“Reading and Writing Without Authority”

I found this article to be extremely interesting. There are three key ideas that truly stood out to me that I would like to share. To start, this reading spotlighted a study that investigated how differences in authority are played out in the academic sphere. The first key idea I would like to point out is the contrast between the roles both subjects in the study took on. Specifically, Janet took on the role of an “outsider,” while Roger took on the role of an “insider.” Therefore, it was understood Roger had more confidence in his own authority, as it is assumed that authority generally increases with age. The different roles Janet and Roger took on influenced their reading and writing practices, which sparked my interest. Specifically, Roger was more aware that texts and knowledge claims are authored and negotiable. He was more in tuned to identifying, sorting and evaluating the claims made by various authors. On the other hand, Janet focused more on the search for facts, eliminating evidence of or the mention of an author’s role in shaping knowledge. It was interesting to see how the claims Roger was so tuned into, in Janet’s eyes, became facts.

The second point that stood out to me in the reading was how Janet and Rogers each went about handling controversy in the study. Roger, the subject in the study assumed to have more authority, used controversy as a starting point from which to develop his own positions and arguments. On the other hand, Janet aligned herself with one of the positions already set out for her. It was interesting to learn that Janet’s outsider point of view of her own authorship aligned with her “choosing a side” strategy in dealing with controversy. From an outside point of view, the author is viewed as a reporter rather than creator. On the other hand, from an insider point of view, people are more aware of and more confident in their authority, leaning more toward the creator side.

One last point that stood out to me in the article was one that I found particularly thought provoking. On page 515, the concept of personal authority being denied in school contexts is spoken about. Specifically, Janet’s behavior in the study conveys the degree to which such authority is denied in school settings. The reading speaks to how students are often expected to come into classrooms with a lot of knowledge and experience, as well as a strong commitment to, an information-transfer model of education. This model interests me. It leaves minimal room for hypothetical thinking, and proves the reasons for Janet’s “objective” interpretations of facts. I personally do not support this model. I believe a classroom setting should be open to interpretation, discussion and differing perspectives.

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