CSotD: How We Learn (or don’t)

I think Jonesy is being a little hard on meaningless connective phrases, but that may be because I tend to use “so” as a connective phrase, which makes it okay.

On the other hand, a connective phrase should connect two things, which makes “so” an absurd way to begin.

Listening to the news will expose you to all sorts of verbal tics. I find “yeah” to be equally as annoying as “so” in preceding an answer, although it at least conveys “I understand your question” or something to that extent.

However, when I start my own School of Broadcast Journalism, the first required course will teach local TV reporters not to nod at the camera while they wait for the cue that they’re on.

We’re gonna need a bigger Hell.

So here’s a Robert Thompson cartoon that focuses on what is, to me, a puzzlement.

I’ve had times when, for one reason or another, I’ve given up alcohol or meat or sugar, but my experience is that either you give them up or you don’t. It’s always been easier for me to abstain entirely than to fill in with substitutes that seem to keep the urge alive without really satisfying it.

Granted, I’ve never stuck with any of those privations except smoking, and, no, I didn’t try clove cigarettes.

I hate mystical charts and graphs and was glad to see Loose Parts (AMS) take up the cause.

I like pie charts and line graphs and bar graphs, all of which are very basic and self-explanatory, but at some point after I left school, they began introducing charts that are clearly supposed to convey more information but end up conveying next to none unless you have been steeped in their magical ways.

As a writer, I’m dedicated to the notion that the primary goal is to communicate, and that, if you write something nobody understands, it’s not because they are ignorant peasants but because you are a lousy writer.

I feel the same way about charts and graphs and quickly reach the “to hell with it” point. As indicated upon the above chart.

OTOH, there’s also the flaw of dumbing things down to the point where they become meaningless. Some years ago, some committee somewhere decided the old Food Pyramid, which indicated what portions of which foods make up a healthy diet, needed to be rejiggered into something which, as I read it, means that if you eat right and exercise, you will continually need less and less food until eventually you will be able to stop eating entirely.

I don’t apologize for not understanding what they thought they were telling us.

Barney & Clyde (Counterpoint) turns to Cynthia to explore the issue of honesty in history, and I laughed, but there’s a lot going on in this topic that doesn’t fit in four panels.

We’ve always taught history as a Morality Tale, as James Loewen said in Lies My Teacher Told Me some 30 years ago, and others have also pointed out.

Not only was history a dramatic build-up to the triumphant result of today’s fabulous nation, but it operated in the form of the Virus That Spread from Plymouth Rock, in which nothing interesting happened anywhere in North America until “we” — white English-speaking people — arrived.


However, while we’ve got the fascisti insisting we continue to teach about Columbus and George Washington’s cherry tree, we’ve got another block insisting that we teach every miniscule fact that fits their oppositional agenda, rather than sorting through and selecting things that truly matter and are comprehensible to the average student.

I believe it was Thomas Aquinas who said, “Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.”

Anyway, I don’t think we can fix it.

There is a technique in firefighting called “Surround and Drown,” which is where you give up on saving a fully-involved house and simply pour water onto it in order to keep the blaze from spreading. Someone then has to build an entirely new structure where once stood the old, now-destroyed one.

We should approach the teaching of history in the same way.

Between Friends (KFS) has kicked off a story arc worth following, as Susan’s daughter Emma is headed back to college.

I’m not sure where the strip takes place, but I’ve always assumed Ontario, making BC a goodly distance. Emma is right that coming home for Thanksgiving is kind of silly.

When my boys were looking at colleges, I was hoping they’d be able to make those three day weekends once in a while, but wanted them far enough away that they’d have to do their own laundry. But it turned out to be yet another of those growing-up events in which, by the time they actually get there, things work out for themselves.

Assuming you’ve done your job of outfitting them with both roots and wings.

I’m looking forward to watching Susan work out her conflicts. Emma seems fine.

Meanwhile, I read part of an article in the Washington Post yesterday headlined “Millennials Are Tired Of Trying To Be Perfect Moms.” I only read part because, first of all, I was a dad with their mom involved but on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but mostly because I can only take so much self-centered whining.

Parenting isn’t easy but it has never been supposed to be easy, and most of the burdens are your own.

