Australian Story Writing
3-Week Main Lesson, Class 8 Lorien Novalis School, 1981
Susan Whitehead – Teacher
Note: This can be adapted to any country you live in.
17 X 2 hrs.
By Stephen Whitehead
The Creative Word
A Gift to Man.
Through the ages here on Earth
The Written word has had its birth;
Its past, present and future-to-be
Verb tenses are here for you and me.
Dicere Dictionary means – to say;
How words are spelt and pronounced today.
It shows us Word Wonders, and what they mean.
Etymology – the origin stream
Synonyms same; opposite Antonym too
Discovering words, so much to do.
Creative Writing of prose and verse
On color, place, animals and time,
On tasks of the day and the “Orchard Scene,”
“the Year Two thousand” a future dream,
Spelling, dictation, speaking in rhyme
Discussion, grammar and quiet-work-time
Henry Lawson, Ion Idriess – story writers, different ways
Banjo Patterson, C.J. Dennis and Dream-Time days.
Into the Mountains of distant Blue to Norman Lindsay’s
For an Artist’s view
Warragamba Dam of Man-Made Power
The El Cabello Blanco for performance hour
Stallions prancing, dancing, mane swept high
Like riding a thought as it gallops by.
Three inspirations, mysteries heard
Of the Wonderful, Imaginative Creative Word.
ETYMOLOGY – Stephen – Greek. Stephanos meaning ‘Crown’ or ‘Wealth’ – Highest honor. To put round one’s head, encircle.
The coconut Palm hails itself to the seas, builds its seed a strong boat to outlast even the most devastating cyclone. As far as it goes down it bobs itself up; also loving the days when the sea is still and gent, letting the sea current carry it to the distant shores.
Even though Stephen was absent from school in the last week he is to be commended on his work achieved at home. He has a natural talent for speech work and creative writing.
His stories have interesting descriptions and are full of action. “A Daily Trip” and “the White Stallion”.
“Suddenly I saw a gleaming white horse that reared in the air, its mane flew from the back of his neck.”
He has a good grasp of grammar and knows the use of his etymological dictionary.
His Poem “Red” particularly bring out the quality of color.
ANGER OVER ANGST!
When are newspaper editors, commentators and politicians – especially politicians – going to learn that the word angst is NOT a fancy word for anger? It means fear. Well, to be more precise, ‘an acute but non-specific sense of anxiety’.
Angst was also applied technically by the Existentialists early this century as a state of psychic dis-ease, caused by the unhappy realization that the future is not pre-determined – that one is truly free to cast one’s own lot. This particular angst is akin to the fear the canary feels on being let out of its gilded cage – the fear of life is the downside of free will. Angst incidentally is of Germanic origin.
The word anger has a different genesis, it is originally Persian, aptly enough in this case, Persia means ‘fire land’. Apparently the Zoroastrian Persians (modern Iran, meaning Land of the Aryans) knew a lot about anger, if not of fear. This depends on which side of the strangling one was on! Anger means ‘to strangle’, we see it in words like angina, a type of heart condition accompanied by a strangling sensation; and of course anguish.
In Persia the word probably had a wider application than merely losing control and throttling someone. This is shown in the word, again of Iranian origin, angary, liberally interpreted as ‘destroying messenger’ (angel means messenger in a Hebrew twist). Today angara is again a technical term, but one of international low. It describes the act of willfully – angrily – destroying another nation’s property to achieve a given end, as in war; but later agreeing to provide restitution.
Anger is of course a very general term, the ever-expressive English language gives us many words denoting different kinds, or degrees, of anger. The mildest probably being resentment; up through indignation; ire; choler; mad; rage; fury – to the pinnacle of emotive displeasure, wrath; that which seeks vengeance on an apocalyptic scale. Curiously only two, mad and angry, seem to be applicable to animals, the others containing the germ of self-consciousness perhaps?
