Monday, August 3, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (4)


CHAPTER 3: LITERATURE REVIEW (part 4)

Neil Postman’s Challenge to Post-Modern Educators (cont'd)

Images can both reflect and change a culture – Bambi and Sex and the City are prime examples. But what do they do to equip the culture to intelligently understand the teachings of the church and to unwaveringly obey a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts?

Postman gives a myriad of both Christian, non-Christian, fictional, and non-fictional uses of image to make the case that an image-based culture robs us of the ability to think abstractly. Most of his other books, including The End of Education, challenge our cultural leaders to address similar topics.

Children’s Literature – History of American School Lessons

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about a grammar test she had to pass in the late 1800s when she was a teenager in order to teach in a one-room school house in her book Little Town on the Prairie.

She was asked to parse the sentence “I saw an eagle,” and she replied, “‘I’ is the personal pronoun, first person singular, here used as the subject of the verb ‘saw’, past tense of the transitive verb ‘to see.’ ‘Saw’ takes as its object the common generic noun, ‘eagle,’ modified by the singular article, ‘an.’”(1)

A similar passage comes from Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farm in a conversation between Miss Dearborn, a country schoolteacher, and Rebecca, who was in third grade.

Miss Dearborn begins, “Now let’s have our conjugations. Give me the verb ‘to be’, potential mood, past perfect tense.” Rebecca responds, “I might have been, Thou mightst have been, He might have been, We might have been, You might have been, They might have been.” The exchange continues:
‘Give me an example, please.’
‘I might have been glad. Thou mightst have been glad. He, she, or it might have been glad.’
‘“He” or “she” might have been glad because they are masculine and feminine, but could “it” have been glad?’ asked Miss Dearborn, who was very fond of splitting hairs.
‘Why not?’ asked Rebecca.
‘Because “it” is neuter gender.’
‘Couldn’t we say, “The kitten might have been glad if it had known it was not going to be drowned”?’(2)
Even though Rebecca is fictional, the author wrote the book with the expectation that nine-year-old girls would be able to appreciate Rebecca’s dilemma.

Modern nine year-old girls have never heard of conjugating. Modern American students are no longer taught how to parse an English sentence. The inability to parse in English makes one unable to discover author’s intent from the Greek or Hebrew in Bible studies.


(1) Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie (New York: Harper Trophy, 1971), 303-4.
(2) Kate Douglas Wiggin, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (New York: Tor Books, 1999), 42.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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