In yesterday’s post we talked about how different disciplinarians would approach the global issue of pandemics.

A scientist might…

A mathematician could…

A historian would…

How does language arts fit into this picture?  We don’t normally think about how a language artist would approach a problem.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a disciplined way of thinking in language arts.  Think about this example:

ImageWhy wouldn’t an English Professor accept the following interpretation of “I, too, Sing America”?

The author is arguing that he, too, enjoys the opera.

Okay that’s a little extreme, but the point is, even though language arts is a discipline where we often say there is no right or wrong answer (except on multiple choice test), that doesn’t mean there’s not a better or worse reasoned answer.

That better or worse reasoning is the thinking of language arts.

This type of thinking isn’t just valuable to an English professor (or her students).  Language arts at its core is about sharing your understanding of the world and seeking to understanding the worldview of others (whether those others live across the street, halfway around the world, or in a different time).  It is the primary work of some disciplinarians (journalist) and a way of thinking essential to all humans and to saving the world.

If we can’t understand the ideas and perspectives of others and share our own, how can we work together to save the world?

As educators, it’s our responsibility to help students develop this disciplined way of thinking in language arts.  The good news is there are some great tools out there to help.  I know everyone might not agree, but the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts do a pretty darn good job of capturing some of the essential disciplinary thinking moves for language arts.  For example:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

This anchor standard is essential to truly understanding another human’s thinking.  It implies is that you can’t just lay your own meaning over another person’s words – you have to build an interpretation using evidence from the text.  It’s this type of thinking that not only prevents the opera-loving interpretation of Hughes above, but also allows us to go beyond our narrow perspective on the world and stretch our brains through understanding the thinking of others.

The arts, music, visual, and language, all have this in common.  They allow us to move beyond what we see and push us to explore different perspectives and ideas.  To do this, though we need to practice the disciplinary moves that help us draw meaning from great minds like Hughes, Shakespeare, Picasso, and Handel, understand the world views of others, and express ourselves.

So with that in mind, how do you think the thinking of language arts would help us solve the problem of pandemics?  Post your ideas!

Also stay tuned for the thinking of the History (tomorrow) and Science & Math (later this week).