Reading Faster

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					    Reading Faster
        Gregory D. Loving, PhD
University of Cincinnati Clermont College

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                    Reading in College

Reading academic material is one of the big challenges of
college life. College students not only have to read more than
they ever have before, they have to read styles that they might
not have read without being forced to.

Reading a cheap novel or newspaper is a far cry from reading
academic material. Within academic material, reading
literature or history is a far cry from reading a biology or
algebra book. In this workshop, we will learn about how we
read and how to read faster with increased comprehension.

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              Fast Reading and Study Skills

Reading faster will definitely help you in your college
studies, but reading fast is not a substitute for a good study
plan. A good student does several things with a textbook in
addition to the actual reading. We will look briefly at a basic
plan of attack before we get into reading faster.

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Any time you read material from a textbook, you should first
determine your purpose in reading—

Will I be tested on this material?
How much detail will I be responsible for?
Am I reading this as research for a paper or as information
        for a class that may be on a test?
Do I just have to know the basic concepts?

Knowing why you are reading will help you get the
information you need.

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After determining your purpose in reading, skim the section
you intend to read. Look at introductory and summary
paragraphs, subject headings, first and last sentences of
paragraphs, charts and graphs, and any other material that will
give you an overview before you get down to reading. When
you know how the the pieces fit together, you will get more
out of your reading.

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Read only after you determine your purpose and skim the
selection. We will look at this part of the studying process—
the actual reading—in a moment.

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There are a variety of study techniques available to you after
you read the required material:

•You may go back and take notes on the reading, outline the
      reading, or write a summary of the reading.
•You may highlight the main points of the section so you can
      go back to the text and review the material quickly.
•You may even want to transfer things like formulas,
       facts and definitions to notecards to use in studying.
•You also may want to write down questions or comments
       that you would like to share with your professor.

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The whole point here is:

Learning to read fast can save you time, but do not neglect
your other responsibilities in studying a text.

Now that you have a better idea of where reading fits into
studying, we can deal with the subject of reading speed.

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                   The Need for Speed

Though there are ways you can increase your overall reading
speed, you will not be able to, nor will you want to, read all
kinds of texts at the same speed.

The more unfamiliar vocabulary a text has, the more time it
takes to read. Writing styles you are not used to reading will
also slow you down until you get into the swing of things.
You should read complicated explanations or arguments more
slowly so you don’t miss a step.

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Just remember to change gears if you think you are not
getting it all. As you learn more vocabulary and experience
more styles, you will naturally read faster.

 Speed helps, but speed is not your ultimate goal. When
reading for school, the ultimate goal is not to finish your
assignment in record time but to learn the material.

If you don’t learn the material, you will have to waste time re-
reading, which defeats the whole purpose of reading fast in
the first place.

The goal, then, is to read fast with comprehension.

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Here is an exercise that will illustrate some of this.

Words and phrases will pop up on the screen. Try to read and
remember them. Get some scratch paper to help you. After
the group of words, you’ll answer a few questions.

With pen and paper ready, click to continue and the exercise
will run automatically.

                           Click to continue
Red armadillo
To the moon
Slanted baggage
Jaldegnet flitzer
Chance of showers
Cool as a cucamunga
Character education
Recessive gene
Throatgrabber townhammer
Slide into home
Take a minute to write down what you remember.

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Now for some questions:

 1. What color was the armadillo?
 2. grabber town               .
 3. Cool as a          .
 4. To the             .
 5. Slide into         .
 6. What type of baggage?
 7. What is the weather going to be like?
 8. Character          .
 9. Jaldegnet          .
 10.             gene.

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            Here is the original list.
Check your answers and correct them if necessary.

               Red armadillo
               To the moon
               Slanted baggage
               Jaldegnet flitzer
               Chance of showers
               Cool as a cucamunga
               Character education
               Recessive gene
               Throatgrabber townhammer
               Slide into home
                   Click to continue
How did you do?

You might have noticed several things:

Phrases are easier to recognize if you are already familiar
with them.

