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John Cowan:
> And Rosta wrote:
>
> > Among Lx teachers I know, I'm
> > relatively unusual in inclining towards the latter strategy,
> > believing that it is better to know that you don't know something
> > than to think you know something (but which is in fact wrong).
>
> Then if you were a physics teacher, you would refuse to teach the
> Newtonian approximation to physics, or the ball-and-stick model of
> chemistry?  These things are *wrong*, but still useful for many
> purposes, and knowing them only is not really comparable with
> "thinking you know something which is in fact wrong".
>
> In particular, the phoneme may be dead, but is there any replacement
> for it when teaching the rudiments?   "Language" and "word" are
> similarly woolly constructions, but can we avoid them?

I would distinguish between two kinds of simplification. The
first, which is the one I had in mind when I said I avoid it,
is motivated by purely pedagogical reasons, or at least not
rationalizable in terms of the subject matter itself, and has
to be unlearnt and discarded when it comes to acquiring a more
sophisticated understanding of the subject. The second is
rationalizable in terms of the subject matter itself, and,
like Newtonian physics, can be seen as an optimal model of a
simplified body of data; the acquisition of a more
sophisticated understanding can proceed gradually by taking
into considerationa additional data and providing reasons for
the gradual revision of the initial simplified model. To take
your example, I view the phoneme as an example of the former
approach, and I teach phonology in terms of the phoneme; the
complexities of a more phonologically adequate substitute
model are not necessary for the students' (very largely
descriptive) purposes, and anyway it would be relatively
straightforward to proceed to present the inadequacies of the
phoneme and the merits of a revised model. But I view
introductions to phonetics and phonology that make clear and
principled distinction between them as an example of the latter
approach. The apparent simplifications the blurring creates
must inevitably lead to hopeless confusion until the pedagocial
ill effects have been expunged. Furthermore, if you simply say
"Last Semester you were taught that p is the case. Now forget
that p is the case. Now learn that q, not p, is the case", the
students get pissed off, for various more or less good reasons.

I would add though, that, perhaps unlike Science students, the
vast majority of the students I encounter are comfortable with
the notion that some answers/analyses are true and some false,
and with the notion that some answers/analyses are neither true
nor false and only subjectively better or worse than one another,
but they are deeply uncomfortable with the notion that some
answers/analyses are false or of unknown truthvalue but
nonetheless are objectively better and worse than one another.
This makes it quite difficult to be upfront about the
epistemological status of what one is teaching them.

--And.