There are also, like the color-heat scale in metallurgy, different hues of anger: browned off (annoyed); red with anger; purple with rage; black fury; and white-hot wrath. Society recognizes as well the qualitative difference between intemperate and righteous anger. The former is usually of a mindless, destructive nature; however acts committed in the spirit of righteous anger can have an almost biblical dimension. Picture an incensed Gough Whitlam on the steps of the old parliament House, 11th November 1975!
Many crimes of violence are committed in anger, in Persia there were said to be inspired by the Angra Mainyu; the angry or destructive spirits; their divine complements were the Spenta Mainyu. These were rather light beings, hosts of Ahura Mazdao. Ahriman, the original Prince of Darkness, was Lord of the Angra Manyu. The Angras were said to possess the soul of the person given over to irrational fury – to stare wildly from their inflamed eyes indeed. Even today the nicest people seem to undergo a dramatic personality change – to relinquish part of their humanity – when in a rage.
In that curious religio-esoteric body of knowledge, The Seven Deadly Sins, as formalized by Thomas Aquinas, anger is the ‘sine of Satan’. This 4th sin is that which the other six orbit around, centered in the heart as it is. The heart is supposed to be the organ of anger (or hatred), as well as its higher counterpart, love. Before his ‘fall from Heaven’, and by extension divine grace, Satan was known as Sataniel – ‘of God’.
In spite of aristocratic antecedents, many words change; some further discriminate in meaning; some lose their intensity while others increase it; for others the meaning changes altogether. Anger in the Old Norse mysteriously metamorphosed to mean ‘grief’. With the current relentless mis-use of the word angst, will dictionaries in a few years capitulate and include anger among its meanings?
And don’t forget to tell the class about that enigma of the English language; the contranyms (or antagonyms). These are when the same word has two meanings – exactly opposite from each other! Some of these are: bound (to leap or to be tied up; cleave 9to separate or join); fast (speedy or unmoving); left )gone or the remainder); resign (to quit or to sign up again); sanction (to approve of or disapprove). See if the class (or their long-suffering parents) can find others.
“Without grammar, a man cannot be truly healthy.” John of Salisbury – Medieval grammarian
CHAUCER AND THE CHURCH
YEAR 8 – TERM 2, 1983 – 12 x 101/2 HR. LESSONS.
AIM: To explore the language and the society of the 14th Century through the writings of
Chaucer, namely “The Canterbury Tales.”
SYNOPSIS: The unit began with a close look at Chaucer’s world, of the 14th Century, in particular how the people viewed themselves and their society. We looked at paintings and drew images from a Gothic-type tale entitled “The Cloister and The Hearth”. Next, the person behind the tales and the sources of his inspiration were examined.
One aspect of this unit which was studied in detail was the language. An analysis of the structure was undertaken and the variations which occur with the nouns, adjectives and pronouns were studied in detail. Translations of sections of “The Knight’s Tale” were given as a class exercise. The use of rhyming couplets was studied and summaries of two of the tales – (The Wife of Bath’s Tale and The Prioress’ Tale.) were written in rhyming couplet format.
The themes of the tales were explored – in particular that of the changing role of the church in the lives of the individuals and how difficult the people were finding this. This was equated with the adolescent/parent conflict.
Assessment for the unit took the form of a written test of understanding of the society, the writer, the language – (especially the grammar and rhyming couplets), the tales themselves.
|Example of a high school Language Report, in this case for Class 8 Medieval Literature main lesson.|
CRITIQUE OF A CRITIC
Good Riddance School Certificate!!
|HOW sad to see the NSW federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations hurling its energies into the dumbing-down of State education. Its attack on the Year 10 School Certificate this week was a clinically perfect specimen of idiot political correctness.
“The School Certificate has outlived its use-by-date”, announced Ms. Bev Baker, the federation president. “It serves no purpose and is there to trip people over. We think the whole thing is stressful on the students and should never have been done without proper evaluation and consultation.”
