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EDUCATION AND LEARNING

 BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“The thesaurus or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words . . . often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea . . . fitly and aptly . . .” [Wikipedia]

. . .

When I began teaching so many long, long years ago (1963), my first classes were with 9th graders.  I taught at an all-boys Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago.  I was as new in the classroom as they were, though eight years differing in age; yet I had the degree, the suit coat, and the tie.

I always worked hard on my lesson plans, studied hard to teach the grammar exercises and literature requirements, and all the other peripherals that accompany “Language in Thought and Action.”  Plus, a novel or two each semester (Call of the Wild, Life on the Mississippi. . .).

One of my “bestest” vocabulary-building exercises, reserved for eager-to-be-dismissed Friday afternoon students–or held in reserve for those awful condensed classes before pep rallies–was my “Roget’s.”

So simple.  Somewhat baby-ish busy work (isn’t that what I needed?  quiet time busy work?)

I distributed white three-holed college-ruled paper.

Each student (40 in a class–I had five classes) had a paperback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus [in dictionary format].  (I bought them at a discount for my classroom, as I recall, a few at a time.  Some eager students purchased their own copies.)

“Close your eyes.  Open your book anywhere.  Keep your eyes closed.  Run your finger down the page.  Stop.”

“Take your pencil or pen and begin to copy the MAIN word under your finger, then copy all the words that are under it.  Then go to ‘See also,’ and continue copying.”

“See also.”

And they could never finish before the bell, before they ran to the buses or to the gym, or to the football field or to the auditorium–or wherever.

Let’s see.  Running my finger down the page of my vade-mecum (!) Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form (hardcover, of course!), with over 17,000 individual entries, edited by Norman Lewis © 1959 Putnam’s, I open to

BOREDOM           

boredom, tedium, lack of interest, ennui, doldrums, weariness, world-weariness [pandemic?]; jadedness, apathy, lethargy, languor, lassitude, listlessness; detachment [Covid-19?], indifference,  incuriosity, unconcern [W.H.O.?], monotony, dullness {new cases, new cases, new cases?]; prosaism, vapidity, platitude, weary, pall [latest number of deaths?]; tire of, tired, blasé, perfunctory, tepid, lukewarm, monotonous, dull . . .

See also FATIGUE . . .  See also BOREDOM, INACTIVITY, REST, WEARINESS [hospitalizations?] . . .   spent, worn out, succumb . . .

. . .

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869): British physician, natural theologian, lexicographer, created the English-language thesaurus in 1805 (released to the public in April 1852).

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  JULY 2020

 

 

 

 

BY:  JAMES F. O’NEIL

Omne agens agit propter finem.  “Every agent [doer] acts for an end.” —Scholastic Philosophy Principle

I bought another Latin book.  I couldn’t help it.  My wife thinks I am obsessed.  “You’re obsessed.”  OBSESS = to preoccupy the mind; to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic [from the Latin ob + sedere: to sit, beset, occupy].  OBSESSION = compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion (often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety); a compulsive, often unreasonable idea, or emotion.

I wrote on 11-30-2018 “Everybody’s Dead Language: Latinity” –that I was still Latinized (q.v. = “which see”:  https://memoriesofatime.blog/2018/11/30/everybodys-dead-language-latinity/).  I also cited in that blog “How’s Your Latin?  Or, Sleeping with the Enemy”: https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/11/08/hows-your-latin-or-sleeping-with-the-enemy/  which I posted on 11-08-2013. 

Now I don’t go around in my life obsessed with Latin or searching for Latinity.  Really?  Mens sana in corpore sano.  “A healthy mind in a healthy body” wrote Juvenal.

* * *

I was visiting Pewaukee, Wisconsin, celebrating my sister’s 80th birthday.  One thing we did was she had me take her to her favorite re-sale store, Saint Vincent De Paul.

 

 

She told me of its generous book section.  Oh, yes!  I devoured the eye-candy of pages and book covers, shelves, and shelves: fiction, history, geography, biography, and much more.

Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.  “Whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.” –Aquinas.  I was ready to receive: I was in a good mood, looking through the books for sale.  Then, to my obsessive-compulsive delight, I glommed onto Second Latin.

Oooh, I had to have that nearly pristine copy, for $1.09.  A second-year Latin grammar course book for those who needed “to intelligently read Latin textbooks of philosophy, theology, and canon law.”  I did that many years ago.  Why not review for old times’ sake?  I looked around for its companion copy, Latin Grammar; but, alas, it wasn’t to be found there.

When I returned home, I searched online: “Used.  Like new.”  “The aim and scope of Scanlon’s Latin Grammar are to prepare those with no previous knowledge of Latin to read the Missal and Breviary with reasonable facility.  Unlike most First Year Latin textbooks, it is not an introduction to the reading of Caesar.”  I placed an order.

* * *

Sic transit Gloria mundi.  “Thus passes the glory of the world.”  –Anon

At home: Once more I pulled out the black cardboard file box from my bookshelf.  Once more I fingered the Manila folders: my teacher certification materials; copies of letters of recommendation; hiring letters and contracts.  And there my high school, college, and graduate school course transcripts noting Latin Composition, Horace Odes and Epodes, Cicero’s Letters, Patristic Latin, Survey of Latin Literature, and something called Advanced Latin Reading.

Where did all that Latin take me?  I read, memorized, and learned.  I remember and retain some–enough–to make my way:  De gustibus non disputandum est.  “There can be no dispute in matters of taste.” –Anon.  Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.  “Remember, man, you are dust, and into dust you shall return.” –Roman Catholic, Ash Wednesday Ritual.  Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu. “It’s good because it is integrally good, but it is ‘evil’ by way of any defect.”   Dionysius/Aquinas.  Bis vivit qui bene vivit.  “He lives twice who lives well.” –Anon.  Omnia vincit amor.  Amor vincit omnia.  “Love conquers all.” –Virgil

Blogging about my Latin experiences has certainly borne out my theme of memoriesofatime.  My blogging is a show-n-tell experience, a revealing that is most often a delight, letting others in on the story.  But aside from telling about my Life of Latinity, what about these new Latin books?  Cui bono?  “What good?”  Into my library, of course.   There they will remain, ready.  (“They also serve who only stand and wait.” –Milton)  

 

“I KNOW IT’S IN HERE SOMEWHERE!”

And that’s it.  For, as they say, Quod scripsi, scripsi.

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  2019

ADDENDUM/ADDENDA

In 1993, I found the Latin Phrase Book (1990 Rpt. of 1982 ed.).  A Longwood Academic reprint book, a translation (1894) by H. W. Auden of Fettes College (Edinburgh)–not W. H. Auden, the poet–from the sixth German edition of Lateinische Phraseologie by Professor Carl Meissner, organized into seventeen topics, with Latin and English indices.  This fascinating book was compiled to “help boys–not girls? –to some knowledge of Latinity in a short time . . .”  A most delightful, resourceful, and difficult book to work with–but to have . . .

Jon R. Stone attempted to “exorcise the ghosts of a Dead Language” with Latin for the Illiterati (Routledge, 1996, 2009).  A reference work, not a dictionary, but rather “a compendium of words, expressions, familiar sayings, abbreviations, with an English-Latin Index.  Pages of abbreviations (which is quite good).  This book sometimes shouts out to me, “Fac ut gaudeam!” “Make my day!

A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin by John F. Collins (Catholic U. of America, 1985) is a book I wish I had in my young hands in 1955.  How it makes so much sense to study the language of philosophy, theology, prayer, and liturgy.  While we were engaged in those subjects, we were still learning and reading the Latin of Cicero and Horace, not that of Jerome or the writings of Scripture.  In this book, the vocabulary, readings, and exercises all are relevant “Church” Latin.  “The chief aim of this text is to give the student–within a year of study–the ability to read ecclesiastical Latin.”

