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Complex Systems
  in Education

  Complex Course on Writing
English and American Essays for
       Advanced Students

     English Language Programs Division
   Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

United States Information Agency,
     Washington, D. C. 1999


How to Use this Complex Course

Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

        Some years ago, a visitor to our office, a professor of English at a
large foreign university, asked if the English Language Programs Division
had published a book of American essays for foreign students – especially
students at the advanced level. Having to respond in the negative, I was,
nonetheless, “intrigued” by the idea of a collection of essays that would form
a source of stimulating ideas or thoughts that could be thoroughly examined
in the EFL classroom, discussed and debated in free conversation, and
perhaps, ultimately, lead to a significant growth in the exchange of
information between cultures – via the printed page.

         From this rationale, then, there issues an explanation for the title,
Mind Speaks to Mind, which itself is an “exchange of information” between
the editor and Edward Hoagland in his essay, “On Essays”! And, readers are
encouraged to study this essay first as a type of guideline concerning the
nature/purpose of the essay. It is found on page 26.

        For ease of reference, the essays are presented in alphabetical order
according to the last name of the author. This does not mean, however, that
teachers should adhere strictly to this order of presentation. Given the varied
scope and subject matter of the essays, teachers should feel free to establish
their own order of presentation within the classroom in accord with the needs
and interests of their students.

         The reader who enjoys pursuing ideas into the realm of discussion
and philosophical concert will find in this short collection ample proof that
the liveliness of the essay is still an inspirational key to the unlocking of
communication – that continually desired goal of every teacher of language
the world around!

Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

Author                        Title of Essay                   Page
Bettelheim, Bruno             THE ART OF MOTION PICTURES
Buckley, William F. Jr.       UP FROM MISERY
Calandra, Alexander           ANGELS ON A PIN
Carnegie, Andrew              HOW I SERVED MY APPRENTICESHIP
Epstein, Joseph               THE VIRTUES OF AMBITION
Hayakawa, S. I.               OUR SON MARK
Hoagland, Edward              ON ESSAYS
Jones, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka)   CITY OF HARLEM
Kingston, Maxine Hong         THE MISERY OF SILENCE
Kuh, Katherine                MODERN ART
Lakoff, Robin                 YOU ARE WHAT YOU SAY
Morrow, Lance                 THE VALUE OF WORKING
Postman, Neil                 SILENT QUESTIONS
Rodriguez, Richard            AN EDUCATION IN LANGUAGE
Ryan, William                 MINE, ALL MINE
Seattle, Chief                MY PEOPLE
Thompson, W. Furness          WHY DO NOT SCIENTISTS ADMIT
                              THEY ARE HUMAN?
Viorst, Judith                FRIENDS, GOOD FRIENDS
                              AND SUCH GOOD FRIENDS

Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

                           BRUNO BETTELHEIM
       Bruno Bettelheim was born in Vienna in 1903 and emigrated to the
       United States from Austria in 1939. A psychologist, Bettelheim, for thirty
       years, was on the faculty of the University of Chicago where he also was
       director of the Orthogenic School for Disturbed Children. The latter
       experience helped to provide him with subject matter for a number of
       books concerning the inner lives of children, of which The Informed
       Heart, published in 1960, is one of the most well-known. Bettelheim,
       however, has not limited his writings to the field of child psychology but
       has written on subjects ranging porn social change to fairy tales.

              The Art of Motion Pictures                                        1

      Whether we like it or not – and many may disagree with my thesis because
painting, or music, or some other art is more important to them – the art of the moving
image is the only art truly of our time, whether it is in the form of the film or television.
The moving picture is our universal art, which comprises all others, literature and acting,
stage design and music, dance and the beauty of nature, and, most of all, the use of
light and of colour. It is always about us, because the medium is truly part of the
message and the medium of the moving image is uniquely modern. Everybody can
understand it, as everyone once understood religious art in church. And as people used
to go to church on Sundays (and still do), so the majority today go to the movies on
weekends. But while in the past most went to church only on some days, now
everybody watches moving images every day. All age groups watch moving pictures,
and they watch them for many more hours than people have ever spent in churches.
Children and adults watch them separately or together; in many ways and for many
people, it is the only experience common to parents and children. It is the only art today
that appeals to all social and economic classes, in short, that appeals to everybody, as
did religious art in times past. The moving picture is thus by far the most popular art of
our time, and it is also the most authentically American of arts.

       When I speak here of the moving picture as the authentic American art of our time,
I do not think of art with a capital A, nor of “high” art. Putting art on a pedestal robs it of
its vitality. When the great medieval and Renaissance cathedrals were erected, and
decorated outside and in with art, these were popular works, that meant something to

       Some were great works of art, others not, but every piece was significant and all
took pride in each of them. Some gain their spiritual experience from the masterpiece,
but many more gain it from the mediocre works that express the same vision as the
masterpiece but in a more accessible form. This is as true church music or the church
itself as for paintings and sculptures. This diversity of art objects achieves a unity, and

     Copyright © 1990 by Bruno Bettelheim. From FREUD'S VIENNA AND
    OTHER ESSAYS by Bruno Bettelheim. Reprinted by permission of Alfred
    A. Knopf, Inc.
Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

differences in quality are important, prove e t ey a represent, each in its own way, the
overarching vision and experience of a larger, important cosmos. Such a vision confers
meaning and dignity on our existence, and is what forms the essence of art.

       So among the worst detriments to the health development of the art of the moving
pictures are efforts by aesthetes and critics to isolate the art of m from popular movies
and television. Nothing could be more contra to the true spirit of art. Whenever art was
vital, it was always equally popular with the ordinary man an the most refined person.
Had Greek drama and comedy meant nothing to most citizens, the majority of the
population would not have sat all day long entranced on hard stone slabs, watching the
events on the stage; nor would the entire population have conferred prizes on the
winning dramatist. The medieval pageants and mystery plays out of which modern
drama grew were popular entertainments, as were the plays of Shakespeare.
Michelangelo’s David stood at the most public place in Florence, embodying the
people's vision that tyranny must be overthrown, while it also related to their religious
vision, as it represented the myth of David and Goliath. Everybody admired the statue; it
was simultaneously popular and great art, but one did not think of it in such disparate
terms. Neither should we. To live well we need both: visions that i t us up, and
entertainment that is down to earth, provided both art and entertainment, each in its
different form and way, are embodiments of the same visions of man. If art does not
speak to all of us, common men and elites alike, it fails to address itself to that true
humanity that is common to all of us. A different art for the elites and another one for
average man tears society; it offends what we most need: visions that bind us together
in common experiences that make life worth living.

     When I speak of an affirmation of man, I do not mean the presentation of fake
images of life as wonderfully pleasant. Life is best celebrated in the form of a battle
against its inequities, of struggles, of dignity in defeat, of the greatness of discovering
oneself and the other.

      Quite a few moving pictures have conveyed such visions. In Kagemusha, the great
beauty of the historical costumes, the cloak-and-dagger story with its beguiling Oriental
settings, the stately proceedings, the pageantry of marching and fighting armies, the
magnificent rendering of nature, the consummate acting – all these entrance us and
convince us of the correctness of the vision here: the greatness of the most ordinary of
men. The hero, a petty thief who turns impostor, grows before our eyes into greatness,
although it costs him his life. The story takes place in sixteenth-century Japan, but the
hero is of all times and classes: he accepts a destiny into which he is projected by
church and turns a false existence into a real one. At the end, only because he wants to
be true to his new self, he sacrifices his life and thus achieves the acme of suffering and
human greatness. Nobody wants him to do so. Nobody but he will ever know that he did
it. Nobody but the audience observes it. He does it only for himself – it has no
consequences whatsoever for anybody or anything else. He does it out of convict; this
is his greatness. Life that permits the lowest of men to achieve such dignity is life worth
living; even if in the end it defeats him, as it will defeat all who are mortal. Two other
films, very different, render parallel visions that celebrate life, a celebration in which we,
as viewers, vicariously participate although we are saddened by the hero’s defeat.

     The first was known in the United States by its English name, The Last Laugh,
although its original title, The Last Man, was more appropriate. It is the story of the
doorman of a hotel who is demoted to cleaning washrooms.
Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
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     The other movie is Patton. In one of these films the hero stands on the lowest rung
of society and existence; in the other, he is on society's highest level. In both pictures
we are led to admire a man's struggle to discover who he really is, for, in doing so, he
achieves tragic greatness. These three films, as do many others, affirm man and life,
and so inspire in us visions that can sustain us. My choice of these three films out of
many is arbitrary. What I want to illustrate is their celebration of life in forms appropriate
to an age in which self-discovery may exact the highest possible price. Only through
incorporating such visions can we achieve satisfaction with our own life, defeat and
transcend existential despair.

      What our society suffers from most today is the absence of consensus about what
it and life in it ought to be. Such consensus cannot be gained from society’s present
stage, or from fantasies about what it ought to be. For that the present is too close and
too diversified, and the future too uncertain, to make believable claims about it. A
consensus in the present hence can be achieved only through a shared understanding
of the past, as Homer's epics informed those who lived centuries later what it meant to
be Greek, and by what images and ideals they were to live their lives and organise their

     Most societies derive consensus from a long history, a language all their own, a
common religion, common ancestry. The myths by which they live are based on all of
these. But the United States is a country of immigrants, coming from a great variety of
nations. Lately, it has been emphasised that an asocial, narcissistic personality has
become characteristic of Americans, and that it is this type of personality that makes for
the malaise, because it prevents us from achieving a consensus that would counteract a
tendency to withdraw into private worlds. In his study of narcissism, Christopher Lasch
says that modern man, "tortured by self-consciousness, turns to new cults and
therapies not to free himself of his personal obsessions but to find meaning and
purpose in life, to find something to live for." There is widespread distress because
national morale has declined, and we have lost an earlier sense of national vision and

      Contrary to rigid religions or political beliefs, as are found in totalitarian societies,
our culture is one of great individual differences, at least in principle and in theory. But
this leads to disunity, even chaos. Americans believe in the value of diversity, but just
because ours is a society based on individual diversity, it needs consensus about some
over-arching ideas more than societies based on the uniform origin of their citizens.

      Hence, if we are to have consensus, it must be based on a myth – a vision – about
a common experience, a conquest that made us Americans, as the myth about the
conquest of Troy formed the Greeks. Only a common myth can offer relief from the fear
that life is without meaning or purpose. Myths permit us to examine our place in the
world by comparing it to a shared idea. Myths are shared fantasies that form the tie that
binds the individual to other members of his group. Such myths help to ward off feelings
of isolation, guilt, anxiety, and purposelessness -- in short, they combat isolation and

     We used to have a myth that bound us together; in The American Adam, R.W.B.
Lewis summarises the myth by which Americans used to live:

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     God decided to give man another chance by opening up a new world across the sea.
     Practically vacant, this glorious land had almost inexhaustible natural resources. Many
     people came to this new world. They were people of special energy, self-reliance, intuitive
     intelligence, and purity of heart…. This nation’s special mission in the world would be to
     serve as the moral guide for all other nations.

     The movies used to transmit this myth, particularly the westerns, which presented
the challenge of bringing civilisation to places where before there was none. The same
movies also suggested the danger of that chaos; the wagon train symbolised the
community men must form on such a perilous journey into the untamed wilderness,
which in turn became a symbol for all that is untamed within ourselves. Thus the
western gave us a vision of the need for co-operation and civilisation, because without it
man would perish. Another symbol often used in these westerns was the railroad, which
formed the link between wilderness and civilisation. The railroad was the symbol of
man’s role as civiliser.

      Robert Warshow delineates in The Immediate Experience how the hero of the
western – the gunfighter – symbolises man’s potential: to become either an outlaw or a
sheriff. In the latter role, the gunfighter was the hero of the past, and his opening of the
West was our mythos, our equivalent of the Trojan War. Like all such heroes, the sheriff
experienced victories and defeats, but, through these experiences, he grew wiser and
learned to accept the limitations that civilisation imposes.

      This was a wonderful vision of man – or the United States – in the New World; it
was a myth by which one could live and grow, and it served as a consensus about what
it meant to be an American. But although most of us continue to enjoy this myth, by now
it has lost most of its vitality. We have become too aware of the destruction of nature
and of the American Indian -- part of the reality of opening the West – to be able to
savour this myth fully; and, just as important, it is based on an open frontier that no
longer exists. But the nostalgic infatuation with the western suggests how much we are
in need of a myth about the past that cannot be invalidated by the realities of today. We
want to share a vision, one that would enlighten us about what it means to be an
American today, so that we can be proud not only of our heritage but also of the world
we are building together.

       Unfortunately, we have no such myth, nor, by extension, any that reflects what is
involved in growing up. The child, like the society, needs such myths to provide him with
ideas of what difficulties are involved in maturation. Fairy tales used to fill this need, and
they would still do so, if we would take them seriously. But sugar-sweet movies of the
Disney variety fail to take seriously the world of the child – the immense problems with
which the child has to struggle as he grows up, to make himself free from the bonds that
tie him to his parents, and to test his own strength. Instead of helping the child, who
wants to understand the difficulties ahead, these shows talk down to him, insult his
intelligence, and lower his aspirations.

     While most of the popular shows for children fall short of what the child needs
most, others at least provide him with some of the fantasies that relieve pressing
anxieties, and this is the reason for their popularity. Superman, Wonder Woman, and
the Bionic Woman stimulate the child's fantasies about being strong and invulnerable,
and this offers some relief from being overwhelmed by the powerful adults who control
his existence. The Incredible Hulk affords a confrontation with destructive anger.
Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

Watching the Hulk on one of his rampages permits a vicarious experience of anger
without having to feel guilty about it or anxious about the consequences, because the
Hulk attacks only bad people. As food for fantasies that offer temporary relief, such
shows have a certain value, but they do not provide material leading to higher
integration, as myths do.

      Science-fiction movies can serve as myths about the future and thus give us some
assurance about it. Whether the film is 2001 or Star Wars, such movies tell about
progress that will expand man's powers and his experiences beyond anything now
believed possible, while they assure us that all these advances will not obliterate man or
life as we now know it. Thus one great anxiety about the future – that it will have no
place for us as we now are – is allayed by such myths. They also promise that even in
the most distant future, and despite the progress that will have occurred in the material
world, man’s basic concerns will be the same, and the struggle of good against evil –
the central moral problem of our time -- will not have lost its importance. Past and future
are the lasting dimensions of our lives: the present is but a fleeting moment. So these
visions about the future also contain our past; in Star Wars, battles are fought around
issues that also motivated man in the past. There is good reason that Yoda appears in
George Lucas’s film: he is but a reincarnation of the teddy bear of infancy, to which we
turn for solace; and the Yedi Knight is the wise old man, or the helpful animal, of the
fairy tale, the promise from our distant past that we shall be able to rise to meet the
most difficult tasks life can present us with. Thus, any vision about the future is really
based on visions of the past, because that is all we can know for certain.

       As our religious myths about the future never went beyond Judgement Day, so our
modern myths about the future cannot go beyond the search for life's deeper meaning.
The reason is that only as long as the choice between good and evil remains man’s
paramount moral problem does life retain that special dignity that derives from our
ability to choose between the two. A world in which this conflict has been permanently
resolved eliminates man as we know him. It might be a universe peopled by angels, but
it has no place for man.

      What Americans need most is a consensus that includes the idea of individual
freedom, as well as acceptance of the plurality of ethnic backgrounds and religious
beliefs inherent in the population. Such consensus must rest on convictions about moral
values and the validity of overarching ideas. Art can do this because a basic ingredient
of the aesthetic experience is that it binds together diverse elements. But only the ruling
art of a period is apt to provide such unity: for the Greeks, it was classical art; for the
British, Elizabethan art; for the many petty German states, it was their classical art.
Today, for the United States, it has to be the moving picture, the central art of our time,
because no other art experience is so o n and accessible to eve one.

      The moving picture is a visual art, based on sight. Speaking to our vision, it ought
to provide us with the visions enabling us to live the good life; it ought to give us insight
into ourselves. About a hundred years ago, Tolstoy wrote, “Art is a human activity
having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to
which men have risen”. Later, Robert Frost defined poetry as “beginning in delight and
ending in wisdom”. Thus it might be said that the state of the art of the moving image
can be assessed by the degree to which it meets the mythopoetic task of giving us
myths suitable to live by in our time – visions that transmit to us the highest and best
feelings to which men have risen – and by how well the moving images give us that
Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

delight which leads to wisdom. Let us hope that the art of the moving image, this most
authentic American art, will soon meet the challenge of becoming truly the real art of our

Questions for Discussion:
1. Why does Bettelheim believe that, in the United States, the movie picture is the
    central art of our time? How does he feel that the moving picture can give Americans
    “myths suitable to live by”?
2. How does Bettelheim support his thesis that the moving picture is the “only true art
    of our time”?
3. How does the author view art? Why does he consider the moving picture “the most
    authentically American of arts”?
4. What does Bettelheim mean by the word myth? What caused the decline of the myth
    in the American West?
5. According to the author, what does American society lack the most? What can
    movies do to help overcome this deficiency?
6. What is the relationship of Bettelheim’s mention of the films, Kagemusha, The Last
    Laugh, and Patton to the thesis of his essay?
7. Does the author give reasons for his statement in paragraph 12 that Americans
    “have lost an earlier sense of national vision and purpose”?
8. According to Bettelheim, what was the role of the American western film in
    promulgating the “myth” that bound Americans together?
9. What are the weaknesses of Disney movies in the author’s opinion?
10. What function can science fiction movies play with regard to the American myth?

Exploring Ideas
1. How is your idea of art similar or different from that of the author?
2. Bettelheim says that in giving us myths to live by movies give us “visions that
    transmit to us the highest and best feelings to which men have risen”. Apply this
    criterion to some movie you have seen recently. What criterion of your own have you
    established for judging movies? To what extent do you agree or disagree with
    Bettelheim's criterion?
3. How do you react to the following observations made by the author? Discuss
them with your classmates.
(a) “Only as long as the choice between good and evil remain man’s paramount moral
    problem does life retain that special dignity that derives from our ability to choose
    between the two”.
(b) “This diversity of art objects achieves a unity, and differences in quality are
    important, provided they all represent, each in its own way, the overarching vision
    and experience of a larger, important cosmos”.
(c) "If art does not speak to all of us, common man and elites alike, its fails to address
    itself to that true humanity that is common to all of us."
(d) "Life is best celebrated in the form of a battle against its inequities, of struggles, of
    dignity in defeat, of the greatness of discovering oneself and the other."

Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
MIND Speaks to MIND – Selected American Essays

                WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.
     William F. Buckley, Jr. was born in New York City in 1925. He
     graduated from Yale University in 1950; while there he wrote his first
     book, God and Man at Yale (1951). For many years Buckley has gained
     fame as an articulate spokesman for the political right in the United
     States. For thirty years he has edited the National Review, the U.S.
     leading conservative magazine. Buckley also is well-known for his
     interview program on television. The following essay is one of his
     syndicated newspaper columns, which are published thrice weekly.

                       Up from Misery                       2

      A friend of long standing who has never asked me to devote this space to
advertising any enthusiasm of his has now, diffidently, made the exception. He does not
want to do anything less than what he can do, through his own efforts and those of his
friends, to pass along the word that, within walking distance of the great majority of
Americans, there is help waiting which can lead them out of the darkness, as
indisputably as an eye surgeon, restoring sight, can lead someone into the sunlight.

      Kenneth (we'll call him) is a cocky fellow, something of a sport, tough-talking, an
ace in his individualistic profession, who remembers getting drunk at college in the late
20’s on the night he won an important boxing match, but at no other time during his
college career. Emerging from college into the professional world, he revved up slowly,
hitting in his late 30's his cruising speed: two or three martinis per day. These he was
dearly attached to, but not apparently dominated by: He would not, gladly, go a day
without his martinis, but neither, after the third, did he require a fourth.

       Then in the spring of 1972 his gentle, devoted (teetotaling) wife had a
mastectomy, the prognosis optimistic; but with a shade of uncertainty. So, to beef up his
morale, he increased the dosage just a little. When, later that year, the doctor called to
tell him the worst, he walked straightaway to the nearest bar. After she died, he began
buying a fifth each of bourbon and gin on Saturdays, a week’s supply to eke out the
several martinis he had been drinking at and after lunch. Fascinated, he watched
himself casually making minor alterations: “Make that quarts” was the modest
beginning. Then the resupplying would come on Friday; then Thursday. In due course it
was a quart a day.

      In the morning he would begin; one, then up to five snorts before leaving for the
office – later and later in the morning. Before reaching the door he would rinse out his
mouth. But always – this fascinated him, as gradually he comprehended the totality of I
his servitude – he would, on turning the door handle, go back: for just one more.

      At night he would prepare himself dinner, then lie down for a little nap, wake hours
later, go to the kitchen to eat dinner - only to find he had already eaten it. Once he
  Copyright © 1977 by William F. Buckley, Jr. Used by permission of the Wallace
Literary Agency, Inc.
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returned to a restaurant three hours after having eaten his dinner: he forgot he had
been there. Blackouts, he called the experiences. On the crucial day it was nothing
special. He walked home from the office, full of 6 gin, and vomited in the street (this
often happened), struggling to do this with aplomb in the posh backdrop of the East
60’s. On reaching his apartment he lurched gratefully for the bottle, sipped from the
glass... and was clapped by the hand of Providence as unmistakably as any piece of
breast was ever struck by a lance.

     He heard his own voice say, as if directed by an outside force: “What the hell am I
doing to myself?” He poured his martini into the sink, emptied the gin bottle, then
emptied the bourbon bottle, then went to the telephone and, never in his life having
given a second's conscious thought to the organisation, fumbled through the directory
and dialed the number for Alcoholics Anonymous.

      One must suppose that whoever answered that telephone call was as surprised as
a 8 fireman excitedly advised that a house was ablaze. Kenneth would like to inquire –
but perhaps AA was too busy tonight, perhaps next week sometime? What? Come
today? How about tomorrow? Do you have a meeting every week? You have 800
meetings in New York a week?… Scores every night?… Okay. Tomorrow.

      Tomorrow would be the first of 250 meetings in ninety days with Alcoholics
Anonymous. AA advises at least ninety meetings in the first ninety days. Kenneth had
assumed he would be mixing with hoi polloi. Always objective, he advises now that “on
a scale of 1 – 10" – incorporating intelligence, education, success, articulateness – “I
would rank around six or seven”. He made friends. And he made instant progress
during those first weeks, quickly losing the compulsion for the morning drinks. But for
the late afternoon martinis he thirsted, and he hungered, and he lusted. He dove into a
despair mitigated only by his thrice-daily contacts with AA. His banked-up grief for his
wife raged now, and every moment, every long afternoon and evening without her, and
without alcohol, were endless bouts with the haunting question: What is the point in
living at all?

