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.


In 2003—and for the first time since 1971—America's 2,700 colleges and universities experienced a significant, 2.4 percent decline in foreign student enrollment. Some attribute the loss to the more complicated procedures for obtaining an American visa, which were instituted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Foreign students are being deterred by the complexities of dealing with the bureaucratic red tape designed to keep potential terrorists out of the United States. Still, though, many Americans believe that this red tape is absolutely necessary for their protection, even if it causes aggravation for innocent foreigners. Others, however, argue that the loss of foreign students is damaging to the country's national security. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell put it, "I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here." Powell and others maintain that foreign-born college graduates who go back to their homelands with American ideas and values ultimately help improve relations between the United States and other nations. Actually, the decline in foreign students hurts the U.S. economy. Educating foreign students brings $13 billion to the U.S. every year. Plus, foreign students are often inclined to get degrees in the sciences and engineering and can help make up for the shortfall of U.S. graduates in these fields. (Source of information: Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "You Can't Get Here From There," The New York Times, November 29, 2004,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of procedures that deter foreign students from enrolling in American colleges and universities.

b. The author is biased against procedures that deter foreign students from enrolling in American colleges and universities.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Because about 8,000 teenagers were killed in traffic accidents in 2003, many Americans are suggesting that the legal driving age should be raised from 16 to 17 years. Proponents of this change say that in the United States, 16-year-olds lack the maturity to drive responsibly, and that's the reason they have a crash rate five times greater than that of 18-year-olds. Advocates of raising the driving age also point out that in England, where the driving age is a much more sensible 17, teen fatality rates are lower than they are in the United States. Opponents of altering the driving age, however, say that 16-year-olds would be utterly devastated at having to wait even a measly twelve more months. Raising the driving age, they claim, would instigate an uproar among the growing numbers of youngsters who have already manipulated their parents into thinking that they are entitled to a car for their 16th birthday. They also point out, in what they apparently consider to be a serious objection, that increasing the driving age would upset those overworked parents who are tired of being full-time chauffeurs for their teenagers.(Source of information: Patrick Welsh, "Sweet 16: Not For Driving," USA Today, November 29, 2004, p. 15A)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of raising the driving age to 17.

b. The author is biased against raising the driving age to 17.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


In 1925, in what was to become one of the most famous trials of the twentieth century, Tennessee public school teacher John Scopes was convicted of teaching his students about evolution in violation of a new state law. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism, the Biblical view of the origin of life, violated the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Constitution. Today, the battle over what to teach students about the origins of life on Earth is still heated and getting hotter by the minute. Many Americans want their children taught that the Bible's version of how human life began is the correct one. Thus they want biology textbooks to present evolution as just another theory, one whose validity, or accuracy, can be questioned just like any other unproven theory or hypothesis. Somehow, the advocates of creationism are able to ignore all of the evidence that evolution is not a theory but rather a scientific fact grounded in hard evidence like the fossil record. Because so many parents do want to see evolution taught in the schools, administrators are bending over backwards to appease them. For instance, the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania insists that teachers present "alternative" views to evolution. Especially popular right now is the "intelligent design" hypothesis, which argues that life is so complex that some "intelligent force" must have been responsible. Although supporters of the "intelligent design" school don't identify the "intelligent force" as God, that's what most of them mean. Consequently, opponents of teaching children about creationism say correctly that it's really little more than "creationism in a tuxedo," and another attempt to blur the line between science and religion. (Source of information: Laura Parker, "School Science Debate Has Evolved," USA Today, November 29, 2004, p. 3A)

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of teaching children about creationism.

b. The author is biased against teaching children about creationism.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


A movement is building against the commercialism that surrounds Christmas. In 2003, Adbusters magazine, which argues in favor of a simpler, low-consumption lifestyle, persuaded 5 million people in 65 nations to observe "Buy Nothing Day" on the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season. The magazine also advocates No Buy Holidays, in which people spend time together rather than buying each other gifts. Books like "Hundred Dollar Holiday" encourage consumers to give the gift of time rather than store-bought items. And non-profit groups like the Center for a New American Dream echo the message that the commercialism of Christmas has gotten out of hand, leaving many Americans exhausted, depressed, and deeper in debt. That organization advocates donating to charities instead of buying gifts for family members and friends. Others, however, argue that Christmas commercialism is a good thing. Writer Richard Sincere has said that "every time you buy a Christmas gift—a toy, a CD player, a spice rack, a hunting rifle—you are helping to pay someone's wages. Millions of such purchases, made every day in the Christmas shopping season, keep factories open, keep workers employed, keep families fed." Because over 25 percent of the year's retail business occurs during the Christmas season, holiday commercialism is important to our country's economy. Without it, year-round prices would be a good deal higher. Furthermore, Andrew Bernstein of the Ayn Rand Institute argues that we should celebrate the commercialism of Christmas because it is a sign of material prosperity, and that in itself inspires good will and friendly feelings toward fellow citizens. (Sources of information: Mind Fetterman, "Some Americans Trim More Than the Tree," USA Today, November 26, 2004, p. 1A; Andrew Bernstein, "Celebrate Christmas Commercialism," Ayn Rand Institute, December 13, 2000,; Richard E. Sincere, Jr.,"The Moral Case for Christmas Commercialism," December 24, 1995,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of getting rid of the commercialism surrounding Christmas.

b. The author is biased against getting rid of the commercialism surrounding Christmas.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.


Are illegal immigrants good or bad for the U.S. economy? Several studies have indicated that the presence of illegal immigrants is good for the country because most will work in low-skill, low-paying jobs. For one thing, their labor keeps prices of many goods and services low. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, says that products and services are significantly cheaper in the U.S. than in Europe precisely because so much of the work is done by illegal workers. For example, a high concentration of undocumented workers in the agricultural industry keeps food prices down. Indeed, proponents of allowing illegal workers to stay in the country argue that the U.S. economy could not function without their work. Plus, the average illegal immigrant household pays about $4,200 a year in federal taxes, for an annual total of almost $16 billion. (Sources of information: Shihoko Goto, "Illegal Immigration Costing U.S. Taxpayers," The Washington Times, August 25, 2004,; Center for Immigration Studies, "The Costs of Illegal Immigration: The Impact of Illegal Aliens on the Federal Budget, August 25, 2004,

Evaluating Bias:

a. The author is biased in favor of keeping illegal immigrants in the U.S.

b. The author is biased against keeping illegal immigrants in the U.S.

c. The author reveals no personal bias.

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