“Reading Authorship into Texts” by Wait Werner

 

Prompt: “How can reading be a form of citizenship…”

Reading, in the sense described by the article of Werner’s piece, such as interpreting the text by what is there, not there, how information is placed, etc, increases a form of citizenship because it allows us to be emphatic to different groups of society. For instance, many people do not understand the demands or criticisms from movements, such as the Standing Rock resistance and Black Lives Matter, because they have a different historical context than the people in those movements. It also allows people to develop critical skills of questioning the deeper meaning of any media and/or action including themselves. For example, when I write or speak, I also question the deeper meaning of what I am saying or writing and its impact.

However, I am very privileged in that I have access to different historical narratives to compare and contrast with the one I received in my k-12 education. These narratives were only available to me in college and I actually had to go look for them by taking special classes and by doing my own research. I certainly would not have been as able to read deeper into the text without competing historical narratives and I am probably not alone. That is why I understand why my family, friends, and even some college students who didn’t have many strong social studies classes get confused about certain issues plaguing marginalized communities today or respond in what they think are helpful ways or good ideas, but are not. However, I grew up where the internet was becoming a phenomenon. It can be argued that the information is accessible enough that anyone, including a person with a k-12 education or less, can be aware of these other historical contexts. Although, the internet can be cruel place and is filled with as much misinformation as information. It would be better to start introducing deeper reading of social studies content complimented with competing narratives in the k-12 classroom as early on as elementary school because not everyone will go to college to take comprehensive social studies classes nor should we depend on the internet to educate people. The internet is a great education tool when you have the deeper reading skills acquired.

 

Prompt: “…how does Werner’s piece make you question your own reading habits and perceptions of ‘history'”?

One thing about the Werner piece that struck me particular was that we never talk about the struggles to get certain rights we enjoy now. It correlates with another aspect of history books in that we focus on leaders rather than the common people. For example, when we talk about the Civil Rights Movement, the African American side of that movement, we focus on certain leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, their beliefs, and what they have done. Sure common people are mentioned and showed, but they are not the focus. We don’t delve deeply in the people behind the movements like the group SNCC who coordinated the sit-ins and their own marches, the freedom riders, or the black southerners themselves who risked their lives to register and help other African Americans register to vote. Even leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. take a backseat to President Lyndon Johnson who gave us the Civil Rights and Voting Rights act, instead of being forced to comply with demands of the people. As Howard Zinn pointed out in “A People’s History of the United States,” it teaches us that the ballot is the best way to enact change rather than political movement. That if we elect certain leaders, they will address certain needs of a marginalized community and ultimately save us. Lincoln freed the slaves, not the slaves freeing themselves by changing the meaning of the civil war through their civil disobedience.

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