     And then, suddenly, as suddenly as on the day he poured the booze into the sink.
Twenty-seven weeks later, he had been inveigled into going to a party. Intending to stay
one dutiful hour, he stayed five. On returning, he was exhilarated. He had developed
anew the capacity to talk with people, other than in the prescribed ritualisms of his
profession, or in the boozy idiom of the tippler. He was so excited, so pleased, so
elated, he could not sleep until early morning for pleasure at re-experiencing life.

     That was two months ago, and every day he rejoiced at his liberation, and prays
that others who suffer will find the hand of Alcoholics Anonymous. And – one might
presumptuously add – the hand of the Prime Mover, Who was there in that little kitchen
on the day the impulse came to him; and Who, surely, is the wellspring of the faith of
Alcoholics Anonymous, as of so many other spirits united to help their fellow man.

Questions for Discussion
1. What kind of picture do you get of Kenneth as a person?
2. What is the importance of the spring of 1972 in Kenneth's life? How did his wife’s
   death compound his drinking problem?

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3. What happened to turn Kenneth around, so to speak?
4. In the beginning what effect did Alcoholics Anonymous have on Kenneth’s drinking
   habits? What is the significance of ninety days?
5. What were the results of 27 weeks in AA?
6. What does the author mean by the Prime Mover in the last paragraph? How does
   the last sentence relate to the rest of the essay?

Exploring Ideas
1. How would you define alcoholism? Why do you think it is a major problem in many
2. Besides alcoholism, what other kinds of addiction contribute to problems within
   families and societies?
3. If you know something about Alcoholics Anonymous, give some of your own ideas
   concerning the reasons for the success of the organisation.

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                 ALEXANDER CALANDRA
     Alexander Calandra is a professor of physics at Washington University
     in St. Louis, Missouri. In the following essay he shares an experience
     with a college student who refused to give the expected answer to a
     question on a physics examination. Instead, the student insisted on
     giving a number of answers other than the conventional one.

                        Angels on a Pin                       3

       Some time ago, I received a call from a colleague who asked if I would be the
referee on the grading of an examination question. He was about to give a student a
zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed he should receive a
perfect score and would if the system were not set up against the student. The
instructor and the student agreed to submit this to an impartial arbiter, and I was
selected. I went to my colleague's office and read the examination question: “Show how
it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer”. The
student had answered: “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long
rope to it, lower the barometer to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length
of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building”. I pointed out that the
student really had a strong case for full credit, since he had answered the question
completely and correctly. On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well
contribute to a high grade for the student in his physics course. A high grade is
supposed to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I
suggested that the student have another try at answering the question. I was not
surprised that my colleague agreed, but I was surprised that the student did.

       I gave the student six minutes to answer the question, with the warning that his
answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not
written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said no. He had many answers
to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting
him, and asked him to please go on. In the next minute, he dashed off his answer,
which read: "Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the
roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula S = 'le
at', calculate the height of the building."

      At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and I gave
the student almost full credit. In leaving my colleague's office, I recalled that the student
had said he had other eight answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were.
"Oh, yes," said the student.

    "There are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a
barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and
measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the

3Copyright © Alexander Calandra. First published in SATURDAY REVIEW, December
26, 1968.
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shadow of the building, and by the use of a simple proportion, determine the height of
the building."

     "Fine," I said. "And the others?"

       -Yes,- said the student. -There is a very basic measurement method that you will
like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you
climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count
the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.
A very direct method.

      "Of course, if you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to
the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of 'g' at the street
level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of 'g,'
the height of the building can, in principle, be calculated."

      Finally he concluded, there are many other ways of solving the problem. “Probably
the best”, he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the
superintendent's door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows:
'Mr. Superintendent, here I have a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of this
building, I will give you this barometer”.

      At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer
to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school
and college instructors trying to teach him how to think, to use the "scientific method,"
and to explore the deep inner logic of the subject in a pedantic way, as is often done in
the new mathematics, rather than teaching him the structure of the subject. With this in
mind, he decided to revive scholasticism as an academic lark to challenge the Sputnik -
panicked classrooms of America.

Questions for Discussion
1. What point does the essay illustrate?
2. What was the examination question supposed to test? Was it a "bad" question in
   that it failed to get the expected response? Can you restate the question so that it
   will elicit the expected answer?
3. The student says that the answer he gives in paragraph 12 is probably the best one.
   Why does he say this? What motivated him to avoid the conventional answer? Do
   you agree with his position?
4. Why do you think Professor Calandra did not give the student full credit for his
   answer in paragraph 6?
5. Do you agree with the professor’s judgment?
6. How would you characterise all of the student's answers? What qualities did they
7. The conventional answer to the physics question is never given. Is it important for
   the reader to know it? Do you think author Calandra leaves it out on purpose? If so,

Exploring Ideas
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1. During the Middle Ages, scholastic philosophers would debate questions dealing
   with theological minutiae that seem pointless to the modern reader. One such
   question was how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, hence the source
   of the title of the essay. With this in mind, to what extent does the title contribute to
   the overall effect of the essay?
2. Keeping in mind the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, what did the student have in
   mind when he decided to revive it as an “academic lark” as mentioned in the last
   sentence of the essay?
3. The student mentioned in the essay is obviously not a conventional thinker in many
   respects. Do you admire him for taking that approach to problem solving?
4. Have you ever exercised this type of approach to a problem? What role should
   imaginative thinkers play in a society?
5. What is the basic purpose of tests and examinations? How can one tell the
   difference between a good and a bad examination?

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                     ANDREW CARNEGIE
     Carnegie was one of several, famous, self-made American millionaires
     of the late 19th century. His public philanthropy reflected his idealism
     and a sense of noblesse oblige and responsibility toward the welfare of
     society. Carnegie's philosophy of business ethics was well-known and
     admired by many. The huge Carnegie fortune, made in the steel industry,
     provided the funds for the establishment of public libraries in various
     parts of the United States, as well as the philanthropic Carnegie
     Foundation. The following essay is the first chapter of his book, The
     Gospel of Wealth, published in 1900, in which he expounded the idea
     that the accumulation of riches was stewardship of wealth that ultimately
     should benefit society.

              How I Served My
     It is a great pleasure to tell how I served my apprenticeship as a businessman. But
there seems to be a question preceding this: Why did I become a business man? I am
sure that I should never have selected a business career if I had been permitted to

     The eldest son of parents who were themselves poor, I had, fortunately, to begin
to perform some useful work in the world while still very young in order to earn an
honest livelihood, and was thus shown even in early boyhood that my duty was to assist
my parents and, like them, become, as soon as possible, a bread-winner in the family.

     What I could get to do, not what I desired, was the question.

      When I was born my father was a well-to-do master weaver in Dunfermline,
Scotland. He owned no less than four damask-looms and employed apprentices. This
was before the days of steam-factories for the manufacture of linen. A few large
merchants took orders, and employed master weavers, such as my father, to weave the
cloth, the merchants supplying the materials.

     As the factory system developed, hand-loom weaving naturally declined, and my
father was one of the sufferers by the change. The first serious lesson of my life came
to me one day when he had taken in the last of his work to the merchant, and returned
to our little home greatly distressed because there was no more work for him to do. I
was then just about ten years of age, but the lesson burned into my heart, and I
resolved then that the wolf of poverty should be driven from our door some day, if I
could do it.

      The question of selling the old looms and starting for the United States came up in
the family council, and I heard it discussed from day to day. It was finally resolved to
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take the plunge and join relatives already in Pittsburg. I well remember that neither
father nor mother thought the change would be otherwise than a great sacrifice for
them, but that "it would be better for the two boys." In after life, if you can look back as I
do and wonder at the complete surrender of their own desires which parents make for
the good of their children, you must reverence their memories with feelings akin to

     On arriving in Allegheny City (there were four of us: father, mother, my younger
brother, and myself), my father entered a cotton factory. I soon followed, and served as
a "bobbin-boy," and this is how I began my preparation for subsequent apprenticeship
as a business man. I received one dollar and twenty cents a week, and was then just
about twelve years old.

      I cannot tell you how proud I was when I received my first week's own earnings.
One dollar and twenty cents made by myself and given to me because I had been of
some use in the world! No longer entirely dependent upon my parents, but at last
admitted to the family partnership as a contributing member and able to help them! I
think this makes a man out of a boy sooner than almost anything else, and a real man,
too, if there be any germ of true manhood in him. It is everything to feel that you are

     I have had to deal with great sums. Many millions of dollars have since passed
through my hands. But the genuine satisfaction I had from that one dollar and twenty
cents outweighs any subsequent pleasure in money-getting. It was the direct reward of
honest, manual labour; it represented a week of very hard work – so hard that, but for
the aim and end which sanctified it, slavery might not be much too strong a term to
describe it.

      For a lad of twelve to rise and breakfast every morning, except the blessed
Sunday morning, and go into the streets and find his way to the factory and begin to
work while it was still dark outside, and not be released until after darkness came again
in the evening, forty minutes' interval only being allowed at noon, was a terrible task.
But I was young and had my dreams, and something within always told me that this
would not, could not, should not last -- I should some day get into a better position.
Besides this, I felt myself no longer a mere boy, but quite a little man, and this made

       A change soon came, for a kind old Scotsman, who knew some of our relatives,
made bobbins, and took me into his factory before I was thirteen. But here for a time it
was even worse than in the cotton factory, because I was set to fire a boiler in the
cellar, and actually to run the small steam-engine which drove the machinery. The firing
of the boiler was all right, for fortunately we did not use coal, but the refuse wooden
chips; and I always liked to work in wood. But the responsibility of keeping the water
right and of running the engine, and the danger of my making a mistake and blowing the
whole factory to pieces, caused too great a strain, and I often awoke and found myself
sitting up in bed through the night, trying the steam-gauges. But I never told them at
home that I was having a hard tussle. No, no! everything must be bright to them.

     This was a point of honour, for every member of the family was working hard,
except, of course, my little brother, who was then a child, and we were telling each other
only all the bright things. Besides this, no man would whine and give up – he would die

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first. There was no servant in our family, and several dollars per week were earned by
the mother by binding shoes after her daily work was done! Father was also hard at
work in the factory. And could I complain?

        My kind employer, John Hay -- peace to his ashes! -- soon relieved me of the
undue strain, for he needed some one to make out bills and keep his accounts, and
finding that I could write a plain school-boy hand and could "cipher," he made me his
only clerk. But still I had to work hard upstairs in the factory, for the clerking took but
little time. You know how people moan about poverty as being a great evil, and it seems
to be accepted that if people had only plenty of money and were rich, they would be
happy and more useful, and get more out of life.

       As a rule, there is more genuine satisfaction, a truer life, and more obtained from
life in the humble cottages of the poor than in the palaces of the rich. I always pity the
sons and daughters of rich men. who are attended bv servants. and have governesses
at a later age, but am glad to remember that they do not know what they have missed.

       They have kind fathers and mothers, too, and think that they enjoy the sweetness
of these blessings to the fullest: but this they cannot do; for the poor boy who has in his
father his constant companion, tutor, and model, and in his mother – holy name! – his
nurse, teacher, guardian angel, saint, all in one, has a richer, more precious fortune in
life than any rich man's son who is not so favoured can possibly know, and compared
with which all other fortunes count for little.

      It is because I know how sweet and happy and pure the home of honest poverty
is, how free from perplexing care, from social envies and emulations, how loving and
how united its members may be in the common interest of supporting the family, that I
sympathise with the rich man's boy and congratulate the poor man's boy; and it is for
these reasons that from the ranks of the poor so many strong, eminent, self-reliant men
have always sprung and always must spring.

     If you will read the list of the immortals who "were not born to die," you will find that
most of them have been born to the precious heritage of poverty.

     It seems, nowadays, a matter of universal desire that poverty should be abolished.

      We should be quite willing to abolish luxury, but to abolish honest, industrious,
self-denying poverty would be to destroy the soil upon which mankind produces the
virtues which enable our race to reach a still higher civilisation than it now possesses.

Questions for Discussion
1. What did Carnegie feel to be his duty toward his parents?
2. What kind of family life did Carnegie have while growing up in Scotland? Why did his
   family emigrate to the United States?
3. What effect did his first week's salary have on Carnegie?
4. What dreams did Carnegie have as a young boy of twelve?
5. How did Carnegie's work of firing the boiler in a factory affect him?
6. What does Carnegie have to say about poverty's being an evil? Are there benefits
   from poverty?

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7. How did Carnegie regard his parents?

Exploring Ideas
1. Compare Carnegie's "ambitions" to some of the ideas expressed by Joseph Epstein
   in his essay on ambition.
2. Epstein mentions Carnegie's special generosity toward Lord Acton. Do some of
   Carnegie's comments help explain this act of philanthropy?
3. Do you agree with Carnegie's "philosophy" concerning work and poverty? Explain.

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                         JOSEPH EPSTEIX
     Born in 1937, Joseph Epstein is a professor of English at Northwestern
     University in Evanston, Illinois. He is also the editor of The American
     Scholar, a quarterly journal of essays published by the Phi Beta Kappa
     society. The essay below is taken from Ambition: The Secret Passion,
     published in 1980.

              The Virtues of Ambition
      Ambition is one of those Rorschach words: define it and you instantly reveal a
great deal about yourself. Even that most neutral of works, Webster's, in its Seventh
New Collegiate Edition, gives itself away, defining ambition first and foremost as "an
ardent desire for rank, fame, or power." Ardent immediately assumes a heat
incommensurate with good sense and stability, and rank, fame, and power have come
under fairly heavy attack for at least a century. One can, after all, be ambitious for the
public good, for the alleviation of suffering, for the enlightenment of mankind, though
there are some who say that these are precisely the ambitious people most to be

     Surely ambition is behind dreams of glory, of wealth, of love, of distinction, of
accomplishment, of pleasure, of goodness. What life does with our dreams and
expectations cannot, of course, be predicted. Some dreams, begun in selflessness, end
in rancor; other dreams, begun in selfishness, end in large-heartedness. The
unpredictability of the outcome of dreams is no reason to cease dreaming.

      To be sure, ambition, the sheer thing unalloyed by some larger purpose than
merely clambering up, is never a pretty prospect to ponder. As drunks have done to
alcohol, the single-minded have done to ambition – given it a bad name. Like a taste for
alcohol, too, ambition does not always allow for easy satiation. Some people cannot
handle it; it has brought grief to others, and not merely the ambitious alone. Still, none of
this seems sufficient cause for driving ambition under the counter.

     What is the worst that can be said – that has been said – about ambition? Here is
a (surely) partial list:

      To begin with, it, ambition, is often antisocial, and indeed is now out-moded,
belonging to an age when individualism was more valued and useful than it is today.
The person strongly imbued with ambition ignores the collectivity; socially detached, he
is on his own and out for his own. Individuality and ambition are firmly linked. The
ambitious individual, far from identifying himself and his fortunes with the group, wishes
to rise above it. The ambitious man or woman sees the world as a battle; rivalrousness
is his or her principal emotion: the world has limited prizes to offer, and he or she is
determined to get his or hers. Ambition is, moreover, jesuitical; it can argue those
possessed by it into believing that what they want for themselves is good for everyone –
that the satisfaction of their own desires is best for the commonweal. The truly
ambitious believe that it is a dog-eat-dog world, and they are distinguished by wanting
to be the dogs that do the eating.

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       From here it is but a short hop to believe that those who have achieved the
common goals of ambition – money, fame, power – have achieved them through
corruption of a greater or lesser degree, mostly a greater. Thus all politicians in high
places, thought to be ambitious, are understood to be, ipso facto, without moral
scruples. How could they have such scruples – a weighty burden in a high climb – and
still have risen as they have?

      If ambition is to be well regarded, the rewards of ambition – wealth, distinction,
control over one's destiny – must be deemed worthy of the sacrifices made on
ambition’s behalf. If the tradition of ambition is to have vitality, it must be widely shared;
and it especially must be esteemed by people who are themselves admired, the
educated not least among them. The educated not least because, nowadays more than
ever before, it is they who have usurped the platforms of public discussion and wield the
power of the spoken and written word in newspapers, in magazines, on television. In an
odd way, it is the educated who have claimed to have given up on ambition as an ideal.
What is odd is that they have perhaps most benefited from ambition – if not always their
own then that of their parents and grandparents. There is a heavy note of hypocrisy in
this; a case of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped – with the educated
themselves astride them.

      Certainly people do not seem less interested in success and its accoutrements
now than formerly. Summer homes, European travel, BMWs – the locations, place
names and name brands may change, but such items do not seem less in demand
today than a decade or two years ago. What has happened is that people cannot own
up to their dreams, as easily and openly as once they could, lest they be thought
pushing, acquisitive, vulgar. Instead we are treated to fine pharisaical spectacles, which
now more than ever seem in ample supply: the revolutionary lawyer quartered in the
$250,000 Manhattan condominium; the critic of American materialism with a
Southampton summer home; the publisher of radical books who takes his meals in
three-star restaurants; the journalist advocating participatory democracy in all phases of
life, whose own children are enrolled in private schools. For such people and many
more perhaps not so egregious, the proper formulation is, “Succeed at all costs but
refrain from appearing ambitious”.

      The attacks on ambition are many and come from various angles; its public
defenders are few and unimpressive, where they are not extremely unattractive. As a
result, the support for ambition as a healthy impulse, a quality to be admired and
inculcated in the young, is probably lower than it has ever been in the United States.
This does not mean that ambition is at an end, that people no longer feel its stirrings
and promptings, but only that, no longer openly honored, it is less often openly
professed. Consequences follow from this, of course, some of which are that ambition is
driven underground, or made sly, or perverse. It can also be forced into vulgarity, as
witness the blatant pratings of its contemporary promoters. Such, then, is the way
things stand: on the left angry critics, on the right obtuse supporters, and in the middle,
as usual, the majority of earnest people trying to get on in life.

      Many people are naturally distrustful of ambition, feeling that it represents
something intractable in human nature. Thus John Dean entitled his book about his
involvement in the in the Watergate affair during the Nixon administration Blind
Ambition, as if ambition were to blame for his ignoble actions, and not the constellation
of qualities that make up his rather shabby character. Ambition, it must once again be
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underscored, is morally a two-sided street. Place next to John Dean Andrew Carnegie,
who, among other philanthropic acts, bought the library of Lord Acton, at a time when
Acton was in financial distress, and assigned its custodianship to Acton, who never was
told who his benefactor was. Need much more be said on the subject than that,
important though ambition is, there are some things that one must not sacrifice to it?

       But going at things the other way, sacrificing ambition so as to guard against its
potential excesses, is to go at things wrongly. To discourage ambition is to discourage
dreams of grandeur and greatness. All men and women are born, live, suffer, and die;
what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about
worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about. It may seem an
exaggeration to say that ambition is the linchpin of society, holding many of its disparate
elements together, but it is not an exaggeration by much. Remove ambition and the
essential elements of society seem to fly apart. Ambition, as opposed to mere
fantasising about desires, implies work and discipline to achieve goals, personal and
social, of a kind society cannot survive without. Ambition is intimately connected with
family, for men and women not only work partly for their families; husbands and wives
are often ambitious for each other, but harbour some of their most ardent ambitions for
their children. Yet to have a family nowadays – with birth control readily available, and
inflation a good economic argument against having children – is nearly an expression of
ambition in itself. Finally, though ambition was once the domain chiefly of monarchs and
aristocrats, it has, in more recent times, increasingly become the domain of the middle
classes. Ambition and futurity –a sense of building for tomorrow – are inextricable.
Working, saving, planning – these, the daily aspects of ambition – have always been the
distinguishing marks of a rising middle class. The attack against ambition is not
incidentally an attack on the middle class and what it stands for. Like it or not, the
middle class has done much of society's work in America; and it, the middle class, has
from the beginning run on ambition.

      It is not difficult to imagine a world shorn of ambition. It would probably be a kinder
world: without demands, without abrasions, without disappointments. People would
have time for reflection. Such work as they did would not be for themselves but for the
collectivity. Competition would never enter in. Conflict would be eliminated, tension
become a thing of the past. The stress of creation would be at an end. Art would no
longer be troubling, but purely celebratory in its functions. The family would become
superfluous as a social unit, with all its former power for bringing about neurosis drained
away. Longevity would be increased, for fewer people would die of heart attack or
stroke caused by tumultuous endeavor. Anxiety would be extinct. Time would stretch on
and on, with ambition long departed from the human heart.

     Ah, how unrelievedly boring life would be!

      There is a strong view that holds that success is a myth, and ambition therefore a
sham. Does this mean that success does not really exist? That achievement is at
bottom empty? That the efforts of men and women are of no significance alongside the
force of movements and events? Now not all success, obviously, is worth esteeming,
nor all ambition worth cultivating. Which are and which are not is something one soon
enough learns on one's own. But even the most cynical secretly admit that success
exists; that achievement counts for a great deal; and that the true myth is that the
actions of men and women are useless. To believe otherwise is to take on a point of

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view that is likely to be deranging. It is, in its implications, to remove all motive for
competence, interest in attainment, and regard for posterity.

      We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose
our historical epoch, the country of our birth or the immediate circumstances of our
upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time or
conditions of our death. But within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how
we shall live: courageously or in cowardice, honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or
in drift. We decide what is important and what is trivial in life. We decide that what
makes us significant is either what we do or what we refuse to do. But no matter how
indifferent the universe may be to our choices and decisions, these choices and
decisions are ours to make. We decide. We choose. And as we decide and choose, so
are our lives formed. In the end, forming our own destiny is what ambition is about.

Questions for Discussion
1. According to the author, what are some of the negative aspects of ambition?
2. What can cause ambition to be well-regarded?
3. What has caused ambition to the less admired in the United States in recent years?
4. The author states that “ambition … is morally a two-sided street”. What does he
5. To a great extent the author believes that “ambition is the linchpin of society”. How
   does he support that belief?
6. What would characterise a world without ambition according to Epstein?
7. Does the author believe that the quality of life would be improved without ambition?

