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.


Should drug store pharmacists be allowed to refuse to fill customers' prescriptions on moral grounds? In some states, such as Mississippi, South Dakota, and Arkansas, pharmacists can already choose not to dispense a medication if it goes against their conscience. They have the right, for example, to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth-control pills, "morning-after pills" that prevent fertilization of an egg, and drugs used for assisted suicide. Several other state legislatures, too, are trying to enact laws giving their pharmacists the right to object to these kinds of drugs. According to supporters, pharmacists should never be forced to choose between their moral beliefs and their livelihood. The American Pharmacists Association agrees, but with the stipulation that pharmacists transfer the patient's prescription to another druggist to fill. Some pharmacists, though, have also been refusing to provide a referral, causing advocates for women's reproductive rights, in particular, to protest. Pharmacists, they say, should not be permitted to impose their own personal morality upon others; neither should they be allowed to delay the filling process and cause patients to miss required doses of medication. (Source of information: Charisse Jones, "Druggists Refuse to Give Out Pill," USA Today, November 9, 2004, p. 3A)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of pharmacists' right to refuse to fill certain prescriptions.

b. The author is biased against pharmacists' right to refuse to fill certain prescriptions.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Since being exiled by the Chinese from his native Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama has evolved from a remote Asian country's religious leader to a worldwide spiritual guide. Unlike any Dalai Lama before him, he has traveled the globe, educating people about the plight of the six million Tibetans whose civil rights are threatened. In an attempt to protect his cherished culture and its Buddhist religion, he has successfully established more than 50 Tibetan communities in exile. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to the nonviolent liberation of Tibet. He has met with hundreds of political and religious leaders, including two popes. In his passionate quest to return his homeland to freedom and autonomy, this respected holy man has inspired people all over the world to work for justice and nonviolent conflict resolution. Perhaps more importantly, however, he has encouraged all of humanity to live with greater spirituality and humility. Although he never attempts to convert anyone to his faith, people the world over have flocked to his lectures and bought his many books to learn more about important Buddhist principles. As a consequence, individuals of all religions have become enlightened about the paths to greater wisdom, inner peace, and compassion. (Source of information: Pico Iyer, "Dalai Lama," Time, April 26, 2004, p. 126)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of the Dalai Lama and his activities.

b. The author is biased against the Dalai Lama and his activities.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


An Internet site called is providing a way for people in need of organ transplants to find their own donors. Advocates hail such online organ-matching sites as yet another way for the thousands of people on waiting lists to get the organ they need to stay alive. These advocates also point out that the clinical ethics committee at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver declares nothing wrong with making matches via the Internet. Nonetheless, much of the medical establishment still condemns the practice. According to medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, finding an organ donor online is "questionable because the people you are going to be matched with may not be people who are telling the truth." Furthermore, the nation's organ transplant officials are concerned about online matching leading to the buying and selling of organs. Although such transactions are illegal, online organ matching could make them more likely to take place in secret. What's more, the United Network for Organ Sharing, current distributor of organs from deceased donors, says that Internet organ matching could exploit vulnerable people and interfere with fair distribution. Although a donor cannot be paid for the organ itself, he or she can be reimbursed for travel expenses and lost wages. Therefore, recipients who can afford to pay for such things are more likely to make a match, further undermining a system already criticized for its financial disparities. (Source of information: Robert Davis, "Online Organ Match Raises Ethical Concerns," USA Today, October 26, 2004, p. 8D)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of online organ-matching sites.

b. The author is biased against online organ-matching sites.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Are America's Wal-Mart stores friends or foes? As its advertisements promise, the company is committed to bringing the lowest possible prices to its customers. Because it fulfills this promise, it has become the world's largest corporation, selling $244.5 billion of goods in 2003 alone. American shoppers obviously enjoy taking advantage of the stores' bargains, and many of them depend on the company for their income, as well. Wal-Mart has become the nation's largest private employer, with over 1.2 million people now on its payroll. The company opens new stores just about every week; therefore, it is credited with bringing jobs to communities where work is often scarce. However, critics of Wal-Mart point out that the company offers only low-paying positions, with an average wage of only about $8 per hour, along with a stingy benefits package. California Wal-Mart employees and their families need $82 million of taxpayers' money every year for health care, food stamps, and other social services. Clearly, Wal-Mart employees are just scraping by, but for some odd reason, many Americans still fail to acknowledge that a new Wal-Mart actually takes more from a community than it gives. Perhaps even more strangely, few Americans ever question why Wal-Mart can sell its products more cheaply than any other retailer, often driving its competition out of business. In fact, this retail powerhouse wipes out its vendors' profits by demanding unreasonably low wholesale prices. Many of these suppliers have had to close their plants, lay off their American employees, and begin importing cheaper products from overseas. (Sources of information: Charles Fishman, "The Wal-Mart You Don't Know," Fast Company, December 2003, p. 68; "Wal-Mart: No Bargain?" no author credited,, August 7, 2004,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of Wal-Mart stores.

b. The author is biased against Wal-Mart stores.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Now that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada, and Mexico is ten years old, there is still wide disagreement about whether its impact has been positive or negative. In 2002, the administration of President George W. Bush issued a statement celebrating NAFTA's accomplishments, saying that "the agreement has brought economic growth and rising standards of living for people in all three countries." Some top Mexican bureaucrats have echoed that belief, praising NAFTA for bringing to their country billions of dollars in foreign investment, a 50 percent growth in production, and a large increase in labor productivity. However, other experts, such John Cavanagh and Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies, have criticized the agreement and its legacy. "Workers, communities, and the environment in all three countries," wrote Cavanagh and Anderson, "have suffered from the agreement's flaws." They have pointed out, for example, that the wages of Mexican manufacturing jobs saw no increase from 1994 to 2000. In fact, 2000 wages were actually lower than they were in 1981. Cavanagh and Anderson have also criticized NAFTA for promising Mexico not only industrial growth but also a wide range of social and environmental advances that have yet to materialize. (Source of information: Celeste Fraser Delgado and Tristram Korten, "NAFTA: Saint or Sinner?" Miami New Times, November 13, 2003,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of NAFTA.

b. The author is biased against NAFTA.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.

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