Where Have All the Good Readers Gone? [a Short Story]


Where have all the good readers gone?

I would like to ask this question openly, but do not have the courage to ask this question, by thus doing I would challenge too many of the grossly absurd assumptions of too many of my colleagues who I respect in spite of what I know to be their defects in intellect . . . the evils in society are chiefly from defects or diseases in the intellect, our intellect, what we know, how we know it, what we have determined the limits of knowing are, what we call knowledge, and how we have critiqued and dismissed many of the forms of traditional knowledge and knowing, which are themselves the great defects in intellect we suffer . . . we do not suffer social diseases–a kind of syphilis of the body politic . . . and so, diatribes on the state of current pedagogy notwithstanding, let me say, as I have said before, in many places before this, that education is the cornerstone of Civil Liberty–and how is it that anyone could think other wise? I do ask, and now and then put in a rhetoric that makes any askee of my asker-self very uncomfortable, which is not my primary intention, and I do ask myself who I think I am to do what I have done and continue to do with words, questions of words, words, words and more words I use to bludgeon sometimes . . . but then as I have inferred here, the current degraded state of our common pedagogy only points to a society that might not understand the role of education in Civil Liberty. Let me reiterate what Madison believed, yes, Civil Liberty can only be supported sufficiently by strengthening our standards of education, and not by playing the pedagogic shell game the State (L’Etat) and our current bureaucracies setting standards seem to enjoy playing.  Who do I have to be, though, to ask the questions I ask, pose as I do pose them, questioning postures . . . in as much as education should still be, and needs to be raised to a level and a sufficiency that is able to manage the demands of Democracy, we cannot endure the way we currently perform on the stages of Public Education across America. And I can say this., across America . . . the ways we fail to achieve what is necessary in educating the People (the People the only institution with enough density to counterbalance the weight of the State) are interestingly the same methods others have used successfully in controlling the Public . . . do I have to prove to you that I have appropriate credentials for speaking the Truth as well as the truths of our contemporaneity, no I do not think so.

Madison certainly could not have been talking about the kind of education we have in our Public Schools anywhere in America, whereby we graduate more students than ever in spite of increasing the percentage of those who graduate reading below grade. I do not have to believe in a Golden Age to know that ours just might be the worst of times so far for literacy and education in America. We no longer train the less than academically inclined students for blue collar jobs in our Public Schools; we merely instead pass them along, many at below grade level, a good number with a semi-literacy barely functional, so as to fill the demands of a Welfare Bureaucracy  still bloated because it was never designed to help people but to create an entire mass of welfare serfs bound to the bureaucracy as serfs in a former feudalism during the middle ages were bound to the land they worked . . . how do we not know that we liberals in America are complicit with the simian outbursts politically today in America, America, my most failing flailing America–yes, we . . . and so, who among our High School teachers, let alone our current graduates in New York City can read Madison with the acumen necessary for a deeper understanding? And yes, deeper from an acumen that can–that should–be taught, not divined as in so many classrooms where pedagogy is about teaching less to achieve only the end that parents must do more. Why send children to school with how ineffective most classroom teaching has become? And this is not an invitation for reflexive assertions to the contrary, amounting to a ping pong match of I said/you said. To read well or not to read well, that is the question most pressing about pedagogy, most pressing about thinking, what we think, how we think, the limits of thinking linked with the limits of knowing, never succumbing to the pervasive overarching doubt as we do today when confronted with the questions pertaining to what is knowable and what the limits of knowing are . . . to be or not to be educated in a way appropriate to a People managing democracy as a People and not as a Public managed by the State and in perpetual service of the State. I do not need to know every single High School teacher, and a single contrary example does not refute the question asked in earnest. And I have also met far too many college educated adults for whom re-reading is essential for even an appropriate first read, so why do we sponsor the kind of pedagogy of reading that amounts to engaging a text in a way similar to how waiters clear tables of crumbs before bringing the coffee? Is it about making a teacher’s job easier? Or is it about creating a mass of welfare serfs or another of minimum wage serfs in an economy dislocated from freedom and only bent on making the rich richer, the monied more powerful as well as reciprocally, power more monied.



Ta meta ta physika

All good reading is re-reading, so the necessity to re-read is not the issue above. But this necessary re-reading is more effective when a more attentive and less perfunctory first reading is achieved. Superficially skimming the text will never do anywhere. I am referring to the kind of reading that penetrates the text, not just superficially skims the page. Sweeping has nothing in common with reading when reading is performed organically and seriously and not how it has been fostered in our schools. All great writing is multi-layered. Today, though, among who we call literate, reading amounts to superficially skimming the page as if words were crumbs on the dinner cloth. But then many of the texts chosen in classrooms through Public School are two-dimensional as texts, the kind of writing that defers to the flatness of the page and the words being organized in lines. So then, am I to assume, probably, that the kind of reading that gets fostered by our pedagogy is in line with the kind of writing we find in the kinds of texts that get chosen, or is it that the kind of writing in the texts that get chosen demand a kind of superficial skimming because this skimming is suited to the writing. When a teacher is allowed to have a B- average in the subject he teaches, and can have at least a C+ overall–what kind of teachers are we getting. We even discourage prospective English teachers from getting a Master’s degree in English and instead to get a Master’s in Education, that is, the Teaching of English, as if that is not a misguided, misconceived notion of what knowledge is, and not the product of our mistaken notions about epistemology, what is knowable and what the limits of knowing are.

