Reading for Thinking - Online Practice:
Detecting Bias

Copyright © 2005 Laraine Flemming.
General distribution outside the classroom and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Click the appropriate button to indicate the presence or absence of bias in each passage. Then click the "Submit" button.


Miracles have been defined as divinely caused violations of the rules of natural order. In other words, miracles are events that defy reason and suggest supernatural intervention. Take, for example, the miraculous cures at Lourdes. The International Medical Committee of Lourdes, a group of about twenty French doctors, has certified 2,000 unexplained "cures" taking place after people visited the spring where St. Bernadette allegedly saw visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858. For many people, the healing of the sick at Lourdes is a miracle, and the Catholic Church itself officially recognizes 66 of the miracles supposedly performed at Lourdes. Remember, though, that the Catholic Church has also been forced to declare many other "miraculous" events to be hoaxes. For instance, a statue in a church in Thornton, California supposedly wept and walked around the church at night. Yet no one ever witnessed the statue actually moving. When church officials conducted an investigation, they had to pronounce the wandering statue a fraud. Indeed, both church-sponsored and private investigations of miracles led to logical explanations, often revealing fakes in the process. Every time investigators, such as skeptic and author Joe Nickell, are given the chance to use stethoscopes, X-rays, chemical analyses, and other scientific tools to examine so-called miracles such as crying or bleeding statues, statues with heartbeats, and people with stigmata (wounds like those of Christ), they easily debunk the supposed miraculous occurrence. (Source of information: John C. Snider, "The Joe Nickell Files: Miracles," SciFi Dimensions, June 2004,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author shows a bias in favor of miracles.

b. The author is biased against the existence of miracles.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Some Americans have suggested replacing our personal income and payroll tax system with a national sales tax. According to supporters of this idea, eliminating income tax would allow us to get rid of those long, complicated tax forms we have to fill out every year. The simpler national sales tax system would allow us all to pay our fair share every time we bought something. Plus, we would get bigger paychecks. Critics of a national sales tax system, however, argue that our government must annually collect about $1.5 trillion to pay its expenses. Even with a national sales tax, certain tax exemptions and deductions would still need to apply. For example, to protect the poor, the tax exemption on food would have to remain intact. To help people buy homes and afford medical care, deductions for mortgage interest and medical expenses would somehow have to stay in place. Raising enough money while retaining these elements of the current tax system would require the national sales tax rate to be a whopping 25 percent. So, we might all make more, but we'd also be giving out a lot more money at the cash register. Of course, higher-wage earners would probably not be affected much. The hardest-hit would be America's low-earning citizens, who pay little to no taxes under our current system. With a national sales tax system, many items they can afford now would be suddenly and unfairly priced right out of their reach. (Source of information: Daniel Altman, "What If a Sales Tax Were the Only Tax?" The New York Times, October 17, 2004,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author shows a bias in favor of those who support a national sales tax system.

b. The author is biased against those who support a national sales tax system.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Some education experts say that the choice of a college major is the most important decision a student makes, while others argue that the decision is not that critical. Paul Harrington, Neeta Fogg, and Thomas Harrington, authors of the College Majors Handbook, emphasize the importance of choosing a major. The world today, they argue, is a less forgiving place than it was twenty-five or thirty years ago. Therefore, those with clear career direction at the beginning of their college studies have more of an advantage. These authors claim that going to college with the intention of exploring one's interests and talents is a bad idea. Instead, students should get focused as soon as possible, especially if they hope to prepare for high-paying career fields like engineering and medicine. An author with a completely different point of view, however, is Donald Asher, author of How to Get a Job with Any Major. Asher argues against rushing college students into choosing a major. He acknowledges that not every major will prepare a student for any career, but he also notes that most people wind up in jobs unrelated to their college studies anyway. Therefore, many college graduates are able to pursue positions in different fields, not just the ones directly related to their majors. Asher also points out that the average person switches careers, sometimes dramatically, three to five different times. Thus, Asher says, "The most important thing for students to find out in college is what really turns them on." (Sources of information: Mary Beth Marklein, "The 'Major' Dilemma," USA Today, August 5, 2004, p. 6D; Mary Beth Marklein, "Another View: Any Field Will Do," USA Today, August 5, 2004, p. 6D)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author shows a bias in favor of those who believe college students need to choose a major right away.

b. The author is biased against those who believe that students should not rush into choosing a major.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Head Start is the national program designed to help America's poorest kids overcome the negative effects of poverty. The program's goal is to provide education, health, nutrition, and social services for disadvantaged children and their families. However, the program's effectiveness in meeting this objective has been the subject of debate. Head Start advocates claim that 40 years of research have proven that the program definitely improves the lives of the children it serves. For example, studies indicate that Head Start graduates, by the spring of their kindergarten year, are at or near the national average in early reading and close to meeting national norms in early math and vocabulary knowledge. In addition, a recent University of California study concluded that every tax dollar invested in Head Start saves society nearly $9 in other costs. Oddly, however, critics argue that Head Start has achieved no better results than day care. In fact, they persist in spreading the myth that the Head Start advantage is only temporary. Admittedly, initial IQ gains produced by Head Start during a child's period of attendance do gradually fade out, but this is true for any preschool education program beginning after age three. Besides, IQ is only one contributing factor for success. Other measures of school progress indicate that Head Start graduates repeat grades less often, are placed in special education classes less frequently, and graduate from high school more often than disadvantaged non-Head Start children. (W. Steven Barnett, "Head Start: Research Shows the Way," National Head Start Association, January 29, 2003,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author shows a bias in favor of the Head Start program.

b. The author is biased against the Head Start program.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.

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