Judgment, Introductions, and Audiences

We’re on lunch break and the five journeymen are outside sitting at a picnic table in the moist warmth of a Houston January day with the sound of the Wrobleske’s pool in the background and the sun joining them for a quiet meal.

We’ve just completed a pretty intense couple hours discussing how to teach paragraph development and introductions in level 2. The challenge in the first case arises from the need for second year students to exercise a great deal more judment than they were required to exercise in level I of LTW. That makes it harder for the teacher because, while it is pretty easy to know whether a person can duplicate a process, it’s much harder to assess how much judgment they are capable of exercising and how much they have exercised. So we’ve identified some principles of a good paragraph and some ways to make sure the students can think about them.

The introduction (exordium) challenge arises from the need to take your argument (the part level I focuses on most) and relate it effectively to the audience and the circumstances (which level II attends to much more closely). The Ad Herennium gives a series of questions you can ask to develop your introduction, but they’re very concise and not altogether consistent, so that led to some heated discussions around the planning table. Years ago I developed some exercise templates based on my best understanding of the Ad Herennium, but I couldn’t find them this morning so I hope they are in my old computer or at least that I have hard copies in my office.

Now I need to take a moment to review Aristotle on Rhetoric to see what he has to say about the introduction. You’ll see the fruit of our labour in Level II of The Lost Tools of Writing.

See you soon

Socrates and Meno at the apprenticeship retreat

Here I am at the apprentice retreat and everybody thinks I am dutifully typing notes, but really I’m blogging.

Just kidding. We’ve just completed a brief discussion about Plato’s short dialogue called the Meno in which Socrates discusses whether virtue can be taught with Meno and Plato gives two very clear models of Socratic dialectics. I highly recommend this dialogue to anybody who wants to understand the Socratic approach. In one case, Socrates models his approach to learning with Meno. In the other, he abbreviates it by interacting with a slave boy to teach him geometry. No time for detail, but here’s a very brief summary:

The Socratic mode

Stage one: Socrates and Meno are on different sides, Socrates striving to reveal the contradictions in Meno’s argument

Transition: metanoia (turning point/repentance): Meno admits: “I don’t know”

Stage two: Socrates and Meno are on the same side, journeying toward truth TOGETHER, neither pretending to know it.

Requires that both parties acknowledge that they don’t know

Thus Meno’s question: how can you seek something you don’t know

Anytus never hits metanoia so they never join together in the quest


More later. Now we have to discuss LTW II.

Apprenticeship retreat launch

I’m in Houston for the winter apprenticeship retreat so I’m going to try to post an entry or two during the day to let you know what’s happening. I’ll say this to embitter you yangki’s: it’s about 70 degrees outside. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I can hardly absorb a January day in the 70’s.

Also, I have to report on a church I saw driving to my present abode (the Wrobleske’s). This church was just off the highway and it had a marvelous sign out front announcing its presence. But the building itself didn’t even measure up to the common warehouse architecture of the typical American church. What are they trying to say about themselves? More importantly, what are they saying about their God?

One topic of discussion I hope to pursue over the next couple days is Latin in the grammar school. Leah Lutz, a leader among the journeymen, wrote an essay for this retreat about the way we teach Latin and she included some very provocative reflections. I am eager to hear more of what she has to say. Hopefully, I can seek in a post or two here.

The apprenticeship meetings go Thursday to Saturday, so keep your banana peeled and your alerts alert.