Assignment #1 Reading 1.2.3. http://freeblackspace.blogspot.com/2014/12/reading-123-pedagogy-for-teaching-text.html
Please create a brief response to the article three to five paragraphs and define Reading 1, 2, and 3, and cite examples of each approach to reading. Please answer the question what is text worship.
Walk into the reading room of the New York Public Library and what do you see? Laptops. Books, like the tables and chairs, have receded into the backdrop of human life. This has nothing to do with the assertion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a technology so pervasive, so frequently iterated and innovated upon, so worn and polished by centuries of human contact, that it reaches the status of nature.
Reading 1.2.3. Redefining a Centering Approach For the Process of Reading
As a teacher at Bowie State University, a small HBCU located just outside the Nation’s Capitol, I teach a demographic of young people who come to the University from many of the tough defacto segregated school systems in the Nation’s Capitol, P.G. County, and Baltimore. We are a fascinating and profound institution founded just after the Civil War. In those days Bowie functioned like a one room school house in the realm of colleges. We were then a Teacher’s College dedicated to the idea of educating the un-educated, the sons and daughter’s of slaves. Almost one-hundred fifty years later, there is a beauty to our mission, a dedication the teacher’s express, and a fascinating resilience one can find in the students.
As English Teachers we face a difficulty in our work that stems primarily from the confrontation with new media and the digital world. Increasingly, the most popular version of a text our students will confront is two dimensional like the page, but full of doors that open to door after door. The hyper-textuality, inter-textuality, and almost limitless changes designed into the text provide them with ways to investigate a variety of questions and interests. These investigations can in turn be viewed as aids or distractions. This hyper-textuality poses challenges to reading. Information combined with one’s response to color, positioning, and a wide-variety of factors creates a reading trajectory that travels through text after text. Communities, social media, browser navigation, tweets, and threads all create a wide variety of textual communities. These communities are grounded in the web and grounded in the world. Students navigate them effortlessly, grabbing information here and there, changing their mind, half reading, writing, responding. In many ways, today’s readers (especially the young) create their texts at the same time they are reading them. As important as one’s own initiative is the initiative and design of the pages, phone makers, web-designers and engineers of the system. In these contexts the most simplistic level of reading is simple navigation-use of the system, whereas the highest level of reading would enable one to envision a redesign of the system.
Reading has always occurred on many levels. Every walk of life has what one may consider a master reader, or master of the systems. In every context, there are people who see better than others. Here I use seeing as metaphor for the concept of reading and the ability to sew together meaning and extract information from sensory experience, codes, symbols, signs, and data. These master seers/readers are capable of decoding information and ideas in ways others cannot. Their reading is the result of years of experience engaging countless situations and ideas, and processing this data for a wide variety of purposes.
The new reading is a reading demanding an ability to decode positioning of images on a screen, clickable text, soundtracks, moving pictures and the countless variations of sight and sound we find on a wide variety of two-dimensional platforms. Students are fascinated by these visual and audio texts. The level of interests is high. As texts they assert practicality as their key component. An I-Pad, a cel phone, a book reader etc… offer a wide-variety of applications enabling users to find maps, search the internet, access e-mail, upload and receive documents, play games,…. More and more, even the traditional texts students and readers access are done via the digital screen. The technological innovations have raised many questions about the future of the book. Reading 1.2.3. does not address those concerns; instead, Reading 1.2.3. serves as a basic approach to reading which separates the idea of the process from the two dimensional text. Though applicable to new age platforms, digital media and text, the application considered here is designed to teach students what reading is, in a practical fashion, rather than teach them how to read. The later is a subject well studied and developed.
Maybe the day of the book never was. It is well documented many of the societies the enslaved Africans came from were oral based societies. There, the Djali managed the oral history of the people and presented and preserved the forms for future societies. Henry Louis Gates in his Signifying Monkey establishes a definition of reading in the early sections that can be linked to the Babalawo’s interpretation of cowrie shells. As important or perhaps more important than Gates’ other ideas is the identification of a form of reading that combines one’s life, completely in flux, within the context of a day and moment, with a spiritual text, and a series of remedies that involve the use of physicality to solve problems. In this instance the text is the life of the person who seeks guidance, the text is the text of IFA, the text is the world of physicality. The Babalawo is a master reader, master interpreter who understands both the signs and symbols of life, the text of the Orishas, and the secrets of physicality (which we need to establish much as scientist do, as a place where things are not always what they seem to be.) The refinement of seeing is a metaphor for the arc of life. Master readers of physicality like master readers of the text are capable of extracting large amounts of information from situations that leave other readers merely entertained or baffled. This is Reading 1. of Reading 1.2.3., the place where reading corresponds to one’s whole life. For students it is the place where they create the narrative of their life and say this happened to me at this age because of this and I responded/changed because of this. Reading on this level is related to applying the skill of reading to the text of ones life and making sense of it. In this context, literally everything matters. Ifa, Tarot, The I-Ching, and mystical religious approaches function as systems of reading one’s life.