I hit a point in my parenthood where I began to admire my folks for getting through the Sixties without freaking out despite having some knowledge of what I was up to. We had a few conflicts but there were far more things that we never discussed and that must have scared the bejeezuz out of them.

But they let me work out the things I needed to work out and I tried to do the same for my kids and I can already see my kids doing much the same for theirs.

For that matter, my grandparents sent their only daughter off to college a week before she turned 16. She turns 99 Friday, so I guess things worked out.

Incidentally, letting us make our own mistakes began early. She waited until I was in my 40s to tell me how much she hated these pathetic, over-programmed little robots.

Good for her.

18 thoughts on “CSotD: How We Learn (or don’t)

  1. Between Friends: Excuse my United States centrism, but is Thanksgiving an actual thing in Canada?

    I grew up learning about Thanksgiving as being the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, later learned what over-promoted crap that was since Virginia did the first Thanksgiving three years earlier. Nothing particularly Canadian in either of those places. To add to my imperfect history, due to reenactment I was doing back in the 90’s, colonial Canada to me means New France, pre-1764. I kinda acknowledge that the British had a presence that far north, and that’s about it.

    1. Canadian Thanksgiving is a remnant of the English Harvest Festival. You are giving thanks for the bounty of summer. October makes sense because you had to actually get the harvest in before you celebrate. It was celebrated long before either Virginia or Pilgrims.
      Chris Wallace

      1. I think every civilization the temperate zone has some kind of harvest festival. Canadian Thanksgiving is indeed in October. My uncle’s roommate at St. Mike’s was from Newfoundland, which, being several thousand miles from Toronto, made the holiday impossible, so he and several friends from the Rock would come to our place in Northern New York for the weekend. So we had two Thanksgivings every year, about five weeks apart.

  2. I don’t know if you remember Professor Irwin Corey, but he always began his act by saying “However…”

    1. Thank you, I was trying to remember his name…. In the past, when I had a fellow Boomer as a student, I’d slip in a cultural reference that only they’d get, such as starting a class with “However…”

      As for the alcohol-free beer, I enjoy the taste of beer, but alcohol makes me ill. So*, if I want a beer with pizza, it’s alcohol-free. Can’t do much about the meat-free part of the cartoon though. Going Vegetarian makes sense to me for both health and moral reasons, but I eat a high-protein diet and just enjoy meat too much. To paraphrase the old NRA slogan, they’ll get my bacon when they pry it from my cold, dead, somewhat greasy hands.

      * oops.

  3. It wasn’t until my Latin prof in college explained postpositves like etiam and igitur that I finally understood what my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Gardner, was trying to tell me about a compound sentence I had written with “however” as the connector. (At least I understood from her that I should have used a semicolon, though)

    1. That entire exchange was lifted verbatim from a debate between Aquinas and Peter Abelard. The part recreated by Graham Chapman originally featured Heloise’s father.

      1. And I learned something new today! Not surpised, though, as MP always exhibited a high degree of intelligence amidst the anarchy.

  4. It’s been quite a ride seeing the current war over History class.
    It was one of my favorite subjects in school, and although it was very much from a “nothing interesting happened until white people showed up” point of view, we also covered things like the Civil War and slavery rather extensively, up to the civil rights era.
    We even saw ‘Roots’, which would send a lot of parents into a tizzy these days, but I didn’t think it too unusual at the time.

  5. In Seamus Heaney’s introduction to his translation of “Beowulf,” he mentions the problem of translating the first word, “hwaet.” Other translators had it as “lo,” “hark,” “behold,” “attend,” or “listen,” but Heaney thought of his relatives who spoke “Hiberno-English Scullionspeak” (the Ulster dialect):

    “because in that idiom ‘so’ operates as an expression which obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention.”

    So, that’s the way I think of it.

      1. My Mom hated that phrase. Whenever someone on the TV said that, she usually muttered, “Why? Are you going to talk DOWN to me?”

  6. “Listening to the news will expose you to all sorts of verbal tics. ” The tic that really irritates me is when the news anchor (anchor: a heavy dense object found under water mired in the mud) trying to tease an exclusive report says, “Our next report, only seen on channel 3…” instead of “Seen only on channel 3…” I mean, I’d like to HEAR the report too…

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