Book Review: On Writing Well by William Zinsser | #SmartReads

OnWritingWell
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
May 22, 2017

“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
– E.B. White

“Writing is the geometry of the soul.”
– Plato

In On Writing WellThe Classic Guide To Nonfiction, William Zinsser writes an easy-to-follow no-nonsense approach into the core essentials of writing.

Providing a smattering of meticulous examples, On Writing Well does a lucid job of clearing up some of the confusion writers might have about style, methods, leads, endings, et al., while setting the foundation for a stronger individual repertoire.

In fact, regarding this, Zinsser speaks about the importance of everyone to have good writing skills given today’s newfound environment where a lot of communication takes place through the emails, the internet and so on.  This is crucial since most of us employ the tool of writing in a daily fashion.  Zinsser urges individuals to seek to sharpen their skill set in order to become better communicators simply by employing tenets  in this book.

As hinted to before, Zinsser also make incisive use of many salient examples throughout the book by breaking them down and suggesting some writing tips in cogent fashion.  Within these examples the author covers people, places, science and technology, writing within a job, writing about sports, and more.

Broken down into four parts, the book covers [1] Principles, where notions such as clutter and style are covered, [2] Methods, where leads and endings are covered, [3] Forms, where various forms of nonfiction are explored at length and [4] Attitudes within writing, which is self explanatory.  All parts offer ample insights, many of which would be useful to nigh all individuals nowadays, especially if you have to write anything on a daily basis, whether it is emails, memos, etc. and are new to writing.

To accomplish sound things in life, one needs an ironclad scaffolding upon which to set oneself in.  Writing well is no different.  The insights provided by this book will help those that employ them. Couple the tenets in this book with those of those within The Elements of Style, and one has the recipe for success.  Both have helped me quite a bit, as I hope they help you.

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This article is free and open source.  All individuals are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
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About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His other blog, BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com features mainly his personal work, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information nigh always ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

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Book Review: Weapons Of Mass Instruction By John Taylor Gatto

weaponsofmassinstruction
TheBreakway
Zy Marquiez
February 20, 2017

For quite some time there has been a growing undercurrent of displeasure and outright disdain for the current public schooling system and its repeated failures throughout the years.  Predictably, driving reason for these displeasures are the consistent failures of students within a public schooling.

No matter how many new additional methods are added and no matter how much more money – usually in the hundreds of millions – is employed, the dumbing down of society continues, like clockwork.  And yet, the same suggestions by government and school officials keep getting mentioned, even though the results are abysmal at best, and exactly what some want, at worse.  Didn’t a wise man once say that doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is text book lunacy?

A voice of reason that has come out swinging in this battle against pedagogical propaganda and this creature of conformity is John Taylor Gatto.

Not only is John Taylor Gatto the former NY City and NY State Teacher of the year [1991], but he has made numerous efforts in detailing not only the pervading dumbing down of the public school system which has been in play for many decades now, and which he touches upon Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Public Schooling, but Gatto also touches upon the conformity crisis that’s taking place with children brought about through the deliberate social engineering of youth from the bottom up.

For instance, as is detailed in the book, and has been mentioned in documentaries and other books:

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds, and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk.
We shall not try to make these people, or any of their children, into philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen — of whom we have an ample supply
.  The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”[1][Bold Emphasis Added]

There is no ‘beating around the bush’ here.  That’s the agenda, and has always been.  Countless quotes from this book and Gatto’s other book speak at length of this very issue.

In Weapons Of Mass Instruction, Gatto takes one step further and analyzes many of the components that set out to eviscerate imagination and critical thought in myriad ways.

Not to be outdone, Gatto not only shows why the public school system doesn’t work in its current form, but shows how particular individuals throughout history have performed downright amazing feats of human ingenuity without what the ‘experts’ would call ‘public schooling’.  Examples of these people are John Kanzius, who found a way to kill cancer that ‘experts’ hadn’t considered, and had no background in the field; Charles Webb, who wrote the film The Graduate; Ingvar Kamprad, who created IKEA; Frances Collins and Craig Venter, who had nigh no schooling, and wound up creating the human genome map for the Human Genome Project, and countless others.

