These Critical Reading Logs include those that I have mentioned in my Reflective Essay. I feel that they best demonstrate how I've grown as a critical reader and writer.
CRL #1 - September 16, 2013
Prompt: After reading the introduction to Reading the Lives of Others, use this first CRL to describe "strong reading." Use some examples or quotations from Bartholomae and Petrosky's text to help explain this idea. To what extent does this idea of “strong reading” describe the reading you have done in high school? Use an example or two from your own experience to help illustrate your point.
Strength is a concept that is commonly used to describe the extent to which something can withstand or support something else. For example, a male who can lift a box that weighs 60 pounds may be considered “strong”. However, strength can also be used to describe how skilled someone is in a certain area. Someone who understands concepts in Chemistry with ease may be considered academically sturdy in the subject of Chemistry. One can even become powerful in reading. Those who can support their arguments for or against a subject, after reading about it, with valid claims and evidence are considered strong readers.
Reading pushes people to think beyond the words written on a page. Strong reading includes reading beyond what is explicitly stated in the text by the author. When you read, you hear the author’s voice as you move along. (Reading the Lives of Others, pg.2 ) This means that as you read, you are paying attention to the details stated by the author with your undivided attention so that when you are ready to discuss the reading, you are able to efficiently explain the meaning of what you’ve just read. In a way, you actually begin to take over the writing of the essay as if it were incomplete and needed your interpretation to become whole. The author may not always directly explain their purposes, so in such cases, the reader may have to “read between the lines”, or as stated by the text written by Bartolomae and Petrosky, to speak in the place of the author when the author is silent.
A very important characteristic that is needed in order to become a strong reader is the ability to think critically. Two key ideas that Bartolomae and Petrovsky discuss about reading critically are “reading against the grain” and “reading with grain”. To read with the grain means to “read generously, to work inside someone else’s system, and to see your world in someone else’s terms”. (Reading the Lives of Others, pg.10) To read against the grain means to read critically, carefully analyzing and questioning the authors work, finding examples that challenge the writers arguments. To develop the skills needed to effectively read with and against the grain, you need to practice revising other peoples works as well as your own. Revision gives you the opportunity to work on your reading. (Reading the Lives of Others, pg.11) When you revise your own work, you practice critical reading because during your revision you are looking for errors in coherence and contradictory statements as well as fallacies.
The reading that I have done throughout high school can be described as a mix between reading for information and reading for instruction. At the time, I thought I was reading strongly, but after reading the excerpt from the book Reaching the Lives of Other by Bartolomae and Petrovsky, I now realize that I was completely wrong. For example, in my chemistry class, I thought that literally memorizing definitions without understanding how I could apply them to chemistry would be sufficient. I was able to pass the first couple tests with ease, but after the concepts became more complex, I found myself struggling with understanding the concepts. If I had learned how to read strongly in high school, I would have not struggled as much.
CRL #3 - September 20, 2013
Prompt: Ede and Lunsford write about some of the compromises that each them as writers has to make in the process of creating a collaborative essay. Describe in some detail one or two of these compromises. Describe your own process of writing an essay and describe what your essays tend to "look like." Can you anticipate some compromises you may need to make when writing a collaborative essay for CTW 1?
Writing a creative essay with a partner can be similar to playing on a sports team with them. When you play on a sport such as flag football, you have to learn how to work as a team in order to come out of the game victorious. To do so, you must learn each of your teammates skills and characteristics, including their personality traits. For example, if you play the position of quarter-back in flag-football, or any kind of football for that matter, then it is essential that you learn how fast your wide-receivers can run so that you can know exactly when to throw the football to them. It is also important for your wide-receivers to know how you can throw so that they know how fast or how far they should run. For any sports team, knowing the personalities that are present on the team is essential to success. Those who get discouraged easily may need a little more of a pep-talk than those who don't, and knowing this would allow you to know who needs more encouragement. These same ideas can be applied to creative writing with a partner, because either way, its all teamwork. When writing an essay with another person, or with a team, knowing the skill level and personality traits of your teammates is essential to writing a concise, coherent, and over-all fantastic essay.
In the essay Why Write...Together? written by Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford, they discuss co-authorship, or the the act of creating a text with someone else, or as a team. In the essay, they discuss various obstacles they faced as they created this work, however, the one that is probably the most comprehensive issue that all co-authors face is time-management. In the essay they state that "in single authorship...deadlines are more or less manageable) (Ede and Lutherford, 153) Because of their intense schedules that included soliciting articles and speaking at conventions, and also the fact that they had completely different schedules so they could only work during certain times, they found that the pressure to meet the deadline was near unbearable, more so because of their co-authorship. In order to navigate around these problems, Ede and Lunsford agreed that they would be able to work on revising the essay separately if they needed to. This allowed them to be in the state or city that they needed to be in while still working on the essay as a team.
