Have I mentioned before how much I love libraries? If there’s a single scene that summarizes me as a person, it’s me walking a couple miles to a library to read about some stuff I don’t need to know.
I love the insider’s view of things. Even if I don’t want to be an insider in a particular field, I really like to immerse myself in their views and language, when I have the time to, rather than sticking to the strictly outsider accounts (popularizations). So a library (especially a university library) is a perfect place for me: it’s mostly full of insider accounts of fields and topics within those fields. If I had to go out and spend $50-$100 per technical book, I wouldn’t be able to frequently dip my nose in a field for a few dozen or few hundred pages and then put it aside again.
I ran across an unexpectedly interesting book in the ISU library today. I did a search for “domain specific language” in the catalog. Since their computing collection is a little slow to catch up to the outside world, they didn’t have any of the several books on domain-specific computer languages published in the last few years. But they did have one on “Domain-specific English”, which turns out to be pretty cool for reasons that I won’t really go into too deeply here. Go find it at your library if you want to know more about that…
There’s a bit in here that was particularly relevant to me:
I remember one winter afternoon, mothers chirping in a corner of the playground as they waited for the bell to announce the schoolday’s end. Their talk focussed on homework – a subject of daily comments – but the conversation sounded more lively than usual. The topic of discussion, and of much stigmatizing, was the reading assignment for that day. Since my own child was in the class, I was aware that the purpose of the assignment had been to encourage children to read for global comprehension and to guess what unfamiliar words could mean. To my surprise, most mothers had missed this point entirely and were indignant. In their opinion, the assignment featured too many difficult words. Some complained about having to consult the dictionary to help clarify the precise meaning of the new words: wasn’t it too early to face such vocabulary? How surprising from an experienced teacher like our maestra!
(And yeah, I know it’s pretty meta to be quoting that in this context.)
I was lucky enough to have parents that would have been among the dissenters in that conversation. They never acted like or told me that some particular text might be ‘too hard’ for me, and they never would have recoiled in shock that some assignment had caused me to use a dictionary. I don’t know that they ever positively subscribed to a pedagogic theory that included the idea of reading for global comprehension and guessing, but the fact that they didn’t discourage it allowed me to develop my own unconscious theory of learning along those lines. If I had to guess, I’d say that children tend to want to explore the world according to those principles, and only discouraging them would stop that short.
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah: I had fun at the library today. That’s all.