"I hate when students underline their books with those ridiculous pencils," a teacher begins.
"Why does it spark such a strong reaction?"
"A page should be fresh each time one reads it. Let a student start with a pure page, free of the viewpoints of other readers. Whether you like it or not, reading is a solitary endeavor and I'd like to keep it that way."
"Yes, but reading only became solitary with the advent of the printing press. Before that, when the resources were scarce, reading had to be social. So, people shared books, read books aloud, listened intently and spoke together. It has been a communal endeavor more often than individual."
"But we progressed toward individuality. Students now have access to books through our library. They share, but it's sharing on an individual level," she answers just like that, with thick italics.
"So, what if pencil is another form of progress? What if the pencil enables reading to be both social and individual? What if students can now read a book but also interact with it and share in an asynchronous dialog with past readers? What if they learn more from a book by the writing in the margins?"
"Or what if the social aspects of reading simply distract? What if they're too distracted by all forms of social media - from the loud phonograph to the emerging motion picture industry to the pen pal networks and the instant information on the telegraph? What if learning needs a little loneliness? What if solitude is good for the mind?"
We're at an impasse, both realizing that arguments are not games to be won, but neither of us humble enough to admit it. So we wait in silence and I finally ask, "Is that egg salad? It looks delicious."