So the other day I happened to find the self-description of a course in “improved reading”, which includes the following, rather confident, objective:
“The first day of the course teaches you how to eliminate the typical reading mistakes which most people have internalized and maintained since primary school: regression, reading word by word, complete mental hearing.”
I don’t know what “regression” is, so I’m making a mental note to look it up. (It doesn’t sound good, though.) And I don’t know what “complete mental hearing” is either (though it sounds pretty interesting, and I may want to try it one day). But I think I do have a vague idea about “reading word by word”, because it’s what for my friend Michael makes all the fun in reading. He never stops talking about it, really. It’s also what he tries to encourage doing in a so called “deep reading workshop”. So when I told him about this being a mistake, he told me he “had half a mind to be mildly frustrated” by the fact that what he likes doing so much is now considered a typical mistake he may have carried over from his childhood. Like a habit that seems fun but really isn’t good for you if you want to make it in this world. Like counting birds landing on trees, for example, or talking to stones.
Well, I told him that, obviously, “improved reading” has nothing to do with reading for fun. The course I was quoting from is designed for people who have to read lots and lots of things. Most of these things are probably so academic that they would make you go mad if you were forced to read them word by word. (Interesting idea, though, to torment people by making them read something really awful this way.) So “improved reading” is designed for people who have to turn themselves into reading machines in order to survive. (“Do they?” is what my friend Michael asked, “Couldn’t they do something else with their lives?” A characteristic response from someone who has never worked hard for anything.)
I keep digressing. I guess my point is that I should look up those terms I don’t know. And that I should maybe remember not to be too harsh on PhD students in the future, because their life is hard. (My friend Michael says that’s rubbish, and that doing a PhD is “easy as pie”, but I don’t think he knows what he is talking about.)