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Neil Postman Essay

1054 words - 4 pages


Throughout the span of the past few weeks I have traversed the globe, visiting several countries and regions, only to realize that although new methods develop, language as a way of expressing ones self has remained the most effective. Despite this fact, language still has its pitfalls. Neil Postman, in his essay “Defending Against the Indefensible,'; outlines seven concepts that can be used to aid a student in better understanding the language as a means of communication. He describes how modern teaching methods leave a student vulnerable to the “prejudices of their elders';, further stating that a good teacher must always be skeptical. He urges teachers of all subjects to break free from traditional teachings as well as “linguistical tyranny';
     His first principle regards the process of definition. As I sit in an every day classroom I notice several things. Many, if not all student simply nod their heads while a teacher explains, be it a theory in Math, or a formula in Science. Not once have I encountered a student willing to raise their hand and question the definition, or meaning that a teacher has rambled off to them. Neil Postman states his feelings on this best when he writes, “ It is a form of stupidity when to accept without reflection someone else’s definition.'; He wants people to realize that definitions are not god given, and that to question the validity is acceptable. Upon looking in a dictionary at any word you will see that all have several meanings. The same may apply to our lives, while one definition may apply to you another may not.
     The ability to question a definition is a crucial part of communication. For example: in the practice of law a case might call for someone to define the freedom of press, and that very definition may mean two completely different things to two different people. Postman’s first principle was one that I feel needed to be addressed. Too often our teachers impose the same definition they learned, valid, or not. If one is not allowed to defend a definition, especially an unjust one, then communication becomes more difficult.
     “All the knowledge one could ever attain is by asking questions, so logically these questions should be properly formed.'; Postman’s second principle involves the skill of question asking. Simply put, this means that the answer we get depends on the question we ask. How you phrase a question makes all the difference in the world. A query asked in two separate ways can result in two completely different answers. “A question is the most important tool we have'; states Postman. Take scientists for example. Their entire career is based on asking questions, stating a hypothesis, and furthermore, answering them by conducting experiments.
     Postman calls for the art of question...

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