Now, you are going to read the book, either through a Read-Aloud by your teacher or through YouTube on your own. You can search for a read-aloud, or you can follow this link to a read-aloud that I think is a good one: 🐺 The True Story of the Three Little Pigs 🐷 Kids Book Read Aloud
As you listen to the book and watch the video, think about what you see and hear that brings up various feelings, assumptions, and impressions. For instance, how is the wolf dressed at the very beginning? What about during his telling of the story? How do you feel about his reason for going to the first pig’s house? Why do you feel that way? Is that reflective of your original perspective of the wolf’s trustworthiness, or has that perspective changed at all? Jot down notes. These will be the basis for completing the Critical Thinking Activity for homework.
Critical Thinking Assignment
1. Using the notes that you took during the read-aloud, analyze the book’s pictures and text to see how this telling of the story establishes its message. Analysis is when you break down the bigger picture into its various smaller parts and figure out what they tell you and why. So, you must consider the narration (who the narrator is, tone of the narrator’s voice), the dialogue, the plot, and the illustrations. In picture books, everything works together to tell the story, including the pictures, which can tell readers things about the characters, setting, and plot that the words do not. Note: Using a picture book to think through analytically is a fun exercise that you can do on your own.
2. Think about how the author put the story together and how it affects you.
· The book parallels the tale that so many of us already know. Does that affect your reading of the story? How?
· Some of the pictures, narration, and dialogue might make you laugh. Does that affect your reading of the story? How?
3. At the end of many of the texts you read in class, teachers will ask you to craft essays in response or write reflections about what came up for you as you read. I want you to do this for this book. Take five minutes to write what your overall take-away was from this book and what experiences, knowledge, understandings got you there.
The following is an example of what I might say in answer to question 3:
· I know the story of the three little pigs, but I am also the kind of person who is generally suspicious of the official story. Some of this comes from knowing how often stories leave out people’s voices. I am a member of an American racial minority, and I’m a woman. I totally know that some people’s voices get left out of stories. Some of this is because wolves have definitely been stereotyped in children’s stories, and they can’t all be bad, right? I come from a people who have been stereotyped often enough to know that the danger is sometimes built up in people’s heads because of other folks’ stories. Thus, I like the wolf’s story better. I don’t know if I actually trust him. Criminals sometimes have reasons, but they did the crime, nonetheless. However, I don’t trust the newspaper’s take on his situation, either. I have seen enough newspaper stories label people from different groups who do the same things in ways that are biased. “Looters” versus “survivors” during the racially unequal coverage during Hurricane Katrina comes to mind. Essentially, I like hearing the wolf’s voice. Nobody has ever talked about how he ended up eating the pigs. We called him “big” and “bad,” and we judged him. That’s just not fair. The Social Justice Warrior inside me cannot dismiss his story.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is a fun book, but when viewed from the lens of an academic reader, it can bring up a good deal of serious issues that shape how each of us sees the world. Moreover, things can get tricky when we encounter something that very clearly comes from a different perspective than our own or that introduces new information from voices that have traditionally been silenced.
Keeping an Open Mind, Except...
We hear a lot about how divided the world is today and that this is a terrible thing. I would argue that the world has always been divided, but we have more opportunities for these conflicts to play out in the public sphere because more people’s voices are being heard. I am talking about the power of the Internet and social media to spread the beliefs of an influencer or a commenter on a news article or Tik Tok post. I am also talking about historically underrepresented, oppressed, or unequal groups’ stories being accepted into what our mainstream understanding of history and the present is. Having so many voices means that perspectives will differ and, sometimes, will clash. What does an academic reader and thinker do when this is the case?
Let us start with the first situation, where what is happening is that many people’s ideas are out in the world because the Internet, social media, podcasts have all provided a forum that equalizes people’s voices. There is no specific arbiter of who can be on the Internet. Powerful people, important thinkers, regular folks, dangerous criminals all have access to this tool and put their voices on it. Our social media feeds tend to filter out content that is not in line with a particular person’s perspective, but we can find others who are different from us all over. Some of us are curious about those who are different. Some of us are downright hostile. When I am wearing my “regular person” hat, I get irate and yell at my phone or computer when I read something that seems outrageous to me. However, when I am wearing my teacher hat (and when you wear your student hat), I have to see if I can figure out from what perspective what outrages me makes good sense to another person.
