Monday, February 20, 2006

Something Most of Us Do Not Do Anymore

A recent post on Eideneurolearning reminded me of something that is obvious once one thinks about it, but is very easy to overlook about modern society. We, in general, do not write much anymore. The average high school student struggles temendously to think of topics when given the chance to write about what they want (and they certainly complain when topcs are given to them after such a struggle). The Eides comment that Abraham Lincoln read everything he had the chance to, and wrote about a tremendous number of topics as he grew up. Some historians have commented that this helped him determine his values and politics, as he actually took time to reflect on what he had read and what his initial thoughts were. I certainly do not see many students doing anything remotely like this, but it is a good strategy for 'finding oneself,' certainly with one's thoughts and shaping opinions. This is largely why I take the time to post anything on the blogosphere, particularly politically oriented topics. It helps me to see some thoughts in print so I can reflect on them, and perhaps discover some new angle or point of view which, prior to the process, was not at all obvious to me. I also enjoy any comments from others who have taken the time to consider certain topics. The other reason I post at all is to share some items and discoveries I personally find interesting.

Writing about what one has read or observed and taking the time for personal reflection seems to be a lost art and strategy, and one that educators may want to keep in mind and have students do from time to time in order to develop their own opinions based on information gathered from other wise and intelligent people. It is increasingly important now that students get a large amount of their research information from the Internet, where the vast majority of material, including the blogosphere, is unreliable in the sense that the material is not peer reviewed. Some times experts have difficulty finding accurate and reliable sites about new topics that are online, so how can we possibly expect nonexperts to find good information? Students are quickly forming the opinion that if it is online it is trustworthy, and that is a potentially dangerous system to have when it comes to research for academic purposes. Reflection about what one reads online is important, and finding multiple sources to doublecheck information and data needs to be emphasized in this online age.

ADDENDUM: Not only are the Eides thinking of this, but Zenpundit's latest also touches on writing and introspection, etc. Check it out.


Erica said...
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Erica said...

I think it's important to recognize that writing is the not only way for people to reflect on and process things they learn. Being a highly inarticulate person, I generally reflect on things by creating relevant visual art or music-- I find that this is much more helpful to me than trying to verbalize things that are difficult to understand without having to translate them into a medium with which I am not comfortable (i.e. words). I don't have much of a basis for saying this, but I think it's likely that this is the case for some other artsy people as well.

Personally, I think that reflection through media other than words is highly under-stressed in our society and education system. If you're worried about people not expressing themselves verbally, think about how much people neglect the other means of self-expression and reflection available to us.

vonny said...


This is a very important point you bring up. I'm thinking in terms of a way of getting more people to consider reflection of ideas, and writing seems like the way that a majority of people would feel comfortable doing. I don't mean to neglect other ways of doing so, and in fact when I was heavily into music, that was a way to relax and ponder various ideas.

mark said...

Nice point erica. I think there's strong evidence from brain research that you are correct. I'm pretty sure the Drs. Eide would agree with you too. I'd add that your technique would also help even those who have a great facility with words by forcing them to confront the information from a different perspective.

On to Von's point, commonplace books, copy books and marginalia writings in private library collections of men like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams have shed light as to their true opinions on many of the controversial topics of the day. Adams in particular was infamous for the caustic scrawl in the margin.

Daral said...
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Daral said...

Yeah, I think I've done something akin to what you describe in your post on the internet. Basically, I found my way onto 1-2 political fora online, where I would then discuss in depth issues on which I disagreed with others. In the process of carefully researching sources and reviewing the logic of my own argument (to rebut their points against it) I learned a LOT. I wouldn't be the person I am today without it.


Bob Klapetzky said...

Great post Vonny. Which philospher said a life unexamined is a life not worth living. Aristotle or Plato? Carl Sagan said that a persons writing is a reflection of the quality of their thoughts. The last one hit me hard at a young age, and motivated me to improve myself. Still working on it! lol

vonny said...


I believe it was Socrates who reached that conclusion. Anyhow,I wish I had more time to write and reflect. With two young ones at home, that time has been cut into severely. :-)