Philosophy and Writing

My original concept for an At Home School writing program was something that involved writing. It's morphed into the skills you need to ...

Philosophy and writing

My original concept for an At Home School writing program was something that involved writing. It's morphed into the skills you need to sit down and bang out a solid A paper without a lot of effort. I haven't formalized the list of writing skills. Here's where I am:

  • Writing skills have a little to do with math so we'll start there.
  • Writing skills have a lot to do with philosophy skills which is why we're focusing on philosophy now.
  • As a kid practices skills, he gets faster. After a lot of practice, he moves quickly, avoiding mistakes and dead ends from past experience, characterizing new versus old problems quickly, and applying the skills much more elegantly the next time.
  • There are no new skills in writing, but practicing them in the context of math doesn't help using them in the context of writing. Mostly.

In the last article, I summarized math solution strategy skills in the context of philosophy. In short, the broader list of problem solving skills includes reading the question, devising a strategy, getting the wrong answer and trying again, and checking the work. 'Seeing' and 'Vocabulary' are super powers and not skills but play a major role in all fields. Creating fancy algorithms to solve all problems in this class of problems is another Super Power.

I call these the Big Five Problem solving skills. The first 4 in the list above are the first 4 of the Big Five, and the last one is called bucketing - taking on work that you won't be able to solve until next year and then looking like a genius when you get to it in school because you're already familiar with the material. The 3 Super Powers of problem solving emerge with practice on the right types of problems (aka problems that need seeing, vocab, and algorithms).

Here is my view of the exact same skill set in the context of writing.

  • Understanding the rubric on a writing topic is a bit like reading the question in math and philosophy.
  • The 'question' phase in writing involves additional information gathering and organizing the thoughts.
  • The solution strategy also includes organizing the sub-topics and determining the best way to present them.
  • I feel like getting ready to write and actual writing are two phases that each need application of the Big Five problem solving skills.
  • Making mistakes, trying again, and proofreading are identical and already well known as the secret to good writing.

As I mentioned before, I see no benefit to writing from practicing the Big Five in the context of math. The reason is that the 3 Super Powers don't develop for writing without actual writing. Vocabulary might be an exception, but the seeing and algorithm skills require topical practice. An algorithm in writing is a way of presenting material in an interesting and compelling way. Organizational skills in math which we haven't seen since we tackled geometry proofs aren't going to help a young writer crank out best selling novels like James Patterson.

At one point, we spent time writing. Our records are 4 straight hours crafting improvements to phrasing and word choice (my son did this to spite me) and 90 minutes writing a summary of The Brotherhood of Steel until I cried uncle. Then our insane 7th grade writing teacher made the kids write 7 1/2 hours a day for the last two weeks of school in preparation for more work in 8th grade, so I started focusing on the other parts of writing that don't involve a keyboard. Mainly talking. My kids are learning to 'see' deeply into questions they never saw before, like what is the self, organize and argue. They are developing something to say and practicing it in the context of conversation.

At one point long ago, Plato complained that the introduction of scroll in the education system is ruining education. Similar complaints followed the introduction of the printing press, what with the masses getting a hold of the material reserved for the educated class. I used to think of that when people complain about people standing on the side walk reading mobile devises. Lately I think Plato might have been on to something.

Philopophy in Spain

Normal people show up to work on Monday and say things like 'How was your weekend' and 'Did you see the Bears lose again'. I show up and say things like 'We're studying philosophy - do you known anything about Kierkegaard?' This is approach, while social inept, helps a lot with my ongoing research.

I found out this week (on Monday) that philosophy is taught in high school in Europe. Furthermore, there is a comedy team that ends every set with 'Que va, que va, Yo leo Kierkegaard'. This is very amusing to Spaniards, but I'm not the slightest bit amused that US schools don't teach philosophy. How is the US going to maintain it's superiority complex if our education system is sub par?

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