We must practice a sort of academic empathy. Try to imagine what it would be like to have someone else’s experiences and how that might shape the way that such people see the world. This exercise is not intended to change one’s mind. However, it provides insight into other points of view, allows us to view people with whom we disagree as human beings shaped by the world just as we are, and gives us insight into our own blind spots.
Here is an example. My politics are pretty liberal, and I live in Chicago, where many of the people around me also have liberal politics. I teach in a community college where many of my students come from families who migrated to the U.S., sometimes as refugees seeking safety, sometimes as undocumented people seeking economic opportunity. What I and other Chicagoans have not experienced until recently is what happens when an influx of migrants who need public services enters our city in a short amount of time, without advanced notice. Whether I agree with it or not, I have to admit that the governor of Texas and the former governor of Arizona, states on the border with Mexico, have given us a glimpse of their situation. Chicago has been struggling with how to accommodate people who have been bused here from Texas and Arizona. It is an overwhelming situation that border cities and towns in Texas and Arizona have been experiencing for a long time, themselves. Does this change my mind about how we should treat migrants and asylum seekers? It does not. Do I understand that the situation is much more complicated than I used to think it was? I most certainly do.
In college, we have the privilege of meeting many people who are different from us. The City Colleges of Chicago have students of different ages, different religions, different nationalities, different sexual orientations, different gender identities, different physical and cognitive abilities, different political leanings, different educational levels, different sides of the city! It can be hard for us to process so many differences, especially those that seem counter to some of our more strongly held beliefs and understandings of how things do work or should work. That said, it is our job as participants in the world we build in college to respect other people, whether they are like us or not. Part of that is learning to recognize the complexities underlying our differences and not to dismiss them outright. Approaching the texts we read and the discussions we have in our classes can help us to do this. In a democracy like ours, we recognize that we are different and know that the only way that we survive as a democracy is for us all to work together on the things we share and respect each other in the things we do not as long as they do not harm others.
This last caveat “as long as they don’t harm others” brings me to the second category of voices that might seem to cause friction. Throughout America’s history, we have privileged certain voices, certain cultures, certain ways of thinking over others. The specific sub-groups have changed over time, but the most powerful voices in our country have been those of white males, usually white males who are not poor. Many of us grew up learning from that primary perspective in school so that more recent shifts that listen to other voices and examine our world from other perspectives can feel wrong, feel threatening, or feel like freedom, depending on the lens through which we see things. Regardless of how we feel about it, though, in the academic world, we do not disregard those voices. We cannot engage in the world of ideas, discover all that we need to discover, fix the myriad problems that we face if we continue to silence the voices, ideas, and truths of the people who have had less power.
Valuing these voices has in recent years been labeled “woke” as a negative, something seen as undesirable and dangerous. There are states making laws intended to eliminate “woke” thought from schools. Some places are targeting specific groups of people who do not enjoy enough political power to protect themselves. Some places are rejecting Advanced Placement high school courses that would earn students college credit because the content is focused on minority groups in a way with which politicians in that state disagree. Some places are teaching history in a way that deliberately changes the stories that marginalized groups have told in favor of the way the powerful interpret them. None of this supports the very real diversity that exists in our nation. None of this aims to equalize the public educational systems that provide the best chances for people to reach their dreams. None of this seeks to include all of us who share this world.
At the City Colleges of Chicago, we believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We celebrate how different we are. We work to provide the tools that our different student populations need to have the best chance at success. We welcome those who enter our doors trying to gain an education. In doing all these things, we must encourage our students to keep an open mind except in cases where what people are saying disregards, shuts down, or actively harms other people, especially those with less power. When we read, hear, discuss such ideas, we should not ignore them. Instead, we should engage them with an aim to point out what and who is missing, what and who is silenced, what and who is hurt by them. We do not want to disregard these voices, either. We want to argue them down.
Not all students will feel comfortable with all voices and ideas brought to the forefront by marginalized people. This is normal and necessary because it means that students are engaging with things that have previously been ignored, whether in their lives, specifically, or in the larger society. Even I learn new things that surprise me, confuse me, that I must work hard to listen to and give space for. I may not always agree. I may stick with my original beliefs. However, I come away from these instances having participated in an exchange of perspective and, thereby, gained knowledge.