Cora Scanlon and Charles Scanlon wrote one text in 1944 (Latin Grammar) for different groups of users of Church Latin: seminarians, religious novitiates, and other daily users of the Latin Roman Missal.  The book was reprinted in 1976.  That same year they published a reprint of their 1948 text Second Latin.  This work is for second-year students who will study Church philosophy and theology.  The first text has a 125-page vocabulary-dictionary.  Both works make me sad: that I/we did not have them made available to us when learning our Latin prayers and beginning our Latin studies.

My New Latin Grammar by Charles E. Bennett is the 1957 edition.  The first edition, “presenting the essential facts of Latin grammar in a direct and simple manner,” dates to 1894.  (Allyn & Bacon, 1957 [1895, 1908, 1918]).  My third-year Latin book–my junior year in high school.  In sophomore year we used a book called the Epitome, a Latin edition of the book of Genesis.  (I learned then that the Creation of Adam began in 4004 B.C. . . .).

 

Descriptive

NEW [1894] LATIN GRAMMAR

-30-

By James F. O’Neil

“To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar. . .   Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.  Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be digested. . . .  Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. . . .”  –“Of Studies,” Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

+ + +

My first research paper, as I re-call, was finding out about Scotland.  This search had to be started in sixth or seventh grade.  I discovered lakes, cities, and climate–and probably something about wool, whiskey, and politics.  I had only the encyclopedia: that’s all we had back then.  I learned the basics from that first paper.  (I have often referred to that kind of paper as “The Switzerland Paper”: about banks, lakes, and chocolates.  And that is basic.)

swiss chololate

SOME SWISS CHOCOLATE

During high school, I am sure I wrote a few research papers (“term papers”); but I recollect one in particular for an education class: I wrote about Friedrich Froebel and the founding of the kindergarten.  I may have had eight or ten sources.  Yet what I do remember more than anything else–not the long hours writing nor the time-consuming typing on my portable 1955 (manual) Underwood typewriter nor the submitting the paper, but the thrill of being in a library, a great library, doing serious research.  I delighted being in the Chicago Public Library (downtown) and also at the Newberry Library, a special place for researchers then over age sixteen. 

newberry library chicago wikipedia

NEWBERRY LIBRARY, CHICAGO 

Throughout college, the papers came and went, and on into graduate school and post graduate work: papers, papers, papers: Shakespeare, sonnets, Jesus and school administration, Arthurian romances, the G.I. Bill, teachers and in-service activities, manic depression and school administrators, chaos and adultery, public service, the aorist tense in Greek, “Poe the Philosopher,” water symbolism in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–and more, many more.

Some papers I hated as chores; most I loved as opportunities for knowledge and writing experience.  From this, despite the grade and the time spent, I learned time-use, planning, and library skills.  More than that, I learned organizational skills and meeting deadlines.  All this was not easy; learning sometimes hurts.  (And, I am sure, there were tears of frustration–but never a late paper.)

From this, I also developed a sense of researching–and my three questions: What do I already know?  What do I want to know?  And, What do I need to know?  Where those questions came from, I do not know.  But they have always worked for me.

Of course, I had to learn documentation skills: “the old Turabian” was all we had back then.  And I learned it–and even wrote a little research handbook for students.  Now MLA, APA, and OWL far exceed anything we had–but so has the amount of knowledge increased, with electronic access to this knowledge.  How lucky I am now to see this, to use this, to be a part of global knowledge and learning.  “I just love the Internet!”

But the smell of books, walking the stacks, sitting and reading and taking notes in England at the Cambridge University Library, or at the US Library of Congress, the libraries at the University of Minnesota, and in any small-town public library does more for me than sitting at the computer, drinking coffee, doing a Google Search.  “I love the smell of a musty book in the morning!”  Nothing like doing research . . . But I found that it takes heart, organizational skills, and a sense of the past: where I came from, where I have been, what I have done.  All this enters into my questions: What am I doing this for?  What do I want out of this?  To me, that is what doing research is all about.  “What’s it to me?”