Exploring Ideas
1. The concluding statement of the essay observes that "forming our own destiny is
    what ambition is about." Do you agree or disagree? Give your reasons.
2. Do you think that people are hypocritical about ambition? If so, in what ways?
3. Do you agree with the author that ambition holds society together?
4. How does ambition manifest itself in your society? How does it compare with some
    of Epstein's observations vis-a-vis American society?
5. Discuss or debate the following statements found in the essay.
(a) “Surely ambition is behind dreams of glory, of wealth, of love, of distinction, of
    accomplishment, of pleasure, of goodness”.
(b) “Individuality and ambition are firmly linked”.
(c) “To discourage ambition is to discourage dreams of grandeur and greatness”.
(d) “Ambition, as opposed to mere fantasising about desires, implies work and
    discipline to achieve goals, personal and social, of a kind society can not survive

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     Born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1906, Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa has been
     president of San Francisco State College and a United States Senator.
     As a professor of English, he has been most influential as a scholar and
     teacher of general semantics. Author of several books, Prof. Hayakawa’s
     Language in Thought and Action (1941) has been widely used in writing
     and philosophy courses. He has also written many articles on a wide
     range of social and personal issues. “Our Son Mark” is one of those
     articles, written originally for McCall’s magazine.

                         Our Son Mark
      It was a terrible blow for us to discover that we had brought a retarded child into
the world. My wife and I had had no previous acquaintance with the problems of
retardation -- not even with the words to discuss it. Only such words as imbecile, idiot,
and moron came to mind. And the prevailing opinion was that such a child must be “put
away”, to live out his life in an institution.

      Mark was born with Down's syndrome, popularly known as mongolism. The
prognosis for his ever reaching anything approaching normality was hopeless. Medical
authorities advised us that he would show some mental development, but the progress
would be painfully slow and he would never reach an adolescent’s mental age. We
could do nothing about it, they said. They sympathetically but firmly advised us to find a
private institution that would take him. To get him into a public institution, they said,
would require a waiting period of five years. To keep him at home for this length of time,
they warned, would have a disastrous effect on our family.

      That was twenty-seven years ago. In that time, Mark has never been “put away”.
He has lived at home. The only institution he sees regularly is the workshop he attends,
a special workshop for retarded adults. He is as much a part of the family as his mother,
his older brother, his younger sister, his father, or our longtime housekeeper and friend,
Daisy Rosebourgh.

      Mark has contributed to our stability and serenity. His retardation has brought us
grief, but we did not go on dwelling on what might have been, and we have been
rewarded by finding much good in things the way they are. From the beginning, we
have enjoyed Mark for his delightful self. He has never seemed like a burden. He was
an “easy” baby, quiet, friendly, and passive; but he needed a baby's care for a long
time. It was easy to be patient with him, although I must say that some of his stages,
such as his love of making chaos, as we called it, by pulling all the books he could
reach off the shelves, lasted much longer than normal children’s.

      Mark seems more capable of accepting things as they are than his immediate
relatives; his mental limitation has given him a capacity for contentment, a focus on the
present moment, which is often enviable. His world may be circumscribed, but it is a
happy and bright one. His enjoyment of simple experiences – swimming, food, birthday

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candles, sports-car rides, and cuddly cats – has that directness and intensity so many
philosophers recommend to all of us.

     Mark’s contentment has been a happy contribution to our family, and the challenge
of communicating with him, of doing things we can all enjoy, has drawn the family
together. And seeing Mark's communicative processes develop in slow motion has
taught me much about the process in all children.

      Fortunately Mark was born at a time when a whole generation of parents of
retarded children had begun to question the accepted dogmas about retardation.
Whatever they were told by their physicians about their children, parents began to ask:
“Is that so? Let’s see”. For what is meant by “retarded child”? There are different kinds
of retardation. Retarded child No. 1 is not retarded child No. 2, or 3, or 4. Down's
syndrome is one condition, while brain damage is something else. There are different
degrees of retardation, just as there are different kinds of brain damage. No two
retarded children are exactly alike in all respects. Institutional care does turn out to be
the best answer for some kinds of retarded children or some family situations. The point
is that one observes and reacts to the specific case and circumstances rather than to
the generalisation.

      This sort of attitude has helped public understanding of the nature and problems of
8 retardation to become much deeper and more widespread. It is hard to believe now
that it was “definitely known” twenty years ago that institutionalisation was the “only
way”. We were told that a retarded child could not be kept at home because “it would
not be fair to the other children”. The family would not be able to stand the stress.
“Everybody” believed these things and repeated them, to comfort and guide the parents
of the retarded.

      We did not, of course, lightly disregard the well-meant advice of university
neurologists and their social-worker teams, for they had had much experience and we
were new at this shattering experience. But our general semantics, or our parental
feelings, made us aware that their reaction to Mark was to a generalisation, while to us
he was an individual. They might have a valid generalisation about statistical stresses
on statistical families, but they knew virtually nothing about our particular family and its
evaluative processes.

     Mark was eight months old before we were told he was retarded. Of course we
had known that he was slower than the average child in smiling, in sitting up, in
responding to others around him. Having had one child who was extraordinarily ahead
of such schedules, we simply thought that Mark was at the other end of the average

      In the course of his baby checkups, at home and while travelling, we had seen
three different pediatricians. None of them gave us the slightest indication that all was
not well. Perhaps they were made uncertain by the fact that Mark, with his part
Japanese parentage, had a right to have “mongolian” features. Or perhaps this news is
as hard for a pediatrician to tell as it is for parents to hear, and they kept putting off the
job of telling us. Finally, Mark’s doctor did suggest a neurologist, indicating what his
fears were, and made an appointment.

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       It was Marge who bore the brunt of the first diagnosis and accompanying advice,
given at the university hospital at a time when I had to be out of town. Stunned and
crushed, she was told: “Your husband is a professional man. You cannot keep a child
like this at home”.
“But he lives on love”, she protested.
“Do not your other children live on love, too?” the social worker asked.
     Grief-stricken as she was, my wife was still able to recognise a non sequitur. One
does not lessen the love for one’s children by dividing it among several. “What can I
read to find out more about his condition and how to take care of him?”.

     Marge asked. “You cannot get help from a book”, answered the social worker.
“You must put him away”.

     Today this sounds like dialogue from the Dark Ages. And it was the Dark Ages.

      Today professional advice runs generally in the opposite direction: “Keep your
retarded child at home if it is at all possible”.

     It was parents who led the way: They organised into parents’ groups; they pointed
out the need for pre-schools, schools, diagnostic centres, work-training centres, and
sheltered workshops to serve the children who were being cared for at home; they
worked to get these services, which are now being provided in increasing numbers. But
the needs are a long way from being fully met.

      Yet even now the cost in money – not to mention the cost in human terms – is
much less if the child is kept at home than if he is sent to the institutions in which
children are put away. And many of the retarded are living useful and independent lives,
which would never have been thought possible for them.

     But for us at that time, as for other parents who were unknowingly pioneering new
ways for the retarded, it was a matter of going along from day to day, learning,
observing, and saying, “Let’s see”.

      There was one more frightening hurdle for our family to get over. On that traumatic
day Marge got the diagnosis, the doctor told her that it was too risky for us to have any
more children, that there was a fifty percent chance of our having another mongoloid
child. In those days, nothing was known of the cause of mongolism. There were many
theories. Now, at least, it is known to be caused by the presence of an extra
chromosome, a fault of cell division. But the question “Why does it happen?” had not yet
been answered.

     Today, genetic counseling is available to guide parents as to the probabilities of
recurrence on a scientific basis. We were flying blind. With the help of a doctor friend,
we plunged into medical books and discovered that the doctor who gave us the advice
was flying just as blind as we were. No evidence could be found for the fifty percent
odds. Although there did seem to be some danger of recurrence, we estimated that the
probabilities were with us. We took the risk and won.

    Our daughter, Wynne, is now twenty-five. She started as Mark's baby sister, soon
passed him in every way, and really helped bring him up. The fact that she had a

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retarded brother must have contributed at least something to the fact that she is at once
delightfully playful and mature, observant, and understanding. She has a fine
relationship with her two brothers.

     Both Wynne and Alan, Mark's older brother, have participated, with patience and
delight, in Mark’s development. They have shown remarkable ingenuity in instructing
and amusing him. On one occasion, when Mark was not drinking his milk, Alan called
him to his place at the table and said, “I’m a service station. What kind of car are you?”.

Mark, quickly entering into the make-believe, said, “Ford”.
Alan: “Shall I fill her up?”
Mark: “Yes”.
Alan: “Ethyl or regular?”
Mark: “Regular”.
Alan (bringing the glass to Mark’s mouth): “Here you are”.

      When Mark finished his glass of milk, Alan asked him, “Do you want your wind-
shield cleaned?” Then, taking a napkin, he rubbed it briskly across Mark’s face, while
Mark grinned with delight. This routine became a regular game for many weeks.

      Alan and Wynne interpret and explain Mark to their friends, but never once have I
heard them apologise for him or deprecate him. It is almost as if they judge the quality
of other people by how they react to Mark. They think he is “great”, and expect their
friends to think so too.

     Their affection and understanding were shown when Wynne flew to Oregon with
Mark to visit Alan and his wife, Cynthea, who went to college there. Wynne described
the whole reunion as “tremendous” and especially enjoyed Mark’s delight in the trip.

     “He was great on the plane”, she recalls. “He didn’t cause any trouble except that
he rang the bell for the stewardess a couple of times when he didn't need anything. He
was so great that I was going to send him back on the plane alone. He would have
enjoyed that”. But she didn’t, finally, because she didn't trust others to be able to
understand his speech or to know how to treat him without her there to give them clues.

      Mark looks reasonably normal. He is small for his age (about five feet tall) and
childlike. Anyone who is aware of these matters would recognise in him some of the
characteristic symptomatic features, but they are not extreme. His almost
incomprehensible speech, which few besides his family and teachers can understand, is
his most obvious sign of retardation.

    Mark fortunately does not notice any stares of curiosity he may attract. To imagine
how one looks in the eyes of others takes a level of awareness that appears to be
beyond him. Hence he is extremely direct and totally without self-consciousness.

     I have seen him come into our living room, walk up to a woman he has never seen
before, and kiss her in response to a genuinely friendly greeting. Since few of us are
accustomed to such directness of expression – especially the expression of affection –
the people to whom this has happened are deeply moved. Like other children, Mark

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responds to the evaluations of others. In our family, he is accepted just as he is.
Because others have always treated him as an individual, a valued individual, he feels
good about himself, and, consequently, he is good to live with. In every situation
between parent and child or between children, evaluations are involved – and these
interact on each other. Certainly, having Mark at home has helped us be more aware
and be more flexible in our evaluations.

      This kind of sensitivity must have carried over into relations between the two
normal children, because I cannot remember a single real fight or a really nasty incident
between Alan and Wynne. It is as if their readiness to try to understand Mark extended
into a general method of dealing with people. And I think Marge and I found the same
thing happening to us, so that we became more understanding with Alan and Wynne
than we might otherwise have been. If we had time and patience for Mark, why not for
the children who were quick and able? We knew we could do serious damage to Mark
by expecting too much of him and being disappointed. But how easy it is to expect too
much of bright children and how quickly they feel your disappointment! Seeing Mark’s
slow, slow progress certainly gave us real appreciation of the marvelous perception and
quick learning processes of the other two, so that all we had to do was open our eyes
and our ears, and listen and enjoy them.

      I do not want to sound as if we were never impatient or obtuse as parents. We
were, of course. But parents need to be accepted as they are, too. And I think our
children – bless their hearts – were reasonably able to do so.

      With Mark, it was easy to feel surprise and delight at any of his accomplishments.
He cannot read and will never be able to. But he can pick out on request almost any
record from his huge collection -- Fleetwood Mac, or the Rolling Stones, or Christmas
carols – because he knows so well what each record looks like. Once we were
discussing the forthcoming marriage of some friends of ours, and Mark disappeared into
his playroom to bring out, a few minutes later, a record with the song “A House, a Car,
and a Wedding Ring”.

      His love of music enables him to figure out how to operate almost any record
changer or hi-fi set. He never tries to force a piece of machinery because he cannot
figure out how it works, as brighter people often do. And in a strange hotel room, with a
TV set of unknown make, it is Mark – not Marge or I – who figures out how to turn it on
and get a clear picture. As Alan once remarked: “Mark may be retarded, but he’s not

     Of course, it has not all been easy – but when has easiness been the test of the
value of anything? To us, the difficult problems that must be faced in the future only
emphasise the value of Mark as a person.

       What does that future hold for Mark? He will never be able to be independent; he
will always have to live in a protected environment. His below IQ reflects the fact that he
cannot cope with unfamiliar situations.

     Like most parents of the retarded, we are concentrating on providing financial
security for Mark in the future, and fortunately we expect to be able to achieve this. Alan
and his wife and Wynne have all offered to be guardians for Mark. It is wonderful to

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know they feel this way. But we hope that Mark can find a happy place in one of the
new residence homes for the retarded.

       The residence home is something new and promising and it fills an enormous
need. It is somewhat like a club, or a family, with a house-mother or manager. The
residents share the work around the house, go out to work if they can, share in
recreation and companionship. Away from their families, who may be overprotective
and not aware of how much the retarded can do for themselves (are we not guilty of
this, too!), they are able to live more fully as adults.

      An indication that there is still much need for public education about the retarded
here in California is that there has been difficulty in renting decent houses for this kind
of home. Prospective neighbours have objected. In some ways the Dark Ages are still
with us; there are still fear and hostility where the retarded are concerned. Is Mark able
to work? Perhaps. He thrives on routine and enjoys things others despise, like clearing
the table and loading the dishwasher. To Mark, it is fun. It has been hard to develop in
him the idea of work, which to so many of us is “doing what you do not want to do
because you have to”. We do not know yet if he could work in a restaurant loading a
dishwasher. In school, he learned jobs like sorting and stacking scrap wood and
operating a delightful machine that swoops the string around and ties up a bundle of
wood to be sold in the supermarket. That’s fun, too.

      He is now in a sheltered workshop where he can get the kind – the one kind – of
50 pleasure he doesn't have much chance for. That's the pleasure of contributing
something productive and useful to the outside world. He does various kinds of
assembling jobs, packaging, sorting, and simple machine operations. He enjoys getting
a pay-check and cashing it at the bank. He cannot count, but he takes pride in reaching
for the check in a restaurant and pulling out his wallet. And when we thank him for
dinner, he glows with pleasure.

      It is a strange thing to say, and I am a little startled to find myself saying it, but
often I feel that I wouldn't have had Mark any different.

Questions for Discussion
1. In what ways did Mark contribute to the stability and serenity of the Hayakawa
2. What are some of Mark's commendable qualities that his father observes?
3. How has public understanding of retardation changed in recent years?
4. What advice did the Hayakawas receive about Mark's possible negative effect upon
   their family?
5. When the author refers to the Dark Ages, how were they symbolic relevant to the
   counsel they received about Mark?
6. How do the other children of the Hayakawa family show sensitivity to Mark and his
7. What are some of the positive effects of Mark upon the Hayakawa family?
8. What are residence halls for the retarded?
9. Why do you think Dr. Hayakawa wrote the essay?

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Exploring Ideas
1. Explain your overall reaction to the essay.
2. If you have experience with retarded persons, give some of your own observations
   or conclusions regarding their place in society.
3. How important was it for Mark to be accepted as he was? for the family to accept
   him as he was?
4. Alan remarked once: “Mark may be retarded, but he’s not stupid?” What does he
   mean by that statement?

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                     EDWARD HOAGLAN
     Born in New York City in 1932, Edward Hoagland is a confirmed city
     dweller who still lives in the city of his birth. After graduating from
     Harvard College in 1954, Hoagland served in the Army for two years
     and published his )karst novel, Cat Man, in 1956. He is especially
     interested in the North American wilderness and has written books of
     essays concerning the animals of the wild as well as the wilderness itself.
     Hoagland has also written a number of short stories although he is
     probably best known as an essayist. During his professional career, he
     has, on occasion, taught writing at various colleges in the New York
     area as well as in the well-known creative writing program at the
     University of Iowa. “On Essays” was first published in 1976 and is
     included in Hoagland’s book, The Tugman’s Passage (1982).

                         On Essays
      We sometimes hear that essays are an old-fashioned form, that so-and-so is the
“last essayist”, but the facts of the marketplace argue quite otherwise. Essays of nearly
any kind are so much easier than short stories for a writer to sell, so many more see
print, it is strange that though two fine anthologies remain that publish the year's best
stories, no comparable collection exists for essays. Such changes in the reading
public's taste aren't always to the good, needless to say. The art of telling stories
predated even cave painting, surely; and if we ever find ourselves living in caves again,
it (with painting and drumming) will be the only art left, after movies, novels,
photography, essays, biography, and all the rest have gone down the drain – the art to
build from.

     One has the sense with the short story as a form that while everything may have
been done, nothing has been overdone; it has a permanence. Essays, if a comparison
is to be made, although they go back four hundred years to Montaigne, seem a
mercurial, newfangled, sometimes hockey affair that has lent itself to many of the
excesses of the age, from spurious autobiography to spurious hallucination, as well as
to the shabby careerism of traditional journalism. It is a greased pig. Essays are
associated with the way young writers fashion a name – on plain, crowded newsprint in
hybrid vehicles like the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, the New York Review of Books,
instead of the thick paper stock and thin readership of Partisan Review.

      Essays, however, hang somewhere on a line between two sturdy poles: this is
what I think, and this is what I am. Autobiographies which aren’t novels are generally
extended essays, indeed. A personal essay is like the human voice talking, its order the
by Edward Hoagland. Reprinted by permission of' Random House, Inc. Mind’s natural
Row, instead of a systematised outline of ideas. Though more wayward or informal than
an article or treatise, somewhere it contains a point which is its real centre, even if the
point couldn't be uttered in fewer words than the essayist has used.

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      Essays do not usually boil down to a summary, as articles do, and the style of the
writer has a “nap” to it, a combination of personality and originality and energetic loose
ends that stand up like the nap on a piece of wool and cannot be brushed flat. Essays
belong to the animal kingdom, with a surface that generates sparks, like a coat of fur,
compared with the flat, conventional cotton of the magazine article writer, who works in
the vegetable kingdom, instead. But, essays, on the other hand, may have fewer
“levels” than fiction, because we are not supposed to argue much about their meaning.
In the old distinction between teaching and storytelling, the essayist, however cleverly
he camouflages his intentions, is a bit of a teacher or reformer, and an essay is
intended to convey the same point to each of us.

      This emphasis upon mind speaking to mind is what make essays less universal in
their appeal than stories. They are addressed to an educated, perhaps a middle-class,
reader, with certain presuppositions, a frame of reference, even a commitment to civility
that is shared -- not the grand and golden empathy inherent in every man or woman
that a storyteller has a chance to tap.

       Nevertheless, the artful “I” of an essay can be as chameleon as any narrator in
fiction; and essays do tell a story quite as often as a short story stakes a claim to a
particular viewpoint. Mark Twain's piece called “Corn-pone Opinions”, for example,
which is about public opinion, begins with a vignette as vivid as any in Huckleberry Finn.

      Twain says that when he was a boy of fifteen, he used to hang out a back window
and listen to the sermons preached by a neighbour’s slave standing on top of a
woodpile: “He imitated the pulpit style of the several clergyman of the village, and did it
well and with fine passion and energy. To me he was a wonder. I believed he was the
greatest orator in the United States and would some day be heard from. But it did not
happen; in the distribution of rewards he was overlooked… He interrupted his preaching
now and then to saw a stick of wood, but the sawing was a pretense – he did it with his
mouth, exactly imitating the sound the bucksaw makes in shrieking its way through the

      But it served its purpose, it kept his master from coming out to see how the work
was getting along. A novel would go on and tell us what happened next in the life of the
slave – and we miss that. But the extraordinary flexibility of essays is what has enabled
them to ride out rough weather and hybridise into forms that suit the times. And just as
one of the first things a fiction writer learns is that he needn’t actually be writing fiction to
write a short story – that he can tell his own history or anybody else’s as exactly as he
remembers it and it will be “fiction” if it remains primarily a story – an essayist soon
discovers that he doesn’t have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth; he can
shape or shave his memories, as long as the purpose is served of elucidating a truthful

      A personal essay frequently is not autobiographical at all, but what it does keep in
common with autobiography is that, through its tone and tumbling progression, it
conveys the quality of the author's mind. Nothing gets in the way. Because essays are
directly concerned with the mind and the mind’s idiosyncrasy, the very freedom the
mind possesses is bestowed on this branch of literature that does honour to it, and the
fascination of the mind is the fascination of the essay.

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Questions for Discussion
1. What does the author mean by the following statements:
(a) “A personal essay is like the human voice talking, it orders the mind’s natural flow,
    instead of a systematised outline of ideas”. (Paragraph 3)
(b) “But, essays on the other hand, may have fewer “levels” than fiction, because we
    are not supposed to argue much about their meaning”. (Paragraph 3)
(c) “…an essayist soon discovers that he doesn't have to tell the whole truth and
    nothing but the truth; he can shape or shave his memories”. (Paragraph 6)
2. How does the author distinguish between essays and works of fiction?
According to Hoagland, what is the main purpose of all essays?
What advantages, if any, does the essayist have over the short story writer?

Exploring Ideas
1. Do you agree with the author that essays cannot be reduced to a summary, as in a
   single sentence? Give reasons for your answer.
2. How would you define the essay? What makes an essay good or bad?
3. The author says that “essays are directly concerned with the mind and the mind's
   idiosyncrasy”. How have you found this to be true in your reading of essays?
4. Agree or disagree with the statements discussed in question one of “Questions for

Optional Activity
1. Make a list of vocabulary items or expressions that you feel contribute in a positive
   way to the style of the author.
2. Write an essay of your own in which you expand upon Hoagland’s closing statement
   in Paragraph 6.

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                            LEROI JONES
                          (Amiri Baraka)
     Born in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), is a
     talented poet and playwright, essayist, and unique Black militant. His position
     in America has always been paradoxical and he has been called a “poet of
     politics”, accused often of being a black racist, both in his plays as well as in
     his poetry. Jones is also highly regarded as a prose stylist. Of himself, Jones
     has observed concerning his ambitions: “To write beautiful poems full of
     mystical sociology and abstract politics. To show America it is ugly and full
     of middle-class toads (black and white)”.

