In this second part of my journal analysis, I would like to examine how Thoreau might have been trying to inspire future writers. Because he was a prolific writer, and because his art was so well-developed, I believe that in certain journal entries he was writing metacognitively in order to instruct others. He almost sounds like a writing teacher in his entry of 4 September 1851:
“Be greedy of occasions to express your thought. Improve the opportunity to draw analogies. There are innumerable avenues to a perception of the truth. Improve the suggestion of each object however humble, however slight and transient the provocation” (95).
When we take each sentence to itself, and then we apply the advice to our own time and place, we realize he is talking about the importance of not just figurative language, but raw detail…even details that pertain to what we assume is a triviality. It’s excellent advice for writers of all levels, and it makes me wonder what kind of positive comments and suggestions he would take the time to put on a student paper.
He talks about developing theme in his journal entry of 18 October 1856:
“My work is writing, and I do not hesitate, though I know that no subject is too trivial for me, tried by ordinary standards; for, ye fools, the theme is nothing, the life is everything. All that interests the reader is the depth and intensity of the life excited. We touch our subject but by experience, or our interest in it, rests on us by a broader or narrower base. That is, man is all in all, Nature nothing, but as she draws him out and reflects him. Give me simple, cheap, and homely themes” (288).
I believe he is trying to advise the writer about character development when he says, “All that interests the reader is the depth and intensity of the life excited.” He could be referring to his own sense of self, and how he wants his own characterization understood, he could be referring to any writer, on any characterization…it is the “depth” and the “intensity” of a character that makes us fall in love with it for whatever its faults or virtues. “Give me simple, cheap, and homely themes” could refer to anything we experience in contemporary entertainment, from reality shows, to metal music. The themes are in essence, cheap, simple, and in some cases shockingly homely.
Finally, as an educator, I value the power of reflection, and the lack of false drama and overdone hyperbole. In his entry of 28 March 1857, Thoreau discusses reflection in his own stylish way:
“Often I can give the truest and most interesting account of any adventure I have had after years have elapsed, for then I am not confused, only the most significant facts surviving in my memory. Indeed, all that continues to interest me after such a lapse of time is sure to be pertinent, and I may safely record all that I remember” (311).
The best stories are told over and over again, orally. I am sure Thoreau was able to flesh out much of his thematic genius by visiting and recounting details with his various friends and family members. His thoughts and stories grew in value over time, and he wants future writers to have an awareness of how much of writing takes place away from the desk.
If we aren’t sharing these insights with our students, then we should be. Thoreau’s thoughts on his art are certainly worth learning.
Thoreau, Henry D. I to Myself. Ed. Jeffrey S. Cramer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 207.
Turkish government document:
At the Harmony Science Academy – West Houston, a male Turkish teacher with a
Bachelor’s degree and no experience, who teaches English Language Arts and “other”, is
paid $56,875 annually. At the same school, a female non-Turkish teacher, who has one
year of experience and teaches English Language Arts, “other”, and Social Studies is paid
$47,000 annually, a disparity of $9,875.
The paragraph above is just one example of the lies in that document. I can personally guarantee you that there is no man teaching ELA at the HSAWH. We had a male teaching tenth grade English at that school the year before last; I know him personally, but he was an American citizen (born and raised) and moved to a different state. You should make sure that the facts in your document are not fabricated by the Turkish government before you go running it in a blog because you could embarrass yourself. Furthermore, we do not have any teachers overlapping with social studies and ELA. They are completely different departments, and they are all staffed with Americans.
I have never known any Turkish person to teach English Language Arts at any Harmony school. I would know because I attend the cluster trainings with my colleagues. The TEA is going to throw the Turkish government’s documents in the trash because they already know everything there is to know about the educators, the visas, and the management.
I can’t understand why Xenophobes, like yourself, can’t find better things to do than try to hurt schools and children. We are not busting any unions here, this is Texas. And just like any school, you are going to find complaining parents. You are going to find complaining teachers, especially in the cruel world of edreform. But if you want to really find teachers and students that have been mistreated, I have a couple of leads for you. I have some really good stories, but they didn’t happen at Harmony.
The people of Texas do not want some foreign country meddling in the business of our local schools…you can quit panting and slobbering all over this issue because it amounts to absolutely nothing. Furthermore, it would be a terrible mistake to allow a theocrat like Erdogan to reach across the Atlantic to punish people that he imagines are not supportive of his fundamentalist Islamic plan. Today, he purged 15,000 educators in his own country because of his delusional obsession with Gulen. Do you not recognize insanity when you are faced with it?
The HB1 visas are legal. The US government is allowing these teachers to come here and contribute to our students, so why would you care? We are facing a shortage of qualified math and science teachers…there is no surplus, and no US citizen is denied a position based on what you are suggesting.
The students are introduced to teachers from around the world, not just Turkey. It’s true, some of them have a heavy accent from their native land. But the students adapt, and they become better listeners and more tolerant of people of other nationalities. That is what we want for our children…we want tolerance, understanding, and community.
Think about what you are doing and who you are supporting. Erdogan will murder the people that defy him. Be logical and read everything that you can find on Erdogan because he is becoming a dangerous and unstable president. Your hysteria, based on your hatred for charter schools, could lead to devastating consequences, not just for the students and teachers you are hurting at this moment, but for yourself because you are unwittingly providing support to a man bent on making Turkey a theocracy. In that theocracy little girls and boys will not be allowed to attend school together, Christians and Muslims will be separated, and human rights for all people will be further violated.