What absolute tosh. It is another example of the push to remove any academic rigor from education on the specious grounds that competition is inherently nasty and wicked. Excellence is to be discouraged so as not to hurt the tender sensibilities of those kids who are less than excellent, let alone just plain dumb.
This daft notion was carried to a wretched extreme in the ‘80s in Britain, where state education is largely in the control of local government. In a savage counter-reaction to the excesses of Thatcherism, and fired with levelling Marxist zeal, the loony
|Left borough councils of inner London decreed that no child was to be embarrassed by any form of academic testing whatsoever.
It was the betrayal of a generation, condemning tens of thousands of kids to a lifetime of illiterate ignorance.
On Wednesday I met three bright Year 10 students form Cherrybrook Technology High School. Justin Wynne, Ben Spargo and Michael West won a national science competition with their invention of a low-pressure halogen lamp for use in space, a design which so impressed both NASA and the giant General Electric Corporation that they and their teacher, Stephen Ryde, were invited to Florida to watch the John Glenn shuttle launch. More exciting still, NASA has agreed to test the lamp on a future shuttle mission.
I had half expected the kids to be weedy computer geeks, but they turned out to be perfectly normal although impressively articulate Australian teenagers. They assured me they had not been stressed by the crushing burden of the School Certificate.
Mike Carlton is one of the main reasons I buy the Saturday Herald, his mastery of language, and his forensic – but often heartfelt – social commentary places him on the very top limb of Australia’s journalistic tree. However I proffer a guess that, like most critics, he can’t endure criticism – here goes anyway.
Mike’s comments in his column of November 22, betray the fact that, encyclopedic as his general knowledge is, he knows precious little about the day-to-day harsh reality of secondary education. His endorsement of an exam policy structured to advance the already intellectually privileged at the expense of the ‘dumb’ (his word), is not only morally indigent, but itself dumb. A competitive exam, by definition, compels the losers (many if not most) to walk the failure plank. This courts unnamed social dysfunction in the future. It is a culturally brutalizing process which reeks with the odor of applied Darwinism.
I’ve also noticed that the less sure Mike is of his ground, the more gratuitously insulting he becomes. To traduce sincere if not infallible folk struggling with the often-overwhelming problems assailing our young with words like ‘idiot’, impugns not his targets, but his own integrity. He opens with a defense of the School Certificate; it is not only the NSW Federation of Parents and citizens Associations who want to exorcise this terminally feeble ‘qualification’ from students’ stress-saturated lives, but most teachers as well. Has anyone tried to get a job lately waving a School Certificate under a potential employer’s nose?
The decision to consign the School certificate to the classroom dust bin was not based on “political correctness” (a vapid and misleading term at best), but on the practical experience of seeing the dislocation it causes on that steep and stony path to the loftier pinnacle of the Higher School Certificate. The move will in no way “dumb down” State education, rather free it up a little, so that in these early years of high school, more time can be assigned to life-skill, social, humanist, artistic – and even sporting education.
There is a worrying trend to press tertiary single-subject education down into high school; to burden primary with a secondary elective-subject program; and to intimidate kindergarten with primary formal education – all supposedly to serve “society’s needs”, the children’s needs being unconscionably compromised in the process.
I was disturbed at Mike’s callous reference to “…the tender sensibilities of those kids who are less than excellent, let alone just plain dumb.” Here’s a guess; Mike Carlton was a winner at school. Well this correspondent was one of the just plain dumbs – a State school D Class – dumb and dumber in fact! Good teachers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prevent the sensibilities of the cerebrally-challenged from being “hurt”. A system which has this pain in-built for the larger number of its participants is inherently corrupt. Removing the School Certificate is one step in remedying this.
Mike mentions the example of the ‘looney Left” in Britain in the 1980s (he only descents to the tired old cliché from his usual scintillating figures =-of-speech when he is bankrupt of original ideas). He tells us that these condemned ‘tens of thousands of kids to a lifetime of illiterate ignorance”. Michael, what do you think we have in Australia today? Has our exalted exam system really produced a literate, informed society? The welfare-dependent, psychiatric, jail and dead-end fodder created from a significant proportion of our younger generation numbers will beyond the ‘tens of thousands”.
