Copyright 2001 © Laraine Flemming.
Copyright is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.
Directions: Identify the topic sentence for each paragraph and write the number (or numbers of the topic sentence) in the first blank at the end. Then look closely at each of the supporting details. If you find an irrelevant supporting detail, one that doesn’t support the main idea, write the number of that detail in the second blank at the end of the paragraph. If all the details support the main idea, put an X in the second blank instead of a number.
Note: Italicized vocabulary words are all defined at the end of the exercise. As you work your way through the passages, see if the context, or setting, can provide you with a definition for the italicized words. Then jot the definitions in the margins. When you finish the exercise, check your definitions against those on the list.
1. (1) “Anytime you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on this Earth.” (2) The words are those of Puerto Rican-born Roberto Clemente, who followed his own splendid advice and made full use of his time on earth. (3) Born on August 18, 1934, Roberto Clemente died on December 31, 1972. (4) A man who lived for much more than baseball, Clemente died in an airplane crash while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. (5) A humanitarian who committed himself to a variety of social causes, Clemente was also a baseball player nonpareil. (6) During his eighteen-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he twice won the Most Valuable Player award, once in 1966 and again in 1971. (7) In addition, he was the Pirates’ leader in games, hits, singles, and total bases. (8) In 1973, one year after his death, Clemente, who also commanded a huge following throughout Latin America, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. (1) Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar got his start in life as an army stenographer and went on to become the most powerful man in Cuba. (2) Batista had two different tours of duty as Cuba’s leader, and the difference between his two reigns could not have been greater. (3) The first time Batista came to power was 1933, after he led what came to be known as the “sergeants’ revolt,” in which members of the military deposed a corrupt and greedy government. (4) Between 1933 and 1939, Batista was Cuba’s de facto ruler, and by 1940 he was officially elected president. (5) His first presidency lasted four years, and during that time Batista improved education, developed the economy and brought Cuba a measure of prosperity. (6) In 1944, Batista retired only to return to power in 1952. (7) This time everything was different. (8) The newly reinstated president made Cuba a playground for the rich and a hell for the poor. (9) In return for a fortune in kickbacks, he allowed the Mafia to run gambling casinos and peddle prostitution. (10) When Fidel Castro toppled Batista’s regime, many Cubans were frightened by Castro’s revolutionary politics, but few were sorry about the fall of Batista. (11) Castro’s personal friend and top lieutenant, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was convinced that the Cuban revolution would spread to the rest of Latin America.
3. (1) If you live in or around California, where earthquakes are a more familiar threat than they are in the rest of the nation, you should know the correct answer to this question. (2) Which house has a better chance of surviving during an earthquake, one made of wood or one made of stone? (3) Most people think the correct answer is stone, but they’re wrong; wood frame houses have a far better chance of surviving a quake than do those made of stone. (4) When an earthquake struck Armenia, Columbia in 1999, the devastation was horrendous, with row after row of houses smashed to smithereens. (5) In 1995, Kobe, Japan suffered a huge earthquake in which many wood frame houses collapsed, but those houses were burdened by the traditional Japanese tile roofs that make Japan’s homes dangerously top heavy. (6) According to George W. Housner, professor of earthquake engineering at the California Institute of Technology, the disaster in Armenia was more the result of poor housing construction than the force of the earthquake. (7) Most of the houses in Armenia, and for that matter throughout Columbia, are made of stone, and stone lacks the flexibility of wood. (8) In an earthquake, it is only the flexible structures which survive a hard hit. (9) As Tom Henyey, a geological sciences professor at the University of Southern California succinctly expressed it: “If the structure doesn’t give during an earthquake, then it tends to be completely destroyed.”
