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Conservapedia:Writing Lecture One

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Lecturer Schlafly has finished Writing Lecture One and declared it "complete and ready to use." Let's explore.

More than half of the "lecture" is actually basic information on the SAT, such as descriptions of the contents of the test and samples of scores for "homeschooler-friendly" schools. Most of this material appears to be cribbed and slightly reworded from the official SAT site or from basic SAT prep guides such as the Princeton Guide.[1] These sections are probably the most accurate and useful part of the lecture - probably because Schlafly himself had little input.


Writing Lecture One Why It Is Dumb

Introduction[edit]

This course will improve your writing skills and your ability to do well on the SAT I verbal exams. Let's start by looking at the importance of writing and also explain what these exams are. Writing is important in nearly every job that you might do as an adult. Almost everyone has to write summaries of their work or memos to other workers in their companies. Most college courses have writing assignments that must be completed. In many areas of study, it is a requirement to write a "thesis" in order to graduate and earn a college degree.Well, this is certainly true. Writing is extremely important in many jobs and in many lives. That makes it all the scarier that some people might be learning about it from Schlafly, whose skills range somewhere between "Forrest Gump" and "gnawed-up piece of twine."

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Writing is essential to Christianity. Many Christians read the Bible daily, or several times a day. Each week in church there are readings from the Bible that help enlighten everyone and strengthen our faith. People wrote the books in the Bible to make this possible. Preachers often write out their sermons, or outlines of it, in order to make them more effective. Public speaking consists of saying words that have been written down, or could be written.Someone has confused "writing" with "reading".

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Writing often has a very calming and beneficial effect on the person doing the writing. Reading a book is good, but one learns even more by writing a book. The activity of writing sharpens the mind and helps improve understanding. If you are upset about something, try writing about it. You'll find it makes you feel better afterward. One hundred and fifty years ago, Americans would spend much of their free time writing letters or diaries. Writing is a form of mental exercise that has a positive effect on the person doing the writing.Learning to write in a "reading vacuum" is practically impossible, because you can't figure out how to write a text that others are able to comprehend. In most literary areas, there's no prescriptive guides to writing text in a particular genre; yes, fiction has its often loosely followed tropes, but there's no big book that says "how to write a story in genre X". Writing comprehensible text depends on knowing the already established conventions of writing. This knowledge can only be gained by getting acquainted with other written works; in other words, by reading works written by others. We've seen the "writing is better than reading" meme from Schlafly many times before. It's one of the primary reasons he gives for Conservapedia's supposed efficacy, and it's also one of the motivators of the Conservative Bible Project. And for someone who refashions his perception of the world to suit his biases, it's particularly convenient. Why bother absorbing facts by reading when you could just create your own facts?

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Writing is free. You do not need to buy anything new for it. You can use the computer you already have, or pick up a pen and paper from around your home. You don't have to listen to commercials or travel anywhere. But because it is free, no one profits by encouraging you to write. The result is that you will rarely hear someone recommend that you write a book, a poem, a letter, or anything else. You have to take the initiative on your own. If you learn to write well, then people will pay you for your work.Polo is free. You do not have to buy anything new for it. You can use the horse you already have, or pick up a mallet from around your home.

It's true that no one profits by encouraging you to write, unless of course it's on a conservative blog whose terms of use would permit him to publish the results for his own gain.

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Writing can be done anywhere: at home or away, while standing in line, while waiting for an appointment, or out of boredom. It can be done any time of day or night. As you'll see in the example below, it can even be done well in darkness. People who are paralyzed, or blind, or deaf, or mute, or without arms or legs, can all enjoy and benefit from writing.You can also write while you're Godspeeding and even when largely defending yourself with the weapon of gun! But can illiterate people benefit from writing?! Checkmate! ... The purpose of this comment is obviously to get people excited about writing, and sometimes hyperbole can be a tool toward that end... but hyperbole can easily have the opposite effect if it is ridiculously overdone. Only ludicruous hyperbole works. This paragraph, if anything, just shows lack of imagination. If you want to "sell" something, you'd better not look like you're grasping straws.

