4.0549 Misc. on ideas, writing, disciplines ... (7/238)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 1 Oct 90 22:05:54 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0549. Monday, 1 Oct 1990.

(1) Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 20:40:29 EDT (26 lines)
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0535 Musings: Disciplines, Universities & Education

(2) Date: Fri, 28 Sep 90 11:49 EST (46 lines)
Subject: Writing ill

(3) Date: Fri, 28 Sep 1990 17:50:32 EDT (34 lines)
Subject: RE: 4.0524 "Educationist"?

(4) Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 20:16:26 EDT (34 lines)
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0532 Education and Writing

(5) Date: Fri, 28 Sep 90 16:32 GMT (9 lines)
Subject: RE: 4.0527 On the Nature of Universities

(6) Date: Sun, 30 Sep 90 14:54:32 EDT (55 lines)
From: "Adam C. Engst" <PV9Y@CORNELLA>
Subject: Re: 4.0535 Musings: Disciplines, Universities & Education

(7) Date: Sun, 30 Sep 90 15:29 EST (34 lines)
Subject: ahem..

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 20:40:29 EDT
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0535 Musings: Disciplines, Universities & Education

re: New Ideas

I'm game. One new idea from Social Psychology is the notion of
spontaneous processes. Categorizing (stereotyping if you like)
people, assuming actions are intended (we call it the Fundamental
Attribution Error), and self-generated attitude change are some
examples of spontaneous processes. As a result of the way in which
we organize information, categorical responses and blaming others
are results of mental processes that *cannot be avoided*. We can
only revise or correct such thoughts after they have been activated.
The notion of spontaneous processes seems to be a promising way
in which to stem (but not eliminate) various "isms" (race, sex,
elite--take your pick). Categorization seems to be an inevitable
aspect of human thought, which is not an apology for prejudice
but instead a step toward understanding how to help people prevent
acting upon (discrimination) categorical thinking (prejudice).

Frank Dane, Mercer University

P.S. No fair counting anything attributed to Aristotle when attempting
to assess the novelty of ideas. Otherwise, we might as well
forego the game.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------50----
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 90 11:49 EST
Subject: Writing ill

I'm afraid I'm not up to Sheldon Richmond's challenge to
contribute to a list of ten new ideas although I probably
would not be too hard pressed to come up with any number of
ideas whose most recent proponents >think< are new.

The quality of writing in the humanities is another
question. For those of us who have spent a considerable
portion of our lives trying to impress upon students the
desirability of clarity in their writing, it is more than a
little discouraging to see the publish and flourish sanction
awarded to those whose prose is characterized by turgidity,
obscurity, obfuscation, jargon (in its worst sense),
neologic puffery not to mention dys-, caco-, and phoney- (or
is the new word "faux"?) phony.

(**Insert**) Disclaimer. Of course, I know, as Alexander
Wolcott said, "One man's Mede is another man's Persian." We
may not always agree on what is good and what is bad
writing, but applying community standards, etc., when we see
it....End disclaimer.

One (and I emphasize it is only one) reason for bad writing
in English studies seems to me to be the desire to ground
such studies in a "respectable" context (I should, of
course, say paradigm). Intellectual respectability depends
upon a philosophical/scientific base for one's pronouncements
(or "positionings"). And we all know philosophy and real
(whether physical or social) science is hard to read.
Clarity is, at best, suspect.

Lest this become too long, let me just add my own sadness at
a development that is perhaps cause and/or effect,
antecedent and/or consequence of the above, viz., the fact
that "humanism" has become a dirty word and that to have one's
work labelled (as a colleague's was) "broadly humanistic" is
the kiss of death.

John Dorenkamp
Holy Cross College

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------45----
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 1990 17:50:32 EDT
Subject: RE: 4.0524 "Educationist"? (1/99)

For a professor of education--not an educationist--to take up the
cudgels for his own field in the face of "infantile" generalizations
[Thanks to Professor TeBrake] about the quality of the writing in that
field seems a bit too self serving to be worth the while, but I am
reminded of the favorite aphorism of one of my professors when
confronted by generalizations of this sort: All Indians walk single
file, or at least the one I saw did.

And I accept Sheldon Richmond's challenge. I defy anyone to rewrite
Book I-- "Foundations of a Theory of Symbolic Violence"--of Bourdieu and
Passeron's _Reproduction_in_Education,_Society,_ and_Culture_. I have
used this in my seminar Curriculum [plural=curricula] and Social Control
for several years, and although my students complain about their [B&P's]
recondite prose, after mastering the content of the material, no one has
ever been able to reduce the abstractions therein to simple or even
ordinary English.

And last, confronted by Dirk Jellema's claim that "educationist" was at
least 150 years old, I retreated to the OED and discovered a citation
from 1829, as well as one for "educationalist" from 1857. There does
not appear to be any pejorative intent in either word.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* Tom Rusk Vickery, 265 Huntington Hall *
* Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340 *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

(4) --------------------------------------------------------------42----
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 90 20:16:26 EDT
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0532 Education and Writing (3/82)

Now see here! It's one thing to read with amusement attacks on the
writing being produced by Educationists (or whatever we may call them).
It's entirely different when Junger and Knox begin to include the
social sciences, and specifically Psychology, in the same category.

