Traversing the Topical Landscape of Reading and Writing

In Philosophical Investigations (1958), Wittgenstein characterized the philosophical remarks that comprise his book as journeyings across a landscape. McGinley and Tierney (1989, p. 250) adopted that representation in depicting reading and writing as ways of traversing a topical landscape: 

“After Wittgenstein (1953), we also take the theoretical position that a topic of study is analogous to a landscape about which knowledge is best acquired by ‘traversing’ it from a variety of perspectives. However, in our system, different forms of reading and writing represent the ‘traversal routes’ or cases through which an individual can explore a given content domain. As the combined assemblages of several cases provide multiple routes for acquiring knowledge, we argue that more complex or diverse combinations of different forms of reading and writing provide a learner with the means to conduct a more critical examination of a topic by way of the multiple perspectives or ways of ‘seeing’ and thinking that these reading and writing exchanges permit.”

I am quite confident that I will be using the above quote in the near future to characterise my approach to literacy since it shares the sentiment of A Teacher for All Seasons.

McGinley, W., & Tierney, R. J. (1989). Traversing the topical landscape: reading and writing as ways of knowing. Written Communication, 6(3), 243–269.

Language is the carrier of the human culture

And language is the carrier of the human culture, by which mankind continually produces and contemplates itself, a reflection of our species–being. Language, one might say, is the medium of mind, the element in which our minds dwell as our bodies dwell on earth in the air. In mastering language, we take on a culture; our native language becomes a part of ourselves, of the very structure of the self. Thus language has dual aspects: it is our means for self-expression, for articulating our unique individuality; yet at the same time it is what we have in common with other members of our community, what makes us like them and binds us to them. As a consequence, language lies at the heart of the problem of membership - in a group, in a culture, in a society, in a polity - central to almost every theoretical issue in social and political study.
— (Pitkin, 1972, pg. 3)

Pitkin, H. F. (1972). Wittgenstein and Justice. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

INTERACTIVE: Quotes of Ludwig Wittgenstein

The following interactive provides a collection of quotes from four key Wittgenstein texts: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Philosophical Investigation, Culture & Value and On Certainty. We have selected quotes that relate directly to perspectives on language, literacy and learning. Click on the squares to explore the collections.

As an experiment, I have provide a way that you can try and embed the interactive on your own site. Please note that I cannot guarantee that the embed will work, nor can I provide any technical support if it doesn't quite work.

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Ideas & Their Implementation: Balancing Theory & Practice

"We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk so we need friction. Back to the rough ground." (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Part I, #107)

Theorising and modelling are key activities in learning and in teaching. They are models. To me, they represent overviews. And it is important to conceptualise models of language, of literature, of love, of the solar system, etc. These are good things to model. The models guide our thinking, our ways of seeing and our ways of interpreting. They help us draw connections between discrete elements of information or experience. However, at some stage, the theorising must cease no matter how beautiful or elegant the solutions may appear to be.

Nevertheless, I find that the solutions are short-lived if comprehensiveness and perfection are expected. Whilst the model might soothe the anxious mind for the moment, this does not enact the change in the external world that one is hoping for.

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Vision and Determination: Ideal Qualities for Every Teacher and Learner

"Each morning you have to break through the dead rubble afresh so as to reach the living warm seed." (Wittgenstein, Culture & Value)

Talk of best practices, teaching programs, cycles, and progressions can lull the casual observer into believing that programs on their own bring about result. A program's success is only as powerful as the vision and determination of the teacher delivering it and the learning engaging in it. We should not forget that learning is work, that skills and knowledge can and will be forgotten (if not reinforced), and that teachers and learners need to wake up each morning to ponder yesterday and reach for the "living warm seed" of today's and tomorrow's and the next day's learning. Schools (and other forums of learning) may be full of a great many activities (the 'rubble'), but teachers and learners must regularly return to the significance of all the activities (the 'warm living seed') that all the hard work is seeking to attain. 

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