Each of the above individuals did things, profound things, that went against the system, and showed that not only can you make it, but you can make it BIG as an individual.  And that’s also why Gatto’s words resonate with many.  Education is distinct to each individual, while public schooling is about homogenizing people and creating clones who are predictable, conform at the drop of the hat, and do not question anything, at all, whatsoever.

Don’t believe me?  Great, you’re skeptical, and even question, and that’s outstanding.  Now listen to what comes from one of the very people who pushed this indoctrination system on the masses.

To fully realize what’s taking place, let’s take a gander at what William Torrey Harris [the ‘premier Hegelian philosophers in America’], was thinking and mentioned about public schooling over a century ago:

Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom.  This is not an accident but the result of substantial education which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual…

The great purpose of school [self-alienation] can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places…It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature.  School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.”[2]

It doesn’t get any more cut and dry than that.  And there are many more sourced quotes speaking of the intentional dumbing down of society, with verifiable sources, just like that, if not worse.  For additional information on this troublesome subject, please read Dumbing Us Down & A Different Kind Of Teacher, also by John Taylor Gatto.

In summation, if one could ever do a synopsis of such an issue that filters into the very strata of society, then what Gatto has been doing is nothing less than yeomen’s work in the field of Education – true education.  Not only has Gatto been active in fanning the fires of dissent within the corrupt public schooling system, but he’s also made it a point to show what it takes to breakaway from the current corrupt system and also what it takes for individuals to shine brightly enough to blare away the darkness.

If we as individuals and a society are ever going to regain the classical and robust education that we once had, at this moment in time we must do it ourselves – each and every one of us.  Furthermore, while becoming autodidacts and following paths of self-directed learning we need to show others the above truths and if need be take them under our wings and help them see the light of day.  We need to show them what’s possible because many individuals breakaway from the system and have rousing successes, as Gatto shows in his book.

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Sources & References

[1] John Taylor Gatto, quoting Rev. Frederick T. Gates, Business Advisor to John D. Rockefeller Sr., 1913, Occasional Letter Number One, General Education Board, Weapons Of Mass Destruction, p. 8
[2] John Taylor Gatto, quoting The Philosophy Of Education, 1908, Weapons Of Mass Instruction, p. 13

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Suggested resources reviewed below for those seeking ideas to self-teach and become autodidacts:

Socratic Logic V3.1 by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.
The Trivium – The Liberal Arts Of Grammar & Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph Ph.D.
How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren
Philosophy 101 – An Introduction To Philosophy Via Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft Ph.D.
The Complete Workbook For Arguments – A Complete Course In Critical Thinking [2nd Ed.] by David R. Morrow & Anthony Weston
The Imaginative Argument – A Practical Manifesto For Writers by Frank L. Cioffi

The following books reviewed below cover the disturbing issues within the public schooling system:

Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Rotten To The Common Core by Dr. Joseph P. Farrell Ph.D.& Gary Lawrence
A Different Kind Of Teacher – Solving The Crisis Of American Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Drilling Through The Core, by Sandra Stotsky & Contributors

Book Review: How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren

howtoread
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
February 8, 2017

“A man is known by the books he reads.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Read not to contradict and confuse; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”
– Francis Bacon

This particular book is a book that helps you think better, shaper, more incisively.

At the behest of the author of Socratic Logic [review here], Peter Kreeft PhD, the following book was recommended.   Holding Kreeft’s opinion in high respect – and after doing some research into the book – getting this book seemed to be more than a safe bet.  In fact, it was much more than that.

How To Read A BookThe Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren is a phenomenal book in various ways.  Not only does it ‘teach’ the reader how to read different kinds of books – by reading proactively, by rather reactively – but it also provides essential tools for the synthesis of other great – and more meaningful – pieces of literature.  However, it also features much more than that.