Good readers can tell bad writing and politically correct hyper-didactic texts are often poorly written. How then though can I hope to understand what individuality means when true political and social individuality is so countermanded by one kind of pluralism after another, contradicted by one determinism or another in assault against any or all notions of free-will. This assault on free-will is backed up by these aforementioned pluralisms, but fostered by the kind of pedagogy of literacy we have in our Public Schools. Don’t bother to look to education anywhere in America for saving graces in the rituals of freedom; it is in our public schools that the greatest reinforcement for a decrease in civil liberty and social freedom has been maintained. Current pedagogy has ensured that we will be neither aware enough historically nor literate enough to defend our freedoms. As insipidly as we support cultural and linguistic awareness, we are not likely to hold onto our best ideals, all in the name of a diversity more diversion than diversification. Today, our diversity has too little respect for individuality. Individuality and a respect for it seems past reckoning; individualism has increased its ismistic referencing in our rhetorical strategies concerning the package of individuality over the product of individuality. Madison Avenue still rules the ritual actions of our minds, the ritualized thoughts behind our actions. It is one of our greatest horrors that we call it Madison Avenue.

Our diversity today is nothing other than a tracing of the veins in a great monolith of marble, or creating new ways of genuflecting before the altars of entertainment. Conformity is America’s greatest dogma; how is it that we have not returned to narrower times? There was more individuality in the old universality, it seemed to me, so long as the push was not universalism. Isms are always a reduction of individual will and idea. Baroque Europe I must remind us did have a greater sense of universality coextensive with its ethnic and national diversities than anything we have today. America today is not as organically diverse as was Europe just at a time they plummeted into the maelstrom of the Thirty Years War. But then we go crouching and crawling and creeping our way out of the 20th Century, best labelled by Camus, The Century of Murder, slouching, Mr. Yeats, yes, slouching, we are.



Is it true that there are no philosophical theories, and only philosophical fictions?

The essence of the fictional essay is directly extensive of the conclusion that all philosophical systems (if we will, and so in desiring make acceptable) are in themselves fictions, no less so than Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. In this way, fiction or fictions represent alternate epistemologies, no?

The old Church liturgy was almost invariably the call of the rock. By church here I also mean mosque and synagogue, much the way we understand that when Jesus says Be seen not praying in the synagogue, He means churches and mosques, public schools and offices of finance too. He also means how we tend to blow our own horn, especially in a society as ruled by media and advertising as is contemporary America. I had been reminded one night by a Hasidic student of mine that stoning is still part of Jewish law, but that they cannot stone anyone in America. Perhaps this is the progressiveness we should be most proud of; however, we have always preferred ropes to rocks. Yes, rocks and ropes will harm me, but what of our fear of names and other words? We do believe that words can harm us. Our current politically correct reflexes about speech show us this. It is a grotesque puppet literacy performed in a social Grand Guignol.

I do not even want to begin a discussion of how horribly far from an understanding of democracy most of my Muslim women students are–completely baffled, they are, and to me baffling. Nonetheless, I persist in maintaining my commitment to freedom. Even I understand how hokey we have let this statement become–and we do wince when we hear someone say something like the former, “commitment to freedom.” But then who can say in measured articulate paragraphs just what freedom is–and it does need paragraphs, not tweets on our Twitter accounts–social media’s role in declining literacy should be examined, which is not to say that it cannot have a significant role in spreading democracy. One has nothing really to do with the other. Guarding against a decline in literacy, including tracing the lines of influence that social media draw in this decline, while maintaining a broader understanding of social media’s possible role in spreading democracy, are not mutually exclusive in our efforts.

The greatest assaults on the First Amendment in the last thirty years have come from the Left; and this has allowed the right to maintain validity in its ever increasing shift into reactionary lunacy. The shift to the right has been monolithically American, the entire political spectrum as moved to the right. Moreover, I do not see ideological differences between the Democrats or the Republicans, and political space like metaphysical space like physical space is curved, and the further you go in one opposite direction, the closer you come to the other opposite.

Do you need more illumination; what is illumination here but explication, explication illumination, what gets said about what is being said, words used to elucidate other words about yet other words in another piece of writing or speaking, some writing made to stand for speaking, sometimes speaking for writing, too many of us writing as we speak instead of learning how to speak the way we should write, and there is a should for this.


Father Death, we are coming home. I do not know if I should say for the gentle soul of Allen Ginsburg, or, for the gentle soul Allen Ginsburg . . . why don’t I just say both because it is just as true that neither is appropriate, as well as something else, lesser or greater, and in which of the many ways it could be either lesser or greater not necessary to discern at the moment.

I say here in this Epilogue that it is an epilogue that I am writing, and that all this fancy Greek word-stuff (stuff Elizabethan idiom for semen) way to say after-word, logos, you know is word, no–is all about what I need to say for you to understand something that I, the author, intends in the manners through the matter of my expositors . . .

 In search of Jack’s ghost in Lowell Mass. I remember when we abbreviated it Mass and not MA–passing old mills abandoned after having buried my Great Aunt, older sister of maternal grandmother I hardly ever saw, did not know her, knew her older sister we buried in Pittsfield before taking the state wide trip to Lowell from the Berkshires to cousin’s house, Godfather cousin on my mother’s side, the son of the aunt we buried, I helped carry her casket, can’t count how many caskets I had help carry by the timeI was nineteen, then fourteen, in hazy Berkshire June, to the grave, never really ever that humid in Pittsfield, even in the summer, unusual.

Context helps define the limits–definition is the limit, what limits do we put on fiction, these things made, what is made in the sense of truths to tell . . .  America and how it can disintegrate, Americans lost in trying to be what they only parrot about being American.

I am in the cellar, not the basement, I used to spend some time on discerning the differences between the two, and I think you have an idea, could look it up and find out without having me tell you what only I think, which is only what anyone ever does when he says what he says about what he says.


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