General Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Should schools teach more on how to comprehend the context of what is read?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26829points) February 10th, 2010

Do you wish schools taught more about comprehension and constructive thinking? It seem here and other Q&A people get off point of the question because they can’t constructively comprehend the question in the context of the question. For instance if some one were to ask why are American children so fat, some one else would surely come up with an accusation that that person was generalizing or that it was speculation or they want to see the stats. Like the context of the question could not be phantom by one unless it was spelled out to the point of being dumb downed. That people can’t contextualize that they were not speaking of EVERY AMERICAN CHILD but the group as a collective whole. If the question of why layers are so slimy and the text of the question leaned toward lawyers who draft class action suits to hose down businesses, or medicine makers etc, someone will bring defense lawyers into the mix when they were never a part of the spirit of the question. Do each and every word had to have the meaning in context explained for the question to be asked on its merits, or have we lost the ability to fill in some of the blanks with the context that it has to be dumb down like to a 4 year old? Is following a question’s context really that hard if every detail is not explained?

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32 Answers

Hydrogenbond's avatar

I wish my English teacher(s) had taught me something along the way. Classes consisted of wasting time, reading and writing responses or essays without any useful feedback. The classes were never spent learning about rhetoric, grammar, vocabulary, constructive critical thinking, you name it. I hate English classes for that reason.

DominicX's avatar

Because people do generalize. All the time. A generalization is an easy way of saying something without having to go into detail and without having to put extra thought and effort into what you are saying. A generalization is a cop-out. Maybe by saying “Why are American children so fat?”, you didn’t mean all American children, but there are plenty of people who do generalize about such things. Gay people are promiscuous, black people commit tons of crimes, etc. When you generalize, you make it seem that the percentage of people who do these things is much higher than it actually is. It’s taking a part of a group to represent the whole and it pisses me off. Is it really that hard to insert the word “some” in there?

If you were to ask a question saying “Why are gay people so promiscuous?” you would be implying “on average, gay people are promiscuous”. Well, is that true? Don’t make the claim if it isn’t true. If you asked “why are some gay people so promiscuous?” you would be asking the question in terms of what things related to being gay lead someone to being promiscuous and does nothing about accusing all or most gay people of being promiscuous. That little word “some” solves so many problems. It’s not that hard to use.

Also, lol @ some of the grammar and spelling mistakes in this question. Just saying. If you’re going to come across as a little condescending, you may want to polish yourself up a bit.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@DominicX: Why are SOME flutherites able to answer questions so quickly and completely while SOME are left in the dust? ;-P

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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@DominicX When dealing with the American language as you say not only has it been butchered so much I doubt many kids know what proper language sounds like. If you took it word for word and not the context you would be lost or mislead most of the time; “lets split”, I asked for her digits and she jetted out of here like a rocket ship”, “the boss better quit riding me or I am going to pop him”. I am sure you were able to follow each of those phrases with out having detailed synopsis of was going on. You know the man’s boss was not literally riding him like Cigar at the Kentucky Derby, and he was not going to deflate the man like a balloon if he continued to do it. Yes some people lose the context of “Gays sleep around too much” as to mean ALL GAYS or 90% do. Logically and that is the key most should know that not to be correct BUT because it was not spelled out in detail they play not to know I would hope they were not that clueless the context of the phrase? Generalizations might be laziness or a cop out but that IS the American English language chalk full of slang and idioms, one could only imagine if all of those had to be explained before any one knew what the conversation was.

If there is any typos or grammatical irregularities blame Microsoft, no generalizations needed, they are the ones acting condescending certainly not I. ;-)

arnbev959's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. I think that the methods of teaching reading comprehension should be improved. But not the kind of comprehension you are talking about.

I also think that sometimes people take political correctness a bit too far.

But I don’t think that specificity and clarity are bad things.

Everyone knows that if I claim that everyone knows something I don’t really mean everyone. I don’t think the education system as a whole is teaching kids in such a way that they are unable to understand the implied meaning when someone makes a general statement.

DominicX's avatar


The difference is that when you use those slang phrases, there is little to no chance of you using them for any other purpose (i.e. the literal meaning of the phrase). “Let’s split” only means one thing. It’s function exists entirely within the realm of slang.

When you say “Why do gay people sleep around so much?”, that could mean multiple things. It could mean “all”, albeit unlikely since most people are not stupid enough to assume that something applies to all members of a group, but more importantly it could mean a majority. It’s offensive to me when someone assumes that the majority of gay people are promiscuous. When you word the question that way without using “some”, you leave open the possibility of meaning 90% of gay people sleep around. It’s a possible implication of your question when you word it that way. And some people do think that and some people do mean that. If I wanted to ask a question about sleeping around in the context of being gay, I would never want to possibly imply that I thought most gay people were promiscuous.

Furthermore, putting the word “some” in your question takes a lot less effort than explaining a slang phrase.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@DominicX When it comes to slang, sure you and I understand quite well if it is a popular slang word some one new to the language may not. There are certain inner city Black slang I don’t know, I guess because I am Black I am thought of as suppose to know it. And I understand when someone generalizes that if you are Gay that means you have to be loose because maybe all the Gays they knew slept around or boinked like bunnies with anything that breath. I don’t know how many times I had to clarify myself when people find out I DON’T LIKE WATERMELLON. I am not great at basketball I am better at chess, and I simply LOATH rap music and hip hop.

Then that brings me back to the question has to be dumb down for everyone who should understand a phrase like “Gays are skanks”, or “Young Black men are violent” don’t mean every but somehow don’t get it.

