The English Language Arts

By Commission on the English Curriculum of the National Council of Teachers of English | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 11
The Challenge of Individual Differences

THE SIGNIFICANCE AND SCOPE OF DIFFERENCES

Significance of Differences

AMERICAN SOCIETY HAS ALWAYS BEEN HOSPITABLE TO DIFFERences. This has been one source of its strength, for, as Harold Benjamin observes, "The society which comes closest to developing every socially useful idiosyncrasy in every one of its members will make the greatest progress towards its goals."1

There is no field of study potentially as rich as the language arts in releasing creative energy and in stimulating maximum individual growth in learning, thinking, communicating, and acting for one's own good and that of the group. This is a mild claim, for it is mainly through language that a child is socialized, culturized. It is through language that he acquires the wealth of the ages stored in the great books of all times. It is through language in current books, periodicals, lectures, legitimate drama, films, radio, and television that he gains insight into contemporary life. It is through language that he can communicate his thoughts and feelings and can apprehend and comprehend the thoughts and feelings of other people. It is through language that he learns to identify his loyalties and prejudices and to control them so as not to block, intentionally or unwittingly, necessary and desirable social

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1
Harold R. W. Benjamin, The Cultivation of Idiosyncracy, Inglis Lecture, 1949 ( Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1949), p. 35.

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