Having done professional stained-glass work, I learned the most difficult aspect of craftsmanship was not cutting the glass, not the pattern making, not the assembly–no matter how large or small the project–but choosing the right glass, the right textures, the right colors. 

glass Ready for Foil

GLASS RESTORATION PROJECT: CUT AND READY FOR COPPER FOIL, THEN SOLDER

Choosing the right glass is likened to the most difficult aspect of doing a research project: choosing the right topic.  “Choice of topic: the hardest part of all,” I say. 

I have never chosen anything dumb or stupid; I have chosen (for the most part) wisely.  Not everything came back an A, of course.  Can’t have all A’s.  But can’t have all gold medals, can’t always win the Super Bowl, can’t always be #1, and can’t always be perfect.  However, I have learned I can do my best, and have that sense of accomplishment (relief?) when I submit the project.  AHHH!  Done.  And on to the next, for there is always a next–no matter how big or small, no matter in school or on the job: “Look this up for me, will ya’?”  “You have a paper due . . .”  “I need to find . . . Can you help?”  “As a member of this parent-teacher committee, . . . ”

“Hafta’ what?”  Know facts.  Document.  Have opinions.  Present feelings.  Solve problems.  Search.  Learn.  And make a presentation: to the family, a board, a committee, a boss, a reading club, a course instructor, a hearing officer, a judge–on and on and on.  There is no easy way.  And it all begins with the basics, with “My Switzerland Paper.” 

And these are my thoughts today on doing research.

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2019  

PS: All of the above is rated at the 6th grade reading level: my computer figured that out; but I used to know how to do it without the computer.  I researched it . . .    

PPS: I was once told that a “good” 1500-word paper takes about 40 hours–plus typing–from choosing the topic to the last bit of punctuation.  (Getting it right takes time.)

 

 

BY JAMES F O’NEIL

“To be educated is to know how much one wishes to know and to have the courage not to be tempted beyond that limit.  [ . . . culture] teaches that there is much one does not want to know.”  –Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990) in The Ideal of Culture by Joseph Epstein (Axios 2018)

English philosopher and political theorist, Michael Oakeshott wrote about philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics; philosophy of education and philosophy of law.  He was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics, and was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.  He was the author of many works, including Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, On History and Other Essays, and The Voice of Liberal Learning.

Some of my high school classmates and I in the past year had an opportunity to comment upon what we thought of our education, curriculum, and teachers.  The results were overwhelmingly positive towards our liberal arts education and the courses we were enrolled in.  My transcript reads like a medieval or Renaissance Trivium or Quadrivium Liberal Arts Program: grammar, logic, rhetoric; and arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy (well, not much astronomy).

Now when I look back, our Liberal Arts curriculum was, to some extent, “lofty,” compared with that of students in other schools (like Lane Tech in Chicago)–those studying “practical arts”–or studying architecture.  (Some might have been attending private schools for pre-med, heavy on science and medicine.)

After four years, then, I graduated with a transcript heavily loaded with Latin, Greek, writing, reading, some science, history, music.  Some faculty believed that our course of study would have as an end purpose to “create” “cultured gentlemen.”  Some of my classmates, remembering these days and years, 1955-1959, more than fifty years ago, agree with their feeling of being “cultured.”

“To be cultured ideal of cultureimplies a certain roundedness of knowledge and interests . . . [yet] no one is fully rounded . . . fully cultured . . . and . . . culture, itself, remains an ideal . . . still worth pursuing. A cultured person has a standard, a recollection, through literature and history and philosophy . . . of greatness.  The cultured . . . insofar as possible, restrict themselves to knowing what is genuinely worth knowing.”  — Joseph Epstein, The Ideal of Culture

 

 

And what, at the end of four years of high school, did I have?  What did I receive, what could I do?  For one, I was self-taught in many areas: I did not know how to type (I still have not yet mastered a keyboard!), and had to teach myself.  I never learned in a classroom how to fix my lawnmower, but did install a carburetor on my ’54 Ford, and a water pump and generator on my ’57 Olds “Love Buggy.”  I had Chilton’s to help me there; reading was essential, and following directions required.

chilton's 1954-1963

CHILTON’S AUTO REPAIR MANUAL

I never played football (no football team), was a horrible basketball player (I did dribble and drool, however, from time to time); a little swimming, running, and gymnastics from gym class.  Some wrestling (heavyweight).