                         City of Harlem
      In a very real sense, Harlem is the capital of Black America. And America has
always been divided into black and white, and the substance of the division is social,
economic, and cultural. But even the name Harlem, now, means simply Negroes (even
though some other peoples live there too). The identification is international as well:
even in Belize, the capital of predominantly Negro British Honduras, there are vendors
who decorate their carts with flowers and the names or pictures of Negro culture heroes
associated with Harlem like Sugar Ray Robinson. Some of the vendors even wear T-
shirts that say "Harlem, U.S.A.," and they speak about it as a black Paris. In Havana a
young Afro-Cuban begged me to tell him about the “big leg ladies” of Lenox Avenue,
hoping, too, that I could provide some way for him to get to that mystic and romantic

      There are, I suppose, contained within the central mythology of Harlem, almost as
many versions of its glamour, and its despair, as there are places with people to make
them up. (In one meaning of the name, Harlem is simply a place white cab drivers will
not go.) And Harlem means not only Negroes, but, of course, whatever other
associations one might connect with them. So in one breath Harlem will be the
pleasure-happy centre of the universe, full of loud, hippy mamas in electric colours and
their fast, slick-head papas, all of them twisting and grinning in the streets in a kind of
existential joyousness that never permits of sadness or responsibility. But in another
breath this same place will be the gathering place for every crippling human vice, and
the black men there simply victims of their own peculiar kind of sloth and childishness.
But perhaps these are not such different versions after all; chances are both these
stereotypes come from the same kinds of minds.

      But Harlem, as it is, as it exists for its people, as an actual place where actual
humans live – that is a very different thing. Though, to be sure, Harlem is a place – a
city really – where almost anything any person could think of to say goes on, probably
does go on, or has gone on, but like any other city, it must escape any blank
generalisation simply because it is alive, and changing each second with each breath
any of its citizens take.

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     When Africans first got to New York, or New Amsterdam as the Dutch called it,
they lived in the farthest downtown portions of the city, near what is now called the
Bowery. Later, they shifted, and were shifted, as their numbers grew, to the section
known as Greenwich Village. The Civil War Draft Riots in 1863 accounted for the next
move by New York's growing Negro population.

      After this violence (a few million dollars' worth of property was destroyed, and a
Negro orphanage was burned to the ground) a great many Negroes moved across the
river into Brooklyn. But many others moved farther uptown to an area just above what
was known as Hell's Kitchen. The new Negro ghetto was known as Black Bohemia, and
later, after the success of an all black regiment in the Spanish-American war, this
section was called San Juan Hill. And even in the twenties when most Negroes had
made their move even further uptown to Harlem, San Juan Hill was still a teeming
branch office of black night life.

     Three sections along the east side of Manhattan, The Tenderloin, Black Bohemia,
and San Juan Hill or The Jungle featured all kinds of “sporting houses”, cabarets,
“dancing classes”, afterhours gin mills, as well as the Gumbo Suppers, Fish Fries, Egg
Nog Parties, Chitterlin’ Struts, and Pigfoot Hops, before the Negroes moved still farther

      The actual move into what is now Harlem was caused by quite a few factors, but
there are a few that were particularly important as catalysts. First, locally, there were
more race riots around the turn of the century between the white poor (as always) and
the Negroes. Also, the Black Bohemia section was by now extremely overcrowded,
swelled as it was by the influx of Negroes from all over the city. The section was a
notorious red light district (but then there have only been two occupations a black
woman could go into in America without too much trouble: the other was domestic help)
and the overcrowding made worse by the moral squalor that poverty encourages meant
that the growing local black population had to go somewhere. The immigrant groups
living on both sides of the black ghetto fought in the streets to keep their own ghettos
autonomous and pure, and the Negro had to go elsewhere.

      At this time, just about the turn of the century, Harlem (an area which the first
Africans had helped connect with the rest of the Dutch city by clearing a narrow road –
Broadway – up into the woods of New Harlem) was still a kind of semi-suburban area,
populated, for the most part, by many of the city's wealthiest families. The elaborate
estates of the eighteenth century, built by men like Alexander Hamilton and Roger
Morris, were still being lived in, but by the descendants of wealthy merchants. (The
Hamilton house still stands near Morningside Heights, as an historic landmark called
The Grange. The Morris house, which was once lived in by Aaron Burr, is known as The
Jumel House, and it still stands at the northern part of Harlem, near the Polo

     Grounds, as a museum run by the D.A.R. George Washington used it as his
headquarters for a while during the Revolutionary War.) So there was still the quiet
elegance of the nineteenth century brownstones and spacious apartment buildings, the
wide drives, rolling greens, and huge-trunked trees.

       What made the area open up to Negroes was the progress that America has
always been proud of -- an elevated railway went up in the nineties, and the very rich
left immediately and the near rich very soon after. Saint Philips Church, after having its

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old site bought up by a railroad company, bought a large piece of property, with large
apartment buildings, in the centre of Harlem, and, baby, the panic was on. Rich and
famous Negroes moved into the vacated luxury houses very soon after, including the
area now known as “Strivers Row”, which was made up of almost one hundred brick
mansions designed by Stanford White. The panic was definitely on -- but still only

     What really turned that quiet suburb into “Black Paris”, was the coming of the First
World War and the mass exodus of Negroes from the South to large urban centres. At
the turn of the century most Negroes still lived in the South and were agricultural
labourers, but the entrance of America into the War, and the desperate call for cheap
unskilled labour, served to start thousands of Negroes scrambling North. The flow of
immigrants from Europe had all but ceased by 1914, and the industrialists knew
immediately where to turn. They even sent recruiters down into the South to entice the
Negroes North. In 1900 the Negro population of New York City was 60,000; by 1920 it
was 152,467; by 1930 it was 227,706. And most of these moved, of course, uptown.

     It was this mass exodus during the early part of the century that was responsible
for most of the black cities of the North – the huge Negro sections of New York,
Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, etc. It was also responsible for what these sections
would very shortly become, as the masses of Southern Negroes piled into their new
Jordans, thinking to have a go at an innocent America.

     The twenties are legend because they mark America’s sudden insane entrance
into the 20th century. The war had brought about a certain internationalism and
prosperity (even, relatively speaking, for Negroes). During the twenties Harlem was the
mecca of the good time and in many ways even came to symbolise the era called the
Jazz Age.

     Delirious white people made the trip uptown to hear Negro musicians and singers,
and watch Negro dancers, and even Negro intellectuals. It was, I suppose, the black
man’s debut into the most sophisticated part of America. The old darkies of the
plantation were suddenly all over the North, and making a whole lot of noise.

      There were nightclubs in Harlem that catered only to white audiences, but with the
best Negro entertainers. White intellectuals made frequent trips to Harlem, not only to
find out about a newly emerging black America, but to party with an international set of
swinging bodies. It was the era of Ellington at The Cotton Club for the sensual, and The
New Negro' for the intellectual. Everyone spoke optimistically of the Negro
Renaissance, and The New Negro, as if, somehow, the old Negro wasn't good enough.

      Harlem sparkled then, at least externally, and it took the depression to dull that
sparkle, and the long lines of unemployed Negroes and the longer lines at the soup
kitchens and bread queues brought reality down hard on old and new Negroes alike. So
the tourist trade diminished, and colourful Harlem became just a social liability for the
white man, and an open air jail for the black.

     The cold depression thirties, coupled with the decay of old buildings and ancient
neighbourhoods, and, of course, the seeming inability of the “free enterprise” system to
provide either jobs or hope for a great many black people in the city of Harlem, have
served to make this city another kind of symbol. For many Negroes, whether they live in

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Harlem or not, the city is simply a symbol of naked oppression. You can walk along
125th Street any evening and meet about one hundred uniformed policemen, who are
there, someone will tell you, to protect the people from themselves.

      For many Negroes, Harlem is a place one escapes from, and lives in shame about
for the rest of his life. But this is one of the weirdest things about the American
experience, that it can oppress a man, almost suck his life away, and then make him so
ashamed that he was among the oppressed, rather than the oppressors, that he will
never offer any protest.

     The New Negro: a collection of essays published in 1925 by Alain Locke, which
attempted to define the culture of the American Negro.

     The legitimate cultural tradition of the Negro in Harlem (and America) is one of wild
happiness, usually at some black man’s own invention – of speech, of dress, of gait, the
sudden twist of a musical phrase, the warmness or hurt of someone’s voice.

     But that culture is also one of hatred and despair. Harlem must contain all of this
and be capable of producing all of these emotions.

     People line the streets in summer – on the corners or hanging out the windows –
or head for other streets in winter. Vendors go by slowly and crowds of people from
movies or church. (Saturday afternoons, warm or cold, 125th is jammed with shoppers
and walkers, and the record stores scream through loudspeakers at the street.)

     Young girls, doctors, pimps, detectives, preachers, drummers, accountants,
gamblers, labour organisers, postmen, wives, Muslims, junkies, the employed, and the
unemployed: all going someplace – an endless stream of Americans, whose singularity
in America is that they are black and can never honestly enter into the lunatic asylum of
white America.

      Harlem for this reason is a community of nonconformists, since any black
American, simply by virtue of his blackness, is weird, a nonconformist in this society. A
community of nonconformists, not an artists’ colony – though blind “ministers” still
wander sometimes along 137th Street, whispering along the strings of their guitars – but
a colony of old-line Americans, who can hold out, even if it is a great deal of the time in
misery and ignorance, but still hold out, against the hypocrisy and sterility of big-time
America, and still try to make their own lives, simply because of their colour, but by now,
not so simply, because that colour now does serve to identify people in America whose
feelings about it are not broadcast every day on television.

Questions for Discussion
1.   According to the author, what is the mythology of Harlem? What is its “reality”?
2.   Describe how Harlem came into being, historically.
3.   What caused the area known as Harlem to open up to settlement by Negroes?
4.   What effect did World War I have upon Harlem? the twenties?
5.   According to the author, what is the Negro’s “legitimate cultural tradition?”
6.   Why is Harlem a “community of nonconformists?”

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Exploring Ideas
1. The author calls New York City “a symbol of naked oppression”. What does he mean
   by such an observation? How would you define oppression? What kinds of
   oppression are there?
2. How would you describe the “legitimate cultural tradition” of your people or nation?
   How important is it for people to have a cultural tradition?
3. What, to you, is a nonconformist?

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                MAXINE HONG KINGSTON
     Born in Stockton, California, in 1940, Maxine Hong Kingston grew up in a
     Chinese immigrant community, where her parents had a laundry. In the
     selection below, taken from her autobiography, The Woman Warrior:
     Memories of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, she recalls some of the confusion and
     difficulties she faced as a small child living in two contrasting cultures – one
     American, the other Chinese. A graduate of the University of California at
     Berkeley, author Kingston presently lives in Hawaii where she teaches at the
     University of Hawaii. Her latest book, published in 1980, is China Men.

                The Misery of Silence                               4

      When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the first time, I became
silent. A dumbness – a shame – still cracks my voice in two, even when I want to say
“hello” casually, or ask an easy question in front of the check-out counter, or ask
directions of a bus driver. I stand frozen, or I hold up the line with the complete,
grammatical sentence that comes squeaking out at impossible length. “What did you
say?” says the cab driver, or “Speak up”, so I have to perform again, only weaker the
second time. A telephone call makes my throat bleed and takes up that day’s courage.
It spoils my day with self-disgust when I hear my broken voice come skittering out into
the open. It makes people wince to hear it. I'm getting better, though. Recently I asked
the postman for special-issue stamps; I've waited since childhood for postmen to give
me some of their own accord. I am making progress, a little every day.

      My silence was thickest – total – during the three years that I covered my school
paintings with black paint. I painted layers of black over houses and flowers and suns,
and when I drew on the blackboard, I put a layer of chalk on top. I was making a stage
curtain, and it was the moment before the curtain parted or rose. The teachers called
my parents to school, and I saw they had been saving my pictures, curling and cracking,
all alike and black. The teachers pointed to the pictures and looked serious, talked
seriously too, but my parents did not understand English. (“The parents and teachers of
criminals were executed”, said my father.) My parents took the pictures home. I spread
them out (so black and full of possibilities) and pretended the curtains were swinging
open flying up, one after another, sunlight underneath, mighty operas.

      During the first silent year I spoke to no one at school, did not ask before going to
the lavatory, and flunked kindergarten. My sister also said nothing for three years, silent
in the playground and silent at lunch. There were other quiet Chinese girls not of our
family, but most of them got over it sooner than we did. I enjoyed the silence. At first it
did not occur to me I was supposed to talk or to pass kindergarten. I talked at home and
to one or two of the Chinese kids in class. I made motions and even made some jokes. I
drank out of a toy saucer when the water spilled out of the cup, and everybody laughed,
pointing at me, so I did it some more. I didn’t know that Americans do not drink out of

4 Copyright © 1975, 1976 by Maxine Hong Kingston. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A.

Knopf, Inc.
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      I liked the Negro students (Black Ghosts) best because they laughed the loudest
and talked to me as if I were a daring talker too. One of the Negro girls had her mother
coil braids over her ears Shanghai-style like mine; we were Shanghai twins except that
she was covered with black like my paintings. Two Negro kids enrolled in Chinese
school, and the teachers gave them Chinese names. Some Negro kids walked me to
school and home, protecting me from the Japanese kids, who hit me and chased me
and stuck gum in my ears. The Japanese kids were noisy and tough. They appeared
one day in kindergarten, released from concentration camp, which was a tie-tac-toe
mark, like barbed wire, on the map.

      It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence
became a misery. I did not speak and felt bad each time that I did not speak. I read
aloud in first grade, though, and heard the barest whisper with little squeaks come out of
my throat. “Louder”, said the teacher, who scared the voice away again. The other
Chinese girls did not talk either, so I knew the silence had to do with being a Chinese

     Reading out loud was easier than speaking because we did not have to make up
what to say, but I stopped often, and the teacher would think I'd gone quiet again. I
could not understand “I”. The Chinese “I” has seven strokes, intricacies. How could the
American “I”, assuredly wearing a hat like the Chinese, have only three strokes, the
middle so straight?

      Was it out of politeness that this writer left off strokes the way a Chinese has to
write her own name small and crooked? No, it was not politeness; “I” is a capital and
“you” is lower-case. I stared at that middle line and waited so long for its black centre to
resolve into tight strokes and dots that I forgot to pronounce it. The other troublesome
word was “here”, no strong consonant to hang on to, and so flat, when “here” is two
mountainous ideographs. The teacher, who had already told me every day how to read
“I” and “here”, put me in the low corner under the stairs again, where the noisy boys
usually sat.

      When my second grade class did a play, the whole class went to the auditorium
except the Chinese girls. The teacher, lovely and Hawaiian, should have understood
about us, but instead left us behind in the classroom. Our voices were too soft or non-
existent, and our parents never signed the permission slips anyway. They never signed
anything unnecessary. We opened the door a crack and peeked out, but closed it again
quickly. One of us (not me) won every spelling bee, though.

     I remember telling the Hawaiian teacher, “We Chinese cannot sing land where our
fathers died”. She argued with me about politics, while I meant because of curses. But
how can I have that memory when I couldn’t talk? My mother says that we, like the
ghosts, have no memories.

     After American school, we picked up our cigar boxes, in which we had arranged
books, brushes, and an inkbox neatly, and went to Chinese school, from 5:00 to 7:30
P.M. There we chanted together, voices rising and falling, loud and soft, some boys
shouting, everybody reading together, reciting together and not alone with one voice.

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      When we had a memorisation test, the teacher let each of us come to his desk
and say the lesson to him privately, while the rest of the class practiced copying or

       Most of the teachers were men. The boys who were so well behaved in the
American school played tricks on them and talked back to them. The girls were not
mute. They screamed and yelled during recess, when there were no rules; they had
fistfights. Nobody was afraid of children hurting themselves or of children hurting school

      The glass doors to the red and green balconies with the gold joy symbols were left
wide open so that we could run out and climb the fire escapes. We played capture-the-
flag in the auditorium, where Sun Yatsen and Chiang Kai-shek’s pictures hung at the
back of the stage, the Chinese flag on their left and the American flag on their right. We
climbed the teak ceremonial chairs and made flying leaps off the stage. One flag
headquarters was behind the glass door and the other on stage right. Our feet
drummed on the hollow stage. During recess the teachers locked themselves up in their
office with the shelves of books, copybooks, inks from China. They drank tea and
warmed their hands at a stove. There was no play supervision. At recess we had the
school to ourselves, and also we could roam as far as we could downtown, Chinatown
stores, home – as long as we returned before the bell rang.

      At exactly 7:30 the teacher again picked up the brass bell that sat on his desk and
swung it over our heads, while we charged down the stairs, our cheering magnified in
the stairwell. Nobody had to line up.

      Not all of the children who were silent at American school found voice at Chinese
school. One new teacher said each of us had to get up and recite in front of the class,
who was to listen. My sister and I had memorised the lesson perfectly. We said it to
each other at home, one chanting, one listening. The teacher called on my sister to
recite first. It was the first time a teacher had called on the second-born to go first. My
sister was scared. She glanced at me and looked away; I looked down at my desk. I
hoped that she could do it because if she could, then I would have to. She opened her
mouth and a voice came out that wasn't a whisper, but it wasn't a proper voice either. I
hoped that she would not cry, fear breaking up her voice like twigs underfoot. She
sounded as if she were trying to sing though weeping and strangling. She did not pause
or stop to end the embarrassment. She kept going until she said the last word, and then
she sat down. When it was my turn, the same voice came out, a crippled animal running
on broken legs. You could hear splinters in my voice, bones rubbing jagged against one
another. I was loud, though. I was glad I didn't whisper.

     How strange that the emigrant villagers are shouters, hollering face to face. My
father asks. “Why is it I can hear Chinese from blocks away? Is it that I understand the
language? Or is it they talk loud?” They turn the radio up full blast to hear the operas,
which do not seem to hurt their ears. And they yell over the singers that wail over the
drums, everybody talking at once, big arm gestures, spit flying. You can see the disgust
on American faces looking at women like that. It isn’t just the loudness. It is the way
Chinese sounds, ching-chong ugly, to American ears, not beautiful like Japanese
sayonara words with the consonants and vowels as regular as Italian. We make guttural
peasant noise and have Ton Duc Thang names you cannot remember. And the
Chinese cannot hear Americans at all; the language is too soft and western music
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unhearable. I have watched a Chinese audience laugh, visit, talk-story, and holler
during a piano recital, as if the musician could not hear them. A Chinese-American,
somebody’s son, was playing Chopin, which has no punctuation, no cymbals, no gongs.
Chinese piano music is five black keys. Normal Chinese women's voices are strong and
bossy. We American-Chinese girls had to whisper to make ourselves American-
feminine. Apparently we whispered even more softly than the Americans. Once a year
the teachers referred my sister and me to speech therapy, but our voices would
straighten out, unpredictably normal, for the therapists. Some of us gave up, shook our
heads, and said nothing, not one word. Some of us could not even shake our heads. At
times shaking my head no is more self-assertion than I can manage. Most of us
eventually found some voice, however faltering. We invented an American-feminine
speaking personality.

Questions for Discussion
1. What is the significance of Kingston’s paintings? How are they related to her
2. What difficulty did the English pronoun, “I”, cause Kingston? What trouble did the
   word, “here”, present?
3. Contrast the behaviour of the Chinese students in American school with that in
   Chinese school.
4. In what way was Kingston, perhaps, a “problem” student in class?
5. What contrasts between American characteristics and those of the Chinese does the
   author make?

Exploring Ideas
1. Does the essay picture a stereotype of the Oriental woman? Explain your answer.
2. In your opinion, do people have "speaking personalities?" Explain.
3. If you had been Kingston's teacher, how would you have handled her?

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                       KATHERINE KUH
     Katherine Kuh was born in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri and educated at
     Vassar College and the University of Chicago. She has been curator of
     modern painting and sculpture at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1959 she was
     appointed art editor for the Saturday Review. Besides Break Up: The Core of
     Modern Art (1965), from which this essay was taken, her books include Art
     Has Many Faces (1951), The Artist's Voice (1962), and The Open Eye (1971).
     Kuh’s thesis in the following essay is that modern art tends to be one of
     fragmentation and that this tendency has increased over the years.

                           Modern Art                 5

      The art of our century has been characterised by shattered surfaces, broken
colour, segmented compositions, dissolving forms and shredded images. Curiously
insistent is this consistent emphasis on break-up. However, dissolution today does not
necessarily mean lack of discipline. It can also mean a new kind of discipline, for
disintegration is often followed by reconstruction, the artist deliberately smashing his
material only to reassemble it in new and unexpected relationships. Moreover, the
process of breaking up is quite different from the process of breaking down. And during
the last hundred years, every aspect of art has been broken up – colour, light, pigment,
form, line, content, space, surface and design.

       In the nineteenth century, easels were moved out-of-doors and colour was broken
into relatively minute areas in order to approximate the reality of sunlight and to
preserve on canvas nature's own fleeting atmospheric effects. Known as
Impressionism, this movement was the first step in a long sequence of experiments that
finally banished the Renaissance emphasis on humanism, on three-dimensional form
and on a traditional centre of interest. Here was the beginning of a gradual but steady
tendency toward diffusion in art. A few years later, Vincent Van Gogh transformed
broken colour into broken pigment. Less interested in realistic light than in his own
highly charged emotions, he allowed smashing rhythmic brushstrokes to mirror his
personal turbulence. In doing so he foretold twentieth-century Expressionism, that aptly
named movement which relied on pitted surfaces, broken outlines, unpredictable colour
and scarred textures to intensify emotional expression. As the Impressionists were bent
on freeing nature from sham, so the Expressionists hoped to liberate their own feelings
from all trace of artificiality.

     Perhaps the most revolutionary break-up in modern art took place a little more
than fifty years ago with the advent of Cubism. It was the Cubists, Picasso, Braque,
Duchamp, Picabia, Leger, Delaunay and Juan Gris, who responded to the inordinate
multiplicity of present-day life by breaking up and arbitrarily rearranging transparent
planes and surfaces so that all sides of an object could be seen at once. As the Cubists
broke through the boundaries of conventional form to show multiple aspects

 From BREAK UP: THE CORE OF MODERN ART by Katherine Kuh. Copyright (C)
1965 by Cory, Adams and McKay Ltd., London, England.
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simultaneously, their Italian colleagues, the Futurists, hoped to encompass the
uninterrupted motion of an object at one time. This they tried to do by a series of
overlapping transparent forms illustrating the path of an object as it moved through

      With Surrealism came still another kind of break-up, the break-up of chronology.
Frankly influenced by Freudian discoveries, this movement splintered time sequence
with an abandon borrowed from the world of fragmented dreams. Content was
purposely unhinged in denial of all rational expression, allowing disconnected episodes
to recreate the disturbing life of our unconscious. At the same time, perspective and
distance often became severely dislocated. Denying the orderly naturalism of the
Renaissance, painters today project space and distance from innumerable eye levels,
intentionally segmenting their compositions into conflicting perspectives. We look from
above, from below, from diverse angles, from near, from far – all at one and the same
time (not an unfamiliar experience for eyes accustomed to air travel). Here again is the
Cubist idea of simultaneity, the twentieth-century urge to approach a scene from many
different directions in a single condensed encounter.