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Writing is the most creative activity possible. It is the human activity that is closest to the pure creation of something out of nothing, like the creation of the world. Writing takes a set of infinite possibilities and crafts something meaningful and finite. Writing converts the chaos of random thoughts into the perfect order of ideas, logic and expression.We can count how many people will be offended by this: 1. Painters. 2. Sculptors. 3. Composers. 4. Filmmakers. 5. Photographers. 6. Architects. 7. Dancers ... actually, we don't have room for the whole list. While it is true that written word is very, very important for all creative enterprises, forms of art are not mutually comparable. Different forms of art benefit from each other. Saying "writing is the most creative activity possible" is kind of like saying "mathematics is the purest of all sciences"; scientists in other fields may begrudgingly agree with that statement, but absolutely nothing productive comes out of this proclamation. Math may be awesome, but people still need physics.

[edit]

Writing has changed the world for the better. "The pen is mightier than the sword" is a famous insight. Thomas Paine's pamphlet entitled Common Sense helped win independence for the American colonies from Great Britain; Harriet Beecher Stowe's book Uncle Tom's Cabin started the Civil War, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic helped inspire the Union to victory. Many of the most influential people in history were writers, including Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the authors of the four Gospels.Oh yes, dear children, you have, in your hands, the seeds of glorious revolution... but your teacher doesn't want a riot, does he? Schlafly isn't counting on any of his students working on Das Kapital 2.0. He also gives the students some rather dangerous sources of inspiration: if he asks people to be inspired through religion, there's also a good chance the students will come up with some points of view he might not agree with - and the hopes of that situation being settled amicably aren't very high.

[edit]

Like the Bible, many of the greatest writings in history were inspired - and you might be too. But such great writing cannot occur unless you give it a chance and put pen to paper, or start typing on your computer. Here is how the author (Julia W. Howe) of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" describes her inspiration for the lyrics ("Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored ...."):[2]
I awoke in the grey of the morn­ing, and as I lay wait­ing for dawn, the long lines of the de­sired po­em be­gan to en­twine them­selves in my mind, and I said to my­self, "I must get up and write these vers­es, lest I fall asleep and for­get them!" So I sprang out of bed and in the dim­ness found an old stump of a pen, which I re­mem­bered us­ing the day be­fore. I scrawled the vers­es al­most with­out look­ing at the p­aper.
Yet, if you ask any writer, they'll probably tell the same thing: the most frequently asked question they get is "where do you get all of your ideas?" and the most frequent answer to that is "oh, I don't know, everywhere."

[edit]

Learning to write, and write well, will open more opportunities for you than any other skill. It is better even than learning how to swim, or ride a bicycle, or fly a plane, or become a good debater, or speak many languages. Once you develop the talent of good writing, there is almost no limit to what you can achieve, and most jobs and activities become much easier. While your college classmates or co-workers are struggling with a writing assignment, you'll be finishing it with skill and ease.Listen, kids! This was a good example of a persuasive marketing text. Can you point out the specific flaws that make it less effective? Oh yes - the excessive reliance on hyperbole (wow, writing is more important than swimming?), the statements that can confuse you more than they persuade you (just how is writing more important than swimming, anyway?) and the biggest selling point is a pathetic offer of a solution for a temporary problem (wow, if I study harder, I may finish faster than everyone else! But will learning how to write better help me in the weekends?) Guess what? Learning how to swim can also be useful, and in fact when in the water is arguably slightly more useful.

What Is Good Writing?[edit]

"Brevity is the soul of wit." That famous description of good comedy is true indeed. Brevity, or economy of expression, is most likely to hold the attention of the audience and bring it to laughter. When a joke takes too long to tell, or is explained with too much repetition, or is diluted with too much narrative, then it loses its humorous edge. We'll be discussing humor more later in this course."Humor Lecture One: Jesus invented it. The end.

[edit]

Good writing is also concise. Sharp, clear sentences hold the reader's attention better and are easier to proofread for mistakes. More words do not mean greater quality. Usually the opposite is true. One person remarked, "I'd prefer to write you a short letter, but I don't have the time to edit this long letter into a clearer and more concise version." The best written works result from distilling and reducing many ideas and sentences into only the very best. What is considered one of the greatest works in American History, the Gettysburg Address, is only 246 words long. Its short length made it possible to carve all of it into the side of the inner wall of a monument in Washington, D.C., the Lincoln Memorial.They should probably notify the creators of their atheism article about the value of conciseness.

Testing Writing[edit]

Good writers are in big demand: everyone wants them. Colleges want them; employers want them; churches want them; Hollywood (movies) want them; comedians want them; and even your family and friends will want you to write or say something for them.Somewhere, a person with a degree in Writing is trampling his resume and screaming at this paragraph.