You may also have been fooled by phrases that were close to
something familiar, and your mind leaped before it looked.

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Also, words that you are not used to seeing together are
harder to read.

Finally, words I made up may have been the hardest of all.

In general, familiarity speeds you up, lack of familiarity slows
you down. Different types of material will have different
challenge speeds for you.

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                   Your Reading Speed

Most people entering college read at about 150-250 words per
minute, about the same speed people talk. When you click
after you read this, a selection of text will appear on the
screen at about 170 words per minute to give you an idea of
how fast that is.

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All texts used in this presentation are from
      A Modern History Sourcebook:

   The following text is an exerpt from
        Geronimo, His own story

     Text will appear automatically in a few seconds
When an Indian has been wronged by a member of his tribe
he may, if he does not wish to settle the difficulty personally,
make complaint to the Chieftain.
If he is unable to meet the offending parties in a personal
encounter, and disdains to make complaint, anyone may in his
stead inform the chief of this conduct, and then it becomes
necessary to have an investigation or trial.
Both the accused and the accuser are entitled to witnesses,
and their witnesses are not interrupted in any way by
questions, but simply say what they wish to say in regard to
the matter.
The witnesses are not placed under oath, because it is not
believed that they will give false testimony in a matter
relating to their own people.
The chief of the tribe presides during these trials, but if it is a
serious offense he asks two or three leaders to sit with him.
These simply determine whether or not the man is guilty.
If he is not guilty the matter is ended, and the complaining
party has forfeited his right to take personal vengeance, for if
he wishes to take vengeance himself, he must object to the
trial which would prevent it.
If the accused is found guilty the injured party fixes the penalty,
which is generally confirmed by the chief and his associates.
Remember, that was about 170 words per minute. It may
have seemed fast or slow to you, depending on your current
reading speed of average difficulty material.

It’s easy to figure out your reading speed if you’re
up to a little math sometime.

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Get an average book with pages of solid text.

Count the words on one page: count the words in ten lines or
so and multiply the average number of words per line by the
number of lines on the page.

Read at a normal speed for ten minutes.

Multiply the number of words per page by the number of pages
you read, which will be the total number of words you read.

Then divide by ten, and this will give you number of words
read per minute.

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When we are reading for pleasure, we really don’t have to
read any faster than around 200 words per minute.

After all, no-one is breathing down your neck demanding that
you finish “Gone With the Wind” or that article in “WWF
Monthly” by Friday so you can take an exam on it.

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When we read for school, though, the object is usually to get
the job done, and we can’t take our sweet time about it.

The key to reading faster centers around the fact that we read
much like we talk—one word at a time.

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A large portion of reading time consists of the time it takes to
physically move your eyes from one word to the next.

Look at a word—
       focus on it—
              read it—
                      understand it—
move your eyes to the next word—
       focus on it—
              read it—
                      understand it—

And so on. Reading is actually more physical than we realize.

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The best way to increase reading speed is to look at more than
one word at a time. This can be easily accomplished using a
little bit of our peripheral vision.

On the next slide, a phrase will appear in the middle of the
screen. There will be a dot in the middle of the phrase.
Just look at the dot and see if you can read the whole phrase.

Resist the almost overpowering temptation to look at each
individual word.

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Arriving on Tuesday
It’s hard for most people to intentionally concentrate on the
dot and read the words without looking directly at them.

The phrase, by the way, was “Arriving on Tuesday.”

Now a series of words will appear around the dot. Just keep
staring at the dot and see if you can read the words.

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In the
still of the
night I
saw a
leaping armadillo.
That was “In the still of the night I saw a leaping armadillo.”

                    Let’s try another one.

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While at the
you may
chance upon
antique magazines.
                          That was

“While at the dentist you may chance upon antique magazines.”

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you can practice reading more than one word at a time with
real reading material by looking at several artificial points on
every line. You can literally put these points in with
something like a highlighter or pencil every inch or so, or you
can use imaginary points. Your aim in either case is to look
at these points and use your peripheral vision to read as many
words around the point as you can.