      Finally we come to the total break-up of Abstract Expressionism, a technique that
celebrates the specific act of painting (sometimes appropriately called Action Painting).
Now everything is shattered -- line, light, colour, form, pigment, surface and design.
These canvases defy all the old rules as they reveal the immediate spontaneous
feelings of the artist in the process of painting. There is no one central idea, no
beginning, no end only an incessant flow and flux where lightning brushstrokes report
the artist’s impulsive and compulsive reactions. The pigment actually develops a life of
its own, almost strong enough to hypnotise the painter. Here break-up turns into both
content and form, with the impetuous paint itself telling the full story. No naturalistic
image is needed to describe these artists’ volatile feelings.

      As one looks back over the last hundred years, the history of break-up becomes a
key to the history of art. Why painters and sculptors of this period have been so involved
with problems of dissolution is a question only partly answered by the obvious impact of
modern scientific methods of destruction. One cannot deny that the last two devastating
wars and the possibility of a still more devastating one to come do affect our daily
thinking. Since the discovery of the atom bomb, science has become almost
synonymous with destruction. The influence of contemporary warfare with its colossal
explosions and upheavals has unquestionably had much to do with the tendency toward
fragmentation in art, but there have been other and earlier causes.

      From the beginning, it was science in one form or another that affected modern
painting and sculpture. In nineteenth-century Europe the interest in atmospheric
phenomena was not an isolated expression limited to the Impressionists. At that time,
numerous scientists were experimenting with all manner of optical colour laws, writing
widely on the subject as they investigated the relationship of colour to the human eye.

      Artists like Monet and Seurat were familiar with these findings and not unnaturally
applied them to their paintings. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the
influence of contemporary scientific research on the development of Impressionism. The
wonders of natural light became a focus for nineteenth-century artists exactly as the
magic of artificial light stimulated painters of the precentury. If the earlier men were
more interested in rural landscapes seen out-of-doors in the sunlight, the later artists
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quite reasonably concentrated on city scenes, preferably at night when man-made
luminosity tends to puncture both form and space.

      less influential, are the psychoanalytic studies of Freud and his followers,
discoveries that have infiltrated recent art, especially Surrealism. The Surrealists, in
their struggle to escape the monotony and frustrations of everyday life, claimed that
dreams were the only hope. Turning to the irrational world of their unconscious, they
banished all time barriers and moral judgements to combine disconnected dream
experiences from the past, present and intervening psychological states. The
Surrealists were concerned with overlapping emotions more than with overlapping
forms. Their paintings often become segmented capsules of associative experiences.
For them, obsessive and often unrelated images replaced the direct emotional
messages of Expressionism. They did not need to smash pigment and texture; they
went beyond this to smash the whole continuity of logical thought.

      There is little doubt that contemporary art has taken much from contemporary life.
In a period when science has made revolutionary strides, artists in their studios have
not been unaware of scientists in their laboratories. But this has rarely been a one-way
street. Painters and sculptors, though admittedly influenced by modern science, have
also molded and changed our world. If break-up has been a vital part of their
expression, it has not always been a symbol of destruction. Quite the contrary: it has
been used to examine more fully, to penetrate more deeply, to analyse more
thoroughly, to enlarge, isolate and make more familiar certain aspects of life that earlier
we were apt to neglect. In addition, it sometimes provides rich multiple experiences so
organised as not merely to reflect our world, but in fact to interpret it.

Questions for Discussion
1. Stating that the art of the 20th century has been characterised by “consistent
   emphasis on break-up”, the author proceeds to outline this tendency in different art
   movements. Discuss how “break-up” was manifested in the following:
     (a) Impressionism
     (b) Expressionism
     (c) Cubism
     (d) Surrealism
     (e) Abstract Expressionism
3. Has contemporary warfare influenced art? If so, in what way?
4. In paragraph 2, the author speaks of “broken colour” and “broken pigment”, what
    does she mean?
5. How has science or modern technology affected modern painting and sculpture?
6. What influence has speed had on modern art?
7. What role have Freud's psychoanalytic studies played in some types of modern art?

Exploring Ideas
1. Do you agree with Katherine Kuh’s thesis about modern art? Give your reasons pro
   or con.

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2. Think of some art form that especially interests you, such as movies, music, drama,
   literature, etc., and apply Kuh’s thesis about break-up. To what degree is the thesis
   true or not true? Illustrate your observations with examples, if you can.

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                          ROBIN LAKOFF
       Born in 1942, Robin Lakoff studied at Radcliffe College and Harvard
       University, where she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.
       Currently, she is a professor of linguistics at the University of California at
       Berkeley. An early contributor to MS magazine which was founded in 1972 to
       give expression to the feminist movement in the United States, Professor
       Lakoff has long shown interest in the role of language in women's lives. The
       following essay was first published in Ms in 1974.

               You Are What You Say                                    6

      “Women’s language” is that pleasant (dainty?), euphemistic never-aggressive way
of talking we learned as little girls. Cultural bias was built into the language we were
allowed to speak, the subjects we were allowed to speak about, and the ways we were
spoken of. Having learned our linguistic lesson well, we go out in the world, only to
discover that we are communicative cripples -- damned if we do, and damned if we do

     If we refuse to talk “like a lady”, we are ridiculed and criticised for being
unfeminine. (“She thinks like a man” is, at best, a left-handed compliment.) If we do
learn all the fuzzy-headed, unassertive language of our sex, we are ridiculed for being
unable to think clearly, unable to take part in a serious discussion, and therefore unfit to
hold a position of power.

      It doesn't take much of this for a woman to begin feeling she deserves such
treatment because of inadequacies in her own intelligence and education. “Women’s
language” shows up in all levels of English. For example, women are encouraged and
allowed to make far more precise discriminations in naming colours than men do.
Words like mauve, beige, ecru, aquamarine, lavender, and so on, are unremarkable in a
woman's active vocabulary, but largely absent from that of most men. I know of no
evidence suggesting that women actually see a wider range of colours than men do. It
is simply that fine discriminations of this sort are relevant to women's vocabularies, but
not to men's; to men, who control most of the interesting affairs of the world, such
distinctions are trivial – irrelevant.

        In the area of syntax, we find similar gender-related peculiarities of speech. There
is one construction, in particular, that women use conversationally far more than men:
the tag question. A tag is midway between an outright statement and a yes-no question;
it is less assertive than the former, but more confident than the latter.

      That statement indicates confidence in the speaker's knowledge and is fairly
certain to be believed; a question indicates a lack of knowledge on some point and
implies that the gap in the speaker's knowledge can and will be remedied by an answer.
For example, if, at a Little League game, I have had my glasses off, I can legitimately
ask someone else: "Was the player out at third?" A tag question, being intermediate

    From MS Magazine. Copyright © 1974, Robin Lakog.
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between statement and question, is used when the speaker is stating a claim, but lacks
full confidence in the truth of that claim. So if I say, “Is Joan here?” I will probably not be
surprised if my respondent answers "no"; but if I say, “Joan is here, is not she?” instead,
chances are I am already biased in favor of a positive answer, wanting only
confirmation. I still want a response, but I have enough knowledge (or think I have) to
predict that response. A tag question, then, might be thought of as a statement that
doesn't demand to be believed by anyone but the speaker, way of giving leeway, of not
forcing the addressee to go along with the views of the speaker.

      Another common use of the tag question is in small talk when the speaker is trying
to elicit conversation: “Sure is hot here, is not it?” But in discussing personal feelings or
opinions, only the speaker normally has any way of knowing the correct answer.
Sentences such as “I have a headache, do not I?” are clearly ridiculous. But there are
other examples where it is the speaker's opinions, rather than perceptions, for which
corroboration is sought, as in “The situation in Southeast Asia is terrible, is not it?”

      While there are, of course, other possible interpretations of a sentence like this,
one possibility is that the speaker has a particular answer in mind – “yes” or “no” – but is
reluctant to state it baldly. This sort of tag question is much more apt to be used by
women than by men in conversation. Why is this the case?

      The tag question allows a speaker to avoid commitment, and thereby avoid conflict
with the addressee. The problem is that, by so doing, speakers may also give the
impression of not really being sure of themselves, or looking to the addressee for
confirmation of their views. This uncertainty is reinforced in more subliminal ways, too.

      There is a peculiar sentence-intonation pattern, used almost exclusively by
women, as far as I know, which changes a declarative answer into a question. The
effect of using the rising inflection typical of a yes-no question is to imply that the
speaker is seeking confirmation, even though the speaker is clearly the only one who
has the requisite information, which is why the question was put to her in the first place:
     (Q) When will dinner be ready?
     (A) Oh…around six o’clock…?

      It is as though the second speaker were saying, “Six o’clock – if that’s okay with
you, if you agree”. The person being addressed is put in the position of having to
provide confirmation. One likely consequence of this sort of speech pattern in a woman
is that, often unbeknownst to herself, the speaker builds a reputation of tentativeness,
and others will refrain from taking her seriously or trusting her with any real
responsibilities, since she “cannot make up her mind”, and “isn’t sure of herself”.

      Such idiosyncrasies may explain why women's language sounds much more
"polite" than men's. It is polite to leave a decision open, not impose your mind, or views,
or claims, on anyone else. So a tag question is a kind of polite statement, in that it does
not force agreement or belief on the addressee. In the same way a request is a polite
command, in that it does not force obedience on the addressee, but rather suggests
something be done as a favour to the speaker. A clearly stated order implies a threat of
certain consequences if it is not followed, and even more impolite – implies that the
speaker is in a superior position and able to enforce the order. By couching wishes in
the form of a request, on the other hand, a speaker implies that if the request is not

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carried out, only the speaker will suffer; non-compliance cannot harm the addressee. So
the decision is really left up to the addressee. The distinction becomes clear in these
     Close the door.
     Please close the door.
     Will you close the door?
     Will you please close the door?
     Won't you close the door?

      In the same ways as words and speech patterns used by women undermine her
image, those used to describe women make matters even worse. Often a word may be
used of both men and women (and perhaps of things as well); but when it is applied to
women, it assumes a special meaning that, by implication rather than outright assertion,
is derogatory to women as a group.

     The use of euphemisms has this effect. A euphemism is a substitute for a word
that has acquired a bad connotation by association with something unpleasant or
embarrassing. But almost as soon as the new word comes into common usage, it takes
on the same old bad connotations, since feelings about the things or people referred to
are not altered by a change of name; thus new euphemisms must be constantly found.

      There is one euphemism for woman still very much alive. The word, of course, is
lady. Lady has a masculine counterpart, namely gentleman, occasionally shortened to
gent. But for some reason lady is very much commoner than gentleman.

     The decision to use lady rather than woman, or vice versa, may considerably alter
the sense of a sentence, as the following examples show:
     (a) A woman (lady) I know is a dean at Berkeley.
     (b) (b) A woman (lady) I know makes amazing things out of shoelaces and old

     The use of lady in (a) imparts a frivolous, or nonserious, tone to the sentence: the
matter under discussion is not one of great moment. Similarly, in (b), using lady here
would suggest that the speaker considered the "amazing things" not to be serious art,
but merely a hobby or an aberration. If woman is used, she might be a serious sculptor.

      To say lady doctor is very condescending, since no one every says gentleman
doctor or even man doctor. For example, mention in the San Francisco Chronicle of
January 31, 1972, of Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the lady atheist reduces her position to
that of scatterbrained eccentric. Even woman atheist is scarcely defensible: sex is
irrelevant to her philosophical position.

      Many women argue that, on the other hand, lady carries with it overtones recalling
the age of chivalry: conferring exalted stature on the person so referred to. This makes
the term seem polite at first, but we must also remember that these implications are
perilous: they suggest that a "lady" is helpless, and cannot do things by herself.

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      Lady can also be used to infer frivolousness, as in titles of organisations. Those
that have a serious purpose (not merely that of enabling "the ladies" to spend time with
one another cannot use the word lady in their titles, but less serious ones may.
Compare the Ladies' Auxiliary of a men's group, or the Thursday Evening Ladies'
Browning and Garden Society with Ladies' Liberation or Ladies' Strike for Peace.

      What is curious about this split is that lady is in origin a euphemism – a substitute
that puts a better face on something people find uncomfortable – for woman. What kind
of euphemism is it that subtly denigrates the people to whom it refers? Perhaps lady
functions as a euphemism for woman because it does not contain the sexual
implications present in woman: it is not “embarrassing” in that way. If this is so, we may
expect that, in the future, lady will replace woman as the primary word for the human
female, since woman will have become too blatantly sexual. That this distinction is
already made in some contexts at least is shown in the following examples, where you
can try replacing woman with lady:
     (a) After ten years in jail, Harry wanted to find a woman.
     (b) She’s my woman, see, so do not mess around with her.
      Another common substitute for woman is girl. One seldom hears a man past the
age of adolescence referred to as a boy, save in expressions like "going out with the
boys, which are meant to suggest an air of adolescent frivolity and irresponsibility. But
women of all ages are “girls”: one can have a man – not a boy – Friday, but only a girl –
never a woman or even a lady – Friday; women have girlfriends, but men do not – in a
non-sexual sense – have boyfriends. It may be that this use of girl is euphemistic in the
same way the use of lady is: in stressing the idea of immaturity, it removes the sexual
connotations lurking in woman. Girl brings to mind irresponsibility: you do not send a girl
to do a woman's errand (or even, for that matter, a boy's errand). She is a person who
is both too immature and too far from real life to be entrusted with responsibilities or with
decisions of any serious or important nature.

       Now let's take a pair of words which, in terms of the possible relationships in an
earlier society, were simple male-female equivalents, analogous to bull: cow. Suppose
we find that, for independent reasons, society has changed in such a way that the
original meanings now are irrelevant. Yet the words have not been discarded, but have
acquired new meanings, metaphorically related to their original senses. But suppose
these new metaphorical uses are no longer parallel to each other. By seeing where the
parallelism breaks down, we discover something about the different roles played by
men and women in this culture. One good example of such a divergence through time is
found in the pair, master: mistress. Once used with reference to one's power over
servants, these words have become unusable today in their original master-servant
sense as the relationship has become less prevalent in our society. But the words are
still common.

     Unless used with reference to animals, master now generally refers to a man who
has acquired consummate ability in some field, normally nonsexual. But its feminine
counterpart cannot be used this way. It is practical restricted to its sexual sense of
"paramour." We start out with two terms, both roughly paraphrasable as "one who has
power over another." But the masculine form, once one person is no longer able to have
absolute power over another, becomes usable metaphorically in the sense of "having
power over something." Master requires as its object only the name of some activity,

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something inanimate and abstract. But mistress requires a masculine noun in the
possessive to precede it. One cannot say: "Rhonda is a mistress." One must be
someone's mistress. A man is defined by what he does, a woman by her sexuality, that
is, in terms of one particular aspect of her relationship to men. It is one thing to be an
old master like Hans Holbein, ' and another to be an old mistress.

      The same is true of the words spinster and bachelor -- gender words for "one who
is not married." The resemblance ends with the definition. While bachelor is a neuter
term, often used as a compliment, spinster normally is used pejoratively, with
connotations of prissiness, fussiness, and so on. To be a bachelor implies that one has
a choice of marrying or not, and this is what makes the idea of a bachelor existence
attractive, in the popular literature. He has been pursued and has successfully eluded
his pursuers. But a spinster is one who has not been pursued, or at least not seriously.
She is old, unwanted goods. The metaphorical connotations of bachelor generally
suggest sexual freedom; of spinster, puritanism or celibacy.

      These examples could be multiplied. It is generally considered a faux pas, in
society, to congratulate a woman on her engagement, while it is correct to congratulate
her fiance. Why is this? The reason seems to be that it is impolite to remind people of
things that may be uncomfortable to them. To congratulate a woman on her
engagement is really to say, "Thank goodness! You had a close call!" For the man, on
the other hand, there was no such danger. His choosing to marry is viewed as a good
thing, but not something essential.

     The linguistic double standard holds throughout the life of the relationship. After
marriage, bachelor and spinster become man and wife, not man and woman. The
woman whose husband dies remains “John’s widow”; John, however, is never “Mary’s

     Finally, why is it that salesclerks and others are so quick to call women customers
"dear," "honey," and other terms of endearment they really have no business using? A
male customer would never put up with it. But women, like children, are supposed to
enjoy these endearments, rather than being offended by them.
In more ways than one, it is time to speak up.

Questions for Discussion
1. In the first paragraph, Lakoff states: “Cultural bias was built into the language we
   were allowed to speak, the subjects we were allowed to speak about, and the ways
   we were spoken of”. How does the author support this statement?
2. What does the author mean by calling women "communicative cripples"? Is her
   argument convincing?
3. Why is the tag question more common among women than among men, according
   to Professor Lakoff?
4. How does women's language sound more "polite" than that of men?
5. What is the effect of using the term, lady, to refer to women? How is it denigrating in
6. What is the linguistic double standard involved with master-mistress and bachelor-

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7. In this essay, is the author endeavouring to explain, to inform, or to persuade? Give
   your reasons.

Exploring Ideas
1. How valid would Professor Lakoff's observations about “women’s language” be in
   the society of your country?.
2. What is “men’s language” in your opinion?
3. Can you think of any advantages or disadvantages for talking like a woman? like a
4. According to Lakoff, women’s language sounds more polite than that of men. Is it, as
   she observes, really a sign of weakness or uncertainty?
5. Do you think that a person’s language frequently defines his/her role in society? Can
   you give illustrations?

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                        LANCE MORROW
     Currently on the staff of Time magazine, Lance Morrow was born in
     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1939. He graduated from Harvard College in
     1963 and shortly afterward joined Time as a writer of articles dealing with a
     wide range of topics. In the following essay, written in 1981, Morrow
     examines the American work ethic in the 1980s.

               The Value of Working                                  7

      During the 19th century industrialisation of America, the idea of work's inherent
virtue may have seemed temporarily implausible to generations who laboured in the
mines and mills and sweatshops. The century's huge machinery of production punished
and stunned those who ran it.

     And yet for generations of immigrants, work was ultimately availing: the numb toil
of an illiterate grandfather got the father a foothold and a high school education, and the
son wound up in college or even law school. A woman who died in the Triangle
Shirtwaist. Co. fire in lower Manhattan had a niece who made it to the halcyon Bronx,

     And another generation on, the family went to Westchester County. So for millions
of Americans, as they laboured through the complexities of generations, work worked,
and the immigrant work ethic came at last to merge with the Protestant work ethic. The
motive of work was all. To work for mere survival is desperate. To work for a better life
for one's children and grandchildren lends the labour a fierce dignity. That dignity, an
unconquerably hopeful energy and aspiration – driving, persisting like a life force – is
the American quality that many find missing now.

       The work ethic is not dead, but it is weaker now. The psychology of work is much
changed in America. The acute, painful memory of the Great Depression used to
enforce a disciplined and occasionally docile approach to work – in much the way that
older citizens in the Soviet Union do not complain about scarce food and overpopulated
apartments, because they remember how much more horrible everything was during
the war. But the generation of the Depression is retiring and dying off, and today’s
younger workers, though sometimes laid off and kicked around by recessions and
inflation, still do not keep in dark storage that residual apocalyptic memory of
Hoovervilles and the Dust Bowl and banks capsizing.

     Today elaborate financial cushions – unemployment insurance, union benefits,
welfare payments, food stamps and so on – have made it less catastrophic to be out of
a job for a while. Work is still a profoundly respectable thing in America. Most
Americans suffer a sense of loss, of diminution, even of worthlessness if they are
thrown out on the street. But the blow seldom carries the life-and-death implications it

 Copyright (C)198I Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of TIME.
 l The Triangle Shirtwaist Company was a sweatshop employing European immigrants,
mostly women, at very low wages. In a 1911 fire there 145 people were killed.

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once had, the sense of personal ruin. Besides, the wild and notorious behaviour of the
economy takes a certain amount of personal shame out of joblessness; if Ford closes
down a plant in New Jersey and throws 3,700 workers into the unemployment lines, the
guilt falls less on individuals than on Japanese imports or American car design or an
extortionate OPEC.

      Because today's workers are better educated than those in the past, their
expectations are higher. Many younger Americans have rearranged their ideas about
what they want to get out of life. While their fathers and grandfathers and great-
grandfathers concentrated hard upon plow and drill press and pressure gauge and tort,
some younger workers now ask previously unimaginable questions about the point of
knocking themselves out. For the first time in the history of the world, masses of people
in industrially advanced countries no longer have to focus their minds upon work as the
central concern of their existence.

     In the formulation of Psychologist Abraham Maslow, work functions in a hierarchy
of needs: first, work provides food and shelter, basic human maintenance. After that, it
can address the need for security and then for friendship and "belongingness." Next, the
demands of the ego arise, the need for respect. Finally, men and women assert a larger
desire for "self-actualization." That seems a harmless and even worthy enterprise but
sometimes degenerates into self-infatuation, a vaporously selfish discontent that dead-
ends in isolation, the empty face that gazes back from the mirror.

      Of course in patchwork, pluralistic America, different classes and ethnic groups
are perched at different stages in the work hierarchy. The immigrants – legal and illegal
– who still flock densely to America are fighting for the foothold that the jogging tribes of
self-actualizers achieved three generations ago. The zealously ambitious Koreans who
run New York City's best vegetable markets, or boat people trying to open a restaurant,
or Chicanos who struggle to start a small business in the barrio are still years away from
est and the Sierra Club . Working women, to the extent that they are new at it, now form
a powerful source of ambition and energy. Feminism – and financial need – have made
them, in effect, a sophisticated-immigrant wave upon the economy.

      Having to work to stay alive, to build a future, gives one's exertions a tough moral
simplicity. The point of work in that case is so obvious that it need not be discussed. But
apart from the sheer necessity of sustaining life, is there some inherent worth in work?
Carlyle believed that "all work, even cotton spinning, is noble; work is alone noble." Was
he right?

     Hooverville was the name of any shantytown of unemployed, dispossessed people
during the early years of the Great Depression. The name came from President Herbert
Hoover because it was during his administration that they existed. The Dust Bowl was a
region including Oklahoma and parts of neighbouring states that was afflicted by severe
drought and high winds.

      Organisation of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, the international price- and quota-
setting cartel.

