Most of what I am about is curiosity. I am curious about the world I live in and share with you. Here on the World Wide Web, you and I are neighbors….
In December of 2009 I phoned the local University and asked, “Can I take a course?” They said, “Yes! Bring us money.” I did….
I am still taking courses. After years in the steel industry, my brain still works. I am finding a need to take a variety of courses. I was accepted as a Psychology student. I have enough psych courses to get an Associate degree. I love learning too much to stay with psychology right now. I might go back to it but there is so much more….
In the meantime. I am using English lit courses to work my way to a better understanding of this incredible language and mathematics courses to understand what we are doing to our wonderful world. There really is so much out there to understand….
It seems to me that something between understanding and science…
… might be missing.
It seems that what might be missing is a stepping stone to aid some of us towards understanding what science is about. Subject specific information is out there, however, in the original forms of books and articles information can be intimidating, unless we know what to expect. A precis, a summary of non-fiction writing, places a stepping stone between a question and an answer. I plan on writing many precis. I invite you to join me.
Sitting in university classrooms, taking supposedly unrelated courses, I have witnessed a lack of understanding that many students seem to present with. Somehow there is something missing. Something between acceptance and understanding. Acceptance is not understanding. It is the easy way out.
In many ways we are taught to accept what authority (parents, teachers, priests, police, government, etc.) tells us is true. Sufficient proof, an ability to answer questions and, even more rare, a good argument from authority that will validate what authority tells us is often missing. No! We are not talking about arguing. That is something different again. What I am talking about is the difference between someone saying the sky is blue and someone explaining why the sky is blue. When I was a child I wanted to know why. My questions went unanswered or were met with answers from false authority…. Answers I was suppose to accept without question.
Over the years, I have read voraciously. Anything! Everything! I have also written many summaries. A few are complete summaries of articles that I have needed to understand for courses that I have taken. Most of my summaries are attached to printed copies of articles and many languish between the pages of books on sticky-notes.
A precis is a very specific type of summary. There is no quoting of the original work, Instead, the summary is completely in the words of the author of the precis. Some understanding must be there in order to summarize, in your own words, the work of another. If this was science, we might try to reproduce or to negate someone else’s claims but, this isn’t science, it is just a repeatable means of working through a piece of writing in order to further our understanding of a subject.
No two precis, taken from the same article or book but written by two different people, will ever be the same. Is one of them wrong? Maybe. But, maybe they are both right! As individuals we will each interpret a single writing from a different viewpoint, even when we agree with each other. The scientific method is a process that anybody can participate in. We do not need to be an authority on a subject to be able to discuss it. We need to be interested in asking questions and learning.
I have a proposal. Many university students (and this is not limited to university students) are finding it difficult to deal with non-fiction works. Fiction has been summarized. It is almost impossible to find a novel without an online summary that is available to everyone. It is almost impossible to find a summary of most works of non-fiction, aside from abstracts and abstracts can be more intimidating than the articles themselves.
My proposal is, to set up a web site where precis of non-fiction work can easily be located and, where links to the original articles and books can easily be found. A web site that combines the summaries of non-fiction writing in the precis format with social networking. A place where discussions and, yes, where arguments (in the interest of understanding) can happen.
Who is writing these summaries? Students! My proposal is for university and college professors and instructors to give students a bonus point or two for handing in a published precis along with a research paper. It will mean that the student has read and summarized, in it’s entirety, one of the articles being quoted in their research paper.
A precis is a stepping stone to understanding. The best explanation I have found of what a precis is can be found on Wikipedia. This is not a perfect definition but, it is close.
I need help with my project. I need to speak with teachers, instructors, professors, employers, librarians, researchers…. I need to communicate my thoughts, in more intimate detail, than I can do here and I want to hear what you think about these ideas. My project began when I began to summarize my reading. It moved into the public realm last month when I posted my first precis here on this blog.
Please comment or send an e-mail. I am very interested in hearing your thoughts.