Saturday, 8 September 2012

The reading of a text (or, the 'inner dialectic')

When Guns&Roses came out with their version of McCartney's song "Live and Let Die", many of the commentators/reviewers of the day were struck by how the emotive delivery of Axel's vocals changed the song completely (in their view) from the original. We were watching this morning a dvd documentary that my aippakuluk bought for us recently called, Pink Floyd: the story of wish you were here, where we heard some old out-takes of the song, "Have a Cigar", first with Roger Waters on the vocals then Roy Harper's version of the same song. Roger's vocals added a decidedly angry edge to the song, while Harper's version (the one that made the cut) sounded more ironical and derisive.

I'm not saying which I liked better in either of the two songs: "Live and Let Die" or "Have a Cigar" but what I'm trying to illustrate about what I wrote in my last blog entry about the 'inner dialectic' is that often the self-same text can be delivered, read, interpreted in more than one way. This is definitely not an original insight (and that is not my point) because poetry is notorious/famous for such openness to interpretation. But what I'm saying is that all text, in the end, has the same feature.

I remember years ago when I was a lay-reader for the church in my hometown where the minister and I were studying a biblical passage where the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane asks if his disciples were armed and they say, yes they have one or two swords with them. He says something to the effect "that is enough", but the minister gave a reading that was entirely different from what I often took the passage to mean (ie, "good; that'll suffice") but a simple change in tone reads the Christ, instead of showing relief, is actually rebuking his disciples for their hypocrisy in claiming a pacifist stand but readily arming themselves in the face of a coming threat. Christ's 'turning the other cheek', though seemingly self-defeating actually saves his disciples' and the gaurds' lives.

One of my criticisms of aboriginal and inner-city public school systems is that the system has decided (though who actually decides these things is never made clear, not taking the system to task has the same effect) that the children in their charge (for real economic or long-standing political reasons) have not the "right stuff" to warrant a viable attempt at education.

I mean, the ability to read and write are not just ends in and of themselves but are actually a means to further ends. Literacy is less about reading and writing but more about the ability to read and interpret the world and ideas in a sense that the meaning of 'literacy' encompasses even the oral traditions, having the ability to partake in satisfying conversations, having the ability to communicate important facts, having the ability to express and articulate our humanity (our hopes and fears and insights, whether in situ and/or beyond). For this to happen, a liberal arts approach is key, even science and maths require this mentality (historic development-based pedagogy) to actually take hold.

Northrop Frye's distinction of "taking a subject" and being "taken up by a subject" seems a rather 'fuzzy' objective for measuring education, but as someone who knows that difference I think it makes a world of difference.


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