Just saw this in a New Yorker story on bullet journals:
He started writing down his thoughts in short bursts throughout the day and found that it calmed him, allowing him to see past his anxieties to their root causes. “When there’s a barking dog outside, you can’t hear anything else,” he told me recently, by way of analogy. “But when you go to the window you realize there might be something wrong, you think about it, you get the context. It’s barking at something. You actually get up and look. And, for me, writing is that process.”
The dog is barking at something. I love that.
Of course, in my own case, what with the two American Labs who weren’t bred to be “lifestyle dogs” and all, the real trick is training my adrenal glands not to launch a tsunami of cortisol every time the dogs explode into a frenzy of barking and hardwood-floor scrabbling over nothing at all.
I have an extremely reactive startle reflex. Medical science can do nothing to help (I’ve asked).
So the dogs we live with–Luke and Lucy–are the exact wrong dogs on that score. Roughly once a day I have the same bodily reaction to my own pets that I would to being caught in crossfire in Syria, say, or Yemen. Except there are no guns and no enemy combatants, quite apart from the fact that there is nothing in the yard that needs barking at.
Keeping a bullet journal, which I do, doesn’t help with any of this, sad to say. I already know, as I’m jumping out of my skin, what the context is and whether there’s anything either I or my insane dogs actually need to worry about.
In the last 24 hours, I’ve participated in two different but intersecting discussions on Twitter—one on phonics, the other on autism. Their point of intersection: the question of oral vs. written language.
The phonics discussion was one I couldn’t help jumping into. A distinguished education professor and specialist in reading instruction dismissed someone’s linguistically accurate observations about consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) patterns by telling them they should take a class in linguistics. I’ve taken many classes in linguistics, so I piped in as follows:
John Bogle on learning to write in high school:
“My love for Blair [Academy] is pretty close to eternal,” Bogle told students during a visit in spring 2018. “It was at Blair Academy that I learned to use the English language and how to write. My teachers spent so much time with me, mostly with a red pen. But I got better and better under their tutelage. The result is that my writing ability, among other things, enabled me to go to Princeton and start Vanguard and watch it grow into a colossus.”
Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group and creator of the index fund, dies at age 89, CNBC, 1/17/2019
Carolyn J., a mathematician who co-created the first Kitchen Table Math with me (currently offline awaiting a new URL address) told me a story about leaving academia with her husband, also a mathematician, and trying to find work in the private sector.
The transition wasn’t easy. Only colleges and universities pay you to do pure research in mathematics.
The company that eventually hired Caroline did so because she told the interviewer that she liked to write. That was true. She did like to write, and she was good at it.
After she was hired, the company hired her husband as well. Two new careers because one person knew how to write and liked doing it.
Being able to write is value-add.
I don’t know how to explain why this answer is right, so if you do, I would really appreciate your leaving a comment. (I had trouble with at least one other, so I’ll try to get that posted as well.)
Thank you !
Catherine’s spending Bastille Day getting back to the US; I’ll be spending it visiting Gettysburg. One of our traveling companions has equipped us with copies of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War. I finished it yesterday, and am now primed as can be for the theater of war and the dramatis personae: from Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top; from Pickett to Chamberlain.
…at what they’ve just written, and at the squiggly lines that word processors generate under questionable word choices and grammatical errors, this is an example of what you get:
(From a recent student paper.)
Actually, most of my recent students have been good about proofreading. Examples like this one stand out to me partly because they aren’t that common, but partly, also, because I don’t understand why they happen at all. That is, I can’t imagine what it takes to turn something in without (a) noticing these markings, and/or (b) caring to address them.
We’re still a long way from routine, sentence-level revisions!
With enthusiasts like Doug Lemov, the sentence is finally, after years of neglect, regaining its due. And this due is long overdue. After all, the sentence is the minimal unit of thought. It derives from Latin sententia, meaning “opinion” (and shares its root with “sententious”). As Catherine has cited J.S. Mill as saying, “the structure of every sentence is a lesson in logic.” And, as I noted in my last post, it’s the smallest unit of prose that lends itself to multiple revisions.