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Using the artificial point method is helpful, but it adds an
      extra step that you don’t have to go through
   (now that I’ve made you go through it, of course.)

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Looking at more than one word happens naturally if we force
ourselves to read faster. When we read faster than we are
used to, our eyes get used to reading single words faster.

When we push ourselves past about 300 words per minute,
our eyes start looking at two or three words at a time instead
of one (two or three words is the limit that most people’s
peripheral vision can read consistently with understanding.)

Looking at several words at once cuts out a lot of re-focusing
time, and therefore cuts reading time.

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There are a number of ways you can increase the speed your
eyes see the words on a page without intentionally looking at
an artificial point:

You can use a piece of paper or even your finger to sweep
down the page at a speed that challenges you, forcing yourself
to read at a faster pace. You’ll miss things in the beginning,
but your eyes will eventually adjust and you will start to read
faster, taking in more than one word at a time.

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You can also use electronically paced texts,
some of which you will experience in a few moments.

The low-tech method, however, is the most available and the
most flexible. You can do it anywhere, and speed up or slow
down whenever you need to.

It’s also cheap.

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After you practice for a few weeks or months, you should be
able to read average difficulty material at 400 to 500 words
per minute. Don’t get hung up on the number of words per
minute, though, just try to read faster.

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800 words per minute is about tops for human word
consumption. It may be hard to believe now, but when you
read at 800 words per minute, you actually can see every
individual word.

Any faster than 800 words per minute, though, and you start
skipping words and you’re technically skimming, not reading.

Skimming is fine for overviews before or after you read,
but it doesn’t replace reading.

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800 words per minute is the extreme top end of the scale.
College reading uses unfamiliar terminology and more
complicated sentence structure, which will slow you down.

500 words per minute is an admirable goal, and 300-400 words
per minute isn’t shabby either. You will read different types of
material at different paces anyway. Overall improvement is
more important than raw speed, and comprehension is the most
important thing of all.

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This leads us to another advantage of reading faster:

      Did you ever stop reading and realize
  you have no idea what the last five pages said?

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In the split-seconds between words, your brain has time to
think about stuff like what you had for breakfast, what you’re
doing this weekend, duckbill platypuses, or whatever.

When we read faster, our brains stay interested because
information is coming in faster and those pesky neurons don’t
have time to do anything else besides read.

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   When your brain stays interested, your comprehension
increases. Learning to read faster, then, gives you a double
 payback—you save time and you increase comprehension.

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                         The Exercises
In the exercises that follow, text will appear on the screen at a
predetermined pace. Just follow along. Do not be surprised
if you can’t read everything. The whole point of these
exercises is to challenge you.

Don’t consciously try to look at groups of words. Your eyes
will do that for you when you are reading at uncomfortably
fast but understandable speeds.

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               Reading Speed Examples

   Let’s give you a sample of various reading speeds.
We’ve already seen 170 words per minute, so let’s start off
        with a selection at 250 words per minute.

                  Just sit back and read.

                       Click to continue
            Alexis de Tocqueville
         Democracy in America (1831)

       Excerpts from Book 1, Chapter 13:

