I recently attended my local homeschool conference. As I had mentioned previously, my daughter was selling things she had made in their young entrepreneurs section. So for the first time I was there both days of the conference. After the first day the kids decided they did better when I did not hang around with them. I guess they look cuter and more pitiful without me sitting there 🙂 So as a result I ended up hearing a talk I hadn’t planned on just to give myself something to do. The funny thing is that both this time and last time I went a couple of years ago I found that the best talks were the ones I hadn’t planned on attending. I guess I should avoid advance planning in the future.
The best talk I heard was by Jim Baldwin of Worldview Academy and was called something like The 12 Trademarks of Great Literature. I won’t tell you all of them here. If you get a chance to hear his talk, I highly recommend it (there is also a book of the same name but I have not read it yet). It made me think and also gave me the names of some new books to add to my “to read” list.
One big idea Mr. Baldwin had which I need to ponder some more is that there is an absolute standard of beauty just as there is for truth and goodness. It makes sense from a Christian point of view but till I struggle with it. It is so deeply ingrained that beauty is subjective and that we can all have different tastes that it is hard to know how to process new idea. And while the ultimate standard of beauty would then rest with God, I wonder how we go about defining it. I would think there might be an awful lot that you find beautiful which I do not and vice-versa.
Another thought I had listening to Baldwin’s talk is that we do not teach our kids writing in such a way that they are pointed towards great writing. That is, he gave a list of the characteristics of great writing but it seems most curricula out there will not produce such writing. For example, great literature does not waste words and it always uses the right word. Baldwin said, and I would agree, that there are no true synonyms. But when we teach kids to write, we throw thesauruses at them and tell them to select synonyms and if just picking the most unusual word will improve their writing. And we require things, for example using a certain number of adjectives. None of these seem to me like they would produce great literature or writers who are capable of great literature.
I am not sure how we do go about teaching such things. Of course, reading great literature is the first and perhaps the biggest step. But are there other things beyond that? Is it even possible to teach great writing? I don’t know.