Saturday, June 08, 2013

`Getting Pretty Good at Botany'

“I learned early on that what I wanted to know wasn't what I was being taught.” 

School’s out again. My 12-year-old just finished reading World War Z, a zombie novel by Max Brooks, and Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera, and has moved on to a first reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Last week it was a Jack London collection, including the obligatory “To Build a Fire,” and Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat. This was his last year in public school. While in seventh grade, he met no one, student or teacher, who reads when not under duress to do so. He customarily has two or three books at a time underway. The only people with whom he can talk about what he’s reading are his parents – not out of shyness or shame but out of an unwillingness to deal with blank-eyed bafflement. 

“And then I made the discovery that what I liked in reading was to learn things I didn’t know.” 

[The quoted passage at the top is from Guy Davenport’s interview with The Paris Review. The one at the bottom is from his essay “On Reading” in The Hunter Gracchus (1996). In the same essay he writes: “If, now, I had at my disposal as a teacher only what I learned from the formalities of education, I could not possibly be a university professor. I wouldn’t know anything. I am at least still trying. I’ve kept most of my textbooks and still read them (and am getting pretty good at botany).”]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like you to look at and discuss this with your son.

I am thinking that my own experiences as a gifted student are probably triggering my reaction to your words.

The ability and the wish to read is NOT a status symbol. It is NOT a reason for snobbery and a judgement that others that may not appear to be like you are somehow less-than.

If I taste a bite of food and you taste a bite of food, we will both have immediate feelings and perceptions of that same food item. This difference means nothing.

I had to learn the hard way that the other girls who wanted to play with barbies and talk about dolls, and could not speak to me of philosophy and biochemistry journals (written in a foreign language), were not stupid. They had things that I could not understand and I felt that I had nothing to learn from those not in my target of interest. I have since learned that every human person has something to learn and something to teach.

It is just as important to learn to communicate and to engage with other humans, and to meet people where they are.

If you wish to speak with me about a topic an author interested you in, then do. Share of self, the returns are amazing.