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Our focus on this course will be on how colleges test for good writers: through the SAT I verbal exams. Two of its sections -- "critical reading" and "writing" -- test your writing-related skills. The more you can develop your writing abilities, the better you will do on these exams and the more opportunity you will have for college scholarships.

Importance of Vocabulary[edit]

Vocabulary provides the tools for writing. The bigger your vocabulary, and the better you use words, the more effective your expressions will be. You can be more precise and you can raise the level of thought to higher levels.

The SAT I used to ask directly about vocabulary, but has dropped that portion of the test. Now the SAT I asks about challenging words only in context, as in sentences and paragraphs. Develop the talent of figuring out the meaning of an unknown word based on how it is used. That is a skill that will bring you many more points on the SAT I exam than you would obtain otherwise, and also help you learn new words as you hear them.

Let's try some examples of learning word meanings from context (SAT questions are a bit more complicated than this, and as we'll learn in future classes):

Example 1:

"I abhor all the paperwork that government makes people fill out these days!" What does the word "abhor" mean?
(a) love
(b) encourage
(c) don't feel strongly one way or the other
(d) welcome
(e) dislike intensely

Even if you don't already know what the word "abhor" means, you should be able to figure it out from the context. Only answer (e) fits the sentence well. As to answer choice (c), why would someone say that "I don't feel strongly one way or the other about all the paperwork that government makes people fill out these days," followed by an exclamation point? That would be unlikely. Note also that answer choices (a), (b) and (d) are similar to each other, and they cannot all be correct. Answer choice (e) stands alone as the most likely meaning.

Example 2:

In the beginning was the "λόγος" (logos), and the "λόγος" was with God, and the "λόγος" was God. (John 1:1). What does the Greek word "λόγος" mean?
(a) evil
(b) light
(c) universe
(d) chaos
(e) word

In this example you can figure out what this ancient Greek term means. Starting with answer choice (a), the phrase near the end of the sentence would be "evil was God," and that does not make sense. So eliminate (a) as a possibility. Similarly, strike out choice (d) as a possibility because "chaos" was not God. How about choice (c), "universe"? It would not make sense for the "universe" to be in the very beginning along with God, and the "universe" was certainly NOT God.

The only possible meanings among the choices for "λόγος" (logos) are (b) and (e). If you do not know at this point, then you have at least a 50/50 chance. "Word" fits the expression "was God" better, and is the correct answer.

And if the "word was God," then what does that say about writing? Writing, as the expression of words and concepts, is a very special activity that has unlimited potential. Let's master the use of words.

Other fun words:

  • laconic (pronounced: luh-KAH-nik), meaning "very concise in expression"
  • cantankerous, meaning "irritating to deal with"
  • truculent (pronounced: TRUH-kyuh-lent), meaning "cruel, savage, aggressively belligerent"
  • insouciance (pronounced: in-SOO-see-ens), meaning "nonchalance, lighthearted lack of concern"
  • martinet (pronounced mar-tuh-NET), meaning "an overly strict person who demands rigid compliance with forms and methods," named after France's King Louis XIV's Lieutenant Colonel Jean Martinet

Develop the habit of welcoming new words into your vocabulary, and using them. Beware of the "dumbing down" by others of the vocabulary level of speech, whereby some people only use a few hundred words over and over in order to communicate. Some public school students have a total vocabulary of at most a few thousand words. Build yours to where you know and use tens of thousands of words. You'll obtain better jobs, better friends and greater happiness by learning to enjoy all the powerful words that are out there for our benefit.

Always know where a dictionary is, or how to look up the meaning of new words online.

Rational response

Homework Assignment[edit]

Find a dictionary in your home, or learn how to look up words online.[3]

Write an essay of at least 300 words about any topic you like. It could be about a personal experience, such as the March for Life trip, or the tragedy in Haiti, or a song that you like, or anything else.

In your essay, use at least one new word that you do not ordinarily use, and underline it.

Give your essay a catchy title.
Conservapedia itself was supposed to be equipped with a fully functional dictionary, but apparently this dream has been abandoned in favor of Merriam-Webster, the ultimate authority in the geometric dating of Conservative Words.

Final observations[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-2010-College-Test-Preparation/dp/0375429220/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264814811&sr=8-2
  2. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/b/h/bhymnotr.htm
  3. See, e.g., http://www.m-w.com