John Rosenberg - Cervantes' Inn: Literacy, Conversations, and Stewardship of the Mind

Then as now, access to information is not the same as access to knowledge," stated Dr. John Rosenberg, professor of Spanish and Associate Dean for the BYU College of Humanities. His presentation centered on Miguel de Cervantes story about Don Quixote and other characters engaging in misguided and non-productive reading at Cervantes' Inn.

Dr. Rosenberg was the final presenter in the Moral Dimensions lecture series, sponsored by the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling. The lectures highlighted Dr. John Goodlad's four Moral Dimensions of Education, which were highlighted during celebration activities for the 20th anniversary of the BYU Public School Partnership.

After describing several scenes from Don Quixote, Dr. Rosenbaum assured his audience he wasn't there to create an "idealized sociology" of reading in the seventeenth century. "I do wish to use the scenes from Quixote as emblems of the power of reading to engage everyone in the human conversation." The human conversation being defined as the interaction of ideas and philosophies that shape nations, democracy, and renew human life.

 Dr. Rosenberg suggested that an illiterate population will eventually end the human conversation, and that the public needs to be more than just literate; they need to read with insight and conviction. Expanding this concept further, Dr. Rosenberg stated that an educated citizen is a steward of the mind, correlating this to stewardship of education. Rosenberg defined stewardship using his 1961 edition of Webster's dictionary, as an individual's responsibility to systematically and proportionately share time, talent and material possessions in the service to God and for the benefit of all mankind. This definition coordinates precisely with the purposes and goals of the Moral Dimensions of Education subscribed to by the McKay School of Education.

"The teacher who is mindful of their stewardship of minds models discovery," said Rosenberg. "[They] see the world as a great book to be explored, writing in the margin as [they] go." Dr. Rosenberg continued, "The intellectual steward recognizes and models for students that [each academic] discipline demands discipline, that rigor is the price to be paid for discovery."

While mass illiteracy is a concern, Dr. Rosenberg suggested a worse fate; that most of this nation's readers are casual readers. He contended that casual reading never has the power to initiate the human conversation.

In contrast, the serious steward of the mind sees the world and its events as interconnected, aware that local events are not encompassing, and that stereotyping or categorizing never produces accurate perceptions. Dr. Rosenberg expressed that educational assimilation, or making similar, is not educational enculturation, but deculturation because it communicates a "dread of otherness." He argued that educators must embrace and celebrate diversity.

Dr. Rosenberg referenced the suggestion of philosopher Michael Oakeshott, that we lower the volume of the voices of practicality and scientific inquiry, in order to more clearly hear the voices of contemplation. "What qualifies us to enter the human conversation is nothing less than the lofty ideal of a liberal education." To Oakeshott, contemplation is more necessary than practicality and scientific inquiry. Moreover, contemplation is usually spurred by good literature, which intensifies a person's ability to understand beauty and ugliness or good and evil. "Writing that is not great leaves us unchallenged or desensitizes us" said Dr. Rosenberg, while acknowledging that contemplation doesn't produce economic gain, making it a low priority in the current social system.

Dr. Rosenberg concluded by advising, "The work is urgent: stewardship demands a pace to keep up with our culture of change. But action without inquiry is counterfeit stewardship and inquiry anchors itself in informed conversation."

Dr. Rosenberg's biographical information

Dr. John Rosenberg, professor of Spanish and Associate Dean for the BYU College of Humanities, explains he is an educator by inheritance. His grandfather was a public school teacher, principal and superintendent, and central administrator at BYU. And an uncle taught in the same BYU department as he now does. His father retired just a few weeks ago at the age of 81 after over fifty years as a social studies teacher in California and Utah. Dr. Rosenberg has degrees from BYU and Cornell University, though he credits his most valued education as his marriage to Gaylamarie, who models nurturing pedagogy in everything she does. His midterm and final exams are Marie, age 9, and Lizzy, 7. Dr. Rosenberg welcomed remedial tutoring from anyone in the audience on how to pass this core class.

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Educator Preparation Program (EPP)