My own process of writing may be described as a little haphazard. I prefer to begin writing without brainstorming because as I begin to write, the ideas begin to come to my mind. Its as if I can find better direction by starting without one. After I finish my first draft, I always re-read my papers to check if there are any more ideas that I could include to support my claim or defend my argument. After that revision, I re-read the essay again to check for grammar and spelling errors. My essays tend to resemble the basic, 5-paragraph essay because that is what has been drilled into my head since grade-school. Sometimes, I will use the 7-paragraph or 3-paragraph essay because I feel that my ideas are either too centralized or too contrasting to force into the 5-paragraph essay structure.
Most people I know prefer to start writing with a brainstorming list already completed, so one compromise that I will have to make is that I will have to help my partner brainstorm rather than just start writing. Also, my partner and I may have different schedules, so, as Ede and Lutherford, we may have to established times in which we will use to work on our paper.
CRL #4 - September 24, 2013
Describe what a meritocracy is. What are some of the goals and
values of a meritocracy? Are they goals and values that we should esteem? According to Hayes, what are some of the problems with a system based on a meritocracy? How true do Hayes's criticisms seem when compared with your own experiences? Use specific details and examples when responding to these questions. The length of the response should be about 500 words.
In the book Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy written by Christopher Hayes, the practice of meritocracy is discussed in a school setting. Meritocracy is a practice in which people are selected to become part of an elite group of a society based on their abilities in certain areas. People have argued that meritocracy is a great idea because it gives those who are naturally ahead of the rest of society an opportunity to grow their leadership potential and maybe even become a leader or role model in society. Others have argued that it creates too much of a divide in society, and that the selection process is not fair.
Applying meritocracy to a school setting would be like selecting students to be placed in advanced classes or to even be given acceptance based on their academic ability. At Hayes' school, Hunter College High School, admission is based solely on a students performance on one 3-hour test. Those who promote meritocracy may say that this is a great thing because those who do well on the test are obviously smarter and can be taught on a higher level than those who did poorly. However, if you read the details that go into scoring well on this admissions test, you can observe that a child who's parents could afford for them to take a class in preparation of this test did better and usually gained admittance over those who could not afford and did not take the class. This promotes the notion that those who can buy their way into the elite deserve to be there more than those who do not have the same resources.
The goals and values of meritocracy include separation and inequality and these are not values that we should esteem. Meritocracy promotes inequality because it does not level out the playing field in society. Some people are just fortunate enough to have access to resources such as money in order to, for example, take a great test-prep class. Being selected to be part of an elite group based on fortune is not and should not be considered meritocracy at all because there really is no merit behind being selected in that manor. Meritocracy promotes separation because those who are selected in this way are already part of the upper class, and are usually of a certain ethnicity. This further promotes the separation that already exists in society.
When compared with my own personal experiences, Hayes criticisms do seem true, however, I cannot relate to them because I personally have not been subjected to the outcomes of meritocracy. I have been fortunate enough to have gone to schools that accept students based on a variety of factors, as opposed to one aptitude test. Both Mountain View Academy and Santa Clara University are places that embrace students who are academically stout and involved in school activities.
CRL #6 - October 8, 2013
Prompt: Consider the adjectives “absolutely true” and “part-time.”
What concepts appear to be emphasized by the images and the title? Does the
cover make a reference to Junior’s internal struggle, or a struggle between Junior and the white power structure, or both, or neither?”
In the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” written by Sherman Alexie, the life and identity of a young man named Arnold, or more informally, Junior, is explored in great detail. From the title alone, we can implore that the text will be focused on the way that being part of the Indian culture has affected the way that this boy grew up. However, this is not all we can implore from the title. Throughout the book, the protagonist exemplifies exactly what he means by “absolutely true” and “part-time” through his experiences and reflections and also through the themes presented in the story.
