The role of the lit teacher

Neither Shakespeare nor Homer has an importance bestowed by literature professors and their universities. The true bestowal flows entirely in the other direction. What professors of literature can rightly bestow is honor, because meaningful praise has to come from those who know the excellence of things.

Why Literature Matters, Glenn Arbery

Change professors to teachers and you understand the fundamental and primary role of the teacher of literature in the secondary school.

Good Solution #3

Continuing this theme and wishing I had more time to go into it, here is the third of Berry’s “Good Solutions”:

“A good solution improves the balances, symmetries, or harmonies within a pattern–it is a qualitative solution–rather than enlarging or complicating some part of a pattern at the expense or in neglect of the rest.”

This might be the core idea of all the good solutions. Because we are anti-structure and anti-form in our artistic habits and because in our business habits we apply the patterns to limited domains (only including what we can measure), we are unable to think about “balances, symmetries, or harmonies within a pattern.” We dismiss these as vestiges of an outdated, pre-Darwinian world, if we think about them in context, or we simply regard them as impactical and too hard to think about.

Here’s an intellectual exercise: list three or four problems with American education. Now read three articles on each (or just choose one). Analyze the solutions proposed in each, looking for the following: non-quantitative solutions, recognition of the wider patterns within which the specific problem being discussed is contained (how far out do those patterns go?), use of words like harmony, balance, and symmetry.

You’ll probably read about “balance” because it is the easiest to see and the most external of the principles of order. You can balance something within itself without any regard at all for the wider patterns within which the thing subsists. Balance doesn’t ensure the health of an organism, though it is necessary.

I hope I can write more on this principle. I also hope others will comment, especially school leaders. I truly believe that Berry has put his finger on the fatal flaw in the implicit organizational theory of our society.

Here are the first two solutions:

Solution 1

Solution 2