     Barrio, Spanish for “neighbourhood” and here used to refer to a Hispanic area.
East, Latin for is, refers to a self-realisation program and group founded by Werner

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Erhard. The Sierra Club is an organisation for enjoying and protecting the wilderness of

      It is seigneurial cant to romanticise work that is truly detestable and destructive to
workers. But misery and drudgery are always comparative. Despite the sometimes
nostalgic haze around their images, the pre-industrial peasant and the 19th century
American farmer did brutish work far harder than the assembly line. The untouchable
who sweeps excrement in the streets of Bombay would react with blank
incomprehension to the malaise of some $17-an-hour workers on a Chrysler assembly
line. The Indian, after all, has passed from “alienation” into a degradation that is almost
mystical. In Nicaragua, the average 19-year-old peasant has worked longer and harder
than most Americans of middle age. Americans prone to restlessness about the spiritual
disappointments of work should consult unemployed young men and women in their
own ghettos: they know with painful clarity the importance of the personal dignity that a
job brings.

      Americans often fall into fallacies of misplaced sympathy. Psychologist Maslow, for
example, once wrote that he found it difficult “to conceive of feeling proud of myself,
self-loving and self-respecting, if I were working, for example, in some chewing-gum
factory…” Well, two weeks ago, Warner-Lambert announced that it would close down its
gum-manufacturing American Chicle factory in Long Island City, N.Y.: the workers who
had spent years there making Dentyne and Chiclets were distraught. “It is a beautiful
place to work”, one feeder-catcher-packer of chewing gum said sadly. “It is just like
home”. There is a peculiar elitist arrogance in those who discourse on the brutalisations
of work simply because they cannot imagine themselves performing the job. Certainly
workers often feel abstracted out, reduced sometimes to dreary robotic functions. But
almost everyone commands endlessly subtle systems of adaptation; people can make
the work their own and even cherish it against all academic expectations. Such
adaptations are often more important than the famous but theoretical alienation from the
process and product of labour.

        Work is still the complicated and crucial core of most lives, the occupation melded
inseparably to the identity; Freud said that the successful psyche is one capable of love
and of work. Work is the most thorough and profound organising principle in American
life. If mobility has weakened old blood ties, our co-workers often form our new family,
our tribe, our social world; we become almost citizens of our companies, living under the
protection of salaries, pensions and health insurance. Sociologist Robert Schrank
believes that people like jobs mainly because they need other people; they need to
gossip with them, hang out with them, to schmooze. Says Schrank: “The workplace
performs the function of community”.

       Unless it is dishonest or destructive – the labour of a pimp or a hit man, say – all
work is intrinsically honourable in ways that are rarely understood as they once were.
Only the fortunate toil in ways that express them directly. There is a Renaissance
splendor in Leonardo’s effusion: “The works that the eye orders the hands to make are
infinite”. But most of us labour closer to the ground. Even there, all work expresses the
labourer in a deeper sense: all life must be worked at, protected, planted, replanted,
fashioned, cooked for, coaxed, diapered, formed, sustained. Work is the way that we
tend the world, the way that people connect. It is the most vigorous, vivid sign of life – in
individuals and in civilisations.

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Questions for Discussion
1. What value did work have for immigrants to America?
2. The author observes that the psychology of work has changed in America. How
   does he illustrate this observation?
3. “Work functions in a hierarchy of needs”. What does psychologist Abraham Maslow
   mean by this thesis? How does it apply to the American work scene, according to
   the author?
4. What does the author means by the first sentence of paragraph 10?
5. What does the author seem to believe about the "brutalisation" of work? What does
   he mean by a “systems of adaptation” to work?
6. Quoting Carlyle, Morrow asks if “there is some inherent worth in work”. How does he
   answer the question?
7. “Work is the most thorough and profound organising principle in American life”. What
   does the author means by this remark? What reasons does the author give for
   saying that “Work is still a profoundly respectable thing in America?”

Exploring Ideas
1. What to you is a “work ethic”? Is it a part of the culture of your country?
2. How do you react to the last sentence of paragraph 6? Do you agree or disagree?
3. Do you believe that there is a dignity in work?
4. Do you consider work noble? If so, how do you define noble? If not, how would you
   characterise work?
5. The author states that “all work is intrinsically honourable in ways that are rarely
   understood as they once were”. What does that statement mean to you? Do you
   agree or disagree? What are some of the ways that work is honourable?
6. What does work mean to you personally? What would you like your life work to be?
   What would you expect from such work in the way of satisfaction and rewards?
7. Lance Morrow concludes his essay by saying “Work is the way that we tend the
   world, the way that people connect. It is the most vigorous, vivid sign of life in
   individuals and in civilisations”. How do you react to the statement? To what extent
   is Morrow speaking from the point of view of his American work ethic? Write a short
   composition in which you agree or disagree with the statement.

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                          NEIL POSTMAN
     Neil Postman was born in New York City in 1931 and is a graduate of the
     State University of New York at Fredonia and Columbia University. For
     several years he served as a teacher in various elementary and secondary
     schools. Currently he teaches communication at New York University.

                       Silent Questions                        9

       I cannot vouch for the story, but I have been told that once upon a time, in a village
in what is now Lithuania, there arose a most unusual problem. A curious disease
afflicted many of the townspeople. It was mostly fatal (although not always), and its
onset was signaled by the victim's lapsing into a deathlike coma. Medical science not
being quite so advanced as it is now, there was no definite way of knowing if the victim
was actually dead when it appeared seemly to bury him. As a result, the townspeople
feared that several of their relatives had already been buried alive and that a similar fate
might await them – a terrifying prospect, and not only in Lithuania. How to overcome
this uncertainty was their dilemma.

      One group of people suggested that the coffins be well stocked with water and
food and that a small air vent be drilled into them just in case one of the “dead”
happened to be alive. This was expensive to do, but seemed more than worth the
trouble. A second group, however, came up with an inexpensive and more efficient
idea. Each coffin would have a twelve-inch stake affixed to the inside of the coffin lid,
exactly at the level

     of the heart. Then, when the coffin was closed, all uncertainty would cease.

      There is no record as to which solution was chosen, but for my purposes,
whichever it was is irrelevant. What is mostly important here is that the two different
solutions were generated by two different questions. The first solution was an answer to
the question, How can we make sure that we do not bury people who are still alive? The
second was an answer to the question, How can we make sure that everyone we bury
is dead? The point is that all the answers we ever get are responses to questions. The
questions may not be evident to us, especially in everyday affairs, but they are there
nonetheless, doing their work. Their work, of course, is to design the form that our
knowledge will take and therefore to determine the direction of our actions. A great deal
of stupid and/or crazy talk is produced by bad, unacknowledged questions which
inevitably produce bad and all-too-visible answers.

      As far as I can determine, there are at least four important reasons why question
asking language causes us problems. The first is that our questions are sometimes
formed at such a high level of abstraction that we cannot answer them at all. “Why am I
a failure?” and “What is the meaning of life?” are typical examples…. The key words in
the questions are so vague that it is a mystery to know where to begin looking for

 Copyright (C) 1976 by Neil Postman. Reprinted with permission from the author's
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answers. For example, in trying to respond helpfully to a troubled questioner who asks,
Why am I a failure?, a sensible person would have to ask several more pointed
questions to get within answering range: What do you mean by “failure”? What
specifically have you “failed” at? When have these “failures” taken place? In what

      What do you mean by “success”, when and where have you experienced it, and
how many “successes” have you had? What needs to be done with such questions is to
“operationalise” them, to restate them in forms that will allow for concrete, reality
oriented answers. In the process of doing this, one may discover that the question being
asked was not so much, “Why am I a failure?” but, “Why did my marriage end in
divorce?” “Why did I lose my job?" or even something as relatively simple as, “Why did I
fail advanced calculus?”

     I do not say that questions about one's dead marriage or lost job are easy ones;
only that they are more approachable than loose-ended questions that imply one's
nature is marred by some non-definable affliction called failure.

      It is characteristic of the talk of troubled people that they will resist bringing their
questions down to a level of answerability. If fanaticism is falling in love with an
irrefutable answer, then a neurosis is falling in love with an unanswerable question.

     “Why are people always trying to cheat me?” or “When will the breaks start to
come my way?” is the sort of question that can be treacherously endearing. As it
stands, there is no answer to it, and perhaps that is why some people choose to ask it
and ask it repeatedly. It is, in fact, not so much a question as a kind of assertion that the
responsibility for one’s life lies entirely outside oneself. But because it has the form of a
question, one may well be deceived into trying to answer it, which will lead to
continuous frustration and demoralisation.

     Of course, questions of this type are not confined to one's personal relationship to
         the cosmos but are also used, unfortunately, as an instrument for discovering
         “facts”. And they produce the same unsatisfying results. "Who is the best
         President that America has ever had?" is the sort of commonplace, completely
         unanswerable question which results in no knowledge at all. The conversation
         between Stupid Talk and Sensible Talk usually goes something like this:
     Stupid Talk: Who's the best President we ever had?
     Sensible Talk: What do you mean by "best"?
     Stupid Talk: What do you mean "What do I mean?"? Best means "the best," "the
        most excellent," "tops."
     Sensible Talk: "Tops" in what respect? Most votes? Least criticised? Most well-
        read? Richest?
     Stupid Talk: What do those things have to do with it? I mean "the best" – all
     Sensible Talk: Using what criteria for which aspects of his performance?
     Stupid Talk: Why are you making this so complicated? You mean to tell me you do
        not know what "best" means?

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     Sensible Talk: Right.
     Stupid Talk: Jeez!

      Now, it is possible I am being unfair to Stupid Talk here, in that he may have
asked the question only in order to get some diversion at a rather dull party. If that was
his intention, then you should reverse the names of the characters in my scene.
Sensible Talk is simply being obnoxious or has misunderstood the purpose of the
semantic environment he is in. But if the question was asked to start a serious
conversation, resulting in the development and expression of informed opinion, then the
names of my characters must stand as they are. The question as originally posed will
not produce a discussable answer….

      The first problem, then, in question-asking language may be stated in this way:
The type of words used in a question will determine the type of words used in the
answer. In particular, question-words that are vague, subjective, and not rooted in any
verifiable reality will produce their own kind in the answer.

      A second problem arises from certain structural characteristics, or grammatical
properties, of sentences. For example, many questions seem almost naturally to imply
either-or alternatives. "Is that good?" (as against "bad"), "Is she smart?" (as against
"dumb"), "Is he rich?" (as against "poor"), and so on. The English language is heavily
biased toward "either-or-ness," which is to say that it encourages us to talk about the
world in polarities. We are inclined to think of things in terms of their singular opposites
rather than as part of a continuum of multiple alternatives. Black makes us think of
white, rich of poor, smart of dumb, fast of slow, and so on. Naturally, when questions
are put in either-or terms, they will tend to call forth an either-or answer. "This is bad,"
She's dumb," "He's poor," etc. There are many situations in which such an emphatic
answer is all that is necessary, since the questioner is merely seeking some handy
label, to get a "fix" on someone, so to speak. But, surprisingly and unfortunately, this
form of question is also used in situations where one would expect a more serious and
comprehensive approach to a subject. For example, in Edwin Newman's popular book,
Strictly Speaking, he asks in his subtitle, "Will America Be the Death of English?" The
form of the question demands either a yes or a no for its answer. (Newman, by the way,
says yes, and for no particular reason, so far as I could tell.) Had the question been
phrased as, "To what extent will English be harmed (impoverished, diminished, etc.) by
Americans?" you would have had a very boring subtitle but, in my opinion, a much more
serious book, or at least the possibility of one. Questions which ask, "To what extent" or
"In what manner" invite a more detailed, qualified look at a problem than questions
which ask, "Is it this or that?" The latter divide the universe into two possibilities; the
former allow one to consider the multiple possibilities inherent in a problem. "Is America
an imperial power?" "Have we lost our faith in democracy?" "Are our taxes too high?" --
these are some questions which insinuate that a position must be taken; they do not ask
that thought be given.

      A similar structural problem in our questions is that we are apt to use singular
forms instead of plural ones. What is the cause of...? What is the reason for...? What is
the result of...? As with either-or questions, the form of these questions limits our search
for answers and therefore impoverishes our perceptions. We are not looking for causes,
reasons, or results, but for the cause, the reason, and the result. The idea of multiple
causality is certainly not unfamiliar, and yet the form in which we habitually ask some of

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our most important questions tends to discourage our thinking about it: What is the
reason we do not get along? What is the cause of your overeating? What will be the
effect of school integration? What is the problem that we face? I do not say that a
question of this sort rules out the possibility of our widening our inquiries. But to the
extent that we allow the form of such questions to go unchallenged, we are in danger of
producing shallow and unnecessarily restricted answers.

      This is equally true of the third source of problems in question-asking language,
namely, the assumptions that underlie it. Unless we are paying very close attention, we
can be led into accepting as fact the most precarious and even preposterous ideas.
Perhaps the two most famous assumption-riddled questions are, Have you stopped
beating your wife? and How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? But in almost
every question, there lurks at least one assumption which may slip by if we are not
accustomed to looking for it. By an assumption, I mean a belief that is not subject to
scrutiny because it is so deeply embedded in the question that we are hardly even
aware of its presence. Consider, for instance, such questions as these, which I have
recently heard discussed on television: Why is America losing its moral direction? When
will we achieve equality of opportunity? How does the white power structure operate?
The first question assumes that there is such a thing as a "moral direction," that a
country can have one, that America once did, and, of course, that we are presently
losing it. I do not say that these assumptions are untenable, but each one of them is
surely worth inquiring into before proceeding to the question. In fact, once you start
discussing these assumptions, you may never get back to the original question, and
may even find it has disappeared, to everyone's relief.

      The second question assumes that there is such a thing as equality of opportunity;
that it is, in some sense, "achievable" by society; that it is worth achieving; and that
some effort is being made to achieve it -- all extremely arguable assumptions in my
opinion. I have, for example, long suspected that the phrase "equality of opportunity" is
a kind of semantic fiction, not unlike the legal term " reasonable and prudent man"; that
is to say, one is free to give it almost any meaning that suits one's purpose in a given
situation. In any case, I should want the term carefully defined before listening to a
discussion of when "it" will be achieved.

     The third question, of course, assumes the existence of a white power structure,
as well as mechanisms through which it operates. Given the rather bumbling,
haphazard ways of American business and government, I am inclined to be at least
suspicious of this assumption, although I would like to hear it defended.

     The point is that if you proceed to answer questions without reviewing the
assumptions implicit in them, you may end up in never-never land without quite knowing
how you got there. My favourite invitation to never-never land, incidentally, was
extended to me by a young woman who asked, "Why do you think the extraterrestrials
are coming in such large numbers to Earth?" You might expect that a person who would
ask such a question also would have an answer to it – which was, you will be happy to
know, "to help Earth people develop an effective World Organisation."

     The fourth source of difficulty in question-asking language is that two people in the
same semantic environment may ask different questions about a situation, but without
knowing it. For example, in a classroom, the teacher may be asking himself, "How can I
get the students to learn this?" But it is almost certain that the students are asking,
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"How can I get a good grade in this course?" Naturally, two different questions will
generate two different approaches to the situation and may be the source of great
frustration for everyone concerned. There are many situations where it is well
understood that different "roles" are required to ask different questions, and this in itself
is not necessarily a source of trouble. In business transactions, for instance, buyers and
sellers are almost always asking different questions. That is inherent in their situation. I
have never heard of a buyer, for example, who has asked himself, "How can I make
sure this man makes the largest possible profit from this sale?" (the reason, incidentally,
that used-car salesmen have such low credibility is that they are inclined to pretend that
they are asking the same question as the potential car buyer, namely, "How can I get
this car at the lowest possible price?" Since the buyer knows that the dealer cannot
possibly be interested in this question, he is rightfully suspicious.) But in situations
where it is assumed that different people will be asking roughly the same question – and
they are not – we are faced with problems that are sometimes hard to discern. I have
recently heard of a situation where a family vacation was marred because, without their
knowing it, wife and husband were seeking answers to two quite different questions.
The wife was asking, "How can we have a good time?" The husband was asking,

     “How can we get through this without spending too much money?” Two
administrators who were trying to avoid bankruptcy provide another example: The first
was asking, “How can we cut our staff?" The second, "How can we increase our
income?” Naturally, their solutions moved in different directions. Finally, a pregnant
woman and her obstetrician: The woman is asking, “How can I have my baby safely and
with no unnecessary pain?” The doctor is asking, “How can this baby get born in time
for me to have a full two-week vacation?”

     I do not say that different questions are always incompatible in such situations. But
they do have considerable potential for confusion if we are ignorant of their existence.

Questions for Discussion
1. What does the author mean by “operationalising” questions?
2. Postman states that there are at least four important reasons why the language of
   asking questions causes problems for people. List them.
3. What questions-asking problem does the anecdote concerning Lithuania illustrate?
4. In what way is the English language biased toward speaking of the world in
5. According to Postman, what is the weakness in the subtitle of Edwin Newman's
   book, Strictly Speaking, "Will America Be the Death of English?"
6. What is wrong with the questions, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" and "How
   many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"
7. Why is it important to review the assumptions in questions before answering them?
8. What is the function of questions that people ask, as viewed by the author?
9. Is the title of the essay appropriate? Explain your answer.

Exploring Ideas
1. Do you agree with the thesis of the essay? Give your reasons for agreement or
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2. In addition to the four kinds of questions dealt with by Neil Postman, can you give
   examples of your own?
3. What is your opinion of the order in which the author presented the essay? Is it
   effective? If not, how could the order be improved?
4. How important is it to learn to ask good questions? to find good answers to other
   people's questions? Support your answers with illustrations.
5. Have you ever had to deal with questions, as Postman says, that are "at such a high
   level of abstraction that we cannot answer them at all?" Can you give any

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                    RICHARD RODRIGUEZ'
     Born in 1944 in San Francisco, California, Richard Rodriguez grew up in a
     home in which Spanish was the first language; consequently, like millions of
     Americans he learned English as his second language. As a child, Rodriguez
     experienced an oftimes painful struggle to master English, which he calls his
     "public" language. As an adult, he attended Stanford University in California
     and Columbia University in New York, following which he did graduate work
     at the Warburg Institute in London and the University of California at
     Berkeley. Best known as a writer and lecturer, Rodriguez currently lives in
     San Francisco.

           An Education in Language                                          10

      Some educationists have recently told me that I received a very bad education.
They are proponents of bilingual schooling, that remarkable innovation – the latest
scheme – to improve education. They think it is a shame, a disgrace, that my earliest
teachers never encouraged me to speak Spanish, "my family language," when I entered
the classroom.

      Those educators who tell me such things, however, do not understand very much
about the nature of classroom language. Nor do they understand the kind of dilemma I
faced when I started my schooling. A socially disadvantaged child, I desperately needed
to be taught that I had the obligation -- the right -- to speak public language. (Until I was
nearly seven years old, I had been almost always surrounded by the sounds of my
family's Spanish, which kept me safely at home and made me a stranger in public.) In
school, I was initially terrified by the language of gringos. Silent, waiting for the bell to go
home, dazed, diffident, I could not believe that English concerned me. The teacher in
the (Catholic) school I attended kept calling out my name, anglicising it as Rich-heard
Road-ree-guess, telling me with her sounds that I had a public identity.

     But I couldn't believe her. I would not respond.

      Classroom words were used in ways very different from family words; they were
directed to a general audience. (The nun remarked in a friendly, but oddly theatrical
voice, ЭSpeak up, Richard. And tell it to the entire class, not just to me”.) Classroom
words, moreover, meant just what they said. (Grammar school.) The teacher quizzed:
Why do we use that word in this sentence? Could I think of a better word to use there?

    Would the sentence change its meaning if the words were differently arranged?
And wasn't there a much better way of saying the same thing? I could not say.

     Eventually my teachers connected my silence with the difficult progress my older
brother and sister were making. All three of us were directed to daily tutoring sessions. I
was the "slow learner" who needed a year and a half of special attention. I also needed
   From STATE OF THE LANGUAGE edited by Leonard Michael' and Christopher
Ricky. Copyright (C) 1980
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my teachers to keep my attention from straying in class by calling out, “Richard!” And
most of all I needed to hear my parents speak English at home – as my teachers had
urged them to do.

      The scene was inevitable: one Saturday morning, when I entered a room where
my mother and father were talking, I did not realise that they were speaking in Spanish
until the moment they saw me they abruptly started speaking English. The gringo
sounds they uttered (had previously spoken only to strangers) startled me, pushed me
away. In that moment of trivial misunderstanding and profound insight I felt my throat
twisted by a grief I didn't sound as I left the room. But I had no place to escape to with
Spanish. (My brothers were speaking English in another part of the house.) Again and
again in the weeks following, increasingly angry, I would hear my parents uniting to
urge, “Speak to us now, en inglés”. Only then did it happen, my teachers’ achievement,
my greatest academic success: I raised my hand in the classroom and volunteered an
answer and did not think it remarkable that the entire class understood. That day I
moved very far from the disadvantaged child I had been only weeks before.

      But this great public success was measured at home by a feeling of loss. We
remained a loving family – enormously different. No longer were we as close as we had
earlier been. (No longer so desperate for the consolation of intimacy.) My brothers and I
didn't rush home after school. Even our parents grew easier in public, following the
Americanisation of their children. My mother started referring to neighbours by name.

     My father continued to speak about gringos, but the word was no longer charged
with bitterness and suspicion. Hearing it sometimes, I was not even sure if my father
was saying the Spanish word, gringo, or saying, gringo, in English.

      Our house was no longer noisy. And for that I blamed my mother and father, since
they had encouraged our classroom success. I flaunted my second-grade knowledge as
a kind of punishment. ("Two negatives make a positive!") But this anger was spent after
several months, replaced by a feeling of guilt as school became more and more
important to me. Increasingly successful in class, I would come home a troubled son,
aware that education was making me different from my parents. Sadly I would listen as
my mother or father tried unsuccessfully (laughing self-consciously) to help my brothers
with homework assignments.

      My teachers became the new figures of authority in my life. I began imitating their
accents. I trusted their every direction. Each book they told me to read, I read and then
waited for them to tell me which books I enjoyed. Their most casual opinions I adopted.
I stayed after school “to help” - to get their attention. It was their encouragement that
mattered to me. Memory caressed each word of their praise so that compliments
teachers paid me in grammar school classes come quickly to mind even today.

      Withheld from my parents was any mention of what happened at school. In late
afternoon, in the midst of preparing our dinner, my mother would come up behind me
while I read. Her head just above mine, her breath scented with food, she’d ask, “What
are you reading?” Or: “Tell me about all your new courses”. I would just barely respond.
“Just the usual things, ma”. (Silence, Silence! Instead of the intimate sounds which had
once flowed between us, there was this silence.) After dinner, I would rush off to a
bedroom with papers and books. As often as possible, I resisted parental pleas to "save
lights" by staying in the kitchen to work. I kept so much, so often to myself.