As a caveat, the authors make the distinction in the fact different type of genres should be read in different ways.  To say it another way, poetry, plays or even fiction will be ready drastically different from nonfiction books.  This is something that’s not taught to individuals for the most part, and sometimes we miss out because of it.

Adler and Van Doren cover an extensive set of tools for reader’s to learn and implement – if they so choose – in order to maximize one’s understanding of the information held within books.  The book features a wide ranging set of suggestions that build on themselves throughout the chapters that help the reader navigate all the way from the basics to the more advanced.

Without a doubt, the authors show the lengths to which proper reading can be taken too, as well as the depth that can be gathered by undertaking their advice.  As an avid reader and researcher, the information within the pages of this book have helped me considerably not only in pushing myself as a reader, but in understanding – and even merging – the depth and scope of information that is stated, as well as sifting out deeper implications when information isn’t obvious.

Furthermore, covered within How To Read A Book are topics such as inspectional reading, systematic skimming, problems in comprehension, ‘x-raying’ a book, coming to terms with the author, criticizing a book fairly, reading aids, how to read practical books, how to read imaginative literature, suggestion for reading stories, plays and poems, how to read history, how to read philosophy as well as much, much more.

Particularly of interest to me related to the above point was the topic of syntopical reading, which is what the authors call ‘The Fourth Level Of Learning’..  In laymen terms, syntopical reading is the ability to essentially synthesize information from various sources.  Since synthesizing information is a process carried out [or attempted too] on nigh a daily basis by myself, the information for me in this particular section was quite noteworthy.  Admittedly, some of it was already being done by me since one learns how to streamline various components of one’s learning when done long enough, but the book still offered more than plenty in this and many other areas.

A book like How To Read A Book should be an integral component in everyone’s education, and that is no overstatement.  In an age where cognitive decline of education continues unabated, it’s those that push themselves into the realm of self-teaching or autodidacticism that will breakaway from the pack.

This book should function as a foundational piece in a school curriculum, because, after all, a large part of what individuals learn comes via reading.

All of the suggestions in this book seep into most if not all books [or reading] in some way shape or form.  When carried out, this undoubtedly filters into an individuals’ everyday lives proportional to how much its concepts are used.  It’s sure helped me in such a fashion.  There really isn’t too many books out there that urge the reader to go beyond the conventional baseline understanding of data within books, but this book is certainly one of those precious few.

Appreciatively, the authors also make it a point to strive for a greater education as individuals, to seek to further one’s education beyond the bounds of modern schooling.  Mind you, schooling and education are not the same thing, which is an important distinction because what society gets in America nowadays – given that we have strewn away from classical education – is barely a facsimile of schooling, and in no way shape or form the true education of times past.  Authors like award winning teacher John Taylor Gatto’s in his landmark Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, Dr. Joseph P Farrell & Gary Lawrence’s Rotten To The Common Core , and Charlotte Iserbyt, who served as the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, in her The Deliberate Dumbing Down Of America outline the deliberate dumbing down of America quite saliently, and these authors by far are not even the only ones talking about it.

In any case, at the end of the book the authors also thankfully feature a set of the greatest books of all time, and after having read the list it’s hard to disagree.  Having read perhaps a dozen or so of them, out of the more-than-one-hundred books recommended, it’s definitely something that’s worth considering.

Furthermore, the authors postulate that there exists specific books which fall into the category of what they call ‘Great books’, such as The Illiad, The Odyssey, Organon, The Republic, Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy, et al.

The authors also postulate that only 1% of the millions of book out there – if not less – fall within this category of ‘Great Books’.  What makes this particular category of great books so unique?  That the gems of knowledge contained within these books and growth the reader will attain will not only be extensive, given the depth and immensity of the concepts within the book, but these books will teach you the most about reading and about life.  Moreover, regardless of how many times one reads these books, they are so profound and demanding of the reader that one will always learn something from them.

If you appreciate books, reading, classical education, or are striving to demand more from yourself or even plan on building a home-schooling curriculum, GET THIS BOOK!  This book really is for everyone.  Educated minds have great foundations, and this book helps lay those foundations in an ironclad manner.