4. (1) Even diehard technology fans may be appalled by a new computer called the “e-rater.” (2) What is the e-rater’s function you ask? (3) The e-rater was created to help grade the two essay questions appearing on the Graduate Management Admission Test. (4) In an effort to cut costs, the Graduate Management Admission Council decided that instead of two people grading one essay, there would be one person and one machine, the e-rater. (5) In an effort to arrive at an essay’s value, the e-rater will be looking for syntactic variety, such as varied word order and the use of different sentence types. (6) It will also search for transitional words like “first,” “second,” and “third.” (7) Presumably the presence of these words is evidence of an organized mind at work. (8) The most famous practitioner of the essay, and indeed it’s inventor, was the sixteenth century French writer, Michel Montaigne. (9) According to Frederic McHale, a member of the admission council, the e-rater is a technological triumph, “the most highly developed, holistic electronic writing assessment application to date.” (10) But technological marvel or not, the e-rater cannot evaluate word choice, recognize tone, or appreciate wit. (11) All of which leaves writers such as acclaimed essayist Cynthia Ozick skeptical of the e-rater’s judgement. (12) As Ozick puts it, “This is no way to teach anybody to think.”
5. (1) Dr. Robin McFee, who teaches a health course at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has noted a paradox related to the health of teenagers. (2) In general, teenagers are naturally healthy; their bodies possess an inherent strength and power. (3) During the teenage years, males and females can work hard or stay up late without experiencing fatigue. (4) It’s the time when playing basketball or baseball for three or four hours doesn’t result in aches and pains the next day. (5) Yet in some ways, the health of adolescents in the United States has actually declined over the last several decades. (6) According to Dr. McFee, the reason for this decline is that today’s teenagers engage in risky behavior that can have serious consequences. (7) About three-quarters of all the deaths among teenagers are the result of car crashes, murders, suicides, drowning or accidental poisoning. (8) In addition, every year about three million teenagers get a sexually transmitted disease while one-third are smokers and more prone to bad colds, chronic bronchitis and allergies.
6. (1) Whether or not beauty is culturally determined depends on whom you ask. (2) Psychologist and researcher Nancy Etcoff insists that the standards of physical beauty are the product of biology, not culture. (3) As proof of her claim, she points to studies of three-month-old babies who stare fixedly at the faces of men and women considered attractive by adults. (4) In other words, babies ogle Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise the same way we do, yet they clearly aren’t old enough to have been influenced by Calvin Klein advertisements. (5) More than anyone else, it has been Calvin Klein who has shaped our notion of sex appeal. (6) Etcoff also insists that most cultures generally concur on standards of beauty. (7) Large eyes, she claims, seem to be a constant as does a short distance between mouth and chin. (8) Cornell historian Joan Jacobs Blumberg disagrees with Etcoff’s thesis and points to the differing standards of beauty that have emerged throughout history. (9) The thinness considered so desirable today, for example, would have seemed unattractive in the seventeenth century when painters like Peter Paul Reubens were celebrating men and women --particularly women -- who were fleshy, even fat. (10) Among some societies, full body tattoos and extensive facial piercing are considered the highest forms of beauty, yet in the United States, most people would not be wildly attracted to a body covered in tattoos or a face carved into intricate designs. (11) It seems, then, that the jury is still out on the origins of beauty. (12) Maybe the standards of beauty are in our genes, and then again, they may be determined by when and where we live.
7. (1) In the 1850s, when hordes of easterners swarmed west in pursuit of gold, some of those easterners came from a lot farther away than Massachusetts or Connecticut. (2) For many Chinese immigrants, the American West was the land of opportunity, and the gold rush years in particular saw an enormous increase in Chinese immigration. (3) Yet it’s quite likely that if the Chinese had known what awaited them in the old West, they might have stayed home. (4) For the most part, European immigrants to the western frontier were welcomed. (5) Most Chinese immigrants worked on the railroads but some were employed to cook and clean in the mining camps. (6) Because they were willing to work for very little -- whatever they got paid, it was more than they had made in China -- and because they looked so obviously foreign, Chinese immigrants aroused the animosity of other mine and railroad workers. (7) Often Chinese workers were the object of violent attacks. (8) One of the most vicious took place in 1885 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, when a community of Chinese laborers was attacked by a mob of white mineworkers. (9) When the attack was over, twenty-eight Chinese immigrants were dead.