DominicX's avatar


It’s not an issue of meaning “every”, it’s an issue of meaning “most”. I wouldn’t assume you meant “every” if you said those things, but I might assume you meant “most”. And that may not be true at all, that’s why it’s best not to do it. Are most young black men violent? Are most gays skanks?

The sentence reads like this to some people ”[All] young black men are violent”, but to more people it would read ”[Most] young black men are violent”. Is that last sentence true? If not, why word it in a way that leaves that as a possible interpretation?

“Young black men are violent” is an ambiguous sentence because it doesn’t tell you how many young black men you are referring to. In this language, when you make an ambiguous statement like that, it has a few implications and people are going to go with those. The most common implication of course being that it really means ”most young black men are violent” or ”on average, young black men are violent”. But those sentences are not necessarily true.

BoBo1946's avatar

Yes, we all are guilty as charged…some more than others!

Really don’t think it the teacher’s responsibility to teach comprehension and creative thinking. They can give you the tools for the English language, but it is up to the student to use those tools. There is only so much a teacher can do with a student. She certainly can preach comprehension and creative thinking, but ultimately, it is up to the student.

It gets back to ownership….they can teach until they (teachers) are “blue in the face,” but the student has to apply what they teach!

YARNLADY's avatar

There are several factors preventing improvement in reading comprehension in the schools.

One, the majority of the people in the U.S. simply don’t see the value in it.

Two, the schools in the U. S. are not administered on a Federal level, but rather at the state level, and split into school districts which have the final implementation of the programs.

Three, not everyone has the innate capability to comprehend things beyond a given level.

The U. S. has a literacy rate of 98% of people over 15, but the comprehension level is at about an 8th grade level. In the past four years, more techniques have been developed to instruct teachers in new strategies for teaching comprehension and analysis.

BoBo1946's avatar

@YARNLADY that is all cool..but, there is so much a teacher can do! If a child does not have the right attitude about learning by the third grade, they are lost….from then on! Have always thought, the BEST teachers, and they should be paid more, should be in the first three grades….by doing that, the teacher can spend more time with those students (should be smaller classes also) that comes from bad homes. So many children are totally neglected at home, as we know! They are fighting an uphill battle from the “get go!”

Cruiser's avatar

I don’t know about anyone else, but I come to Fluther to learn and read what other people have to say about anything and everything. If I wanted perfect English I could go to encyclopedia Britannica. Here I get real thoughts and heart felt words in all it’s at times bad grammar glory!

Buttonstc's avatar

As George Bush once asked:

Is our children learning ?


mattbrowne's avatar

Kids learn about comprehension and constructive thinking from their parents. Or not.

Having good discussions at home, for example over dinner, are key. Don’t expect schools to be able to fix bad parenting.

YARNLADY's avatar

@BoBo1946 Yes! I second that idea.

The_Idler's avatar

People need to read more and parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s learning.

In the UK there was observed a decay in social structure, so it was decided that bullshit such as “citizenship and guidance” and “personal-social education” would be taught in school. Needless to say, all the kids think its a huge waste of time, but many parents think this removes any responsibility they had for raising their child and teaching them how the world works and how to behave.

That is why so many of our schools are total shit and our society is falling apart. The breakdown of family values and social responsibility is creating a generation of disrespectful and dysfunctional idiots.

BoBo1946's avatar

@The_Idler People need to read more and parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s learning.

Amen too that…that would solve everything!

kruger_d's avatar

These skills are taught to a greater or lesser degree in all schools. I think the problem is more that people have there own agenda and hot button issues and tend to steer toward those instead of the original question. Yes, it is rude to a point. But it also happens in conversation all the time. Just watch C-SPAN.

liminal's avatar

I wonder if some people read a question/comment that uses generalizations and challenge the question with added information because it is unclear if the questioner is able to comprehend context (particularly in an environment like this: where conversation is often based on personal opinion). So, in line with @DominicX‘s thinking, maybe schools need to teach more reading comprehension and contextualization and maybe they also need to teach how to write questions that evidence an understanding of comprehension and contextualization.

The_Idler's avatar

I think it would be inefficient to try and teach it.
Children and many adults need to read more. They learn better from the differing (real) circumstances, because they see the context and build up a working understanding of the language, based on real experience, rather than rules.

Plus, English lessons are fucking boring and books are fun!

liminal's avatar

@The_Idler that’s how we “teach it” at our house :)

Hydrogenbond's avatar

@The_Idler – Parents do need to take responsibility of their children, that’s a must. But teachers should also take responsibility of their jobs.

The_Idler's avatar

@Hydrogenbond Yeah, some of the problem rests with teachers, but I think (in the UK at least) the more fundamental flaw is with the curriculum itself.

galileogirl's avatar

This was a very general question and the premise was false. In most cases the only way to improve reading comprehension is to actually READ. As far as the dumbing down of textbooks goes, most students need a map to find their way through the chapter.

Most teachers I have worked with explain the structure of the text and explain the necessity of pre-reading and notetaking. Even honors students don’t pre-read and don’t take notes. In fact when the text is introduced or when the teacher lectures many students won’t even pay attention. You can lead a kid to knowledge but you can’t make him think.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@galileogirl: lol, NO ONE pre-reads.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dan_DeColumna My husband does. He’s an IT professional, understands everything he reads, and teaches others how to read their manuals.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@YARNLADY: It was intended as a semi-humorous generalization. Obviously, there are always exceptions.

galileogirl's avatar

@Dan_DeColumna lol backatcha That’s just the reason they are unsuccessful at comprehending complex material. Shocking how once again the fault lies with the student not the teacher Hmmm??

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

I blame everyone. That way I don’t have to discriminate; I’m too lazy for that. :-D


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