Modern Reading Comprehension


Reading comprehension is the science and art of extracting the meaning intended by the author of a text.  What militates against comprehending the original author's intentions is that we humans tint our perceptions by our own agendas.  There is nothing wrong with that self-centered biasing of perceptions; it has served the human race well and helped us survive.   But there are some of us who take reading comprehension seriously and even seek to read beyond any particular author's intentions and to ascertain a truth of the matter at hand independent of  bias as much as that is possible.  That this reading for a truth is difficult does not dissuade us one bit from trying.  Why?  Well our very survival may at times depend on it.  A case in point is determining whether Global Warming is actually a problem that needs to be solved or not.  Another is choosing our politicians.  Can we choose politicians who will not make monumental mistakes like invading Iraq, (were that actually to have been a mistake)? 

The only way to accurately interpret a text the same way it was intended by its author is to become acquainted with the context from which the original was penned.   In the early part of the 20th century this was not an easy thing to do.  One had to be there in that context, or one had to accumulate the books and articles and other materials that were contemporary to the original author by visiting musty libraries.   Today, however, with the advent of the modern Internet, that is beginning to change.   Using search engines and given enough time and patience we can get pretty close to most contexts.   Me thinks,  however, that the science and art of reading comprehension  needs to be taught in our colleges and universities if not in our high schools.   To that end , I would like to propose some assignments for such a reading comprehension course.
  1. Is E-G Beck's conclusion about rising CO2-concentration since pre-industrial times warranted? (context)
  2. Is there a consensus of scientific opinion that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities? (context)
  3. Was there a dramatic rise in attacks on US and allied forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2005 and if so did the Bush administration intentionally try to keep the American People from knowing about it? (context)
  4. Can we credit failures in the Bush amdinistration's foreign policy with the first North Korean nuclear test ? (context)
The assignment would be to: (1) answer the question according to your opinion formed after accumulating an appropriate context, (2) cite the particular publications that most contributed to that opinion, and (3) be able to defend that opinion against others who may have arrived at a different one.  Me thinks that the professor should grade the assignemt based upon those three criteria and not whether the student arrived at the professor's personal opinion. 

Your well considered comments on modern Internet reading comprehension, reading for a truth, or your own answers to the three questions above including links to the most influential articles that formed your opinion are more than welcome.

Tags

  1. reading comprehension
  2. reading for the truth
  3. global warming
  4. e-g beck
  5. iraq
  6. bush
  7. rise in attacks
  8. sos masquerade

Comments


Seth says
A reading-comprehension/reading-for-the-truth assignment might read exactly as i have posed the quesions above.  However it also might provide some initial starting context.  Here is a starting context for each of the three questions:
  1. Definately Not Galileo by Coby Beck
  2. Oreskes vs Peiser by Seth Russell
  3. State of Denial by Bob Woodward

TRUTHiness Less says
You have already lost your quest to find any truth by biassing the questions &/or resource items. Questions can be biassed, & lack the opportunity for truth in the answer, just as easily as answers. The most well known kind of biassed question is "Have you quit being an asshole yet?" You also dragged a couple of stinky dead red herrings through your proposal that invite the opportunity for playing the RWG which I will decline at this time. (;-))

Seth says
- 2006-10-08 08:21:47 4607
You might define what you mean by "the truth"
A fair question.  I changed the text of the item above to read "a truth" instead of "the truth" based upon your comment.  Anyone who is familure with my wirtings in room truth will know that i do not believe that "the truth" can ever be known.  There are many truths regarding any inquiry... they are all dependant on a context and some agent doing to inquiry.  But that does not imply that i do not believe in the persuit of truth.   Please defer any further discussion about epistomlogy or the concept of "the truth" or "a truth" and its persuit to some other item.  This item is only about reading comprehension, reading for a truth on today's internet, and the three test case questions i have listed above.

Seth says
TRUTHiness Less 2006-10-08 09:24:47 4607
You have already lost your quest to find any truth by biassing the questions &/or resource items. Questions can be biassed, & lack the opportunity for truth in the answer, just as easily as answers. The most well known kind of biassed question is "Have you quit being an asshole yet?" 
There is nothing in such an assignment that prevents the rephrasing of a question, such that it does not change the subject.  Here the reader must first determine the meaning of the original question to the original author. If one finds that the original question is not well formed (eg conains its own contradiction or a catagory error or on its face is unanswerable),  then one simply poses the best well formed question which most similarily matches the original author's intent.  One must needs start somewhere. 

Seth says
M 2006-10-08 09:30:30 4607
I supspect, BTW, that the only way you are going to get the truth out of internetma is to have a computer ask the questions & have a computer search for the answers - since a computer has no emotions to play with & hence only the bias of the programs which can be determined by a code audit. Human code audits are hard to perform.
Perhaps some day that will be feasable.  But even then, me thinks you will still need some human agent to pose the question and to collect the context.  My guess is that technology is about a generation away
... give or take a couple of generations .

Mark de LA says
See also 2612.

Seth says
E G Beck was debunked by Real Climate yesterday.  Thanks to good tagging i was able to correlate this.  In order to find that better truth it is necessary to connect all of these views up and read both sides of the coin ... then perhaps even do the math.  Cherry picking just one view from surfacy journalists might be fun for the ego and the rwg game, but later this century when, as and if, the waters start rising that cherry picking is gonna look pretty stupid ... or not.  Is there not sufficient reason to persue a better truth?

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