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Moreover, when we gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas, we can begin to think within the system as a whole.
Accurately translating words into intended meanings is an analytic, evaluative, and creative set of acts.
Unfortunately, few people are skilled at translation.
My information is derived principally from the written statements of the school committees of the respective towns — gentlemen who are certainly exempt from all temptation to disparage the schools they superintend.
The result is that more than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination." (Second Report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1838) In general, then, we read to figure out what authors mean.
To do this, we must learn how to read books for their core ideas and for their system-defining function.
Mastering any set of foundational ideas makes it easier to learn other foundational ideas.
All knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary ideas, secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas.
Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving outward to an outer circle of peripheral ideas.
Of course, reading has a nearly universal purpose: to figure out what an author has to say on a given subject. The author has previously translated ideas and experiences into words.
We must take those same words and re-translate them into the author’s original meaning using our own ideas and experiences as aids.