On my arrival in the United States I was surprised to find so
much distinguished talent among the citizens and so little
among the heads of the government.
It is a constant fact that at the present day the ablest men in
the United States are rarely placed at the head of affairs; and
it must be acknowledged that such has been the result in
proportion as democracy has exceeded all its former limits.
The race of American statesmen has evidently dwindled most
remarkably in the course of the last fifty years. The greater or
lesser ease with which people can live without working is a
sure index of intellectual progress.
This boundary is more remote in some countries and more
restricted in others, but it must exist somewhere as long as the
people are forced to work in order to procure the means of
subsistence; that is to say,
as long as they continue to be the people. It is therefore quite
as difficult to imagine a state in which all the citizens are very
well informed as a state in which they are all wealthy; these
two difficulties are correlative.
 I readily admit that the mass of the citizens sincerely wish to
promote the welfare of the country; nay, more, I even grant
that the lower classes mix fewer considerations of personal
interest with their patriotism than the higher orders;
but it is always more or less difficult for them to discern the
best means of attaining the end which they sincerely desire.
Long and patient observation and much acquired knowledge
are requisite to form a just estimate of the character
of a single individual. Men of the greatest genius often fail to
do it, and can it be supposed that the common people will
always succeed? The people have neither the time nor the
means for an investigation of this kind.
Their conclusions are hastily formed from a superficial
inspection of the more prominent features of a question.
Hence it often happens that mountebanks of all sorts are able
to please the people, while their truest friends
frequently fail to gain their confidence. While the natural
instincts of democracy induce the people to reject
distinguished citizens as their rulers, an instinct not less
strong induces able men to retire from the political arena,
in which it is so difficult to retain their independence, or to
advance without becoming servile. This opinion has been
candidly expressed by Chancellor Kent, who says,
in speaking with high praise of that part of the Constitution
which empowers the executive to nominate the judges: “It is
indeed probable that the men who are best fitted to discharge
the duties of this high office would have too much reserve in
their manners, and too much austerity in their principles, for
them to be returned by the majority at an election
where universal suffrage is adopted.” Such were the opinions
which were printed without contradiction in America in the
year 1830! I hold it to be sufficiently demonstrated
that universal suffrage is by no means a guarantee of the
wisdom of the popular choice. Whatever its advantages may
be, this is not one of them.
             Here’s 350 words per minute,

from Cecile Augon, Social France in the XVIIthe Century,
       Report of the Estates of Normandy (1651)

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Of the 450 sick persons whom the inhabitants were unable to
relieve, 200 were turned out, and these we saw die one by one
as they lay on the roadside.
A large number still remain, and to each of them it is only
possible to dole out the least scrap of bread. We only give
bread to those who would otherwise die.
The staple dish here consists of mice, which the inhabitants
hunt, so desperate are they from hunger.
They devour roots which the animals cannot eat; one can, in
fact, not put into words the things one sees....
This narrative, far from exaggerating, rather understates the
horror of the case, for it does not record the hundredth part of
the misery in this district.
Those who have not witnessed it with their own eyes cannot
imagine how great it is. Not a day passes but at least 200
people die of famine in the two provinces.
We certify to having ourselves seen herds, not of cattle, but of
men and women, wandering about the fields between Rheims
and Rhétel, turning up the earth like pigs to find a few roots;
and as they can only find rotten ones, and not half enough
of them, they become so weak that they have not strength
left to seek food.
The parish priest at Boult, whose letter we enclose, tells us he
has buried three of his parishioners who died of hunger.
The rest subsisted on chopped straw mixed with earth, of
which they composed a food which cannot be called bread.
Other persons in the same place lived on the bodies of
animals which had died of disease, and which the curé,
otherwise unable to help his people, allowed them to roast at
the presbytery fire.
From Letters of the Abbess of Port-Royal (1649)

This poor country is a horrible sight;
it is stripped of everything.
The soldiers take possession of the farms and have the corn
threshed, but will not give a single grain to the owners who
beg it as an alms.
It is impossible to plough. There are no more horses all
have been carried off. The peasants are reduced to sleeping
in the woods and are thankful to have them as a refuge
from murderers.
And if they only had enough bread to half satisfy their
hunger, they would indeed count themselves happy.
(1652) People massacre each other daily with every sort of
cruelty.... The soldiers steal from one another when they have
denuded every one else,
and as they spoil more property than they carry off, they
are themselves often reduced to starvation, and can find no
more to annex.
All the armies are equally undisciplined and vie with one
another in lawlessness.
The authorities in Paris are trying to send back the peasants to
gather in the corn; but as soon as it is reaped the marauders
come to slay and steal, and disperse all in a general rout.
 Now we’ll go to a brisk 500 words per minute.

