This week I have been reflecting on our class discussion about the importance of reading with as well as against the text. In my Human Resource Development class, we are reading a text by Marvin Weisbord called Productive Workplaces. In the first chapter Weisbord discusses myths in the workplace, and one particular statement that he made really stuck with me: "Myths are real, and they shape your behavior." In other words, regardless of whether or not something is true, the belief that it is true profoundly affects the society and culture that adheres to it.
Last week our class critically analyzed the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, and all of us were horrified at the basic assumptions this document was making about so-called "racial purity." Just think of how many lives were affected by this because of the "myths" that shaped that society! I could not fathom why anyone would think that these practices were acceptable, so I decided to do a little research via Wikipedia. During the time that the law was established in Virginia, there was a popular concept, supposedly with scientific roots (ha!), called eugenics. Eugenics is essentially a social philosophy that promotes improvement of human genetic traits through a reduced reproduction of people with "less desirable" or "undesirable traits." In the 1920's, it was considered an academic discipline at many colleges and universities and even received funding for research. This was not just happening in the United States, but spreading all over the world! Because it was such a commonly accepted idea, it permeated many societies and became a part of their belief system (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics)
This is exactly why critical discourse analysis is so important! Through it, we seek to understand the genealogy of the truth regime that is represented. We read to understand their viewpoint and then we question their assumptions and motives. Who knows how many basic assumptions we have in our society that we take as "common sense" but might actually be myths. It is frustrating and stressful sometimes to read in this way, but I think it is worth it.