Nevertheless, I was able to read and speak some German; translate Cicero and Horace and some other Latin literature; and read Plato, Homer, St. Paul, and other Christian writers in Greek.  (So much of that now is “Lost in translation”: I cannot do it.)  I belonged to a Book Club, and read from a list of Summer Reading each year (complete with Book Reports submitted).  (Is there a magic list of books out there that guarantees “cultural literacy”?)  And read [“red”] and read [“red”] and wrote.

I remember so admiring some of my teachers, my favorites, as “cultured gentlemen.”  How did they know so much?  Be so smart?  Teach music, then Greek?  Play the piano, and read and teach and speak Latin?  Such talents.  Teach us writing skills in one class, German conversation in another.  Religion and Spirituality (Catholic school) in one class, then English composition in another.  Some were my models, my heroes, and one or two my “saints” who let goodness and worth and value shine through.  And then it was over. Graduation.

“Off we go!”  No military service.  Into college I went: liberal arts: English major, philosophy and education minors: 143 credit hours.  More “liberal education” (I’m known in the Alumni Directory as “James F. O’Neil BA, LAS ’64”: Liberal Arts and Sciences.)  Then after a few part-time jobs while I was “finding myself,” a full-time teaching job in a boys’ high school, English, of course.  Then a few years later (after my MA ’66), teaching English as a career in college settings: Am Lit I, Comp 101 (never the Romantics; no one wanted Milton and the Eighteenth Century: “I’ll do it.”). Maybe after a few years, nearing tenure, a course in Contemporary Novel.  After a while, I moved on . . .

After years in a community college position, getting quite adept at teaching technical writing to nursing students, police officers, business majors, and others in Associate in Science programs, I got a call to “come up to the majors.”

“Do you have what it takes?” asked one.  “It will require much preparation,” another cautioned.  “You seem to be qualified from your credentials and your experience,” the Dean remarked.  “We could use you this next term while Professor XYZ takes a leave.  Are you interested?”  “I say ‘Yes.’  I’m in.”  Thus began my new life as a teacher of humanities, for some years, for a while at least–until I retired.

* * *

Our textbook, for years: CULTURE AND VALUES: A SURVEY OF THE HUMANITIES, Ninth Edition: This text takes you on a tour of some of the world’s most interesting and significant examples of art, music, philosophy, and literature, from the beginnings of civilization to today.  Chapter previews, timelines, glossaries of key terms, Compare + Contrast, new Connections and Culture & Society features, and “Big Picture” reviews all help make it easy for you to learn the material and study more effectively.  Links to full readings and playlists of the music selections discussed in your text are available online in MindTap, where you will also find study resources and such tools as image flashcards, guides to research and writing, practice quizzes and exercises, and more.

Was I ready?  Could I do it?  I could not read music.  I was in the high school choir, in the church choir; but I always memorized the notes.  (I could sing, though–a lovely 1st tenor.)  I loved music and song!  I knew my composers, and classical pieces.  I learned rhythm, melody, and harmony.  What else?

I knew the difference between LISTEN to this and HEAR this!  I had had a record player from once-upon-a-time, had the first CD player in town (Yamaha $539), always had FM music playing.  I wrote a paper about West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet!  In high school I attended operas, and concerts, and had begun a record collection.  I really am/was a movie lover.  A reel lover!  And I had a few subscriptions to movie magazines at one time.  (My favorite actress?  Kim Novak, of course, when I was VERY young.  And, yes, Casablanca is a favorite–as is The Hours.  Did I fail to mention Meryl Streep?)