This social travesty may not be evident in the rarified circles in which Mike moves, but it is a shattering reality to those working with teenagers at street and school level. It costs the government about $100,000 to educate a child up to Year 12 – even so, low literacy and chronic ignorance is the rule rather than the exception.
“What? A hundred grand and he can’t even spell?!” a distressed and bewildered parent might exclaim. One finds that most erudite people become so due to self or further education; many having little better than contempt for their schooling.
How disingenuous it was for Mike to drag the three Cherrybrook teenagers not his polemic; those who – all credit to them – invented a low-pressure halogen lamp for use in space. Of course they assured him that they had “…not been stressed by the…School Certificate”.
Why would they be? Bright students like these – the winners – are the ones who benefit from the system; for whom it is designed.
There is a steady swell in enlightened schools worldwide to transform intrinsically pitiless and exclusive competition with cooperation. Even here, good teachers maintain a challenging testing regimen, but one where the rivalry is with oneself, not one’s classmates. The goals of these new generation schools are indeed “intellectual rigor” and “excellence”. In education, as in life, these two qualities are not competition-dependent, a spirit of cooperation more often than not creating the better outcome.
In a few years the discredited and happily discarded School S=Certificate will be as relevant and remembered as last Saturday’s Herald; my prediction is that there will be no discernible lowering of standards, as Mike fears, and that this temerarious initiative will actually spawn a host of improvements in our long-suffering adolescents’ learning lives.
ALL THEY NEEDED WAS LOVE
Every day is Christmas; or according to the Catholic Church’s canonical tradition it is. There is a saint nominated to hallow (‘make holy’) all 365 days of the year. This suggests that everyone’s birthday, in Christendom at least, is special – sanctified even. The saints are lofty examples for an imperfect humanity of all the higher virtues; the most exalted of all, Love, being one they all share.
St. Nicholas (feast day Dec. 25), patron saint of children, in one apocryphal tale rescued two hapless babes from a depraved monster’s pickling barrel. St. Catherine (Nov. 25), for her love of truth, was painted with pitch, lashed to a large wooden wheel, set alight, and to her persecutor’s delight, rolled down a hill into a lake – giving her name to a firework!
St. Valentine, patron saint of marriage, opposed the decadent Roman Lupercalia, a hideous perversion of the sanctity of sexual love. Valentine was beheaded on February 14 – Feast of the Wolf. Although today his name is often associated with saccharine sentimentality, it actually means strength (akin ‘valor’). St. Vincent-de-Paul (July 19) loved the sick and the poor, establishing the Daughters of Charity and other benevolent institutions. This kind saint had a head start by being educated by the Franciscans.
St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), is patron saint of animals (and the conservation movement). He so loved God’s creatures that on one occasion whilst praying, a pair of small birds began nesting in his steepled hands. To prevent disturbing their sedulous labors, he remained thus until the fledglings took flight. In old age, Francis was blessed with the numinous vision of the highest ranking angels, the Seraphim – Spirits of Love.
St. Seraphim (Jan. 2), this time a Russian Orthodox saint, endured a 25-year hermitage, one in which he would, as a “pillar saint”, meditate up on a pole. One of his epiphanies was of the Virgin Mary, the Quintessential Christian icon of mother love.
ATLANTIS IS NOT IN THE ATLAS?
We so often take a name for granted, failing to acknowledge, or even be cognizant of, its lofty place in cultural history. One such is Atlantic. For its etymological origins, we time-travel to ancient Greece, and the tale of the Titan, Atlas. He was a sea god; whose eternal task was to support the pillars beyond the western horizon holding heaven and earth apart.
