Vocalis

"Let the mind be universal. The individual should not be sacrificed." That is what Rabindranath Tagore said to H.G. Wells in Geneva, 1936. "Music of different nations has a common psychological foundation, and yet that does not mean that national music should not exist. The same thing is, in my opinion, probably true for literature." His understanding of mutual acceptance is for race pride to permit countries to accept another's culture.
Wells muses, "Perhaps in the future, when... new discoveries in science are made, we shall be conversing with one another through a common medium of speech yet undreamt of." Every time I think of a universal language, I think of The Glass Bead Game, where music is the underlying element of this "language". And to that, I add a link to a song that might answer. In all seriousness, though, Tagore highlighted the problem of there being a universal language: for it to be truly universal, none of its speakers should be denigrated, otherwise that takes away the power of their voice.
Education was a central theme in their conversation - and one posits that it is also education that may help a man find his voice. Good teachers say to students that they do not have to agree the student who nonetheless needs to present their ideas clearly, soundly. Education helps this voice by providing literature that may point out perceptions, ideas, subjects, feelings, new ways of saying things, and techniques.
I quote Kenneth Koch in Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? almost verbatim. The book may help in the teaching of cultural, historical, and personal perspectives. In one class, Kenneth introduced an abstract theme, "the way they seemed to be to others and the way they really felt deep inside themselves", then read related poems - one about a horse and a youth looking at each other in silence.
"Why not introduce them to the great poetry of the present and the past? It was a logical next step in the development of their own writing: it could give them new ideas for their poems, and it would be good in other ways" like instilling a life-long appreciation of poetry. We recognise of course that Kenneth was re-instituting an inspired variation of rhetorical and copybook exercises. 
He was not deterred by the difficult vocabulary of some of the poetry - comparable to the new words and concepts children learn to play (exciting new) games, etc, nor by difficult passages if the poem lent something wonderful, worthwhile. He did teach the "literariness" of the language of some poems but, never wanting the students to get lost in it, he also taught poets who wrote in contemporary language.
The reflection of the poems he taught in the children's poems helped him inform his choice of what to teach: "the tone of secrecy ... made me think of teaching"; "showed me a connection I had never thought of and ... that my students might find it interesting to read"...




Such attentiveness to the student, if with less "literariness" and more emphasis instead on the general story elements of Propp with a surrealist twist, may be found in Gianni Rodari's The Grammar of Fantasy. He writes of one story game that it "is not intended to bring disrespect for the printed word, although it can serve to temper the worship of the press ... In the final analysis, the invention of stories is to be taken seriously." I elaborate this 'anecdote' because one of the minds on the internet that is not allowing me to fall asleep has caused me to reconsider seeking out truthfulness in the modern, even where it may have no conscious link to the past.
Not even Rodari is without his indication of (or pointing beyond) "literariness." In my own definition, "advanced" vocabulary is to assist precision and reduce the slipperiness in conveying. Rodari doubts precision and cites Valéry: "There is not a single word that can be grasped even when we get to the bottom of it." (So much of such modern theory sounds like it is leading to chaos, which I - in my own thinking - am not a fan of, but then I remember, it may be meaning to be like the Heraclitean fragment. The benefit of reading such works from the past is the critical distance which can help those of us thinkers who are looking for that aspect of tradition to rest on.)
It is easier to observe the thoughts of others than to observe our own, which is also a comment on [critical] distance: depicted by Rodari as the closet in de Chirico's "classical landscape between olive trees and Greek temples. By 'shifting space' this way, thrown into an unrelated context, the closest became a mysterious object." In this way, it may also be easier to allow for flourish in others if they are doing it well than to be certain about the same boldness in oneself. It is important to look at other times and other cultures. Kenneth suggests that picking up feelings, themes, perspectives, etc, from established work shows us that such themes are legitimate. The full palette is to be offered the student.
So Rodari warns, "Each time when [students] take us at our word, we risk our entire authority if we hinder them from growing." I agree. An instructor is not to lord their knowledge over the student (we are all learning, after all), nor is the instructor to close the doors to learning (the openness intimated at the end of a post confiding private confessions that have released at least one reader from the personal prison of the urgency of linguistic wishes).




Allowing for the various directions and possibilities of growth does not preclude the importance of instilling ancillary skills like civility and patience. In this context I think the problems of chaos and denigration in human behaviour become most apparent - starting from how disruption impedes learning, though in these strange days it is always necessary to point out that not all schools are the same and some couldn't be dreamed of by the privileged who don't know themselves as such. Chaos and disrespect also disrupt hope and are not good stimulants for learning.
"Utopia is not any less educational than the analytical spirit," Rodari writes. "It is sufficient to transfer utopia from the world of the intellect (that Antonio Gramsci justifiably aligned with methodical pessimism) to that of the will (whose principle characteristic, according to Gramsci, must be optimism)."
My final point here is hope: it is where we began, with the hope that all cultures and people might have a voice. This vision is not chaotic because the individual at once possesses general characteristics which is what literature teaches: that however much we might differ, we share unexpected common melodiousness. This is often powerfully illustrated by history because the "shifting space" is great.
Instead, though, education is facing so much sophism, like this exchange between a government official sent to regulate mushrooming educational instutitions and their lawyer: The official said, "I could not even find the street addresses for some of them. After conducting my study, I can but say: what's happening is cultural genocide." To which the lawyer rejoined, "That you could not find the buildings shows your lack of intelligence. And where, exactly, is it written that educational institutions must be X square feet?" The minister granted it was written nowhere, but while he conceded defeat, he repeated his grim assertion.
Still, I realise now that it's mostly formal education that gets hurt in such an environment. And while things get tricky with people working longer hours for less pay, it is a fact that there is more information online than before, if one is good at mining it. For example, a person can teach themselves Greek by checking their answers using the Perseus word tool (which indicates part of speech, etc). Maybe education looks hard only if one is looking at it from the inside of an institution out.
This may be why the educator might have a different relation to the theme's treatment in the Republic, different "common psychological foundations" occur to the individual who nonetheless will always belong to the bigger picture.



Brush: Lauren Harrison. Book.

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