Mechanics of Text Analysis II

MechanicIn my previous post I introduced a process that students can use to learn how to analyze texts. Here is a specific example. The text is Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The questions I’ve previously prepared on this text in italics; they walk the students through the different parts of the Wilson’s argument. A hypothetical student’s answer is next to each question. To easily find the answer, the student first identifies clue words in the text; these are shown in bold font. To complete the exercise, the student creates a hypothesis by joining a question with his or her answer to it, and then provides two pieces of evidence in support of the hypothesis that are drawn from the text.

Why should the Fourteen Points be implemented?

    • To establish peace among all nations

“. . . that the world . . . be made safe for every peace-loving nation . . . All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest . . . unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.  The program of the world’s peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible program . . .”

How should colonized peoples be treated?

    • Colonized peoples must be allowed to pursue sovereignty (independence)

“based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

Should diplomacy be conducted in secret? 

    • No

“. . . the only possible program . . . is this . . . Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

Hypothesis:

    • If the Fourteen Points had been implemented, peace would have been established between all nation-states

Evidence:

1.  Disputes between states over colonial claims, and between colonized nations and the imperial states that ruled them, would have been resolved peacefully through an impartial process of negotiation.

2.  Trade between states would have been encouraged by the removal of trade barriers and by establishing freedom of the seas for the transport of goods; states engaged in free and open trade have less of an incentive to launch aggressive wars against each other.

 The main advantage of this exercise is that it demonstrates to students in a step-by-step fashion how they can engage with a text more deeply. Professors have practiced this skill so much that we do it almost unconsciously; students haven’t had the practice and this is a way for them to start getting it.

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