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Lying about the Wolf

Lying about the Wolf: Essays in Culture and Education

David Solway
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Lying about the Wolf
    Book Description:

    Solway explains that the current generation of students, raised in a nonhistorical and iconic environment, do not live in time as an emergent, continuous medium in which the complexities of experience are parsed and organized. Their psychological world is largely devoid of syntax - of causal, differential, and temporal relations between events. The result is precisely what we see about us: a cultural world characterized by a vast subpopulation of young (and not so young) people for whom the past is an unsubstantiated rumour and the future an unacknowledged responsibility. Solway claims that contemporary educators have become cultural speculators who disregard a basic truth about how the mind develops: that it needs to be grounded in reality and time. In education, as in almost every other cultural institution, the sense of reality and the dynamic of time have "virtually" disappeared, leading to the deep disconnectedness we experience on every level of "human grammar," from the organization of the community to the organization of the sentence.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6642-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on the Text
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Note on Notes
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-4)

    Much of the analysis and perhaps most of the conclusions associated with research in education seem to me increasingly otiose and redundant. Researchers such as T.M. Amabile have discovered, for example, that extrinsic motivation tends to undermine intrinsic motivation and to produce inferior results. David Perkins, surveying the current situation, solemnly avers that “an abundance of research shows that youngsters generally do not understand very well what they are learning.” Brian Mullen conducts an elaborate methodological study to discover at the end that the frequency of first-person-singular pronouns correlates inversely with group size, from which he deduces that smaller groups...

  7. 1 Grammatical Fictions
    (pp. 5-31)

    Anyone remotely concerned with the fate of education today is uncomfortably aware of a state of crisis perilously close to Red Alert. The arena of debate and contention has witnessed a noisy proliferation of theories proposing one or another radical or accelerated solution of the crisis. Everything from the dismantling of the educational establishment to the privatizing of the public-school sector to the resurgence of the movement of what we might call grammatical technology (a universal panacea) has been advanced as an answer to the crucial question that confronts us.

    I am here and for the moment concerned mainly with...

  8. 2 Dead Teachers Society
    (pp. 32-40)

    Films dealing with the unlikely subjects of pedagogy and poetry have been enjoying a certain vogue of late, their tendency to clog partially neutralized by generous infusions of those twin aperients, alcoholism and humour. A good example of the pedagogical category would beEducating Rita,in which Michael Caine, playing an updated version of Professor Higgins, boozes his way through burnout, professional cynicism, and middle-age crisis with a little help from Blake and a timely romantic infatuation. In the course of his staggering progress, the essential democracy of education is re-affirmed as the patrician teacher is gradually revitalized by his...

  9. 3 Balnibarbian Architecture
    (pp. 41-67)

    As we are all uncomfortably aware these days, we find ourselves increasingly embroiled in discussion and controversy over a swarm of academic questions calculated to lead to polarization instead of answers. These issues, which populate the now-familiar educational realm of the Quasiplausi (quasiplausibilities that rarely work), range across the entire pedagogical spectrum from institutional reforms generated by ara arachnoid ministries at one end to small, local prescriptives regarding teacher evaluation at the other. In between, when we have time, we worry about contract settlements that are neither contractual nor settled, student retention that has nothing to do with students retaining...

  10. 4 The Anecdotal Function
    (pp. 68-77)

    I once had a landlord who would adroitly evade any requests his tenants might make for repairs or renovations by activating an anecdotal talent of consummate and unstanchable fluency. For the first couple of years of his dispensation, I dreaded telephoning this master of avoidance to complain about a broken skylight, a leaning balcony or a defective furnace. The results of my petitions were tediously predictable: nothing was ever done and the flat fell into a progressive slummy decrepitude. But after a time, recognizing the inevitable, I stopped worrying about the state of my lodgings and found myself perversely enjoying...

  11. 5 What About Food?
    (pp. 78-93)

    I do not believe that anyone familiar with my writing would ever accuse me of being a professional scholar. Neither am I a professional education writer or theorist - an avowal some of my pedagogical critics would be only too happy to endorse.¹ I certainly do not see my work in such a depleted, oxymoronic light, and if I had to characterize my congenial practice, I would call it polemical, rhetorical, and committed. I try to avoid monotony and lexical drabness, the menial sin of academic discourse. I would also hope the work is motivated by a spirit of honesty,...

  12. 6 Script and Nondescript
    (pp. 94-107)

    Addressing once again the familiar but increasingly problematic “scandal of literacy” in contemporary culture, perhaps the primary issue in current educational debate, I am put embarrassingly in mind of the exordium toLycidas:

    Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more

    Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never sear,

    I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude ...

    Will we never have done with it? We struggle continually for fresh understanding without, it appears, ever arriving at a clear resolution or a set of indisputable findings. But perhaps there is no other feasible way to proceed in a community...

  13. 7 The Bipolar Paradigm
    (pp. 108-135)

    It is the primary contention of this essay that, in any class irrespective of field or discipline, there should always be two subjects being taught concurrently: the specific subject under consideration (poetry, chemistry, philosophy), henceforth denominated Subject A, and the parergal, tacit, yet indispensable subject of learning itself (that is, of “learning to learn”), henceforth denominated Subject B. In an optimal classroom situation, both forms of teaching-and-learning proceed in implicit tandem, mutually reinforcing one another and developing over time in a cumulative fashion. The proper teaching of Subject A both facilitates and is facilitated by the proper teaching of Subject...

  14. 8 Charlie Don’t Surf
    (pp. 136-152)

    A few years ago while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, I decided to initiate myself into the mystery of body surfing. The early results were drearily predictable. On my first venture into the heart of the cliché, I was unceremoniously manhandled, tossed a hundred yards further down the beach, and stripped of my expensive pair of goggles. On the second occasion the surf whipped my bathing suit off and deposited me naked on the pebbles in the full glare of amused publicity. Later on during the same instructive day I noticed a young woman bleeding from the ears and nose being...

  15. 9 Teaching Down or Learning Up
    (pp. 153-188)

    Perhaps the only agreement to be found among the various competing schools of thought in the teaching community today is that we are embroiled in an educational catastrophe of the first magnitude. Beyond this initial certainty we find ourselves in a state of growing bitterness and seemingly endless discussion sinking inexorably into various forms of factional strife. We have come to resemble Poe’s narrator in “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” whirling around in a vortex that threatens to overwhelm us and seeking desperately for a “cylindrical object” that offers “resistance to its suction” - an approach, an attitude, a hope,...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 189-314)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)