My high school, C.M. Russell in Great Falls, Montana, required four years of English for every student. Why? Because somewhere long ago in a land far, far away, somebody decided that high school students needed at least a rudimentary ability to communicate orally and in writing with other humans. Relationships are built on good communication.
Any consultant worth his salt will tell you that communication is critical to success in business. Bringing to the clanging marketplace a unique product, is a challenge overcome when the inventor and entrepreneur listen and hear the yearnings of the people and meet the need of the hour.
In the often complicated and hurried world of medicine, healing is inextricably linked to good doctor/patient and doctor/nurse communication. The word “doctor” comes from the Latin “docere” which means “to teach”. Good doctors inform and teach and learn from their patients. A doctor who cannot listen carefully, write legibly, and speak clearly does not practice the best medicine. And, I propose, he does not share in the joy of friendship and healing.
Many in our culture have lost or, more probably, never attained basic proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking. A disdain for vocabulary, spelling, and grammar reflects ignorance of the importance the “basics”. Admittedly, the basics are not usually fun, but they are important. There’s an analogy here. It’s hard work to learn to ride a bicycle. The scrape-kneed child is tempted to quit and thus never experience the joy and freedom of rolling down sidewalks and streets on spinning wheels. Likewise, the student of language may struggle with the diagrammed sentence, the dangling participle, and the misplaced comma. We must encourage him to endure in the arena and grapple, as Jacob the patriarch did, until the breaking of the day, when he said to the angel, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” The rewards of a nascent mastery of our mother tongue are enormous.
As the vocabulary of the average young American shrinks, so does the capacity for critical thinking. We each have an opportunity to change this. I challenge my readers. I challenge myself. Read good literature. Learn to write better. Expand your vocabulary. Let the joy you find in learning inspire others.