13 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “A Sudden Impulse Poll On Cultural Literacy””
Some, or most, things in the past are a scaffold, others – and I would argue that Alice in Wonderland falls into this category – are not scaffold but “baked” into the structure, and it becomes important to understand that these things are not only how and why we are where we are at the present moment, but are still part and parcel of daily life. Losing that corporate knowledge, and understanding, of such things is where all else starts to go awry and, among other things, we live out Santayana’s usually misquoted statement that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Though [Edmund] Burke’s quote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”, is actually more apt.
the second poll was limited to parents, that was the point. Do parents pass along cultural touch points like Lewis Carroll? Do the schools? That poll was for parents.
Disagree (if it were a percentage poll, I’d be on zero).
I was the luckiest kid I knew to have all the recommended children’s books chosen for me by parents and teachers, as well as access to great libraries (the Main, NYC), plus blocks of 4th Avenue “Used” bookshelves to choose from at 25 cents a time, Nevertheless, some of the very best reading came from birthday or odd-day presents from an unmarried cousin, a polyglot who found translations of stories and folk tales from a different country each year, and hand-drew a map to go with them; two friends of my parents, one of whose sons was an actor – thus came plays, poems, recitations — including the entire libretto of W.S. Gilbert for me to read aloud and eventually learn to play most of the music to; and the other who either deliberately (as I like to think) or by not knowing my actual age brought books her own kids were reading, several years beyond my reading level.
The gifts from an elderly, grateful patient of my father’s were especially treasured. She was a transplanted Englishwoman who had lost ]her home and her life’s library in the Blitz. She was replacing the books one at a time (and I think, paying dearly for volumes I came to realize later were original editions). As she could locate them, she read them once more and then passed them on people she thought would appreciate them. Thus I received, and learned to respect, many well bound and illustrated editions of popular authors as well as classics — even the fiction of that era in England included detailed background of rural or city life, focusing keenly on nature and raw detail, and later on, war-time adventures. From the latter came an understanding of abandonment, loss and death that has, as they put it, done me yeoman service ever since. I have forgotten many of the stories but deep in my mind is implanted the feel of those books and the suspense or anticipation of turning those pages.
I do agree, therefore, with E.C.’s scaffolding image. I built a giant one with all the stimulant to knowledge and imagination I could hold. Education and experience and each different culture I lived in (including those in my home country) built the rest. At two different points in my life when I came home after living abroad for some years, I found I huge chunks of substance from the past destroyed: books, papers, photographs, music, correspondence, special occasion markers, address books, Playbills, notes and writings, memorabilia, concrete proofs that I had ever existed, except for the documents I carried in my passport case.
My memory (such as it is at 78) alone survives. And memory, as we know, is altered each time we touch it. The “esoteric details” as the Marine Mollusc From Outside Our Space-Time Continuum puts it are in what I write, very very slowly. The more I write, the more I remember. And once I write them, I can put them out of mind entirely and just as It suggested, retain the cloud of the memory to use when and if necessary.
To all of those waiting to have their Comments of the Day posted, all I can say is that I’m sorry, and that I’m having trouble getting my own posts up lately. The languishing COTDS will appear in unpredictable order, but they will appear.
Extradimensional Cephalopod had, as usual, fascinating observations to convey on the question of the importance of cultural literacy I raised based on a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” I don’t agree with his position–some cultural scaffolding is permanent, and must be—but it’s well worth pondering.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “A Sudden Impulse Poll On Cultural Literacy.”
Incidentally, a majority of those answering the main poll recognized the quotes, which cheered and surprised me. As for the complaint that the second poll was limited to parents, that was the point. Do parents pass along cultural touch points like Lewis Carroll? Do the schools? That poll was for parents.