        The next few selections are from


Courtesy of the National Women’s History Project

                  Click to continue
Women won the vote. They were not given it or granted it.
Women won it as truly as any political campaign is
ultimately won or lost.
And they won it by the slimmest of margins, which only
underscores the difficulty and magnitude of their victories.
Take the successful California referendum campaign of
1911, for example. The margin of victory there was just one
vote per precinct!
In the House of Representatives, suffrage passed the first time
by exactly the number of votes needed,
with one supporter being carried in from the hospital
and another leaving his wife's deathbed to be there to
cast their votes.
In the Senate, suffrage passed with just two votes to spare.
When the Nineteenth Amendment was sent to the states
for ratification, Tennessee, the last state, passed it by a
single vote, at the very last minute, during a recount!
Consider this for a moment: Women were a poor and
disenfranchised class when they first organized to gain
political power in the mid-1800s.
Their struggle for the ballot took over 70 years of constant,
determined campaigning, yet it did not take a single life,
and its success has endured.
Compare this with male-led independence movements.
Without firing a shot, throwing a rock, or issuing a
personal threat, women won for themselves
rights that men have launched violent rebellions to achieve.
The suffragists' deliberate rejection of violence may be
one of the reasons the movement has not received the
attention that is lavished on other, more bloody periods
of American history.
But this neglect should not deceive us; this struggle was
waged every bit as seriously as any struggle for equality.
We would do well to consider how women were able to do
what men have rarely even tried to do, change society in a
positive and lasting way without violence and death.
But despite all of this, the suffrage movement has been
routinely and consistently ignored by mainstream historians.
And when it has not been ignored it has been substantially
misrepresented. The result is our mistaken notion that
the suffrage movement was an inconsequential cause, one
hardly worthy of our attention, much less our respect.
The woman suffrage movement is often treated as a lone
curiosity with nothing much to teach us, or worse, as a target
for clever academics to critique.
Fortunately, there have been some notable exceptions, but
this attitude lies at the heart of the problem.
But when we take a closer look at the history of the
American woman suffrage movement we can see
something very different.
What we can see is definitely not a dour, old-woman
cause benevolently recognized by Congressional gods.
We can see a movement of female organizers,
leaders, politicians, journalists, visionaries, rabble
rousers, and warriors.
We can see an active, controversial, passionate
movement of the best and the brightest women in
America, from all backgrounds, who,
as we say today, boldly went
where no women had ever gone before.
Here is 800 words per minute, the limit between reading and

                       Click to continue
It is important to remember that men were suffragists, too.
The suffrage movement both included men as supporters and
depended on the votes that only men could cast.
Even when state suffrage measures were lost, the question
often received tens of thousands of male votes of approval.
And, of course, it was a virtually all-male Senate and House
that approved the amendment, along with 36 virtually all-
male state legislatures that ratified it. Many courageous men
risked ridicule and worse to actively support women's rights.
In my opinion, those men are far better role models for us
today than many better-known political and military figures
in American history. You do not need to be female,
consider yourself a feminist or even political, to enjoy
learning about the suffrage movement. For while the subject
is woman suffrage, the larger story is about democracy,
and how a powerless class of Americans won concessions
and guarantees from those in power without the use of
violence. In learning about the suffrage movement,
you will find a new view of American history, brimming
with new heroes. Next to George Washington and his
cherry tree we can set young Carrie Chapman Catt driving a
wagon across the prairie by "dead reckoning"
or brave Lucretia Mott trusting her own safety to a
member of the mob roused against her. Let us honor
Sojourner Truth no less than Patrick Henry, and Alice
Paul no less than Woodrow Wilson.
The celebration of the suffrage movement victory holds a
particular relevance now, as it has helped lead us as a country
and a people to where we are today. It celebrates a substantial
milestone on the road to equal rights for women, and it
honors those who helped win the day. It puts women back
into our national history as active participants. It reminds us
of the necessity of progressive leaders, organizers, and
visionaries in every local community. It is the origin of the
yet-unpassed Equal Rights Amendment. It exposes the
misplaced fears and prejudices of those who oppose equal
rights for women, and offers a sobering reminder that too
many of these same foolish, reactionary attitudes from 100
years ago still exist today.
Clearly, the wider goal of women's full equality and freedom
has not yet been achieved, but the victorious woman suffrage
movement offers a new generation of activists a solid base on
which to build for the future.
                     Just for torture,
let’s double the 800 and see what 1600 words per minute
                 looks like, whizzing by.

