Monthly Archives: September 2018

George Santayana on Inquiry and Epistemology

“It is a great advantage for a system of philosophy to be substantially true.”

George Santayana

The Unknowable (1923)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Forensic (n/adj)

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading and editing college application essays in a couple of senior English Language Arts classes I co-teach. It has been awhile since I dealt with this kind of writing–to wit my own application essay. In any case, this is my first time teaching this course. It’s fun, but new, and therefore challenging in the way teachers hope to be challenged.

Quite a few young people are interested in careers in forensic science these days. Forensic is one of those tricky polysemous words in English. When I wrote this context clues worksheet on the noun and adjective forensic, I wanted students to understand its meaning, as you will see if you use it, as an argumentative exercise, as in a debate team. But it also means, as television shows have it, as the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems; esp: scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene).

As time passes, I am persuaded that the best way to help students develop their own deep understanding is to start them with the Latin adjective forensis, from which the English forensic evolved. That way, students begin with the basic conceptual knowledge this word represents, i.e. public; pertaining to the courts. Then, with that prior knowledge as a foundation, teachers and students can move forward in understanding forensic in English, which is more nuanced that its Latin ancestor.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens

“(1908-73) Chilean statesman. As president of Chile (1970-73), he was the first avowed Marxist to win a Latin American presidency in a free election. Havin bid of the office on two previous occasions (1958 and 1964), Allende’s 1970 victory was brought about by a coalition of leftist parties. During his brief tenure he set the country on a socialist path, incurring the antipathy of the Chilean military establishment. Under General Pinochet, a military coup (which enjoyed some indirect support from the USA) overthrew him in 1973. Allende died in the fighting, and was given a state funeral in 1990.”

Excerpted from: Wright, Edmund, Ed. The Oxford Desk Encyclopedia of World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Boarder (n) and Border (n)

Here are five worksheets on the homophones boarder and border, both presented here as nouns. Border also serves as both an adjective and a verb.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Simon Bolivar on Spain

“The hate that the Iberian peninsula has inspired in us is broader than the sea which separates us from it: it is less difficult to join both continents than to join both countries’ souls.”

Simon Bolivar

The Jamaican Letter” (1815)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Apartheid

Now seems as good a time as any to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on apartheid, a horrorshow that many of us are old enough to remember and to have joined campaigns to abolish.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Alfonso Reyes

“(1889-1959) Mexican essayist and poet. One of the young Mexican intellectuals who formed the circle known as the Ateneo de la Juventud, Reyes left his homeland soon after receiving his law degree in 1913. He lived in Spain until 1924 and subsequently served as a Mexican diplomat in France, Argentina, and Brazil. He returned permanently to Mexico in 1939.

Often considered the finest prose stylist of Spanish since Rodo, Reyes was an authority on the literature of Spain’s golden age. He eschewed pedantry, and his work is remarkable for its subtlety, grace, and insight. His best-known work is probably Vision de Anahuac, 1519 (1917), a depiction of Aztec civilization just before the Spanish Conquest. His collections of essays include Capitulos de literature espanola (1939; 1945), Pasado immediate y otros ensayos (1941), Ultima Tule (1942), and Tentativas y orientaciones (1944). He also wrote El deslinde (1944), an introduction to literary theory; Letras de la Nueva Espana (1948), on the culture of colonial Mexico; and La X en la frente (1952), an interpretation of Mexico. Ifigenia cruel (1924) is a dramatic poem based on the classical legend. Collections of his essays in English translation are Mexico in a Nutshell (1964; tr by C. Ramsdell) and The Position of America (1971; tr by H. de Onis).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Fungible (adj)

For the past eleven years, I’ve worked in a economics-and-finance-themed high school in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. For some reason, in this school, one door away from the former headquarters of the American Stock Exchange, I’ve never heard students use the noun fungibility or the adjective fungible.  Despite its essentiality to understanding a certain area of economics–i.e. commodities and exchange–I’ve never seen students working on material that would help them understand it.

So, a few years ago, I wrote this context clues worksheet on the adjective fungible as an attempt to start students down the road to understanding this word and the concepts it represents. However, given the complexity of fungibility, this only briefly prepares students for that understanding. In high school, that may all that students require. But I would argue that they should at least arrive at the doors of their college or university with this word in their vocabularies.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Borges’ Heaven

“I…had always thought of Paradise
In form and image as a library.”

Jorge Luis Borges

“Poem of the Gifts” (1959) (Translation by Alastair Reid)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

The Weekly Text, September 28, 2018

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on the Latin word roots mal and male. They mean, of course, bad, evil, ill, and wrong. This post, like all the material published here between September 15 and October 15, is in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. This material may stretch the boundaries of the letter of the month’s intent; on the other hand, the Latin language is, like it or not, a key part of Hispanic Heritage.

Over the years I’ve worked with many native Spanish speakers. My original impulse in writing word root worksheets, particularly those dealing with Latin roots, arose from the idea that helping students develop their own understanding of the Latin language as a bridge to English would hasten their journey to bilingualism. Ideally, students will retain their Spanish language skills while building their English vocabularies and understand the way these roots show up across the spectrum of Romance languages–often in the exact same words.

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective sinister to hint at the meaning of the roots mal and male, thereby pointing them in the right direction. This scaffolded worksheet is the mainstay of the lesson.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.