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Mar 19, 2023·edited Mar 19, 2023Liked by Rebecca Birch

when I studied English in the late 00's, the thought of canonical knowledge would've been met with derision. Not that that's what's entirely being suggested here, but if this were raised then, the classroom outcry would've been "ok, <i>who's</i> knowledge? Education went poststructuralist primarily out of this concern.

While I'm somewhat sympathetic to Hirsch's dedication to authorial intent, and yes, how could I possibly argue <i>against </i> knowing more over knowing less, I can still see the value of acknowledging reading from a personal lens. How else would we prescribe knowledge without reinforcing some dominant norms?

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Hi Mike,

I think there needs to be space carved out for knowledge other than the dominant knowledge for sure. That lack of personal lens is the whole reason why ChatGPT is so rubbish at analysis! The danger is providing this as the main diet.

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This is a wonderful essay. I’ve been teaching all my life — special ed, high school students, and several decades as a university professor — and I think you are precisely correct. Interestingly, I had no idea what the sports metaphor meant even though I am a member of the biological group assumed to have that background knowledge. Assumptions are the bane of education. Thanks for a great read.

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Yes I have had the odd woman in the audience who is familiar with gridiron! Thanks for the kind words.

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I worked (directly) in education for 12 years and this is a topic I'm very familiar and passionate about. I was not aware of the more expansive history you've provided here, though. Thank you!

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So nice to hear your feedback, Lisa. Thanks for commenting.

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"I’m willing to bet that you understand the meaning of every individual word."

No. I certainly don't understand the meaning of every individual word as its being used in this passage, and neither does 99% of the general population. Sure, I know the word "spread" in the sense of spreading butter on a piece of bread, or a bird spreading its wings. But in the text, the word "spread" modifies the word "offense", and I don't know what a "spread offense" is. Similarly, although I am familiar with the words "pull" and "trap" in common usage, I don't know what those words mean in connection with an offensive line. And I certainly have no idea what a "multi-receiver set" is. These are all highly technical jargon words, and even most American males who watch football would have problems articulating the precise meaning of these terms in this context.

On the other hand, despite my inability to understand most of the content in this passage, I can still grasp two important ideas. First, the players have to be able to perform specialized tasks in order to implement a "spread offense". Second, the point of the "spread offense", whatever that is, is to confuse the opponent. So even lacking all the domain-specific knowledge for this passage, it's still possible to unpack the main idea. Were all the people who couldn't "make sense of this passage" unable to glean even that much?

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Hi Theodore, a lot of the comprehension research uses sport as the subject. The baseball study is probably the best known. Variable knowledge can then give a measurement of how much knowledge contributes to comprehension.

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