Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All of It - It's All Been About Communication

Last night, my son was struggling with his homework.  He was really upset about it.  He kept lamenting, begging me to answer, "Why, why do I have to do this over and over again?"

What he was working on was a punctuation worksheet.  I think he was putting semicolons with conjunctive adverbs (e.g. however, therefore) and commas with coordinate conjunctions (e.g., and, but) and working to avoid the dreaded run-on sentences and comma splices.  He said they'd been working on them for weeks, and that he got them, but was sick of typing or rewriting the sentences because they're boring and repetitive.

He was lamenting rhetorically, of course, but an answer came to me so clearly that it shames me that it never dawned on me before.

The point of grammar...

The point of punctuation...

The point of handwriting and typing...

The point of spelling...

The point of literature and reading and interpretation...

It's all about communication.  That's all it is.  Boiled down to its basic, it's all about communication.  And you will, of course, look and me and say, "Well, duh, Batman... Of course, it's about communication."

But I never made the connection.

See, everything I learned about clearly communicating in my life came from self-help books.  "Getting to Yes", "How to Win Friends and Influence People", "Crucial Conversations", and "Year to Success" are a handful that come to mind.

None of them had anything to do with spelling and grammar.  None of them had anything to do with interpreting the works of Shakespeare.  None of them had anything to do with comma splices and conjunctive adverbs or future perfect tense.  Not one word was offered on how spelling well helps you communicate in the business world.

Yet that's what we teach.  Why?  All these rote rules and reading of "classic" literature all point me in the direction of one thing: we teach that way because it's easy. Now don't get your underpants in a twisty bunch.  I'm not bagging on teachers.  Well, not all of them.

They teach a discipline.  They teach what they're taught to teach.  They teach what they see.  They're not teaching the why.  Teachers may eventually (maybe) get around to teaching Critical Thinking.  For me, that class wasn't available until college.  But in my university, critical thinking was a separate course.  For Honors Students.  As if that's not the most basic course everyone should take before all others.

Why didn't we see that before?  How could this simple truth be so opaque to me?

Because so many teachers can't communicate.

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