8. (1) One of the most sensational and the most popular of magical illusions, the trick of sawing a woman in half was first performed in 1921 by P.T. Selbit, who is credited for creating this spectacular stunt. (2) Houdini is the magician who invented the famous water chamber illusion. (3) As it turns out, the illusion actually involves two women, not one. (4) When the major prop, the wooden box, is first brought on stage, one woman is already hidden inside. (5) As the woman already on stage climbs into the box, her hidden counterpart pokes her feet out of one end and curls herself up with her head bending over her knees. (6) The second woman then sticks her head out the other end of the box, and draws her knees up to her chin. (8) With each woman nearly tucked into different ends of the box when the saw descends, the only thing it cuts through is air.
9. (1) Perhaps no aspect of American democracy is more confusing than the electoral college, which can, under the right circumstances, elect a president whom the majority of the voters did not choose. (2) The electoral college came into being because the Founding Fathers did not have complete faith in democracy. (3) To put the breaks on the democratic process in its pure form, they created the electoral college, which gave each state a certain number of “electors” equal to the number of its senators and representatives in Congress. (4) Based on the popular vote, each state had to then dedicate its electoral votes to a candidate chosen by the voters of that state, and the candidate with the majority of the electoral votes would win the election. (5) If, for some reason, the electoral vote failed to produce a clear winner, the election would be decided in the House of Representatives. (6) Because of how the electoral college is set up, big states like California have many more electoral votes than smaller ones like Connecticut. (7) Thus if a candidate wins a preponderance of states with lots of electoral votes, he or she does not necessarily have to win by the popular vote. (8) In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but failed to win the majority of electoral votes and John Quincy Adams became president. (9) When he did become president, Andrew Jackson was responsible for the heinous Removal Act of 1830, which forced the Cherokee from their lands. (10) In 1876, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but Rutherford B. Hayes managed to wangle enough electoral votes to become president. (11) In 1888, Grover Cleveland was elected by the voters but lost to Benjamin Harrison in the electoral college.
10. (1) World War II required tremendous sacrifices from those Americans who fought its battles. (2) However, those at home also had to make some sacrifices. (3) Perhaps the best screen portrayal of World War II was Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. (4) To save fuel for the war front, gasoline at home had to be strictly rationed, and driving for pleasure became a lost luxury. (5) In addition to gasoline, food was carefully rationed; coffee, sugar, flour, and milk were all in short supply. (6) Because soldiers at the front desperately needed wool clothing, wool at home was harder to get than coffee, and silk stockings -- the silk was needed for parachutes -- were nowhere to be found. (7) In February of 1942, the last new car rolled off the Detroit assembly lines, which then began producing only jeeps and tanks. (8) From that point on, buying a new car, even if your old one didn’t run any more, was pretty impossible. (9) The federal government also called for “meatless Mondays” and “wheatless Wednesdays” so that more bread and meat could be shipped to the war front. (10) Americans at home did not complain much. (11) Most were proud to contribute to the war effort.
Vocabulary from Quiz:
Spotting the Irrelevant Detail
|Paragraph 1:|| Humanitarian: A person committed to helping others
Nonpareil: Having no equal
|Paragraph 2:||Deposed: Removed from office
De facto: In reality although not officially
Prosperity: Wealth and good fortune
|Paragraph 3:||Devastation: Destruction
Smithereens: Splintered pieces
Succinctly: Clearly but briefly
|Paragraph 4:||Appalled: Horrified|
Syntactic: Having to do with word order
Presumably: Taken for granted
Holistic: Emphasizing the whole
Acclaimed: Praised, celebrated
|Paragraph 5:||Paradox: A seeming contradiction that makes sense upon closer inspection|
Inherent: By nature, inborn
|Paragraph 6:||Concur: Agree
Thesis: Point or idea
|Paragraph 7:||Animosity: Hostility|
|Paragraph 8:||Stunt: A daring trick
Prop: An object that serves as a support
Counterpart: One that closely resembles another
|Paragraph 9:||Electoral: Having to do with elections
Preponderance: Superiority in weight, importance, or influence
Wangle: Manipulate, get by trickery
|Paragraph 10:||Rationed: Dispensed in small portions|
Last change made to this page: August 13, 2001