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       Nights when relatives visited and the front room was warmed by familiar Spanish
sounds, I slipped out of the house. I was a fourth-grade student when my mother asked
me one day for a “nice” book to read. (“Something not too hard which you think I might
like”.) Carefully, I chose Willa Cather’s My Antonia. When, several days later, I
happened to see it next to her bed, unread except for the first several pages, I felt a
surge of sorrow, a need for my mother's embrace. That feeling passed by the time I had
taken the novel back to my room.

      “Your parents must be so proud of you….” People began to say that to me about
the time I was in sixth grade. I’d smile shyly, never betraying my sense of the irony.

      “Why did not you tell me about the award?” my mother scolded – although her
face was softened by pride. At the grammar school ceremony, several days later, I
heard my father speak to a teacher and felt ashamed of his accent. Then guilty for the
shame. My teacher's words were edged sharp and clean. I admired her until I sensed
that she was condescending to them. I grew resentful. Protective. I tried to move my
parents away.

      You both must be so proud of him," she said. They quickly responded. (They were
proud.) "We are proud of all our children." Then this afterthought: "They sure didn't get
their brains from us." They laughed. Always I knew my parents wanted for my brothers
and me the chances they had never had. It saddened my mother to learn of relatives
who forced their children to start working right after high school. To her children she
would say, “Get all the education you can”. In schooling she recognised the key to job
advancement. As a girl, new to America, she had been awarded a high school diploma
by teachers too careless or busy to notice that she hardly spoke English. On her own,
she determined to learn how to type. That skill got her clean office jobs in “letter shops”
and nurtured her optimism about the possibility of advancement. (Each morning, when
her sisters put on uniforms, she chose a bright-coloured dress.) The years of young
womanhood passed and her typing speed increased. Also, she became an excellent
speller of words she mispronounced. ("And I've never been to college," she would say,
smiling when her children asked her to spell a word they didn't want to look up in a

      After her youngest child began high school, my mother once more got an office
job. She worked for the (California) state government in civil service positions,
numbered and secured by examinations. The old ambition of her youth was still bright
then. Regularly she consulted bulletin boards for news of openings, further
advancements. Until one day she saw mentioned something about an “anti-poverty
agency”. A typing job – part of the governor’s staff. (“A knowledge of Spanish required”.)
Without hesitation she applied, and grew nervous only when the job was suddenly hers.
“Everyone comes to work all dressed up,” – she reported at night. And did not need o
say more than that her co-workers would not let her answer the phones. She was, after
all, only a typist, though a very fast typist. And an excellent speller. One day there was a
letter to be sent to a Washington cabinet officer. On the dictating tape there was
reference to urban guerillas. My mother typed (the wrong word, correctly): “gorillas”.

     The mistake horrified the anti-poverty bureaucrats. They returned her to her
previous job. She would go no further. So she willed her ambition to her children.

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      "Get all the education you can," she would repeatedly say. "With education you
can do anything." When I was a freshman in high school, I admitted to her one day that
I planned to become a teacher. And that pleased her. Though I never explained that it
was not the occupation of teaching I yearned for as much as something more elusive
and indefinite: I wanted to know what my teachers knew; to possess their authority and
their confidence.

      In contrast to my mother, my father never openly encouraged the academic
success of his children. Nor did he praise us. The only thing he regularly said to me was
that school work wasn't real work. Those times when I claimed to be tired by writing and
reading, he would laugh, not scornful so much as bemused. “You’ll never know what
real work is”, he would say smiling, unsmiling. Whereas my mother saw in education the
opportunity for job advancement, for my father education implied an even more startling
possibility: escape from the workaday world. (After I introduced him to some of my high
school friends he remarked that their hands were soft.)

     His hands were calloused by a lifetime of work. In Mexico, he was orphaned when
he was eight. At eight (my age when I achieved my first academic success) my father
had to leave school to work for his uncle. Eighteen years later, in frustration, he left for
America. There survive photos of him, in his first American years, dressed in a dandy's
wardrobe. My mother remembers how he used to spend a week's salary then at the
San Francisco opera on Saturday nights. And how they used to watch polo matches on

      He had great expectations of becoming an engineer. He knew a Catholic priest
who had promised money to enable him to study fulltime for a high school diploma. But
the promises came to nothing. Instead, there was a dark succession of warehouse,
factory, and cannery jobs. Nights, he went to school with my mother. A year, two

      Nothing much changed, except that fatigue worked its way into the bone. And then
suddenly everything was different. He gave away his fancy clothes. He did not go to the
opera. And he stayed outside, on the steps of the night school, while my mother went

      In almost my earliest memories of him, my father seems old. (He has never grown
old gradually like my mother.) From boyhood to manhood, I have remembered him most
powerfully in a single image: seated, asleep, on the sofa, his head thrown back in a
hideous grin, the evening newspaper spread out before him. (“You’ll never know what
real work is…”)

       It was my father who became angry when watching on television a Miss America
contestant tell the announcer that she was going to college. (“Majoring in fine arts”.)
“College!” he snarled. He despised the trivialisation of higher education, the inflated
grades and cheapened diplomas, the half-education that increasingly passed for mass
education in my generation. It was also my father who wondered why I didn't display my
awards in my bedroom. He said that he liked to go to doctors' offices and see their
certificates on the wall. My awards from school got left at home in closets and drawers.

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      My father found my high school diploma as it was about to be thrown out with the
trash. Without telling me, he put it away with his own things for safekeeping. (“We are
proud of all our children”.)

     The separation which slowly unraveled (so long) between my parents and me was
not the much-discussed “generation gap” caused by the tension of youth and
experience. Age figured in our separation, but in a very odd way. Year after year,
advancing in my studies, I would notice that my parents had not changed as much as I.
They oddly measured my progress. Often I realised that my command of English was
improving, for example, because at home I would hear myself simplify my diction and
syntax when addressing my parents.

      Too deeply troubled, I did not join my brothers when, as high school students, they
toyed with our parents' opinions, devastating them frequently with superior logic and
factual information. My mother and father would usually submit with sudden silence,
although there were time when my mother complained that our “big ideas” were going to
our heads. More acute was her complaint that the family wasn't as close as some of our
relatives. It was toward me that she most often would glance when she mimicked the
“yes” and “no” answers she got in response to her questions. (My father never asked.)
Why was everyone “so secret”, she wondered. (I never said.)

      When the time came to go to college, I was the first in the family who asked to
leave home. My departure only made physically apparent the separation that had
occurred long before. But it was too stark a reminder. In the months preceding my
departure, I heard the question my mother never asked except indirectly. In the hot
kitchen, tired at the end of the workday, she demanded to know, “Why are not the
colleges around here good enough for you? They were for your brother and sister”.
Another time, in the car, never turning to face me, she wondered, “Why do you need to
go so far away?” Late one night ironing, she said with disgust, “Why do you have to put
us through this big expense? You know your scholarship will never cover it all”. But
when September came, there was a rush to get everything ready. In a bedroom that last

     I packed the brown valise. My mother sat nearby sewing my initials onto the
clothes I would take. And she said nothing more about my leaving.

Questions for Discussion
1. What differences does the author see between “classroom words” and ”family
2. How did Rodriguez’s academic success (and those of his brother) affect the close
   relationship of the family?
3. Describe Rodriguez’s changing attitude toward his parents.
4. What role did teachers begin to play in the author’s life?
5. For what reason does Rodriguez tell the story of his mother’s job as a typist? How
   does the account add to the effectiveness of the “theme” of the essay?
6. Once considered a “slow learner” in English, Rodriguez is now an accomplished
   writer in his second language – an ironic but true fact. Find other examples of irony
   in the essay such as remarks, incidents, or situations.

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Exploring of Ideas
1. How do you interpret the incident recounted in paragraph 11?
2. Do you think the title of the essay is accurate? Explain your answer.
3. Do you think Rodriguez regrets the effects of his mastery of English upon the “loving
   relation” that existed in his family? Give your reasons.
4. In your own experience in learning English, did you have problems? Were there any
   similarities with those that Rodriguez had?
5. In your own language or in English, do you use language to show what kind of
   person you are or to control difficult situations? If so, how?
6. Refer to paragraph 23. Have you experienced anything similar with your own
   parents? How do you account for it? How has it affected your relations with others in
   your family?

Optional Activity
Write a personal essay concerning your own family (or friends) and the impact of your
increasing fluency in a foreign language upon your relationship with them.

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                          WILLIAM RYAX
     Born in 1923, William Ryan is currently a professor of psychology at Boston
     College in Massachusetts. His special interest is in the psychological stresses
     of modern American life. In “Mine, All Mine”, which is from his book
     Equality (1981), author Ryan offers the argument that the idea of owning
     property, as well as the accumulation of great wealth, are related to a
     person's feelings of insecurity over individual identity.

                        Mine, All Mine                       11

     How do you get to own something? Well, you usually buy it. But how did the fellow
you bought it from get to own it? Where did the idea of owning come from? Or was it
always there, perhaps in the mind of God?

     No one really knows, of course. The idea of owning and property emerged in the
mists of unrecorded history. One can try to imagine the scene. Some Cro-Magnon
innovator, seized with a fit of entrepreneurial passion, took his club and drew a line in
the earth and called out, “Okay, you guys! Everything inside this line is mine. It belongs
to me. I own it”. Now, ver likely, this first would-be landowner was a skinny, little, near-
sighted Cro-Magnon who could not throw a spear straight and was able to drag by the
hair only the homeliest girls of the tribe. A couple of his fellow cavemen may have
kicked sand in his face, but most of the others probably laughed indulgently, kidding him
about his intellectual pretensions, his ways of using big words like “be-long” and “own”
that nobody else knew the meaning of. “That Herman! A regular walking dictionary!”
And they rubbed out Herman’s line on the ground. (I am counting on a fair amount of
good humour among the Cro-Magnons; another telling of the story might assume more
malevolence and end with their rubbing out Herman himself.)

      But, as we all know, a good idea never dies, and sooner or later a hefty, well
respected caveman who carried a big club picked up Herman's notion, drew his own
line in the earth, and made his claim stick. Others drew their lines, taking possession of
the land merely by outlining its boundaries, and then talked about what they owned and
what belonged to them. The forcible seizure of what had been until then common
property, if property at all, led first to emulation, as others also seized portions of land,
and ultimately to the development of ideas and relationships that could be thought to
coincide with the new reality. Rather than having men who had the muscle power to
seize and men who had not, we had landowners and the landless; instead of loot from
the seizure, we had “property”, then property laws by the chapter, and finally the
revelation that the institution of private property had been ordained by God. These
concepts – landowner, property, and property rights -- became common currency,
unquestioned and unquestionable ideas, as natural and expected as the sunrise or as
water flowing downhill, which we take for granted and do not give another thought. And
that is the central nature of ideology.

  From EQUALITY by William Ryan. Copyright (C) 1981 by William Ryan. Reprinted by
permission of Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
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     If you do stop and think about it, it is quite remarkable. An individual human being,
occupying a blip on the screen of time, has the incredible gall to stand up and say, “I
own this land; this land is mine”. He’s talking about an acre or a hundred acres of the
earth, a piece of the planet! And he says it is his! Isn't that really an incredible claim to

      And he does not just say he owns the earth, he also says that he owns what
comes out of it and what is buried beneath it. The owner of the land lays claim to the
grain and the grass that spring up from it and to the cattle that feed on the grain and the
grass. He lays claim to the oil and the iron that lie beneath the ground and then to the
steel made from the iron and to the automobile made from the steel and to the gasoline
made from the oil. He counts as his property the tree that grows on the land and the
wood of the tree and the buildings on the land made from the wood. He owns those
things, he says; they belong to him. And we all act as if it were true, so it must be true.
But behind all these claims, supporting and upholding them – and our willingness to
believe them – is the big club of the hefty Cro-Magnon who made the first claim and
dared his fellows to oppose him. The club is smaller and neater now, hanging from the
belt of the policeman, but the principle remains the same.

     Is it possible that the ideas we have today about ownership and property rights
have been so universal in the human mind that it is truly as if they had sprung from the
mind of God? By no means. The ancient Jews, for one, had a very different outlook on
property and ownership, viewing it as something much more temporary and tentative
than we do. Mosaic law with respect to ownership of land (the only significant productive
property of the time) is unambiguous:

     And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and
     settlers with Me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the

      The buying and selling of land was based on principles very different from those
we know. It was not, in fact, the land itself that changed hands, but rather the right to
use the land to cultivate crops. The price of the land was determined by the number of
years, and therefore the number of crops, remaining until the next jubilee year, when
the land reverted to the family that originally possessed it. Under such a law, buying
land is similar to the process we call leasing.

     The institution of the jubilee year was a specific mechanism for rectifying the in equities
     that had accumulated, for simultaneously restoring liberty and equality for all: And ye
     shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the
     inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his
     possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

     There is no doubt that these laws were violated. Prophet after prophet condemned
as violations efforts to accumulate wealth unjustly: Woe unto them that join house to
house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the
midst of the earth!

      But that the law was violated and the violation condemned is a demonstration of its
existence and applicability. Although the law of jubilee was evaded more and more and

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ultimately fell into disuse, there can be no doubt that it was adhered to for many

      Similarly, the tenure of land in the agrarian feudal ages was hedged all about with
restrictions and accompanied by specific obligations that the landowner owed to his
tenants. These restrictions and obligations, too, were frequently evaded and violated –
perhaps more often than they were honoured – but they were unquestionably part of the
structure of law and custom until the dawn of the modern era, when the very idea of
land began to change and when land began to be equated with capital, as the new
commercial classes began to impose their own view of private property as something
with which one could do more or less what one pleased.

       A bit later, Europeans invented a new method of earning riches, that of
“discovery”, and they came to America and claimed the land - on the grounds that they
had never seen it before – and then went through the arduous labour of possessing by
bounding. To most of the Native American tribes, the land was not subject to
“ownership” by individuals. Their thinking was expressed eloquently by a Blackfeet
chief: As long as the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to
man and animals. We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore we cannot sell
this land.

      It was put here by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong
to us. The Europeans' peculiar ideas about individuals' claiming exclusive ownership of
specific portions of God's earth seemed strange, at first incomprehensible and then irk
somely eccentric. The Indians eventually learned to their sorrow that it was no
eccentricity, but rather a murderous mania.

      In modern times, of course, we have the example of socialist countries where
private ownership of any significant amount of property that constitutes “means of
production” is prohibited as antisocial and antihuman.

     So, the ideas we have in America (and in the majority of the world's nations) about
the private ownership of productive property as a natural and universal right of mankind,
perhaps of divine origin, are by no means universal and must be viewed as an invention
of man rather than a decree of God. Of course, we are completely trained to accept the
idea of ownership of the earth and its products, raw and transformed. It seems not at all
strange; in fact, it is quite difficult to imagine a society without such arrangements. If
someone, some individual, didn't own that plot of land, that house, that factory, that
machine, that tower of wheat, how would we function? What would the rules be? How
would we know how to act? Whom would we buy from and how would we sell?

       It is important to acknowledge a significant difference between achieving
ownership simply by taking or claiming property and owning what we tend to call the
“fruit of labour”. If I, alone or together with my family, work on the land and raise crops,
or if I make something useful out of natural material, it seems reasonable and fair to
claim that the crops or the objects belong to me or my family, are my property, at least
in the sense that I have first claim on them. Hardly anyone would dispute that. In fact,
some of the early radical workingmen's movements made [an ownership] claim on
those very grounds. As industrial organisation became more complex, however, such
issues became vastly more intricate. It must be clear that in modern society the social
heritage of knowledge and technology and the social organisation of manufacture and

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exchange account for far more of the productivity of industry and the value of what is
produced than can be accounted for by the labour of any number of individuals. Hardly
any person can now point and say, “That – that right there – is the fruit of my labour”.
We can say, as a society, as a nation – as a world, really – that what is produced is the
fruit of our labour, the product of the whole society as a collectivity….

      No one man could conceivably build a house with only twelve times the amount of
time and effort that twelve men expend in building the same house. Yet we ignore this
evident reality. Even the workmen, though their experience makes them aware of it,
have no way of thinking and talking about it. So, when the man who bought the land, the
lumber, the nails, and the wire comes around at the end and gives them each a check
for the “value of their labour” – and then even has the chutzpah to bestow upon himself
the title “builder” – no one doubts that he, that individual, now is the rightful owner of
that house. It has become his property.

      With all of this distortion and overemphasis on individual action, the idea of private
property and ownership of pieces of the earth is still pretty much limited to that portion
of the earth that is actually land. We cannot readily imagine buying a piece of air or
seeking a mortgage on a segment of ocean. The idea of owning the air and the seas
seems as incomprehensible to us as the idea of owning his own factory must seem to a
Russian (although we are beginning to see a rapidly growing interest in extending the
idea of ownership to these elements, particularly as the oceans come to be seen more
clearly as a means of production, not only of fish, but of other food, of oil, and perhaps
of minerals).

     We would have a similar feeling if we watched someone sailing out into the
Atlantic and marking out a line of buoys to the north, east, south, and west and then
proclaiming to whoever might listen, "These waves are mine. I own this piece of ocean.
This water and the fish therein and the plankton and the salt and the seaweed belong to
me. The water is mine and the fullness thereof." Hardly anyone would agree with him or
honour his claim, no matter how much he might talk about the divine rights of man to
own the ocean.

      We have to recognise that the right of private individual ownership of property is
man-made and constantly dependent on the extent to which those without property
believe that the owner can make his claim stick.

      One way of making the claim stick is to remove it from the realm of human
agreements, to mystify it, to clothe it in myths, of which the most important with respect
to the so-called right of private ownership of social product and the things that make this
product possible is the myth of the lone “supernormal” individual. It is only by saying –
louder and louder, over and over again – “I! I! I!” that we can then get away with saying
“my” and “mine”.

Questions for Discussion
1. To what extent does the author’s use of the anecdote about cavemen help to
   illustrate the origin of private property? Is it oversimplification?
2. According to paragraph 5, upon what does the principle of ownership rest?
3. How did the Mosaic law treat the ownership of land?

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4. How did ownership of land function during the agrarian feudal ages?
5. What was the attitude of North American Indian tribes toward land ownership? How
   did Europeans circumvent the thinking of the Indians?
6. How does the author differentiate between ownership of property and ownership of
   the “fruits of labour”?
7. Ryan says in paragraph 12: “It must be clear that in modern society the social
   heritage of knowledge and technology and the social organisation of manufacture
   and exchange account for far more of the productivity of industry and the value of
   what is produced than can be accounted for by the labour of any number of
   individuals”. Express Ryan’s thought in your own words to make the sentence easier
   to understand.
8. What is the main means by which modern society supports the concept of private
   ownership of property? Is it different from concepts in the past?

Exploring Ideas
1. How do you react to author Ryan's explanations of the concept of ownership of
   property? What are your own beliefs in this regard?
2. Discuss what the author says in paragraph 16. Is it a totally true statement?

Optional Activity
Imagine that you have been appointed to design a perfect or utopian society. How
would you deal with the matter of private ownership of property and of the “fruits of
labour”? Write an essay of 300-500 words setting forth your plan or design.

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                         CHIEF SEATTLE
     Seattle was chief of the Suquamish Indians and leader of other tribes in the
     area around Puget Sound in Washington State. From the beginning, he was a
     loyal friend of the white settlers who began coming to the region in the early
     1800-ies in increasing numbers.

     The area was organised as the Washington Territory in 1853, and the
     following year the governor of the territory, Isaac Stevens, bought two million
     acres of land from the Indians. Although the city of Seattle was named for
     him, Chief Seattle did not agree wholeheartedly to the honour since he
     believed that after his death, his spirit would be disturbed every time his name
     was mentioned.

     The following is Seattle’s reply to Governor Stevens’s offer to the purchase of
     the two million acres of Indian land. Note the prophetic nature of Seattle’s
     words as he foresaw the eventual absorption of the entire continent by white
     settlers and the decline and disappearance of many Indian cultures.

                        My People
       Yonder sky that has wept tears upon my people for centuries untold, and which to
us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow may be
overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle
says the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon
the return of the sun or the seasons. The White Chief says that Big Chief at Washington
sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. That is kind of him for we know he has
little need of friendship in returr.. His people are many. They are like the grass that
covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-
swept plain. The great, and -- I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he
wishes to buy our lands but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed
appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need
respect, and the offer may be wise also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive
country.... I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach our
paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

     Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary
wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black,
and then they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are
unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white men first
began to push our forefathers further westward. But let us hope that the hostilities
between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old
men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know

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      Our good father at Washington – for I presume he is now our father as well as
yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north – our great good
father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave
warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill
our harbours so that our ancient enemies far to the northward – the Hydas and
Tsimpsians – will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality
will he be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our
God! Your God loves your people and hates mine. He folds his strong and protecting
arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads his infant
son – but He has forsaken His red children – if they really are his. Our God, the Great
Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax strong every
day. Soon they will fill the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide
that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect

      They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be
brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in
us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common heavenly father He must be
partial – for He came to his paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but
He had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast
continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins
and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

      To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed
ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without
regret. Your religion was written upon tables of stone by the iron finger of your God so
that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend nor remember it. Our
religion is the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given them in
solemn hours of night by the Great Spirit,- and the visions of our sachems,' and it is
written in the hearts of our people.

     Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the
portals of the tomb and wander way beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and
never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being.

     Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of
the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your
proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the
reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great
White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense

      It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. A
few more moons; a few more winters -- and not one of the descendants of the mighty
hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the
Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and
hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe
follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of
nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come,
for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend with friend,
cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.
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       We will ponder your proposition, and when we decide we will let you know. But
should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the
privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends
and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every
hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy
event in days long vanished.... The very dust upon which you now stand responds more
lovingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors
and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.... Even the little children who
lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season will love these somber solitudes and at
eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have
perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men,
these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's
children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in
the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone.... At night when the streets of
your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the
returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never
be alone.

    Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.
Dead, did I say? There is not death, only a change of worlds.

Questions for Discussion
1. What are the purposes of Chief Seattle’s speech?
2. What conditions does Chief Seattle set forth before the Indians will relinquish their
3. How does Chief Seattle show that he has an understanding of the ways of young
4. Describe Seattle’s attitude toward the white men, the President of the United States,
   and the white man's god.
5. How is the white man's god different from the Indians' god?
6. What significance is there in Chief Seattle's referring to the President as "father?"
7. To what differences between the white man and the red man does Seattle refer?
8. The speech is rich in figurative language: similes, metaphors, analogies. Upon what
   areas of his knowledge does Chief Seattle draw to form these figures of speech.
   Example: My words are like the stars that never change. (simile) Find other
   examples of similes, metaphors, or analogies.

