I found Ellsworth’s comments on primary and secondary sources in the Introduction to Places of Learning to be quite interesting. The author states that the sources she uses in the chapters following the introduction would be considered secondary sources by most readers. She then problematizes secondary sources as having the potential to be biased or invalid interpretations of a primary source. However, she claims that with this “Western” thought, “the distinction and hierarchy between primary and secondary sources effectively relegate most women and most of Western thought’s non-Western others to the status of secondary sources” (Ellsworth 11). The author continues that in many ways, education mirrors secondary sources in that educators merely interpret and explain the primary sources, or works, of others. Also, Ellsworth states that pedagogy also takes a secondary status in relation to curriculum.
As an educator, I find these comments to be quite interesting. In a way, I was a little bit offended by the author’s claim that educators are mere secondary sources. However, I then started to wonder why I was initially upset by this. What makes secondary sources less effective or educational than primary sources? Depending on what is being taught, secondary sources may be the best or only option to use, but this does not make the teaching less important or effective. As I read on in the introduction, to where Ellsworth says that secondary sources are not inferior to primary sources and a simple explanation of primary sources, but instead an attempt to refine or “make something (else) of them” (12), I realized that the author seems to be right. I also realized that I had fallen into the exact canon of thought that she describes, thinking that secondary sources are subordinate to primary ones.
My final thought after this initial reaction and subsequent realization was that this is not the first time this has occurred this semester. There have been many instances of our readings expanding my ideas about writing, a fact that will undoubtedly be beneficial to me as an educator.