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REFLECTIONS ON EARNEST BOYER'S
LANGUAGE COMMONALITY
by Robert Erlandson

The second human commonality presented by Ernest Boyer, is language. Boyer states: “Each life on the planet turns to symbols to express feelings and ideas.”  Languages can be written, spoken, words, symbols as found in mathematics, or hand signs as for the deaf or military. He also refers to the language of arts “aesthetic expressions in language, music, painting, sculpture, dance, theater … and so on.” He argues that since language “is the means by which all other subjects are pursued” the responsible “use of language demands both accuracy and honesty.”  

Archaeological findings such as cave paintings, carvings, and musical instruments, indicate that our prehistoric forebears created and used a variety of language forms.  Technology has shaped our use of language, from cave paintings, to alphabets printed on paper, to bits and bytes transmitted through space to electronic devices. Over the millennia our technologies have dramatically influenced our use and expressions of language.

I want to mention two uses of language not explicitly considered by Boyer, but nonetheless part of technology’s evolving influence on language.  First, as “smart” environments and devices evolve, the language for “human--systems” communications will also evolve. We are living in the early stages of this evolution. Second. while humans have always looked to the heavens and wondered if we are alone in this vast universe, we are now listening for any alien signs and signaling whoever might be out there. The Pioneer and Voyager interstellar spacecraft both include elements that use symbolic language to try and communicate the spacecraft’s home galaxy and planet as well as information about our planet’s indigenous creatures. We humans have an innate drive to exchange stories, perhaps extraterrestrial alien species are also so inclined.    

Author's Bio:
Robert Erlandson is a Professor Emeritus in the College of Engineering, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. He has published his haiku, tanka and haiga in Haigaonline, Daily Haiga, Cattails, Ribbons, and Prune Juice. Many of his haiga images are digitally created fractal patterns. He has also published AWE, a chapbook of poetry and images speaking to the incredible relationships between nature, art, mathematics, and science. More information of his fractal art and writings can be found on his website, Circle Publications.

Editor's Note:
Boyer's "The Educated Person" was publi
shed in the 1995 Yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. It may be downloaded through the website of the Mid-Atlantic Association of IB (International Baccalaureate) World Schools.

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