Another CCSS Bear Trap 55:365×2

Ok, so I originally wanted to talk about Close Reading.  I will be honest, I do not get it.  The basic tenant of close reading goes essentially against everything I believe about language.  As someone who studied philosophy of language in college, the idea that text and language had a real meaning without both the writer and the reader, seems counter-intuitive.

The way close reading was explained to me, and the way it is portrayed by who I will affectionately refer to as the “Death Dealers of the Common Core” makes seems completely absurd.  According to those crazy reports, you as a reader are supposed to disconnect yourself from everything you know, not be given any information about what context is involved in the text, and devise an author’s meaning.  The Bear Trap (big, awful, deadly example) of this skill is the unit on the Gettysburg Address where students are supposed to derive meaning from a text without any background knowledge.  By reading and rereading many times, students are supposed to assign meaning to a text.  Here are my two HUGE problems with this:

1. Some readers just have more background knowledge already.  They will ultimately have a better interpretation of the text and gain more from the supposed “Close Reading”.

2. There are many words that, without context, are devoid of genuine meaning.  Many words attain their meaning simply from being in a certain context.  Most descriptive terms have vague meanings.  How we view the word is entirely dependent upon what context it has attached to it. If we read the word soft and we are talking about feathers, it has an entirely different meaning than if we are talking about boxes.  There are an incredible number of these vague terms in our language.  They exist because without them, we would not be able to communicate.  Our communication as a whole exists in the gray area between where two individuals share both words and contexts.  Without prior knowledge of contexts, our understanding is only an understanding of the context in which we bring independent of the text.

So how then does this work?  My guess, is that there is value is determining the language used; word choice, structure, the apparent voice of the piece.  But, what are we really learning without context that comes from the person communicating?  I am not sure, but I am hoping someone in my PLN can explain it to me!  Please readers, explain to me why on Earth this makes real, genuine sense?  Please show me how this is just another CCSS Bear Trap that I should ignore because it is just conversation from people who do not know what they are talking about!


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