April 12, 2004


Last week I explored the Left-leaning tendencies of the textbook I'm using in teaching my ENGL 101 class. Today I started studying Chapter 9: Example.

The sample topic:

Write and essay that uses at least three extended examples to support the thesis that poverty exists in your neighborhood, town, or state.

Poverty is all relative; slums in the US are affluent neighborhoods in many places in the world. Wanna see what Iraqis live in near my husband?


But OK, fine. Some people are poor in the US by US standards. It's just the unquestioning assertion that "poverty is everywhere" that bugs me somehow.

Because the topic is already specified in the wording of the assignment, the aim of your prewriting efforts should be to find the area of poverty in your neighborhood, town, or state you wish to cover and to amass specific details that you can include in your examples. If you are like most of us, you will find poverty just around the corner. As a prewriting activity, we suggest you take a drive to the affected area and look it over for yourself. [emphasis mine]

That's not an objective sentence for an instructional textbook.

I also laughed when I saw that one of the essays in this chapter, given as a model of good example writing, is by Maureen Dowd. If you don't think my textbook leans Left, you're smoking crack.

The real kicker was at the very end of the chapter. There's ususally a photo writing assignment, where there's some photo that's supposed to make you think. This writing assignment makes me ashamed to be using this book:


The photo of a young girl peering from among a group of burka-clad Afghan women is an example of how a garment can represent a strong tradition. Write an essay in which you use two or three other examples of clothing that represents a tradition among some group.

In my world, the burka is not equal to lederhosen or a grass skirt.

Posted by Sarah at April 12, 2004 09:23 AM

I have an essay writing textbook dating back to '92. I hadn't looked at it for years, but recently I was browsing through it, and to my surprise, Andrew Sullivan was cited as an example. Naturally because he was writing about homosexuality, but I immediately thought that the author of the textbook probably didn't think Sullivan would become what he has.

As to the finding poverty writing assignment, I'd find examples of moral poverty, and intellectual poverty, rather than monetary. I'm perverse like that. The childless rich miser kinda theme, ya know....

Posted by: Blueshift at April 12, 2004 10:36 AM

Blueshift has a point about poverty. The braindead variety IS everywhere.

I wouldn't jump to quick conclusions about Dowd without looking at what example of her work is included. (Maybe you've already done that. Sorry if you have.) Prior to 9/11, I used to read Dowd and found her columns to be occasionally entertaining. She wrote a piece on Irish-American stereotypes on TV that might've come from my pen, er, keyboard. (Hollywoodizations of ethnicity irritate me.) If the essay is an old Dowd column, it might be OK; if it's post-9/11, then your suspicions may be on the mark. A Dowd essay is not the red flag that a Chomsky essay would be.

Posted by: Amritas at April 12, 2004 11:12 AM

Sarah, it's posts like this that have been making me check your site first thing in the morning each day. Thanks.

How about this essay question:

"Write and essay that uses at least three extended examples to support the thesis that Communist sympathizers and lackeys exist in your university, newspaper, television station or legislature."

Posted by: annika at April 12, 2004 07:18 PM

Could it be that the textbook you are using is meant for teaching anywhere in the world, where poverty exists all over?

Do you know that 25% of the children in the USA live below the official poverty line?

Do you see that someone with the opposite bias as yours, say an Islamic fundamentalist, would see that photo and caption and say that it is horribly biased against burqhas because the girl looks so unhappy, stuck between scary burqhas?

You people are hilarious, picking apart a textbook like that. Here is another take, the equivalent of your perceptions, from the other extreme, on your previous examples from the textbook:
1. A new real admiral takes over a fleet and waits for the enemy.
!!Pro-militaristic, pro-war, Right Wing Bias!
2. Baby boomers worry about inflation and interest rates.
Capitalistic, Imperialist, Right Wing Bias.
3. We must worry about nuclear holocaust.
Sounds like Condi Rice. Fear the Nukes, So Increase Defense Spending: Right Wing Militaristic Bias
4. Americans are intolerant.
And Proud of it? Good Old Boy Conservative Bias.
5. Tennis is a sport for the millions.
We all know tennis is mainly played by the wealthy. Upper Class Imperialistic Capitalist Bias.
6. We all struggle over physical traits that make us feel different.
Eugenics, Perfect Aryan Body Types: Right Wing Nazi Bias.
7. The government should provide jobs for everyone.
Full Employment, Mussolini’s promise to Italy: Fascist Bias.
8. Imagination is more important than knowledge.
? ? ?
9. Geoffrey was far from his goal of climbing the hill.
British Spelling of Geoffrey: Anglophilic Conservative Bias.
10.My anthropology teacher loved teaching.
OK, this is clear cut leftist bias. Anthropology=Darwin=antiBible, antiChristian Godless Communism!

There, 8 out of 10 showing clear cut right wing leanings. Now isn’t that a little bit ridiculous? As ridiculous as the other extreme?

Posted by: florian at April 12, 2004 09:56 PM

Florian, you've already said all that before. I thought you were over the top last week, and I still think so today. Posting it again doesn't make it better.

Posted by: Sarah at April 12, 2004 10:11 PM

I knew the above post was from Florian before I ever scrolled down to his/her name. Florian, you should really spend more time reading other blogs. You're extremely confrontational and argumentative. I'm tired of hearing what you have to say.

Posted by: Nancy at April 13, 2004 04:15 AM

I loved the opening, 'You people'. Those first two words display a mind closed to any discussion.

Posted by: Blueshift at April 13, 2004 05:27 AM

Confrontational? I used some humor in there. Or at least tried. Now, instead of nitpicking my word choice, how about addressing any of the points?

Posted by: florian at April 13, 2004 10:19 AM

florian, if you are really concerned about poverty, then go create some wealth. Poverty is the universal human default condition. Prosperity is the exception. Try learning enough of basic economics to understand why Western capitalistic societies are the exception to the general poverty of human history.

I don't think you care about poor people, witness your statements about the oppression of women in Moslem countries. Your hatred of the culture that makes your pathetic existence possible is just the externalizing of your self-loathing.

Posted by: Infidel at April 13, 2004 09:37 PM

Whoa, Infid., whose the one filled with bitterness and spite, there? And if you would read just slightly more carefully, you would see that my comment about the photo, re oppression of muslim women, was a representation of a ridiculously extreme Islamic fundamentalist view. In order to make a point that the views expressed on this textbook issue (seeing liberal bias behind every rock) are just as extreme in the other direction. Got it?

Sarah, you are right, my comments were intentionally over the top -- to show you how much yours are.

Posted by: florian at April 14, 2004 12:37 PM

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