The Saharan Atlas Mountains are said to be his igneos remains after stupidly looking at the Gorgon’s head. The atlas vertebra is that which hold up the head – as Atlas is depicted doing with the world globe; which is of course a spherical atlas.
A Norse equivalent is Atli. In the heroic poem Atlakvida, the hideous deeds of bloody revenge are rivaled by hero and villain alike. In the German Nibelungenlied, Atli is the brutish Hunnish king, Attila. Another was the 5th Century Visigoth, Atawulf.
But back to Greece: Atalanta, Attika’s answer to Cathy Freeman, was a fleet-footed huntress. But she was not equally canny. In a win-your-hand race with an ardent suitor, she fell for the old trick of stopping to pick up three golden apples he dropped in her path. Who wouldn’t?
In this Timaeus and Critias, Plato unveiled the mythological civilization of Atlantis (Atalantika); also said to have existed beyond the western horizon. Irish folk-rock singer Donovan disinterred the myth in his eponymous ‘60s song of “ships with painted sails”; those which carried “the poet, the magician, the scientist” on their eastward postdiluvian migration. The mystically-inclined Emerald Isle denizens have never really given up the idea of a better place beyond the setting sun.
And with their current rogues gallery of leaders in the troubled north who, as Donovan observed, “choose to remain blind”, who can blame them?
ALLAH – ALLADIN – SALADIN
Arabic is a beautiful language (herein in italics), one from which English has purloined many words, like sofa, muslin, scimitar, and even military terms, such as magazine and arsenal. One of the most evocative ins Baghdad, well-spring of Scheherazade’s “1001 Stories from the Arabian Nights”; from which the following is an excerpt from the story The ladies of Baghdad: She brought Syrian apples, and Othmanee quinces, and peaches of Oman, and jasmine of Aleppo, and waterlilies of Damascus, and Sultanee citrons, and cucumbers and limes of the Nile… She bought scented waters, rose water, orange-flower water, willow-flower water…
Even the people have delectable names, especially the caliphs. 9th Century Harun ar-Rashid’s court is the stuff of legend, unashamedly indulgent, yet fostering the arts and sciences when Europe was positively barbaric. Then there was Aladdin … an historic figure? The word derives from Salah-ad-Din – S-Aladdin – Saladin, “of Allah”. 12th Century Saladin launched the first holy crusade, or jihad, a path of largely benevolent conquest to establish the world order of Islam.
The bazaars of Baghdad may be empty today of musk, frankincense and jasmine, but the spirits of Harun and Saladin shine like magic lanterns in the hearts of an oppressed people.
THE PAPER CROWN
The city of Bablos in 2000BC Phoenicia (today’s Lebanon) was the genesis of probably the most revered word in the Western world – Bible. This word for a single book spawned many words for all books: bibliographer; bibliolatry; bibliomancy; bibulous…sorry, wrong etymology! The Greek word for book, biblion (dim. Biblon ‘papyrus’) was also derived from ancient Bablos.
It is to this city that the Archaic Greeks traveled to by their Egyptian reed-based ‘paper’. It is from there they imported their consonantal alphabet. To this they later added the vowels, like alpha and omega. The Egyptian reference casts light on the origin of the West’s written word; beginning with the Hieroglyphics, or picture writing, of the Regency of Osiris (O-Sirius), god of civilization. Osiris was slain by his ‘unclean’ – primitive – brother, Seth. His body was cut into 14 pieces, the classical 14 consonants, and dispatched north in a coffin-boat to far Phoenicia, to Bublos.
Bublos became the birthplace of the Syllabic, or West Semitic consonant-only alphabet; where a symbol is used to indicate a sound, rather than a picture of concept. Vowels were ‘indicators’ only; as in the Hebrew god Yahweh’s written name, YHWH.
Osiris’s wife, Isis, later liberated the imprisoned Seth, and for her folly was given a paper crown. Is this a metaphor for the descent of the Divine Word into the vulgarity of the little black marks you’re reading now?