By inserting “Absolutely True” into the title of his book, as opposed to just titling the book “The Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, the author emphasizes just how blunt and open the protagonist is. Also, the “Absolutely True” part of the title emphasizes that the events presented in the story are based on the real-life experiences of Sherman Alexie--the author himself. We can see examples of Junior’s frankness within the first chapter, when he is discussing his post-birth hydrocephalic condition, or how he was born with “water on the brain” (pg. 8) as he states that he was supposed to “croak during surgery” (pg. 9) and uses such harsh and direct words instead of using euphemisms for dying. Arnold portrays his feelings to us in a way that helps us understand exactly how he is feeling, although we may not be able to personally relate to his experiences. The use of the adjective “Part-Time” to describe the state of being Indian in the title of the book supplies the reader with a sense of the importance of certain events in the story. Because the title of the book isn’t just “The Absolute Diary of an Indian” as it would be without such adjective, the reader can infer that the book will be able the protagonist’s change in culture for certain periods of time. This theory is proven true by the rising action of the story: Junior’s somewhat rash decision to attend Reardan, a predominantly caucasian but very prestigious high school (ch 6). His decision to go Reardan further depends the divide he has felt from his community by exposing himself to another community in which he doesn’t feel accepted. This causes Arnold to develop somewhat of a double-life, or a “part-time” personality (ch 17). On the reservation, he is just a poor, outcasted, Indian kid, while at Reardan he is still outcasted, but soon enough is seen as a potential star of the basketball team. At school, he even begins to hide his other, “rez” life by pretending to be wealthier than he actually is (ch 17). In doing so, however, the facade that he puts up begins to fall as we can see during the winter formal and the pancake house incident in chapter seventeen. Luckily, Roger, and upperclassman, saved Arnold from major embarrassment by covering his tab. However, this incident can be seen as a turning point in which Arnold realizes that lies like that never last. At some point, he is going to have to, and does, learn how to reconcile these two sides of his life. This novel can be classified as a “coming of age” novel because in it, Arnold is searching to find and claim his identity, hence another reason why the book includes “part-time”, because the protagonist is unsure of who he really is.
The images on the book, as well as the title, contribute to the ideas that are presented in the story. The images on the cover include a toy figure of both an Indian man dressed in blue jeans and a headband, holding a spear, and a caucasian man dressed as a cowboy, wielding a gun: two opposite races of people. The cover makes a reference to Juniors internal struggle more than anything else. His internal struggle includes him trying to reconcile his life on the rez with his life at school. At first, he resists the reconcilement, as we can see again in chapter 17, when he pretends to be wealthier than he is. After having his plan almost blow up in his face, Arnold slowly begins to accept himself not as two different people, but as one, “multi-tribal” person (ch 29). He has found a way to view himself in a way that is not solely based on being "white" or "Indian”, however is focused on being someone who belongs to many different tribes.
CRL #7-October 10,2013
Choose the theme that you think makes the most insightful points and describe what that insight is. Once you have described Robillard's insight, take this idea from Robillard and use it to shed some light on a personal experience of your own. Use Robillard's idea as a "lens" that you could use to help someone understand some aspect of your own experience.
In Amy E. Robillard It’s Time for Class:Toward a More Complex Pedagogy of Narrative, Robillard touches on various subjects including economic and social class, time, the relationship between narrative and analysis, the relationship between the concrete and the abstract, and the role of autobiography in the composition classroom. The theme in which Robillard makes the most insightful point would be the that of economic and social class. Robillard provides the reader with various examples of her insight on economic and social class throughout the essay.
Robillard highlights the middle class ideal of “delayed gratification” and refers to an essay written by Bloom to do so. The idea of delayed gratification describes the resistance to attaining immediate rewards for a later, usually greater reward. She brings up this topic to state how those students who “dip in and out of college” or those who go back to school to receive the credentials that they think are only “current needs”, however, if they understood the middle class ideal of delayed gratification, then they would understand that if they finished their education completely, they would be able to reap the many greater benefits of their education later. However, because they hold a working class mentality, they only focus on what they need to succeed in the present, not the future.
Another insight that Robillard points out about class distinction is how it is determined. Robillard references E.P. Thompson’s “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Class Consciousness in Composition”, which states that that class is not “determined by our pass or economic situations”, however, she describes it as a relationship. Class distinction should be based on common interests rather than similar past experiences. The discussion of class in learning institutions has been avoided solely because discussion of class almost always gives way to the discussion of personal narratives, and suggests that class is based on past experiences rather than on the present. Students in class should be taught to focus on where they are, rather than how they got there, in order to distinguish where they belong in their current state.
Using Robillard’s idea of how class systems should be set up based on the present and not the past, I can implore my own personal experiences on the subject of social and economic class. My family can be considered middle class, but through the eyes of my parents, we will always be working-class citizens. According to my parents, the life of an immigrant never gets easier; they are always working towards something greater than what they have because settling is never an option. As my mom puts it “I have already had to settle with being looked down upon because I was not born in this country, so I refuse to settle for anything else”. The idea of delayed gratification, something that is thought to be a middle class ideal, is something that sits well with my parents. The reward that they will eventually receive, in their minds, is knowing that they were able to provide for their children. Because of this ideal that they hold, my parents can be considered middle-class citizens.
My parents’ ways of thinking has somewhat inspired me throughout my educational career. The work ethic of my parents-delayed gratification- has been an impetus to my success. I knew that if I challenged myself in high-school, for example, I would be able to attend a prestigious institution. By being able to attend a prestigious institution, I also realized that I would be able to receive the education I need to pursue a rigorous, rewarding career. I knew I would have to work hard, but in the end, it would be worth it. I have been able to grasp the concept of delayed gratification.