Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Words as idols

David Coleman and his socks
"As you grow up in this world you realize people really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you think."
David Coleman, Architect of the CCSS 

I gave this sample PARRC question to my sophomores today.

We've been playing in the PARRC in our building, and while a cerebral edge of what's left of my brain loves the idea of extrapolating from a defined piece of text, there's something just slightly off about all this, a Stepford wife kind of feeling.

The cerebral masturbation required for some PARRC questions may be fine for us old folk with a little money in our bank accounts--it's why the New York Times Sunday Crossword exists-- but I'm betting my 17 year old self would have gained less from it than from the wisdoms of the motley crew who served as my teachers during my stint as a public school student over 40 years ago.

I was one royal pain in the ass in the classroom, but so long as my  tangents went somewhere, a student like me was not just tolerated, I was loved by at least a few teachers who recognized life beyond books.

Words matter only so far as they reasonably reflect whatever this Plato's cave we all share outside our skulls. 90% of my nattering on any given day comes down to this: Hey, we're here in whatever this here is and we're here in it together.

That I can parse tremendous amounts of information from the close reading of just about any block of English in front of me has served me well, even got me a gig as a medical doc for a couple of decades, but it always felt a little bit like a parlor trick, great for entertaining the few who could afford to hire people like me to serve in the professional class.

I am also appreciative that with words I can vaguely convey the feelings if joy I have on a mudflat, or the fear I felt while crawling inside the steel skin of a sinking barge, or the anger I feel watching my lambs struggle to find a living in a culture that has lost its way.

I have never viewed words as something more than abstract tools of convenience--they are tricky devils that often fail when we try to say anything beyond Hey, we're here in whatever this here is and we're here in it together..

 I trust shared laughs more than notarized contracts though the latter will get you more money, more power, and (if these things matter to you), a more Stepford-like spouse.

I cannot in good conscience pretend that PARRC view of the universe matters when on Saturday I'll be clamming, drinking ale, and romping with the love of my life--all with no more language than the happy heartfelt grunts of a mammal too happy for his own good.

Words matter, but only because the world matters.
Worshiping words isolated from the world is just idolatry.

Clams have more soul than the suits pushing an abstract world.

No comments: