Ye stuff the head with all such reading as was ever read, (and) explain a thing till all men doubt it.
- Alexander Pope
One of the little people in my life has a problem. She works so hard learning to read her words that she cant remember what the words were trying to say. Her teachers call it poor reading comprehension.
I once had a similar problem. We were in Germany for my soldier-husbands three-year-tour, and I needed a local drivers license. It wasnt that the German test was difficult, but it was long and could be confusing to the non-German. Though I was one of the few people in my group who passed the test, I still made all the allowed five errors. When the examiner explained why one of my answers was wrong, I remember saying, But I thought it meant. I still chuckle at his reply: You intelligent people are all alike. You read too much into the question.
In adult-speak, answers like mine likely fall into the category of poor reading comprehension, too. If said adults mind is already convinced of an alternate view, we say that person translates all incoming information to make it agree with said closed mind.
At least thats the only way I can think of to explain why, on a number of high-profile subjects today, some people seem to be concentrating only on the words, or reading too much (or too little) into the information.
For example: By the numbers, the economy is on the rise. As of last week, the Dow was up 32 percent from its 2003 low, the Nasdaq was even more impressive at 53 percent, and corporations whose earnings are not higher than they were a year ago are the exceptions and not the rule.
Still, to read major headlines or listen to see-no-good, speak-no-good naysayers, this presidents domestic policies are leading the country right over a depression-era cliff, and someone, presumably from another political party, must rescue us from such folly.
Or take the acronym WMD, and try to understand why the same see-no-gooders took one look at the report of Iraqi Survey Group chairman, David Kay, and declared, Aha! There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Never mind that once (if) you read past the headlines you learn: Iraqs forbidden programs spanned more than two decades Scientists hid documents and prohibited items, including strains of deadly organisms and equipment for enriching uranium, in their homes The Iraqi Intelligence Service maintained a secret network of safe houses for continuing chemical-biological research, and a prison laboratory complex presumably for human testing and on and on.
The failure of certain segments of the populace to see past their immovable blind spots reminds me of the hypochondriac who cant bear the thought of getting well or he would have nothing left to talk about.
To illustrate the importance of writing, hearing or reading comprehension - and bring this diatribe to a close - I offer my latest collection of pedantic proverbs, culled from several puzzle magazines published by Penny Press. Besides being a fun exercise many readers enjoy, working through the stuffy speech which so annoyed the poet Alexander Pope and baffles social and political opponents today, perhaps the mental gymnastics will help prevent my little persons problem of not knowing what you have read, and avoid my driving-test error of reading the wrong thing into the right answer.
Send all translations to my e-mail address below. Answers, and the names of those who master their reading comprehension, will be printed in a future issue.
l. Lack of awareness brings elation.
2. It is appropriate that young human progeny be witnessed instead of being perceived aurally.
3. Thy hypothesis is as suitable as that which I possess.
4. The vital essence is prepared by disposition; however, the corporeal matter is lacking in might.
5. The feathered, egg-laying creature arriving ahead of schedule nabs the night crawler.
6. Present in the current time, absent in the future.
7. That spherical toy has arrived at thy sport quadrangle.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments - and puzzle-guesses - to email@example.com.)
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