Friday, August 9, 2013

Text on Trial: An Example of an Assignment

Historical Detectives: Please read the text passage below, paying close attention not only to its message about the past but also to how this message is conveyed to readers: What is said? How is it said? Also, what is not said?

Quoting from page 165 of  our textbook- Modern World History: Patterns of Interaction: "A combination of discoveries and circumstances led to the Scientific Revolution and helped spread its impact. By the late Middle Ages, European scholars had translated many works by Muslim scholars. These scholars had compiled a storehouse of ancient and current scientific knowledge. Based on this knowledge, medieval universities added scientific courses in astronomy, physics, and mathematics."

1. What is said? Are there words or references used that strike you as imprecise, vague?

Possible responses include the following:
-"late Middle Ages"- When is this?
-"European scholars"- Names?
-"Muslim scholars"- Names?
-"medieval universities"- Which ones?

2. What other questions does this selection prompt you to ask?

Possible responses include:

How, and under what circumstances, did Muslim scholars "compile a storehouse of ancient and current scientific knowledge"?

Who attended medieval universities? What were some of the prominent ones?

3. What kinds of textbook biases did you detect in this passage? Are there any new kinds of biases detected?

Possible response

I definitely noticed the bias of the general over the specific, as well as a bias against giving specific examples: an example, or an excerpt, of a text that was preserved by Muslim scholars could be provided.  Also, the textbook has a habit of just dropping huge events on us with little or no context. Where did these Muslim scholars come from? I wonder if they were mentioned previously in the book.

4. What are your next moves? If you were going to improve this passage, bringing it up to our standards, what topic(s) do you need to research further? Once you conduct your research, I'd like you to submit a revised (and sourced) draft of this passage to our editors. As always, you may conduct your research with another detective, but remember to keep me in the loop.

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