Response paper

Please submit a minimum of five (5) detailed and discussion-provoking questions based on the recent reading assignments, video clips and the other websites assigned.

Only complete questions will earn credit. Therefore, it is important for you to think carefully about formulating the kinds of questions intended to stimulate conversations. Ask detailed and specific, rather than broad, general questions. Do not ask, for example, ‘When was the first Mission established in California?’ Instead, ask something like ‘What is the ideological agenda behind maintaining figures like Father Junipero Serra as heroic in California textbooks?’

Other examples include:

  1. Does recent news media coverage of the “riots” in Baltimore, Ferguson and other cities promote a message that is pro-police? If not, how does it engender understanding of the root causes of many of the frustrations of local residents?
  1. In the film “Banned in Arizona,” why does Superintendent Tom Horne argue in favor of “individualism” and why does he say that the Mexican American Studies program encourages radical thinking? What, if anything, is radical about the way those courses teach students in Tucson, Arizona?
  1. If the U.S. reinstated a Vietnam War era-like military draft instead of relying upon the current all-volunteer force, would current public support for war change at all? If so, how?

Please consider these guidelines in composing your questions:

1. Make certain to ask at least one question from each source.

2. Ask questions about things that interest you.

3. Write your questions as though you were asking them to the entire class.

4. Be sure to make specific reference to the readings in each question. Many good questions require at least two sentences.

5. Try and use the questions to critique the author’s opinion.

6. These homework questions should attempt to raise larger issues and—when possible—to relate the readings to issues in our current world.



“This week, I want us to think about the concept of bias, and its application in the places we consume information. This is tricky territory because even the very presentation of this unit is fraught with bias—my personal bias, or frame of reference. I’m going to ask you to read a collection of articles that I think are important, but they all clearly have a perspective and an agenda that comes from a particular worldview. So let’s get that out in the open. Maybe nothing in your liberal arts education is free from bias, but that does not mean we shy away from considering the information, ideas, arguments and critiques.

What is bias? For the purposes of our consideration, bias is really just about a set of values that can color or distort fair judgment. We can sometimes recognize obvious bias in others, especially when people use overtly discriminatory or offensive language, or have a clear political or ideological perspective that makes everything they present go through that lens. But more than anything else, I want us to think about bias in this way:

Bias is simply the product of information that is emphasized and/or omitted in order to present a picture of the news or of history or of anything important that carries an agenda. For example, a textbook that glorifies George Washington as one of the leading proponents of American freedom, but neglects to emphasize the fact that he owned over 300 slaves, is biased. This seems fairly obvious, except to those who have never learned the fact of his slave ownership. To them, the presentation of Washington as a great man is unquestioned fact.

Applying this test of emphasis and omission to other areas of information is critical if we are going to be better critical consumers of information. Applying this test to how we present facts and arguments makes us more intellectually honest as well.

Now, back to my own bias. I teach in Ethnic Studies, which has long been accused of having an inherent bias, since we emphasize certain histories and perspectives. The odd thing about that accusation, even if it has some validity, is that it is often made by people who think that leaving out these histories and perspectives is fair and free of bias. You might notice this when watching the video “Banned in Arizona.”  In fact, every history class makes selections about what is important to remember about the past. Every news director makes decisions about which stories get attention, or who gets interviewed. Bias is everywhere.

The problem is we won’t recognize it unless we constantly seek alternatives to mainstream “facts.” The following articles clearly reflect my own leanings, my own perspective of issues that I find important. But consider the critical thinking going on (or not going on) in the various articles, video, etc.

And this week, instead of your observations and critique of the readings, I’d like instead for you to pose a series of critical questions. Please see the Reading Response #3 assignment for details.

For now, please jump into the following material. There is a bit more assigned than usual, so don’t hesitate to get to work.

1. “Lying to Children About the California Missions and the Indians.”

2. “Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly to Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History.”–emailfield..syntax–recipientid~~&elqCampaignId=~~eloqua..type–campaign..campaignid–0..fieldname–id~~

3. “Why Don’t Americans Know What Really Happened in Vietnam?”

4. “Banned in Arizona”

5. “The Difficulty of Being an Informed American”

6. “In Boston, Media Again Trash a Police Shooting Victim By Uncritically “Reporting” Police Accusations.”

7. “How to Detect Bias in News Media”

8. “Project Censored: The News that Didn’t Make the News—and Why” (no specific reading, but browse the site for anything that interests you.)

9. Conservative media on Murrieta (From last summer’s story about unaccompanied immigrant children who were confronted by angry protesters in Southern California)

10. “Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally” (From a 2009 rally in Washington DC “organized” by then FOX News personality Glenn Beck. “

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