Thinking Citizen Blog — Jacques Barzun: “Teacher in America” (1945)

Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic — Jacques Barzun: “Teacher in America” (1945)

Last week, passing through my basement, on the way to the washing machine, a book caught my eye, “Teacher in America.” The author: Jacques Barzun. I had no idea how the book got there, or quite honestly, who Jacqures Barzun was. But the title intrigued me and I decided to learn more. I was not disappointed. Today a few quotes from this Franco-American historian, philosopher of education, and author of “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to Present.” Have you ever read anything by Barzun? Fan? Experts — please chime in. Correct,. elaborate, elucidate.

A COMMON POINT OF REFERENCE, A STUDENT’S DUTY, THE HOW OF IT

1. “The need for a body of common knowledge and common reference does not disappear when a society is pluralistic. On the contrary, it grows more necessary.”

2. “A student under my care owes his first allegiance to himself and not to my specialty.”

3. The truth is, when all is said and done, one does not teach a subject, one teaches a student how to learn it.

NB: “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

THE RIGHT WORD ,THE FIRST SENTENCE, SIMPLE ENGLISH

1. “The French call mot juste the word that exactly fits. Why is this word so hard to find? The reasons are many. First, we don’t always know what we mean and are too lazy too find out.”

2.“Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”

3. “Simple English is no one’s mother tongue. It has to be worked for.”

NB: “First Principle: Have a point and make it by means of the best word.”

LIBERALS, CONSERVATIVES,POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, HISTORY

1. “A man who has both feet planted firmly in the air can be safely called a liberal as opposed to the conservative, who has both feet firmly planted in his mouth.”

2. “Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. ”

3. “To delve into history entails, besides the grievance of hard work, the danger that in the depths one may lose one’s scapegoats.”

FOOTNOTES — Biographical Tidbits

1. Awarded Congressional Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2003 and the National Humanities Medal by Barack Obama in 2011. Also appointed a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor.

2. He was born in Creteil, France but his father was an Americanophile who sent his son to high school in the US and then to Columbia from which he graduated in 1927 at the age of 20.

3. He died in San Antonio, Texas at the age of 104.

NB: “ He wrote about a wide range of subjects, including baseball, mystery novels, and classical music, and was also known as a philosopher of education.”

POST SCRIPT — Barzun’s Bibliographical Note at the End of “Teacher in Amercia”

1. I doubt there is a better reading list than this one. Check it out if you have an extra moment.

2. “Teacher in America” begins with this quote from T.L. Peacock: “The bore of all bores was the third. His subject had no beginning, middle nor end. It was education. Never was such a journey through the desert of the mind, the Great Sahara of intellect. The very recollection makes me thirsty.”

3. Then Barzun opens with this: “Education is indeed the dullest of subjects and I intend to say as little about it as I can….”

Jacques Barzun Quotes (Author of From Dawn to Decadence)

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jacques_Barzun

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Barzun

Presidential Medal Of Freedom ] Definition, History, & Facts

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/arts/jacques-barzun-historian-and-scholar-dies-at-104.html

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”

- Horace (65–8 BC)

THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY ARE AVAILABLE HERE:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.

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