In his book, Neil Postman – Defending Against the Indefensible, the author discusses the importance of communication and language in student learning. He argues that student success depends on their ability to communicate effectively. In order to do this, they need to be able to understand and use language properly.
Postman provides several examples of how communication and language can be used effectively in student learning. For instance, he discusses how students can use communication to engage in active listening. Active listening is a key skill that allows students to understand and process information more effectively. Additionally, Postman demonstrates how students can use language to clarify their understanding of concepts. By doing this, they can avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Throughout the course of the previous few weeks, I’ve traveled across several countries and regions, only to learn that while new methods emerge, language as a means of expression is still the most efficient. Despite this fact, there are dangers in using language. Neil Postman examines seven ideas in his essay “Defending Against the Indefensible,” one of which is to focus on different aspects of a term.
Postman goes on to say that students must be taught the value of language, and how it is often misused. In his essay, Postman discusses the importance of critical thinking, stating that it is a student’s best defense against the “indefensible”. He argues that without critical thinking skills, students are unable to question the validity of what they are being taught. Postman believes that teachers must encourage their students to be critical thinkers, and to never accept anything at face value.
While I agree with Postman’s overall argument, I believe that there are some points which he does not fully address. For example, Postman fails to mention the role that emotion plays in communication. It is often said that “communication is 10% what you say, and 90% how you say it”. This statement could not be more accurate. The way in which something is said can often change the meaning of the words being spoken. This is why It is so important for students to learn how to read nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice.
Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes that teachers of all subjects must break free from old teachings and the “linguistical tyranny” of linguistics. His first principle is concerned with the process of definition. I sit in an everyday classroom and notice a variety of things. Many, if not all, students just nod their heads as a teacher explains anything, whether it’s a math theory or a science formula. I’ve never seen a kid courageous enough to raise his hand and ask about the definition or significance that a teacher has spouted off during class.
”When I read this, it made me think of all the times a student has taken something a teacher said at face value and simply memorized it for a test, or to make themselves appear smarter then they actually are. A student who is not afraid to question their teachers, or peers for that matter is one who will succeed. If more students would take Neil Postman’s first principle to heart maybe there would be less “dumbed down” versions of classic novels in high school English classes.
Postman also believes that communication should not only be clear, but interesting as well. In his essay he talks about how language is constantly evolving, which in turn causes words to change meaning, or even disappear all together. This is something I have definitely seen in my lifetime. For example, the word “cool” meant something very different when I was in elementary school then it does now.
If a student were to use the word “cool” in an essay today, more then likely their teacher would not be impressed. However, if a student were to use the same word in an essay 10 years ago, their teacher would probably be more forgiving. This is just one example of how words can change meaning over time, which can make communication difficult.
Neil Postman has some very interesting views on education, and communication that I think everyone could learn from. He urges people to think for themselves, and to never accept anything at face value. He also believes that communication should be clear and interesting. I think if more people followed Neil Postman’s views, the world would be a much better place.
Mr. Garbus states, “For me, one of the most important things is to get people to understand that definitions are not set in stone.” He believes that definitions are not given by God, and that it is acceptable to question their legitimacy. When you look up a word in a dictionary, you’ll find that there are many meanings for each term.
The same may be said about our lives; while one definition may apply to you, another may not. It’s crucial for communication to have the ability to question a definition. For example: in the legal profession, a case might demand someone’s interpretation of freedom of speech and that very definition might mean two distinct things to two separate individuals.
The student should be able to question the validity of a definition and also offer their own. This can only happen if the student has first been taught that questioning definitions is not only acceptable but encouraged.
In Neil Postman’s book, “Defending Against the Indefensible”, he argues that communication is key in student’s success both inside and outside of the classroom. Postman believes that by teaching students how to effectively communicate, they will be better equipped to handle any situation they may come across in life. One way to ensure that students are able to communicate effectively is by teaching them the importance of questioning definitions.
Questioning definitions is important because it allows people to see that there can be more than one meaning to a word or phrase. It also allows people to question the validity of a definition and offer their own. This is important because it allows for open communication and understanding between people.
The first principle of Postmans was one for which I felt a need to speak. Our teachers frequently use the definition they learnt, valid, or not. If you are unable to defend a definition, especially an unjust one, communication becomes more difficult. “All the knowledge one could ever want is available if only we ask questions properly; thus logically our queries must be correctly formed.” The art of question asking is Postmans second principle. Simply said, what we get as an answer is determined by the question we ask.