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I Language Therefore I Become

Have you ever seen this?

“I use language to tile reality, to clothe reality in description and prose.  I language therefore I become.  I believe the world is made of words and if you know the words the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.” -Thomas McKenna

Words have been my life.  I’m an avid reader.  A shy child, words were difficult.  I loved stories and have fond memories of my mother reading to me.  Winnie the Pooh and The Velveteen Rabbit are my two all time favorite children’s books with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass being a close second.

The first book I remember reading by choice was put into my hands when I was in the 4th grade by my elementary school principal, Mrs. Ewing.  It was A Wrinkle in Time and because of that book I fell in love with reading.

I have read to my son since he was still in the womb.  Reading nightly has been our ritual and despite his age he still asks me in a baby’s voice to read to him because he loves it so much and he cherishes that time together.  He’s always greatly disappointed in those nights when reading isn’t possible.

I am very snobby about books.  I have never “just read anything” but had criteria the book must meet.  For my son the story has to be engaging, but when we were in our picture book days, the art had to be perfect.  Quickly drawn things had no interest for me.  I always sought out beauty in the illustrations to further engage his mind.

As a result, we drink in the words of William Joyce’s books.  We are currently reading Ollie’s Odyssey and it’s breathtaking.  How Mr. Joyce manipulates language to represent the thought processes and emotions of a small child traversing the big scary world to rescue his beloved toy while at the same time imparting soul and feeling to that same toy who is also trying to find his beloved boy, is soul-stirring.

Further engagement with words is done through audio books, which my son loves.  During the summer when he’s constantly in my car we burn through a book every few days.  During the school year he’s not in my car nearly as often so it may take months to finish one audio book.  Needless to say we usually find reasons to be in the car together so we can listen to books.  He does listen to other books without me via Epic and Learning Ally, but the books in the car that we share together are ours together.

But I digress.  Language distracts me so easily.  I can discuss the beauty of books, language and words for hours, though not nearly as eloquently as Mr. Silva did above.

I’ve personally learned to use language.  I studied it in college.  I wanted to be an author.  I dreamed of writing the great American novel like Mark Twain and Harper Lee.  I’ve learned to use language to function, to love, to wound, to manipulate, to negotiate, to win.  Language is power, it is a gateway to worlds as yet unexplored, it is the only means of expressing the emotions that stir our souls.  It is the key to life.

But in our world, language takes two forms, oral and print.

“A language which we do not know is a fortress sealed.” – Marcel Proust

I do not believe Proust meant his quote to be taken out of context by the parent of a dyslexic child, but it’s a powerful statement on what is denied to our children.  The fortress sealed for our dyslexic children is the world of the printed word.

I’ve both said the above and used this Proust quote before, but I wanted to make an additional point.

“We live in a society where the expectation is that everyone can read.” – Rick Lavoie

Think about that.  We just assume this automatically because of the world we live in.  To be civilized and exist in a Western society automatically means that you are literate, educated, a renaissance man / woman of intellect with various skills, therefore we are always shocked when we encounter someone in our very midst who cannot read.  Our judgment is instant and damning.  They must have had absent parents who didn’t care.  They didn’t go to class.  They themselves didn’t care.  They didn’t try hard enough.

If you’ve watched The F.A.T. City Workshops then you see that this is just blaming the victim, but no one sees it that way until challenged to do so, and maybe not even then.

I’ve written a lot lately about Whole Language, Balanced Literacy and the educational establishment’s determination to deny quality services to our dyslexic children.  The down side of this too is if you are blessed enough to have a team that cares and wants to help your child, their hands are usually tied due to the lack of proper resources, which means EVIDENCE based programs taught to fidelity, within the district.

What this means is the power of language is denied.  What this means is that our dyslexic society cannot language, therefore, they cannot become.

Think about that, they cannot language, therefore they cannot become.

To be or not to be is no longer the question.  To language in order to become, or to not language so that you cannot become, that is the question our society must realize is before us.  That is the question we must address to the fortified sides in the Reading Wars.  That is the question we must address to the educational establishment entrenched in Whole Language and / or Balanced Literacy (which again is Whole Language just watered down with some phonics in the Kindergarten years).

What is accessible in this life without language?  Nothing.

“So take responsibility for this metaphysical tool.  Employ language with discernment and intention and agency and become an author of reality.” – Jason Silva

We must rededicate ourselves to teaching reading.  We must rededicate ourselves to education, but not the current definition of education, but what we aspire in our dreams that education actually is.  It is compelling.  It is the gift of freedom and power.  It is the gift of choice.  It is the gift of endless possibility.  It is the gift of enlightenment.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” -WB Yeats

“The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” -Margaret Mead

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X

And language is the key in all it’s forms because without it, we cannot become.  We are denied entry to the requirements for survival in our modern world.

“…the world is made of words and if you know the words the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.” -Thomas McKenna

The world is made of words….

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