Quote of the Day


A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille

This book, A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille, came to me highly recommended and though I liked parts of it very much, parts I thought were ridiculous.

In the ridiculous category is his advice that, if I want to learn Russian, I should just go read War and Peace in Russia. As simple as that. It makes me wonder if he is even aware that the Russian language uses a different alphabet. With a similar alphabet, it is possible (though probably not efficient) to study a text until letter patterns start to become visible, thereby giving subtle hints to a word's function -- that is, an en pattern in German usually shows a plural -- and, if one had the English text in hand, one might be able to decode some words, keeping in mind that syntax (word order) varies greatly from language to language. Anyway, as a professional and certified second-language educator -- Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate from Western Washington University + years of teaching English language both abroad (EFL) and here in the states (ESL) -- I think his advice is bunk.

That being said, I do appreciate his reading lists (the Dinotopia series is included -- have you heard of it? I have not) and these distinctions, which I have posted about before.
A. Bent stories portray evil as good and good as evil. Such stories are meant to enhance the evil tendencies of the reader, such as pornography and many horror books and movies. The best decision regarding Bent stories is to avoid them like the plague.

B. Broken stories portray accurately evil as evil and good as good, but evil wins. Something is broken, not right, in need of fixing. Such books are not uplifting (in the common sense of the word), but can be transformation in a positive way. Broken stories can be very good for the reader if they motivate him or her to heal them, to fix them. The Communist Manifesto is a broken classic; so are and The Lord of the Flies and 1984, In each of these, evil wins; but they have been very motivating to me because I have felt a real need to help reverse their impact in the real world.

C. Whole stories are where good is good and good wins. Most of the classics are in this category, and readers should spend most of their time in such works.

D. Healing stories can be either Whole or Broken stories where the reader is profoundly moved, changed, or significantly improved by her reading experience.

It did not seem to have enough juicy ideas to merit a whole book, and certainly not the price of a hardback. It would have made a better article than a book.


1 comment:

Semicolon said...

I keep thinking I might want to read this book to see if I can glean any good ideas from it, but I'm not willing to pay the price. Maybe the library will get it eventually.

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