Hello.On commenting

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A note on commenting

Why comment? Why well? Often? Thoughtfully?

Everyone suffers from mistiming. She smiled; I saw it, but didn't notice. My school was OK, but my head was somewhere else. Everyone suffers too from gaps in the structures of opportunity. Teachers and curriculum planners find it very difficult to fill formal instruction with authentic opportunities for student self-expression, yet the power to express oneself well ranks as one of the most important signs of a quality education.

Many do acquire well developed powers of expression through their educational experience, however, and many do not, but even at the high end of success, most would feel that as a matter of fact they could have done much better. And as one goes down the gradation of educational success, that matter of fact feeling will turn into one of regret, and then one of resentment at having been done wrong. By cloaking these differences in the rhetoric of meritocracy, without accounting for the degree of randomness in the data, opinion and procedure amplify these differences, which become complacency, alienation, and aggression, significant roots of personal and public distress.

Accounting for all the random differences in the myriad of human experience far exceeds the most grandiose aspirations of big data. We can however, make a small but real effort to create random opportunities for self-expression that persons can then grasp as means to improve their powers of self-expression. For those whose capacities of self-expression are already highly developed, these opportunities will probably make small marginal differences, but going down the scale of prior success, the resulting marginal differences will increase and with enhanced zeal may increase substantially.

For opportunities to comment to strengthen our capacities for self-expression, we need to put real effort into them. We need to feel we have something meaningful to ourselves to say to feel the urge to say it really well. We risk in reading to read passively, waiting for something to knock our socks off — Then I'll have something to say! that's great, but it is important to work harder. Reading more actively, we read continually asking whether we have anything to say, not only as a first reaction, but on reflection. If so, try to express it well. Sometimes we may even really, really have nothing to say about something, but feel that we have something to say about that too. We read, not just to read, but to inform what we think, and we best test and clarify what we think, by trying to express it clearly.

At times, we all feel, "But who am I to say what I think about this or that? I don't feel well informed. It's complex and I don't want to seem ignorant. It's controversial and I don't want to take the wrong side of things. etc. etc." We will always find a threshold always impeding the way; we develop our power to express our ways over, or around, or because of it. There's significance to our feelings of diffidence, to our naiveté, to our ignorance silencing me, to the inhibition of our willingness to frankly voice considered views. We can comment well by commenting on all those problems holding us back.

A Place to Study is not a place to comment reactively, however. Likes and reactors do little to develop our powers of thoughtful self-expression, but then much of their ambient content leaves one with little to say. Demand better.

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Throughout modernity, the steady dumbing-down of work has dehumanized multitudes in the name of efficiency and expedience. In post-modernity, the exploitation of leisure in the name of giving us what we like threatens a yet more crushing wave of dehumanization. Use it or lose it. We must stand up and use our intelligence, judgment, and capacities for meaningful communication. Those peddling cultural resources through which we can only grunt and growl, thinking that amounts to participation in a democratic culture, will reduce us all into pliant herds to be prodded in whatever direction the commercial and political powers deem expedient. Each voice matters. We all should learn to use ours well.

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