Clearly, the information bits that comprise the prototypes concerning
the production of verbalizations of episodic memory differs between
Education and Psychology. The transformation of conceptual codes
into motor coordination is a complex process, one ought not to be
assaulted verbally by those familiar only with the output phase of
the process rather than the cognitive algorythms that govern the
exchange of information. Thus, it can easily be demonstrated through
sufficient methodological constraint that the inculcation of techniques
for advancing the metatheoretical understanding of the learning
process in formal settings is best served via exchange of information
that requires considerable encoding, but the same applied to learning
in general is sufficiently simple to be understood by the average,
random sample of the population.

That is, do we not all have sufficient jargon within our disciplines
to make it difficult for outsiders, even well-educated outsiders, to
understand what we are writing about? Grammatik IV insists I change
"concept" to idea, but how can one write about theory without using
the word concept? We should all decry inflated writing, but let us not
assume that precise writing that is not immediately understood is
necessarily inflation. Then again, I never did like looking at
T.A.T. cards, let alone those idiotic Rorschach blots.

Unguiltily Yours,
Frank Dane, Mercer University
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------19----
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 90 16:32 GMT
Subject: RE: 4.0527 On the Nature of Universities (1/66)

Thanks, Norman, for the terrific Rosh Hashanah, or was it Yoma
Kippur, sermon. I enjoyed it immensely, though I would surely
make the same comments about Classics that I would about
Sociology, for I cannot imagine priviledging one over theli
(6) --------------------------------------------------------------63----
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 90 14:54:32 EDT
From: "Adam C. Engst" <PV9Y@CORNELLA>
Subject: Re: 4.0535 Musings: Disciplines, Universities & Education

Jargon & New Ideas: Soon to be a major motion picture!

As a computer consultant and writer I run into the jargon problem quite
often because I teach novices how to use computer hardware and software
and have to bring the language into their linguistic realm. In an adult
education course I was teaching recently, one student remarked that memory
was a poor term for RAM, since it went away whenever the computer is
turned off, unlike human memory (let's not get into the meaning of "turned
off" for humans, though :-)). Computer jargon, as with other lingui-jargons
I know, also tends towards the use, abuse, and overabuse of the acronym. The
construct of the acronym frequently cannot be deduced, making the term seem
even more foreign.

Yet, with all the negative parts of lingui-jargons they remain a necessity.
How else can a new idea work its way into popular culture? The facsimile
machine, for instance, has a reasonable name - it makes facsimiles of
papers. When popular culture gets the term, though, it is truncated to the
ubiquitous "fax" - misspelling and all. It bothers me, though not as much as
words whose "c's" are replaced with "k's". Part of the problem in English
may be the relative difficulty of creating new words. In German or Greek,
both of which can easily create new words from clumps of other, smaller
words, new words are not such a theoretical problem (though my linguistic
experience is too limited to say whether or not this really happens all
that often).

Whatever the linguistic process or necessity, jargon is here to stay. Clients
of mine complain when I use computer terms they don't know, but then they
blithely reel off acronyms like OCLC, RLIN, LC, and the like. My mother works
in Cornell's library system, so I do know these particularl ones, but many
others I have no idea about. I once asked what OCLC stood for and stumped
several library people for about 15 minutes because to them, it's just OCLC,
it doesn't stand for anything. Same thing with RAM for me.

Regarding new ideas, I propose the idea of electronic fiction in which the
machine is an active participant in the reading process, facilitating the
reader's passage through parts of the text, limiting that same passage at
other times. I suppose it isn't necessarily all that different from an epic
poet, though there are a number of radical differences even still. The idea
that the machine is not merely a storage space or display unit, but an active
helper (perhaps through the work of a human programmer) seems new to me, but
then again I ditched a number of majors at Cornell because I wasn't going to
be able to do original work until senior year or grad school or even later.

Just some various musings (now there's a word loaded with etymological
connotations :-))


Adam C. Engst pv9y@cornella.cit.cornell.edu
Editor of TidBITS, the weekly electronic journal for the Macintosh.
(7) --------------------------------------------------------------39----
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 90 15:29 EST
Subject: ahem..

The following is the first sentence of the first paragraph, etc., etc.
of the new electronic journal Postmodern Culture. To which I extend my
best wishes for a long and happy life.

Postmodernist discourses are often exclusionary

even when, having been accused of lacking concrete

relevance, they call attention to and appropriate the

experience of "difference" and "otherness" in order to

provide themselves with oppositional political meaning,

legitimacy, and immediacy.

The sentence was chosen only because a) it was right there on page one and
b) it didn't have to be copied.

Now then. I am morally certain that there is purpose and meaning somewhere
in that prose, but I am determined no longer to break my teeth trying to
decode it. We were discussing bilingualism not long ago, but I don't recall
any mention of the possibility of two tongues in one.

I invite Peter Junger to venture a guess as to what Malcolm Cowley would
have said about _this_ kind of writing. And I invite everyone to enter the
competition for the Isaiah Berlin (or if the winner prefers Mark Twain) prize
by translating the sentence above into plain text. C. Wright Mills did it once
for Talcott Parsons; humanists can surely do as well. The prize? As Chico
Marx answered when asked what was trump, "You'll find out".