What Informs a Reading of a Text: A Teaching Story

Since people say they like my teaching story, here is a very disturbing one from today. I asked the students to read and analyze the following short passage from Sarmiento’s Facundo (if you don’t know what the text is about, that doesn’t matter because the passage is very clear and self-explanatory. Or so I thought):

So after we read this passage both at home and in class, I asked the students to tell me what tasks men and women performed in the society described here.

“Women stayed home and men worked!” students happily announced.

“Please, read the passage carefully,” I asked. “According to this text, what did men do?”

“They worked hard to feed their families!” was the unanimous response.

“Which words exactly make you think that?” I asked, growing desperate.

“It says right here that they exercised physical strength.”

“To do what?”

“To take care of their families and provide food for them. ‘All the burden of work’ is what they did. It says so right here. And women had to be thankful because men worked so hard to feed them,” the students insisted.

In case you are wondering, we read the text in English and the students are all English-speakers.


11 thoughts on “What Informs a Reading of a Text: A Teaching Story

  1. Wait–it doesn’t mention anything about the men. It just says that the boys exercise strength. So do the men actually do anything besides sometimes tending corn?


    1. The text is, of course, highly manipulative and ideological. And the point it makes is that women do everything, men maybe sometimes do something if you ask them to, and boys have fun.

      How anybody could have gotten the exact opposite from it is a mystery.


      1. Clarissa a quick scan was enough for me to get that women do all the work and men do fuck all, whilst the boys practice for a life of doing fuck all.

        The bit I don’t get is why the piece is “highly manipulative and ideological”. Is it because it doesn’t address the situation as being inequitable?


        1. So why didn’t the students get it? Why???

          I meant that the entire book where this passage is taken from was a highly manipulative piece aimed at destroying Sarmiento’s political opponents and push forward his vision of Argentinean national identity.


  2. I take this was an exercise in how women’s contributions are overlooked?

    By that text women did all the domestic chores and men did some occasional farming and boys just goofed off.


    1. No, I didn’t! He is obviously a very complex author, which I am not managing to transmit to the students because we are getting bogged down in confused readings of simple passages. Usually, Sarmiento is easy to teach but just not this time.


  3. I learned over the years that if you are writing about a male, his actions are always noble and well-intentioned even if they seem not to be or there is no evidence for this. It’s metaphysics. Ignoble behaviour on the part of a male is a sure sign that a woman is castrating him, otherwise his behaviour would be spectacular and perfect every time.


  4. They obviously didn’t read the text. They may be English speakers, but this is very simple language and they didn’t pay attention–probably because they didn’t want too and basically filled in the blanks, ignoring what is in front of them. Clueless clones. How very sad.


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