Saturday, August 10, 2013

Text on Trial: The Charge- A 1 Dimensional Presentation of an Individual

Textbooks are notorious for briefly mentioning individuals from the past, providing a few basic facts, and moving on. In this discovery, we are going to examine how our textbook treats Nicholas Copernicus.

Here are some questions that can be used to structure student inquiry. I have provided some answers to better illustrate this approach/model.

Is the person mentioned in the index? Copernicus is mentioned. He is on one page.

Does the text provide a visual of this person ? Also, are there visuals associated with this person's actions/ideas?
Yes, there is a painting of Copernicus on page 168.

If there is/are visual(s), discuss them? What stands out?
There is painting showing Copernicus standing in front of a globe like structure.  The source of the work is not given, something we have previously noted this text does. I did, however, find a section in the back of the text that provides brief info about all of the art in the book. The image is apparently from the Granger Collection. A quick search of the collection revealed the picture in the text, stating "After the painting by Otto Brausewetter." (1835-1904). I was unable to discover biographical info about the artist.

After reading how the textbook treats this individual, what stands out?
The text discusses Copernicus in three paragraphs. None of Copernicus' own words are used in the text, no excerpts from his writings. There is no attempt to connect Copernicus to his contemporaries, suggesting little context for him becoming "interested in an old Greek idea that the sun stood at the center of the universe."

The text mentions that Copernicus feared "ridicule or persecution", but how this is known is not explored. It is mentioned that he did not publish his work until 1543, receiving a copy of it on his deathbed (true?).

Does the text connect this individual to a larger historical context?
No. (My interjection: The omission of a reference to the Protestant Reformation is glaring.)

What are your next moves? What topics associated with this person are you interested in researching further? Explain what and why.

I would like to learn more about Copernicus' fears of "ridicule and persecution". How did he express these fears? I would also like to explore further other scientists who lived during Copernicus' time that may have been exploring topics and making discoveries that threatened the Church.

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