Hard Saying: Language and Teaching in Augustine and Kierkegaard
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When we teach, what are we actually doing with words? Our everyday way of talking and thinking about teaching tends to call upon the resources of two distinct models. Although we rarely make our tacit understanding of these two models explicit in our ordinary comings and goings as teachers, they enjoy a vastly unequal status and dictate widely divergent sets of priorities—though both travel under the name of “teaching.” Much of the resulting friction—and, I would argue, the indirect cause of many of our misconceptions about and frustrations in the act of teaching—lies in the way these competing models depend upon mutually incommensurable ideas about the nature and function of language. The first of these models approaches language as an instrument of representation and finds its paradigm in the declarative statement; the second approaches language as a medium of action and finds its paradigm in the open-ended question.