Exploring Ideas
1. For you, what is the most powerful part of the speech? Why?
2. What aspects of the speech seem to be prophetic as later historical events came to
3. Cite examples of Chief Seattle’s wisdom.
4. How do you react to the closing paragraph of the essay?

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                  W. FURNESS THOMPSON
     W. Furness Thompson served for many years as director of research for
     Smith, Kline, and French Laboratories. In his administrative position,
     Thompson gained invaluable insights into the nature of scientific work and of
     scientists themselves. He was the author of numerous articles that appeared
     in leading American periodicals. He died on April 29, 1979, in Villanova,

      Why Do not the Scientists Admit They Are
      Did you ever read a scientific paper that begins, “For no good reason at all I had a
hunch that…” or “I was just fooling around one day when….”? No sir! Seldom does a
trace of anything haphazard, anything human, appear in published reports of research
experiments. The scientific paper will more likely begin: "In view of recent evidence
concerning the Glockenspiel theory, it seemed advisable to conduct...." And the report
will go on to describe a carefully thought-out experiment that followed not only a logical
but also a chronological order. This was done, this resulted, therefore these conclusions
were suggested. Scientific tradition demands that scientific papers follow that formal
progression: method first, results second, conclusion third. The rules permit no hint that,
as often happens, the method was really made up as the scientist went along, or that
accidental results determined the method, or that the scientist reached certain
conclusions before the results were all in, or that he started out with certain conclusions,
or that he started doing a different experiment.

      Much scientific writing not only misrepresents the workings of science but also
does a disservice to scientists themselves. By writing reports that make scientific
investigations sound as unvarying and predictable as a pavan, scientists tend to
promulgate the curious notion that science is infallible. That many of them are
unconscious of the effect they create does not alter the image in the popular mind. We
hear time and again of the superiority of the “scientific method”. In fact, the word
"unscientific" has almost become a synonym for "untrue." Yet the final evaluation of any
set of data is an individual, subjective judgement; and all human judgement is liable to
error. Thoughtful scientists realise all this; but you would not gather so from reading
most scientific literature.

     A pompous, stilted style too often seizes the pen of the experimenter the moment
he starts putting words on paper.

    Words direct our lives, after all. And if the words in which we read the scientist’s
own unfolding story of his science are all cold and calculated, empty of foible or failing,
above even mention of mistake, how are we to divine that in the vast majority of
moments when he is not writing, the scientist is a genial, sensible, rather humble man?
By what occult power are we to recognise that his “objective evaluations” in the
  From the Saturday Review, September 7, l 957. Copyright (C) 1957 by Saturday
Review Magazine. Reprinted by permission.
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scientific journals are actually not magnificent infallibilities but fortunate conclusions of
persistently pursued hunches, exhaustively explored intuitions, and unexpected

      Editors of scientific publications are not without their reasons for the current style
of scientific writing. Their journals aren't rich. Paper and printing are expensive.

      Therefore, it is expedient to condense articles as much as possible. Under
pressure of tradition, the condensation process removes the human elements first. And
few scientific writers rebel against the tradition. Even courageous men do not go out of
their way to publicise their deviations from accepted procedures. Then, too, there is an
apparent objectivity and humility attached to the third person, passive voice writing
technique adopted in the preparation of most scientific papers. So, bit by bit, the true
face of science becomes hidden behind what seems to the outsider to be a smug all-
knowing mask. Is it any wonder that in the popular literature the scientist often appears
as a hybrid superman-spoiled child?

      No small contribution to modern culture could be the simple introduction, into the
earliest stage of our public-school science courses, of a natural style of writing about
laboratory experiments as they really happen. This is something that could be done
immediately with the opening of classes this fall. It requires no preparation except a
psychological acknowledgement of the obvious fact that the present form of reporting
experiments is a mental strait jacket whose very appearance is calculated to repel the
imaginative young minds science so sorely needs.

      Dare the local schoolteacher depart from the stereotype imposed by tradition? I
think he should. It would be foolish to expect every scientist to become a composite of,
say, Pasteur and Hemingway. But the teacher could point out that a writing tradition
which removes a portion of humanity is also liable to remove a portion of truth. He could
encourage his students to report facts as they see them, including facts that convention
might regard as "unscientific" and, therefore, out of place in a written report.

     The giants of science could serve as guides. Let me quote from the article in the
June, 1929, issue of the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in which Sir
Alexander Fleming, the English bacteriologist, announced the discovery of penicillin:
While working with staphylococcus variants [types of bacteria] a number of culture
plates were set aside on the laboratory bench and examined from time to time. In the
examination, these plates were necessarily exposed to the air and they became
contaminated with various microorganisms. It was noticed that around a large colony of
the contaminated mold the staphylococcus colonies became transparent and were
obviously undergoing lysis [dissolution]....

      This paragraph is far from a literary masterpiece, but it does illustrate a
straightforwardness which is infrequently present in scientific writing. Did Fleming report
anything that happened according to plan? Not unless necessary exposure to air is
counted as planning. The whole business was an accident, and Fleming said so.

     Fleming did not discover penicillin because he was hunting for it. He made the
discovery because he was curious about something he saw. He saw the germs on his
plates being killed by an air-borne mold. What was the mold and how did it kill?

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      This penicillin episode is an instructive example of how wrong the popular
conception of "scientific method" can be. Even after he isolated penicillin Fleming was
unable to make more than a meager quantity of it that was useful. Ten years were to
pass before the antibiotic was mass-manufactured, and then the job could not be done
in the discoverer's native England. Penicillin did not become a practical reality until Dr.

    Newton Richards, Chairman of the National Research Council's Committee on
Medical Research in this country, persuaded United States manufacturers to go into
speculative development of the drug.

      Our firm - Smith, Kline, and French – was one of the companies Richards
approached. We were interested. We thought a mushroom outfit might be a good place
to grow the mold. I was sent to talk to the mushroom man. As I explained the process of
growing molds and extracting penicil lin, he paled. He got rid of me as fast as he could.
Much later, I found out that mushroom growers plan their science on the principle that
all molds are evil and should be destroyed. Only those mushroom men who ignored
their own traditional "method" were able to benefit the world, and incidentally, become
rich themselves, by growing penicillin.

     Science, in practice, depends far less on the experiments it prepares than on the
preparedness of the minds of the men who watch the experiments. Sir Isaac Newton
supposedly discovered gravity through the fall of an apple. Apples had been falling in
many places for centuries and thousands of people had seen them fall. But Newton for
years had been curious about the cause of the orbital motion of the moon and the
planets. What kept them in place? Why didn't they fall out of the sky? The fact that the
apple fell down toward the earth and not up into the tree answered the question he had
been asking himself about those larger fruits of the heavens, the moon and the planets.

     How many men would have considered the possibility of an apple falling up into
the tree? Newton did because he was not trying to predict anything. He was just
wondering. His mind was ready for the unpredictable. Unpredictability is part of the
essential nature of research. If you do not have unpredictable things, you do not have

     Scientists tend to forget this when writing their cut and dried reports for the
technical journals, but history is filled with examples of it.

       In 1925 William Mason, a mechanical engineer, hit upon the idea of heating wood
until it exploded and then using the fibers to make a good inexpensive paper. He was in
a factory drying some of the fibers when a friend asked him to lunch. After turning off
the steam valve that regulated the heat, Mason left the place. He had a leisurely lunch
followed by a few extra cups of coffee. When he returned to the factory he discovered to
his horror that the valve he thought he had closed was defective – the heat had
remained on all the time he was away. The wood fibers weren't merely dry; they were
baked! Mason's first reaction was to throw the fibers away. Before he did so, however,
he took a long close look at them. He found a smooth sheet not of paper but of a new
very special kind of grainless wood.

     Another man made a valuable discovery because he forgot to wash his hands. He
knocked off work in a laboratory to eat a roast beef sandwich, took one bite and

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gagged. The sandwich was sickeningly sweet! In reaching for a glass of water, he
noticed his hands were dirty. Could the dirt have anything to do with the unexpected
sweetness of that sandwich? He examined the stuff he had been handling in the
laboratory before lunch and thereby discovered saccharin. Serendipity is the high-
sounding name for this kind of happy accident.

     In talking to some scientists, particularly younger ones, you might gather the
impression that they find the “scientific method” a substitute for imaginative thought.

      I have attended research conferences where a scientist has been asked what he
thinks about the advisability of continuing a certain experiment. The scientist has
frowned, looked at the graphs, and said “the data are still inconclusive”. “We know that”,
the men from the budget office have said, “but what do you think? Is it worthwhile going
on? What do you think we might expect?" The scientist has been shocked at having
even been asked to speculate.

      What this amounts to, of course, is that the scientist has become the victim of his
own propaganda. He has put up the infallible objective front so consistently that he not
only believes it himself, but has convinced industrial and business management that it is
true. If experiments are planned and carried out according to plan as faithfully as the
reports in the science journals indicate, then it is perfectly logical for management to
expect research to produce results measurable in dollars and cents. It is entirely
reasonable for auditors to believe that scientists who know exactly where they are going
and how they will get there should not be distracted by the necessity of keeping one eye
on the cash register while the other eye is on the microscope. Nor, if regularity and
conformity to a standard pattern are as desirable to the scientist as the writing of his
papers would appear to reflect, is management to be blamed for discriminating against
the “odd balls” among researchers in favour of more conventional thinkers who “work
well with the team”.

     All of us who actually have to do with research know that the “odd ball” often is a
more valuable scientist than his well-adjusted colleague. “Odd ball” may be too strong a
phrase. I am not talking about the man who is extremely unusual - who wears a
Napoleon hat. No, I mean the man who does not conform, who does not always think
the way most of us are thinking, who doesn't always act the way most of us are acting.

      I can remember an extremely valuable senior scientist of ours who made many
important contributions to our research program but who apparently did very little work,
and who took privileges which were quite conspicuous. He was a flower fancier. He
spent so much time growing flowers in his laboratory that it began to look like the
beginning of a small greenhouse. We were worried about the effect of this man on the
morale of those who worked with and for him. But when we looked into the situation we
found that our fears were groundless. He was not resented. The others around him
realised that if they were contributing as much as he, they too could grow flowers in the
lab or design Rube Goldberg apparatus.

     At least a large part of the non-scientist’s hostility to or fear of the scientist rises
from the stereotyped idea of the scientist as a man, the myth that the scientist himself
perpetuates. This imaginary person does not quite belong to the same species as other
human beings; he lives in a different world; he thinks in a different way.

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      Actually, the scientist thinks in much the same way that the rest of us do. The
problems he encounters in his work are different from our problems, but his method of
arriving at solutions is much the same as ours. The scientist is not necessarily smarter
or more creative than the non-scientist. The psychological process of creativity –
whether a man is creating a new vaccine, a novel, a painting, or a piece of sculpture – is
much the same for everybody.

      If the scientist, in writing about his work, will present himself as a fellow fallible
human, he will lead us all to be receptive of his accomplishments, tolerant of his
failures, and far less likely to demand of him more than he can possibly give.

Questions for Discussion
1. In paragraph 6, the author states that “a writing tradition which removes a portion of
   humanity is also liable to remove a portion of truth”. Is this statement giving the
   central idea of the essay?
2. According to the author, how does scientific writing do a disservice to scientists
3. What does the author mean in paragraph 3 when he observes: “Words direct our
4. “So, bit by bit, the true face of science becomes hidden behind what seems to the
   outsider to be a smug all-knowing mask”. (Paragraph 4) How is this accomplished
   according to the author?
5. What is the procedure for the preparation of scientific papers?
6. What role does the preparedness of the minds of scientists play in making
7. In what way has the scientist become a victim of his own propaganda?
8. How does the author compare the scientist with the non-scientist regarding the
   process of creative thinking?

Exploring Ideas
1. Do you think that scientists should make a real effort to make their writings
   intelligible to all educated persons?
2. To what extent have you felt that scientists do “not quite belong to the same species
   as other human beings”?
3. In paragraph 5, the author uses the expression, “mental strait jacket”. How do you
   interpret the expression? Do you think that it applies only to scientific thinking?
4. Should all writing include the "human" quality? Explain your answer.
5. Basically, the author has not admitted the need for two kinds of writing – one done
   for science, the other for the general public. Does this limit the effectiveness of the
   essay? Should he have recognised that the purposes and methods of scientific
   writing are different from those of a general nature? Why or why not?

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                          JUDITH VIORST
     Judith Viorst was born in 1936 and has established herself as an
     accomplished writer who has covered a wide range of topics in her
     profession. She is a regular contributing editor to Redbook magazine. The
     essay that follows first, appeared in her regular column of that magazine. The
     essay seems to enlarge upon an observation by the American philosopher,
     George Santayana, who once wrote: "Friendship is almost always the union
     of a part of one mind with a part of another; people are friends in spots." Ms.
     Viorst also writes humorous verse and books for children.

       Friends, Good Friends – and Such Good
                      Friends                     13

      Women are friends, I once would have said, when they totally love and support
and trust each other, and bare to each other the secrets of their souls, and run – no
questions asked – to help each other, and tell harsh truths to each other (no, you
cannot wear that dress unless you lose ten pounds first) when harsh truths must be

      Women are friends, I once would have said, when they share the same affection
for Ingmar Bergman, plus train rides, cats, warm rain, charades, Camus, and hate with
equal ardor Newark and Brussels sprouts and Lawrence Welk and camping.

      In other words, I once would have said that a friend is a friend all the way, but now
I believe that's a narrow point of view. For the friendships I have and the friendships I
see are conducted at many levels of intensity, serve many different functions, meet
different needs and range from those as all-the-way as the friendship of the soul sisters
mentioned above to that of the most nonchalant and casual playmates.

     Consider these varieties of friendship:

      1. Convenience friends. These are women with whom, if our paths were not
crossing all the time, we'd have no particular reason to be friends: a next-door
neighbour, a woman in our car pool, the mother of one of our children's closest friends
or maybe some mommy with whom we serve juice and cookies each week at the
Glenwood Co-op Nursery. Convenience friends are convenient indeed. They'll lend us
their cups and silverware for a party. They'll drive our kids to soccer when we're sick.
They'll take us to pick up our car when we need a lift to the garage. They will even take
our cats when we go on vacation. As we will for them.

      But we do not, with convenience friends, ever come too close or tell too much; we
maintain our public face and emotional distance. “Which means”, says Elaine, “that I will
talk about being overweight but not about being depressed. Which means I will admit

  Copyright O< 1977 by Judith Viorst. Originally appeared in REDBOOK. Reprinted by
permission of Leacher @ L.escher. I.td.
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being mad but not blind with rage. Which means that I might say that we're pinched this
month but never that I'm worried sick over money”. But which doesn't mean that there
isn't sufficient value to be found in these friendships of mutual aid, in convenience

      2. Special-interest friends. These friendships are not intimate, and they need not
involve kids or silverware or cats. Their value lies in some interest jointly shared. And so
we may have an office friend or a yoga friend or a tennis friend or a friend from the
Women's Democratic Club. “I have got one woman friend”, says Joyce, - who likes, as I
do, to take psychology courses. Which makes it nice for me – and nice for her. It is fun
to go with someone you know and it is fun to discuss what you have learned, driving
back from the classes”. And for the most part, she says, that's all they discuss.

      “I would say that what we were doing is doing together, not being together”,
Suzanne says of her Tuesday-doubles friends. “It is mainly a tennis relationship, but we
play together well. And I guess we all need to have a couple of playmates”.

     I agree.

      My playmate is a shopping friend, a woman of marvelous taste, a woman who
knows exactly where to buy what, and furthermore is a woman who always knows
beyond a doubt what one ought to be buying. I do not have the time to keep up with
what's new in eyeshadow, hemlines and shoes and whether the smock look is in or
finished already. But since (oh, shame!) I care a lot about eyeshadows, hemlines and
shoes, and since I do not want to wear smocks if the smock look is finished, I am very
glad to have a shopping friend.

      3. Historical friends. We all have a friend who knew us when … maybe way back
in Miss Meltzer’s second grade, when our family lived in that three-room flat in Brooklyn,
when our dad was out of work for seven months, when our brother Allie got in that fight
where they had to call the police, when our sister married the endodontist from Yonkers
and when, the morning after we lost our virginity, she was the first, the only, friend we

     The years have gone by and we've gone separate ways and we have little in
common now, but we're still an intimate part of each other's past. And so whenever we
go to Detroit we always go to visit this friend of our girlhood. Who knows how we looked
before our teeth were straightened. Who knows how we talked before our voice got un
Brooklyned. Who knows what we ate before we learned about artichokes. And who, by
her presence, puts us in touch with an earlier part of ourself, a part of ourself it is
important never to lose.

      “What this friend means to me and what I mean to her”, says Grace, – is having a
sister without sibling rivalry. We know the texture of each other's lives. She remembers
my grandmother's cabbage soup. I remember the way her uncle played the piano.
There is simply no other friend who remembers those things."

     4. Crossroads friends. Like historical friends, our crossroads friends are important
for what was – for the friendship we share at a crucial, now past, time of life. A time,
perhaps, when we roomed in college together; or worked as eager young singles in the

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Big City together; or went together, as my friend Elizabeth and I did, through pregnancy,
birth and that scary first year of new motherhood.

      Crossroads friends forge powerful links, links strong enough to endure with not
much more contact than once-a-year letters at Christmas. And out of respect for those
crossroads years, for those dramas and dreams we once shared, we will always be

      5. Cross-generational friends. Historical friends and crossroads friends seem to
maintain a special kind of intimacy – dormant but always ready to be revived – and
though we may rarely meet, whenever we do connect, it is personal and intense.
Another kind of intimacy exists in the friendships that form across generations in what
one woman calls her daughter-mother and her mother-daughter relationships. Evelyn’s
friend is her mother's age – “but I share so much more than I ever could with mother” –
a woman she talks to of music, of books and of life. “What I get from her is the benefit of
her experience. What she gets – and enjoys – from me is a youthful perspective. It is a
pleasure for both of us”.

       I have in my own life a precious friend, a woman of 65 who has lived very hard,
who is wise, who listens well; who has been where I am and can help me understand it;
and who represents not only an ultimate ideal mother to me but also the person I would
like to be when I grow up.

     In our daughter role we tend to do more than our share of self-revelation; in our
mother role we tend to receive what's revealed. It is another kind of pleasure – playing
wise mother to a questing younger person. It is another very lovely kind of friendship.

      6. Part-of-a-couple friends. Some of the women we call our friends we never see
alone – we see them as part of a couple at couples’ parties. And though we share
interests in many things and respect each other’s views, we aren't moved to deepen the
relationship. Whatever the reason, a lack of time or – and this is more likely – a lack of
chemistry, our friendship remains in the context of a group. But the fact that our feeling
on seeing each other is always, “I am so glad she s here” and the fact that we spend
half the evening talking together says that this too, in its own way, counts as a

      (Other part-of-a-couple friends are the friends that came with the marriage, and
some of these are friends we could live without. But sometimes, alas, she married our
husband’s best friend; and sometimes, alas, she is our husband's best friend. And so
we find ourselves dealing with her, somewhat against our will, in a spirit of what I will
call reluctant friendship).

      7. Men who are friends. I wanted to write just of women friends, but the women I
have talked to will non let me – they say I must mention man-woman friendships too.
For these friendships can be just as close and as dear as those that we form with
women. Listen to Lucy’s description of one such friendship: “We have found we have
things to talk about that are different from what he talks about with my husband and
different from what I talk about with his wife. So sometimes we call on the phone or
meet for lunch. There are similar intellectual interests – we always pass on to each
other the book that we love – but there is also something tender and caring too”.

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      In a couple of crises, Lucy says, “he offered himself for talking and for helping. And
when someone died in his family he wanted me there. The sexual, flirty part of our
friendship is very small – but some – just enough to make it fun and different”. She
thinks – and I agree – that the sexual part, though small, is always some, is always
there when a man and a woman are friends.

      It is only in the past few years that I've made friends with men, in the sense of a
friendship that is mine, not just part of two couples. And achieving with them the ease
and the trust I have found with women friends has value indeed. Under the dryer at
home last week, putting on mascara and rouge, I comfortably sat and talked with a
fellow named Peter. Peter, I finally decided, could handle the shock of me minus
mascara under the dryer. Because we care for each other. Because we are friends.
There are medium friends, and pretty good friends, and very good friends indeed, and
these friendships are defined by their level of intimacy. And what we'll reveal at each of
these levels of intimacy is calibrated with care. We might tell a medium friend, for
example, that yesterday we had a fight with our husband. And we might tell a pretty
good friend that this fight with our husband made us so mad that we slept on the couch.

       And we might tell a very good friend that the reason we got so mad in that fight
that we slept on the couch had something to do with that girl who works in his office. But
it is only to our very best friends that we are willing to tell all, to tell what's going on with
that girl in his office. The best of friends, I still believe, totally love and support and trust
each other, and bare to each other the secrets of their souls, and run – no questions
asked – to help each other, and tell harsh truths to each other when they must be told.

      But we need not agree about everything (only 12-year-old girl friends agree about
everything) to tolerate each other's point of view. To accept without judgement. To give
and to take without ever keeping score. And to be there, as I am for them and as they
are for me, to comfort our sorrows, to celebrate our joys.

Questions for Discussion
1. Does the author really define friendship? How has her definition changed over the
   years, if any?
2. How does Viorst’s use of the word, we, contribute to the “intimacy” of the essay?
3. What purpose did the author have in writing this essay?
4. It is apparent that the essay is directed toward women. (Redbook is a magazine
   aimed largely at women between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five.) How would
   Viorst have changed the categories of the essay if it was directed at young men in
   the same age category? Would her examples have been different?
5. What effect does Viorst’s use of quotations have?
6. How would you describe the tone of the essay?

Exploring Ideas
1. What is your own idea of friendship? Give examples from your own experience or
   from your reading.
2. Americans seem to value informality and "easy" friendship. Are there disadvantages
   to such kinds of cultural mores? How does your own society view friendship?
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3. Why do you think some people establish friendships more easily than others?
4. Discuss the quotation from George Santayana cited in the biographical sketch of
   Judith Viorst. Do you agree or disagree or only agree in part? Give your reasons.
5. Make a list, as Viorst does in paragraph two, of some of your favourite and least
   favourite things. How many of them would you share with friends or family?
6. Do you have loves and hates that you share with someone? What kind of friendship
   relationship do you have with that person or persons?

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Частные уроки Английского Языка 387-1231
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