear as mud, it's about elevating  oneself above the "chatter among the stumps" and choose to soar above the trees.   And if so inclined, fly even higher.  Okay now I know I have totally lost you but hopefully intrigued you to keep reading.  Here are the points I am trying to make done so much more clearly by David McCullough, learned historian and author, on a 14 min. interview on 60 minutes.  Unfortunately there are a few commercials peppered throughout this interview but well worth the viewing.  His  comments about our youth being historically illiterate is profound.

So many interesting talking points can come from this interview.  In defense to all teachers, your job is very difficult given the students of today's culture(s).  Just yesterday, a friend and teacher at the college level shared the story of a young woman in her class. She teaches writing/English and most of her students are in their first year funded by Pell Grants.  After presenting information on why writers write and the four purposes of writing, she asked for understanding by calling on a young lady sitting in the front row.  Even with the four purposes written on the board, the woman responded with "I don't know."  Asking for further information about what she didn't understand, the young woman shouted at her saying, "I told you I don't know," and grabbed her books and walked out.  REALLY?

This kind of event shouldn't happen in any of colleges or universities, but it seems that our smaller (local) schools in particular draw from communities of students who apparently are not truly interested in learning, so teachers deal with attitudes like this every day of the week.  And this is also true in our high schools and even at the elementary level as well.  I know because I was in the classroom myself for many years. 

Okay, I feel better now getting this off my chest.  What can I do to stem the cultural tied that is eroding our country as the great nation that it has been?  Truly, nothing!  All I can do is keep my personal standards high and my moral underpinnings in place.  All comments are welcomed, but know I'm trying to speak from the vantage point of the clouds and not the stumps on the floor of the forest.  In my opinion, we need solutions, not more mud slinging and static getting us nowhere.  As one of my professors once said, "Our values are not what we profess, but what we actually live."

1 comment:

  1. What a great post - thank you for including the interview of David McCullough.

    Over the past year, I have been on a mission to reform both my studio habits and my habits of mind, because I could see that things weren't going well. When I was frustrated because I couldn't paint well (which seemed to be all the time), people told me I was in "one of those slumps," but this was no slump.

    In retrospect I see that I was inattentive to standards, and they certainly weren't "soaring" anywhere "above the trees." As a result, not only was my artistic life negatively affected, but life in general slowly found itself coasting somewhere among the "tree stumps." Not sure what the cause of it was - probably many, but I do know that I had stopped reading (good stuff), and that probably played a major role.

    So, this is a timely post, along with those recently of Stapleton Kearns. Towards the end of the summer I dusted off books I hadn't cracked in a decade and started rereading art history - what a delight and what a shot in the arm it has been to my painting and drawing. Now I can't read enough.

    And FB? Deactivated until further notice.


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