How much more did I have to know to be able to lead a class of students through a college semester, HUM 2230 17th Century to the Present?  I would have to do much reading; but the syllabus was already prepared, the textbooks were chosen,  I would simply have to gather up my wits about me (years of standing before classrooms of students and writing lesson plans), and prepare my Pearls of Wisdom.

Using the text, with my “culture” and “learning,” I created a course that would follow major themes of architecture, art, music, film, literature, philosophy, history, and religion‑‑primarily those from Western traditions.  I was even able to end the course with James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.  The course was supposed to enhance a student’s interest in examining some of the most compelling questions (and facts) about living the life of culture–physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally–by reading, viewing, listening, and–most importantly–by thinking.

And so it went, one semester, then another.  I got better and better at it.  More confident, that is, in my qualifications to teach humanities.

This Backward Glance over it all, My Memoriesofatime as a Humanities Teacher, was occasioned by that recent high school survey, causing me to bring it bring it all together here: All those courses enumerated on my transcript.  The college teaching listed on my résumé.  (A major bonus occurred in 2000, when the president of the college asked me to begin an honors program that would incorporate classes at Cambridge University.  While there in England during summers, tutoring students, I was able to attend seminars in music, art, literature, and history.  I was overwhelmed and honored.)

My first thought was to title this story “The Pitfalls and Dangers of a Classical Education.”  My story would have begun about the little boy from the South Side of Chicago, growing into a student of Latin, Greek, and German, and the classics.  The young reader of How to Read a Book would become a lover of literature, even an attendee at the Chicago Opera House.  Then he would evolve into a classroom teacher, with Palmer-Method penmanship, and SQ3R study skills.  Perhaps a too ho-hum story, about a little learning being a dangerous thing?

Then I thought, maybe my story would be “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.”  This story would be told, not by an idiot, but by a seventy-eight-year-old man, no tale of sound and fury, but the story of a great-grandson of one of the Chicago Haymarket Rioters, a Bohemian kid from Chicago, a hard-working paperboy, Boy Scout, Baltimore-catechist, literature-lover, grammarian, teacher-husband-father, graduate student.  This story includes anecdotes about hospital orderly work and, yet, at the same time, his reading Chardin, Joyce, and Milton.  In this story, he formulates “My Three Favorites of All”: Othello, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Power and the Glory.  Then age sets in.

No, age has not set in.  Not in this story, for I do not yet “wear my trousers rolled.”  (I do wear shorts a lot.)  In fact, I consider myself a rather distinguished fellow: still concerned about teaching the classics in the classroom; still reading history essays and studying film; writing book reviews–and my own bloggy-“memoirs.”  (At the same time, the technology of media and YouTube have helped me and my hands install faucets and a garbage disposal.)youtube image

THE FAMILIAR “GO!” OF YOUTUBE

I dabble a bit, yet, in philosophy, less in theology. Even less in modern contemporary novelists (whose books might be purchased but sit on a shelf unopened, or are archived in my Kindle.)  I am, perhaps, even a bit “still crazy after all these years.”

“All these years” is my strength, the 45-plus years in education with my Renaissance-type education and training, my skills and techniques as classroom teacher, seminar instructor, and my being an educated man.  This story is mine.

At the end of the film Saving Private Ryan, one of my all-time “favorite” war films, the veteran of D-Day walks among the crosses and graves at Normandy. saving private ryan poster

He, Private Ryan, comes to that white cross of his squad leader Cpt. John Miller, killed many, many years before, June 13, 1944.  Private Ryan, in emotion, says, “I hope . . . I earned what all of you have done for me.”  Ryan has led a good life; he is told he is a good man.

 

What more could I ask for?  My life experience is nothing at all comparable to what those soldiers endured.  Yet I can be empathic during these last moments of the film.  I can say of my teachers, with honesty, that I hope I’ve earned what they have done for me.  I, too, hope I have instilled “culture” into others as it was instilled, I believe, into me.  And that likewise, I do hope my many students can . . . well, . . . you know . . .

©  James F. O’Neil 2019

 

 

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