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It isn’t impossible for persons this oblivious to the use/mention distinction to know how to design a decent social studies curriculum. But it does seem unlikely, especially when we add that those same persons classify volcanoes as “physical processes.” Goodness, I hope I’m being too pessimistic.


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This Post Needs a Title — 5 Comments

  1. Can you specify exactly what you mean when you are talking about obliviousness to the use/mention distinction? The link you posted goes to a 42 page document and I’m not sure what part of the documnent you’re talking about.

  2. As I understand it, the use/mention distinction is the distinction between producing a word in order to refer to its referent, and producing a word in order to refer to the word itself. (Some people argue that in the latter case, you’re not producing the word itself but a new, quotationalized version of the word which is itself a separate word. I mean to be neutral regarding that debate.)

    I can’t see the use/mention confusion you’re describing. Take the first passage. It says students are expected to “use” the term “up” to (correctly, one presumes) describe objects’ location relative to each other. Isn’t that exactly what you would “use” the term “up” for?

    You’d “mention” it in order to draw attention to the word “up” itself. You’d “use” it in order to say something is “up” relative to something else. The latter seems to be what the document is recommending, and it seems to be recommending this using phraseology that is in line with the correct understanding of what it means to “use” a term.

    What’d I miss?

  3. Kris,

    They write, “The student is expected to: (A) use terms, including over, under, near, far, left, and right, to describe relative location.”

    But, of course, over, under, near, far, left, and right are not terms. They are directions. By contrast, ‘over’, ‘under’, ‘near’, ‘far’, ‘left’ and ‘right’ are terms.

    Later they write, “The student is expected to: […] (C) apply the terms year, decade, and century to describe historical times.”

    The same remarks apply to this passage.

  4. Got it. I just assumed that they meant to refer to the terms rather than their referents even though they didn’t use quotation marks. There’s a confusion in either case–they’re either confused about use/mention, or they’re confused about how to use quotation marks (the latter seems more likely to me) and either is a Bad Sign.

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