      This text is a speech by Barry M. Goldwater,
“Ban on Gays is Senseless Attempt to Stall the Inevitable”

                      Click to continue
After more than 50 years in the military and politics, I am still
amazed to see how upset people can get over nothing. Lifting
the ban on gays in the military isn't exactly nothing,
but it's pretty damned close. Everyone knows that gays have
served honorably in the military since at least the time of
Julius Caesar. They'll still be serving long after we're all
dead and buried. That should not surprise anyone. But
most Americans should be shocked to know that while
the country's economy is going down the tubes,
the military has wasted half a billion dollars over the past
decade chasing down gays and running them out of the
armed services. It's no great secret that
military studies have proved again and again that there's no
valid reason for keeping the ban on gays. Some thought gays
were crazy, but then found that wasn't true.
Then they decided that gays were a security risk, but again
the Department of Defense decided that wasn't so-in fact, one
study by the Navy in 1956 that was never made public
found gays to be good security risks. Even Larry Korb,
President Reagan's man in charge of implementing the
Pentagon ban on gays, now admits that it was a dumb idea.
No wonder my friend Dick Cheney, secretary of defense
under President Bush, called it "a bit of an old chestnut"
When the facts lead to one conlusion,
I say it's time to act, not to hide. The country and the military
know that eventually the ban will be lifted. The only
remaining questions are how much muck we will all
be dragged through, and how many brave Americans like
Tom Paniccia and Margarethe Cammermeyer will have
their lives and careers destroyed in a senseless attempt to
stall the inevitable.
Some in congress think I'm wrong. They say we absolutely
must continue to discriminate, or all hell will break loose.
Who knows, they say, perhaps our soldiers may even
take up arms against each other. Well, that's just stupid.
Years ago, I was a lieutenant in charge of an all-black unit.
Military leaders at the time believed that blacks
lacked leadership potential - period. That seems ridiculous
now, as it should. Now, each and every man and woman who
serves this nation takes orders from a black man
- our own Gen. Colin Powell. Nobody thought that blacks
or women could ever be integrated into the military. Many
thought that an all-volunteer force could never
protect our national interest. Well, it has, and despite those
who feared the worst - I among them - we are still the best
and will continue to be.
The point is that decisions are always a lot easier to make
in hindsight. but we seldom have that luxury. That's why
the future of our country depends on leadership,
and that's what we need now. I served in the armed forces.
I have flown more than 150 of the best fighter planes and
bombers this country manufactured.
I founded the Arizona National Guard. I chaired the Senate
Armed Services Committee. And I think it's high time to pull
the curtains on this charade of policy.
What should undermine our readiness would be a
compromise policy like "Don't ask, don't tell." That
compromise doesn't deal with the issue - it tries to hide it.
We have wasted enough precious time, money and talent
trying to persecute and pretend. It's time to stop burying our
heads in the sand and denying reality for the sake of politics.
It's time to deal with this straight on and be done with it.
It's time to get on with more important business. The
conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one
of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out
of people's private lives. Government governs best when it
governs least - and stays out of the impossible
task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's
version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating
discrimination against gays.
When you get down to it, no American able to serve should
be allowed, much less given an excuse, not to serve his or her
country. We need all our talent.
If I were in the Senate today, I would rise on the Senate floor
in support of our commander in chief. He may be a Democrat,
but he happens to be right on this question.
Now it’s time for you to practice on you own.

You can either use the paper/finger technique to make
yourself read faster, or use more computerized speed-texts
to sharpen your skills.

Calculate your reading speed every once in a while on
various types of material to see how you’re doing.

Come back to this workshop occasionally to see if it’s any
easier at the higher speeds.