Essay About Time Is Gold

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Defending a position may be a necessary evil in a legal dispute, but it's not the best way to get at the truth, as I think lawyers would be the first to admit. The real problem is that you can't change the question.

And yet this principle is built into the very structure of the things they teach you to write in high school.

With the result that writing is made to seem boring and pointless. Dickens himself would be more interested in an essay about color or baseball. To answer that we have to go back almost a thousand years.

Around 1100, Europe at last began to catch its breath after centuries of chaos, and once they had the luxury of curiosity they rediscovered what we call "the classics." The effect was rather as if we were visited by beings from another solar system.

Whether cause or effect, this spirit pervaded early universities.

The study of rhetoric, the art of arguing persuasively, was a third of the undergraduate curriculum.But Harvard didn't have a professor of English literature until 1876, and Oxford not till 1885. [3]And so in the late 19th century the teaching of writing was inherited by English professors.(Oxford had a chair of Chinese before it had one of English.) [2]What tipped the scales, at least in the US, seems to have been the idea that professors should do research as well as teach. The professors who taught math could be required to do original math, the professors who taught history could be required to write scholarly articles about history, but what about the professors who taught rhetoric or composition? This had two drawbacks: (a) an expert on literature need not himself be a good writer, any more than an art historian has to be a good painter, and (b) the subject of writing now tends to be literature, since that's what the professor is interested in. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the National Education Association "formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course." [4] The 'riting component of the 3 Rs then morphed into English, with the bizarre consequence that high school students now had to write about English literature-- to write, without even realizing it, imitations of whatever English professors had been publishing in their journals a few decades before.If all you want to do is figure things out, why do you need to write anything, though? Well, there precisely is Montaigne's great discovery. Fundamentally an essay is a train of thought-- but a cleaned-up train of thought, as dialogue is cleaned-up conversation.Real thought, like real conversation, is full of false starts. You need to cut and fill to emphasize the central thread, like an illustrator inking over a pencil drawing. It's not something you read looking for a specific answer, and feel cheated if you don't find it. Interfaces, as Geoffrey James has said, should follow the principle of least astonishment. I was afraid of flying for a long time and could only travel vicariously.But for obvious reasons no one wanted to give that answer. The first courses in English literature seem to have been offered by the newer colleges, particularly American ones.The archaeological work being mostly done, it implied that those studying the classics were, if not wasting their time, at least working on problems of minor importance. Dartmouth, the University of Vermont, Amherst, and University College, London taught English literature in the 1820s.In that case, in the course of the conversation I'll be forced to come up a with a clearer explanation, which I can just incorporate in the essay. For the essayist this translates to: flow interesting.More often than not I have to change what I was saying as well. As the reader gets smarter, convincing and true become identical, so if I can convince smart readers I must be near the truth. The path it has discovered is the most economical route to the sea. Of all the places to go next, choose the most interesting.The time was then ripe for the question: if the study of ancient texts is a valid field for scholarship, why not modern texts?The answer, of course, is that the original raison d'etre of classical scholarship was a kind of intellectual archaeology that does not need to be done in the case of contemporary authors.

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