As we discuss the idea of Reading 1.2.3. it may very well be that all human beings do is read; and perhaps, in a society of digital media, luxury, and entertainment there is the suggestion that we stop reading for a moment, enjoy ourselves-and indulge in what we know as entertainment. It could also be that entertainment is the way in which we avoid the stresses and information of the countless streams of data and information we receive because we simply get tired of reading. The common idea of entertainment, often presented as taking a break from thought, contrasts with the idea of reading as thought work. The essence of reading is using thought to decode symbols, signs, objects, marks on a page, etc… through the application of a process or system. Things become images when they are isolated into focus. This focus (which implies separation) is a natural part of the human experience. One cannot know everything. One cannot see everything. This inability presents itself in relationship to the data we receive from our own senses. The nature of our own capacity for knowledge presents limited portions of the world around us. Reading is the process by which we sew the limited portions into larger quilts of meaning.
On it’s lowest levels one’s interest in a particular image, idea, or concept serves as the justification for the focus. On the highest levels one is able to decode regardless of personal interests. Literally, anything is readable: the surface of a river, the orderliness of a room, the day’s weather, the face of a lover, the defense or offense of a football team, the trajectory of one’s life, the works of James Joyce, the mathematical equations of Albert Einstein. The simplicity is enormous. However, in our society, and more specifically among the educated, we tend to associate reading primarily with the text. I call this idea text worship.
Text worship is the idea that the text is something more than technology and should be engaged with faith and belief, as compared to detail, precision, and skill. As an idea it exists at the center of reading and writing education, and is employed at those moments we encounter those incapable of engaging a text with detail, precision, and skill. All too often, teachers of English operate from a position of belief in the text. Our personal experiences of joy and revelation in the world of literature fuel our appreciation and seem to deny the ultimately practical and extremely precise nature of the discipline. When teaching students the way of the text, we are prone to use the destination as a lesson within itself. This use of the destination is simply an appeal to belief. The destination is, of course, the joy of reading or the practicality of the skill. The approach is missionary like, whose logic if applied here, suggest that fear is a better motivation than any. For it is the fear of hell that transcends the cultural divide and enables the listener to connect with the message of Christ. One must learn to read ones life within the context of a belief system before truly understanding the concept. Outside the belief system, fear creates a reason and impetus for entering. Any reasonable intelligent being will find it difficult to accept the logic that the world will open to us if we read a text. Most of us who do read texts well, are the products of learning environments where reading is woven into the fabric of life.
Text worship is often a simple response to a student’s insistence on their practical use of language, linguistic skills, and simpler forms of writing as an effective tool of communication. Our response to students who have difficulty reading is “You better learn how to read.” “There are so many important things you can learn in a book.” “If you don’t learn how to read, you’ll be locked out of society.” Text worship invokes in many different ways the argument that reading a text is a sign of intelligence itself. Highly intelligent students who communicate effectively but do not have books woven into the fabric of their life will resist text worship. The question is one of practicality. Textual rules and regulations can appear to be a hindrance to these students. Students, teachers, and English language speakers who bend and manipulate the language outside of the text, are dependent on listener’s familiarity with rules and conventions when they present their messages. This position is in direct contrast with a text’s dependence on grammatical rules, conventions, and even the canon of a particular literature or language.
There is no doubt that the text, it’s history, and conventions, are important. However, there are always questions in the classroom about how to share with students a sense of it’s importance when the technology of the text, as Nash so eloquently states in the introductory quote, is taken for granted and viewed as nature. The solution offered here is to merely explain the process of reading exists independently from the text. This simple solution solves a wide variety of issues outside the realm of teaching English. One need only meditate on how essential text worship is to most of our educations to find the thread end woven through our relationship with the text that will unravel a dramatically different approach to reading.
Students need to know the standardization of the English language is as simple as the standardization of rules in basketball games all across the country. How can competition be regulated with different sets of rules? Contrary to popular opinion, some students are legitimately questioning text worship’s validity and not the validity of the text itself when they question reading assignments. For these student’s reading appears to be impractical. The question and approach demands we come up with lessons to address the practicality of reading. Reading 1.2.3. is such a lesson and such an approach. Text worship fails to answer the student’s question, not because the teacher’s don’t know the answers to the questions; but simply because they have never really been forced to incorporate them into a lesson. Like the student’s they take the technology of reading the text for granted; but simply operate at a higher lever (in the context of textual reading) and are more capable of using the text as technology to execute tasks.
