Asterix turns 50

Anybody with even the slightest lunacy has to love the follies of Asterix and Obelix. On October 29 (today), they turn 50 and who can believe it?

Happy half-century, my heroes.

Hey, somebody else I know is about to turn a half-century old soon too!

Grammar Lesson 1

I don’t know grammar well enough and I suffer for it, so I am going to make an effort to learn a bit of grammar every week and post what I can here for your reflection. First, a foundational thought:

Grammar is where God, man, the soul, thinking, knowledge, and the cosmos all come together.

Grammar is based on the link between something that exists and something that apllies to something that exists.

God “exists.” He called Himself, “I Am.”

He made us, putting us in the garden to steward it. As stewards, we need to know what we are stewarding, so he made us able to know the world we live in.

The world around us exists as things that act or are acted on and have properties or qualities. In other words, the world is full of subjects with predicates.

To know the world around us we must think it. When we think something, we always think something about it. In other words, the mind thinks subjects and predicates.

Predicate comes from the Latin and means “to say about.”

All thought and all existence revolve around the relation between subjects and predicates (substances and properties if you like). Truth, when applied to statements, is the right relation between the subject and the predicate (and all the qualifiers of each – such as adjectives, adverbs, etc.).

Falsehood exists in statements.

Think about that.

Falsehood exists in statements. It is a broken relationship between the subject and the predicate.

I’m tempted to say that falsehood only exists in statements, but it can also exist in acts of the will, such as the basketball player who deceives the defender into thinking he is going right and then cuts left.

But I do think falsehood can always be expressed in a statement. For example, the basketball player would be able to say, “I am going right,” but then the relationship of subject and predicate would be revealed to be false when he went left.

All of the parts of a false statement are true – they all exist, even if only in the mind of the speaker. But falsehood exists in the relationship between those parts.

Truth and falsehood, in other words, are relations.

They are relations contemplated in grammar.

So as I improve my grammar over the coming months, all of my studies will take place in the light of these principles.

To make them practical, I’ll repeat the first practical fact of grammar: it revolves around subjects and predicates and their relations.

If I remember, I’ll try to add a witty/witless sentence each time, like this one from The Holt Handbook, 3rd Edition:

Venus de Milo is a statue created by a famous artist with no arms.

Practicality and Prudence

I do a lot of teacher training and one thing I have to do is meet the request by teachers for practical help. People want practical instruction from me.

They tend to show great confidence in me, as though nothing could be easier than giving sound practical counsel. They don’t realize how frightful a thing it is to attempt to give practical advice from a distance.

  • The danger of applying a general principle without regard for circumstances scares me, but that is precisely what curricular programs and formulaic counsel do.
  • The farther removed you are from a specific situation, the more you need to abstract your applications. The teacher might think, “Oh, now I can solve that problem, he has given me a technique.” If you can solve a problem with a technique, it wasn’t a pedagogical problem.
  • By drawing all these abstractions, you have already made a high level of education impossible. For example, if I say, “This is how you use this program,” anything I say will be so abstract and statistical and general that it will undercut the possibility of achieving a truly great education for the students in your class.

Thus, practical instruction is needed, but it is always much less practical than the teacher’s wisdom. We need to know principles and causes, not abstracted techniques.