Synthesis (was: Knowledge, Luxury,

Keith Dever (kdever@CALSTATELA.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 12:40:03 -0500

John Stevens offers a suggestion that SYNTH be a prefix for a particular kind
of posting to ANTHRO-L. He wrote about other much more important stuff, but
I am not addressing that.

I work for a program that assists at risk student populations to succeed in
the academic environment. I teach study skills. Critical thinking is a big
part of our curriculum and synthesis is a method of critical thinking. I
appreciate John's (if I may call you that) effort to tie many ideas, while at
face value unrelated, because it gives us the opportunity to look at
different information and come to a bigger understanding.

All this to say that you probably know synthesis brings a deeper
understanding, but do your students? Do you use it in your writing? I only
write this because students of anthropology and other disciplines often find
themselves stuck (the proverbial "writer's block") when thinking about what
to write. I asked my students to compare and contrast oranges and race cars.
They came up with some interesting conclusions and learned a lesson that
synthesizing what we know about two desparate issues can bring one to a
higher understanding of each of them.

Something to think about (or ignore),