Richard Nash, is helpful again here. A renowned publisher and author his article, “What is the Business of Literature” functions as a response to questions about the future of the book in a society with so many forms of digital media. He states,
One may counterpose the book to many things, but technology shouldn’t be one of them. The book is not counter-technology, it is technology, it is the apotheosis of technology—just like the wheel or the chair. (Nash)
Books are technology. The question is where are students taught this idea? Text worship is merely the substitute for this lesson.
Text worship is simply a variation of the colonial education which teaches students to stand in awe of the technological innovations of the invading country. In simple terms, the book could very well be a gun, the law, an alternative reading of the common aphorism the pen is mightier than the sword. Technology worshipped cannot be effectively employed by the subjects of the empire. The awe of the power weakens the sense of practical application.
Take for instance the legendary examples of Native Americans who know the way of the Buffalo, the weight of a deer’s body from it’s imprint in the snow, the coming of the seasons from the shape of the clouds, and moisture in the air. These are all examples of reading. What mystifies them in the minds of many of us, is a combination of the Native American’s inability to read a literary text with the fact that someone who reads a text might not be able to extract this information from these particular scenarios.
The explanation is a relatively simple one. Reading is defined primarily in relationship to the text. Within an educational institution this concept has a dramatic effect on the ability of students to relate to the text. Text worship alienates students from the process of reading already present in, and evident in their lives. The reading they use in sports, or on the edge of the river as fishermen with the parents and grandparents, in the kitchen preparing food, in tense situations with threats of violence. Student’s are effectively taught through educational processes invoking text worship that the process of reading they employ stands outside the definition of reading employed in the classroom.
First generation college students, children of people who do physical work, and particularly African Americans, or any formerly colonized people, whose ancestors have been educated into the English language, are particularly prone to believing via text worship that reading belongs only to those capable of using the process to decode a two-dimensional text.
The approach here is simple and not inherently academic. By no means does it serve as a cure all for all problems associated with the process of reading. On the other hand, what it does do is serve to acknowledge the intelligence of anyone we are teaching to read text. Reading 1.2.3. defines extracting information and meaning from text as the two-dimensional portion of reading presented as Reading 2. Reading 1 pertains to the singularity of thought and the totality of one’s life. Reading 3. pertains to three dimensional reading and extracting meaning from the codes, descriptions, positions of physicality. The core of the method is hinged on the idea that one needs to recognize student’s ability to read-separate from the text within the classroom, and define the text as a system of signs, codes, symbols, contexts, and processes that utilize the same skills one uses in both their mind and navigation of physicality.
Reading 1.2.3. is a simple lesson ideal for inclusion in the beginning of reading, and composition courses at all levels of development. Essential to the method is employment of metaphors showing how reading occurs on each one of these levels. These metaphors should be developed and implemented in relationship to the particulars of the student’s situations. As important is the use of these same metaphors to teach students to recognize how they function in everyday life, precisely because they are able to read.
Unfortunately, Reading 1.2.3. does not solve the problem many students will have confronting the wide variety of rules, regulations, and nuances of text navigation. In fact, the process is designed to provide them with a confidence that text navigation functions like reading employed in a football game, for, and is the result of a steady, cumulative trajectory which takes place over years. Belief is replaced with a clear knowledge of the tasks. Knowledge of the rules, experience, discipline, study, and hard work are par for the course. The distinction is one that demystifies the common approach to reading as a text centered activity. Countless students believe their problems with text navigation and text creation are problems that are somehow rooted in their intellectual ability. It may very well be, that some students are not destined to be master text readers. Few of us are. The distinction belongs of course to English Teacher’s, writers and bibliophiles. Mastery is not necessary; but a sense of what mastery is, appreciation, and a sense of the practicality of the fundamentals is essential. Reading 1.2.3. begins to articulate how student’s can form conceptual links between mastery in other forms of study(such as sports) and the world of the text. To this means, Reading 1.2.3. distills reading as a process that in fact exists outside a text. Students can learn that if they are to read text effectively, they must learn to navigate the world of the text as they navigate any system of codes and symbols.
Textual reading should be taught to students from a young age as the core of what makes them educated. In our Western society, the educated are educated precisely because they know how to navigate text effectively. The text as technology serves as an important bridge between the inner dimensions of one’s mind and physicality. Masters of the text are capable of relating the codes, words, symbols, grammar, and conventions of a two-dimensional text with either the infinite, invisible range of one’s mind, and the infinite, invisible range of physical manifestations. Reading 1.2.3. is designed to simply make students aware of reading’s power as technology.