Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ignorance, blitzed

Early this morning the river was shrouded by pink-tinted fog, like a massive bank of cotton candy or a wall of fluffy insulation. Was it a trick of the light or evidence of pollution? When I drive home in the evening and note the brilliant orange sky beyond the coal-fired power plant, I don't like to think about the airborne particulates responsible for that tint.

Too much knowledge might have polluted my aesthetic experience, so I chose ignorance--but then I came to campus and spent the morning stamping out ignorance. I made my students read a mess of poems and look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary and then write about what they'd learned. Right: no more reading right past the words you don't know. Get to know your language! Figure out how it works!

Then after spending an hour leading students through analysis of diction in poems, I put them to the test. "Take out a piece of paper and a writing implement," I said, to which a student responded, "I don't know what that means." I wanted to say "Look it up!" but we don't have a dictionary in the classroom.

As I often tell my colleagues, it's a good thing ignorance is a renewable resource. Otherwise, we'd all be out of a job.


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