Our world today, one which pushes for more STEM careers, (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), closely parallels the ideas presented in the classical works we read this week. I felt that Vico especially could be speaking for today’s audiences with many of his thoughts on education. When he explains how, “in our time, the only target of our intellectual endeavors is truth, we devote all our efforts to the investigation of physical phenomena, because their nature seems unambiguous; but we fail to inquire into human nature which, because of the freedom of man’s will, is difficult to determine” (871), it seemed to me that his concerns are still relevant today. We push for science and let the Humanities fall to the wayside, which has a major impact on society – we need both for society to progress in the right direction. In the same way I thought Locke’s belief that “there is no knowledge of things conveyed by men’s words, when their ideas agree not to the reality of things” (825). Both of these thoughts connect with what Patrick Hartwell is trying to explain, that our teaching of English grammar is dated and just doesn’t work – and how, rather than grammar instruction, “any form of active involvement with language would be preferable to instruction in rules or definitions” (226).
Although, I must admit, while reading Hartwell’s essay I kept asking myself “Well, how the heck are we supposed to teach writing!?”, but I felt reassured by the end when he emphasized a “model [that] places language, at all levels, at the center of the curriculum, but not as ‘necessary categories and labels’… but as literal stuff, verbal clay, to be molded and probed, and shaped and reshaped, and, above all, enjoyed” (226). This rang true for me. I think enjoyment might be essential to molding good writers. Grammar is not enjoyable (for me) and I feel it tries to force English and, perhaps, language in general into these rigid rules, and scientific/mathematical categories. Why have we ignored so many studies that show that the teaching of grammar doesn't help and how, in fact, “subjects given the ‘rules of the language’ do much less well in acquiring the rules than do subjects not given the rules” (218). It seems that we should lean more towards Locke’s notion that the idea is more important, and “words having naturally no signification, the idea which each stands for must be learned and retained, by those who would exchange thoughts, and hold intelligible discourse with others” (818). Maybe a remodeling of English education should emphasize discourse and a wide exposure to literature – through modeling great writers and teaching people to think, I feel that a person will want to find the best way to articulate their thoughts naturally, closer to how we learn language from the start. I am not opposed to teaching grammar, but maybe instead it could emphasize more of a history of grammar – a history of the English language - and how it’s morphed through the centuries and ended up as we have it today. Many of my favorite authors throw grammar to the wind and it doesn't seem fair to push and require a comprehension of grammatical rules on students when, in all actuality, it doesn't help them learn how to write.