Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Thoughts on getting home from scoring 2000 essays
     Musing on MUS (Montana University System) Writing Assessment

A writer should be of as great probity and honesty as a priest of God. He is either honest or not, as a woman is either chaste or not, and after one piece of dishonest writing he is never the same again.

Ernest Hemingway

Giambattista Vico

What are we teaching our kids? I wondered driving home from Missoula, where with about eighty other teachers I helped score 2,000 or so of the 7,000 essays juniors wrote as part our state’s writing assessment. When I got home, I turned to old books, where I often go when my sense of reality goes dim from too much devotion to the hurly burly of school.

Giambattista Vico, I read, claimed that the aim of education should be to achieve a heroic mind. A hero is one forever seeking the sublime.

He knew something of the eros of learning. Maybe he was thinking about Plato’s Cratylus and the claim that “hero” (heros) derives from love (eros), a desire to be completed that can link us to the divine. “Make your way,” Vico continues, “. . .through all three worlds, of things human, things natural, and things eternal.” He intimates that someone rapt in a long moment of learning can reach, in his yearning to be whole, the creator.

One with a heroic mind will strive to be eloquent. Through eloquence the learner avoids being alone in wisdom, which would be to fall into foolishness. Wisdom requires eloquence—and “eloquence is none other than wisdom speaking.” It is the binding together of heart and tongue, and its work is to draw us into each other.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2008 Michael L. Umphrey

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