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  1. #1
    unpakwon is offline Senior Member
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    Default in their defense

    Please make the following in red clear for me.

    Our current education system was forged in the heat of the industrial revolution, ... Students of the same age were presented with the same material ... Schools were organized like factories... Even teaching..... was subject to the division of labor: "Like an assembly line, students progressed from room to room to be taught by different teachers specializing in separate disciplines."
    In their defense, the transition from education as a rare treat reserved for the clergy and aristocracy to one where everyone was entitled to free schooling was nothing if not radical. But it has been over 150 years since then, and our education system has not kept up.

    What is "in their defense" saying and what does "their" refer to? And in the second part I'm not sure of what "nothing" means in the context.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: in their defense

    Knowing all that we know now, this may not have been the best way to teach. However, we need to defend the people who set this system up, because before that, only well-off people (or those who were going to be religious leaders) received any education at all, and they were doing the best they knew how to do.

    This change from "education for the rich" to "education for everyone" was a radical change. (Not a slight change, or a minor change, but radical change.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    TheParser is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: in their defense

    NOT A TEACHER


    Hello, Unpakwon:


    Until I read your post, I had never given much thought to the idiom nothing if not. I did some research, which I shall now share.

    1. One source * indicates that this idiom may have originated with Shakespeare. In his play "Othello," one character says, "I am nothing if not critical." That source says that nothing if not means "above all else."

    a. Another ** says that he feels that "I am nothing if not critical" refers to the bitterness felt by that character. (His name is Iago. It is in Act II, scene 1.)

    2. Here are some other examples:

    a. "Jarvis is nothing if not a thoughtful man." (collinsdictionary.com.)
    b."He is nothing if not enthusiastic." (macmillandictionary.com.)
    c. "He was nothing if not discreet." (The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms)

    3. A third source *** tells me that "radical" can refer to a fundamental change in a society's thinking.

    Thus, I believe that "Free schooling was nothing if not radical" means that providing free schooling to ordinary children represented a fundamental change in the way people in that society thought about their social structure.

    4. I have just read that many young people in country X are nothing if not studious. The article says that many students in that country attend class each day and then spend the rest of the day attending private lessons, which
    often last until midnight. The government is so concerned that it sends representatives around the city to find those students and tell them to go home and get some rest!


    HAVE A NICE DAY!

    * dictionary.reference.com.
    **
    G.B. Harrison, Shakespeare / Major Plays (1948), page 713.
    *** The New Oxford American Dictionary.

  4. #4
    unpakwon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: in their defense

    I see. Thank you for the kind explanation.
    I didn't know "nothing if not" is an idiom.

    And in your answer #4, the country X seems to refer to my country.
    The (middle and high school) students in my country are nothing if not studious to enter universities.
    But I don't know if the government officials tell the students to stop studying and go to sleep. I don't think they do.

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