Tag Archives: readings/research

Otis Elevator

Here is a reading on the Otis Elevator company with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. As usual, David S. Kidder and Noah Oppenheim, the editors of the Intellectual Devotional series, ably synthesized Elisha Otis’s biography (he was, to my surprise, a farm boy from Halifax, Vermont) with the changes his invention wrought in American life–and in a one-page reading (!).

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Millions of Angels Dancing on a Pin

“The question of ‘How many angels could dance on a pin’ is often quoted as the essence of medieval scholasticism, a burning issue for the likes of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. In fact, although Scotus certainly troubled himself over the question of ‘Can several angels be in the same place?’ there is no mention of dancing on pins until it was raised as a mockery in the seventeenth century by Protestant academics. Still, it’s a question that ought to be answered and if we take an angel to be nor more or less than an atom, then 200,000 could fit in the width of a single human hair. More impressively, neuroscientist Anders Sandberg has come  up with the figure of 8.6766×1049 angels, based on theories of information physics and quantum gravity.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Minimum Wage

Here is a reading on the minimum wage and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. In three paragraphs, this reading does an admirable job (the guys who wrote and edited the Intellectual Devotional series are clearly masters of the art) of exposing the history of the minimum wage in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s broad array of New Deal legislation, the rationale for the law, and its practical effects on American social and economic history.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Two-Bit (adj)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective two-bit. I wonder if anyone knows these days that two bits means twenty-five cents. Two-bit, therefore, means “cheap or trivial of its kind,” “petty, and “small-time”; this document is keyed to those definitions as well.

Unless you plan to teach a reading unit on Damon Runyon, or cast a production of Guys and Dolls, I can’t imagine why any student needs to learn this vanishing adjective. I can, however, imagine, that this was the Word of the Day at Merriam-Webster at a moment in life when I had some time on my hands.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Ku Klux Klan

Here is a reading on the Ku Klux Klan along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I have almost posted these documents a number of times over the years, but always hesitated and returned them to the warehouse. I think, or at least hope, that the entirety of this blog exposes my attitude toward the KKK–I think they are a dangerous group of racists and hatemongers who bear watching–hence this reading.

Once again, the editors of the Intellectual Devotional series have not equivocated and in one page detailed the crimes of the Klan and its threat to the civil rights of people it hates. I think students really deserve the plain facts of this hate group’s existence and its aims. This short reading serves as a good general introduction to the KKK.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Toulmin Method of Argumentation

Ehninger and Brockreide introduced debaters to the informal logical model of Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher of science. Now almost every modern debate text uses the Toulmin Model as the method of teaching argument. Toulmin first explained this model in his 1958 book The Uses of Argument.

Toulmin argued that every argument (if it deserves to be called an argument) must consist of three elements: data, warrant, and claim.

The claim answers the question ‘What are you trying to get me to believe?’—it is the ending belief. Consider the following unit of proof: ‘Uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it. Because access to health care is a basic right, the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.’ The claim in this argument is that “the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.”

Data (sometimes also called evidence) answers the question ‘What have we got to go on?’—it is the beginning belief. In the foregoing example of a unit of proof, the data is the statement that ‘uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it.’ In the context of a debate round, a debater would be expected to offer statistics or an authoritative quotation to establish the trustworthiness of this data.

Warrant answers the question ‘How does that data lead to the claim?’—it is the connector between the beginning belief and the ending belief. In the unit of proof about health care, the warrant is the statement that ‘access to health care is a basic human right.’ A debater would be expected to offer some support for this warrant. Such support might come from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, from the preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, or by quoting a statement from a health care expert.

The most common argumentative inadequacy is the unwarranted claim—a debater merely makes a claim without attempting any type of support without attempting any type of support. Suppose a debater attacks the national health insurance proposal by declaring that ‘the cost of a national health insurance system would cause  the U.S. deficit to skyrocket.’ This is a claim, but it is not an argument because there is neither data nor warrant.

Sometimes a debater will offer data and claim but omit the warrant. Suppose the debater reads evidence that the U.S deficit now stands at $8.9 trillion and then makes the claim that ‘the cost of a national health insurance system would cause the U.S. deficit to skyrocket.’ Now that statement has data and claim, but the warrant is mission—there is nothing connecting the current sizable U.S. deficit to a claim that national health insurance will make this deficit substantially worse. Accordingly, the statement does not meet the definition of an argument.

Occasionally, a debater will present data without offering either a warrant or a claim–the debater simply presents an ‘interesting fact.’ Suppose in our national health insurance debate, a student reads a piece of evidence showing that Hillary Clinton, when she was first lady, proposed national health insurance in 1994. This data may well be accurate, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. There is no argument unless the data is connected to a claim through a warrant.”

Excerpted from: Edwards, Richard E. PhD. Competitive Debate: The Official Guide. New York: Penguin, 2008.

J.P. Morgan

Here is a reading on J.P. Morgan along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehensionn worksheet. By the standards of other readings from the Intellectual Devotional series, this one is relatively short. But it is a solid general introduction to the biography of the financier and includes the basic information about his role in United States economic history.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Creation Myths

“Creation Myths: Traditional stories that attempt to explain the origin of the world. The earliest known myth of the creation is from Sumer of the third millennium BC. First was the goddess Nammu, the primeval sea; she gave birth to An, the sky god, and Ki, the earth god—earth and sky, both solid elements, being joined together. Their offspring, Enlil, the god of air, separated them. He lighted the his realm by begetting Nanna, the moon god, who in turn father Utu, the sun god. Enlil next impregnated Ki, who gave birth to Enki, the god of water and of wisdom. Enki ordered the universe but was unable to create man—a task that the goddess Nintu accomplished by molding him of clay.

In the Babylonian creation myth of the War of the Gods (Enuma elish), Marduk forms man out of the blood and bones of Kingu, a henchman of the defeated Tiamat, An Egyptian belief was that the original sun god, Atum, standing on a mound in the midst of the slowly receding primeval waters, gave birth parthenogenetically to the other gods and to those parts of the universe that they embodied. According to the familiar biblical story, in the first chapter of Genesis, the universe and man were created by Yahweh in seven days, beginning with light and ending with man and woman. In the second chapter appears a variation on the creation of man, which is older and closer to a folk tale: woman is created of a rib detached from Adam while he sleeps. Christian theology added that the son and the holy ghost existed with Yahweh from before the creation. The Eastern branch of the church, however, denied that Jesus had existed from the beginning and the resulting filioque controversy was the ostensible cause of the split between Eastern and Western churches in 1054.

The first Greek description of creation, in the Theogony, attribute to Hesiod, seems to have been a theological elaboration of a genuine myth. First ot exist what Chaos, from which came Earth, Tartarus, Love, Darkness, and Night. Night and Darkness gave birth to Day and the upper air (Aether). Earth parthenogenetically produced Heaven, Mountains, and Sea. After this prelude, the Hesiodic version proceeds with nearly universal mythic elements, which are probably far older. Uniting with Heaven (Uranus), Earth (Ge) gave birth to Oceanus and the Titans. The last of these was Cronos, who overthrew and emasculated his father, only to be supplanted in turn by his son Zeus (see KUMARBI). A highly artificial myth current in the doctrines of Orphism claimed that Chaos, Night, and Darkness existed at the beginning; Love (Eros) sprang from an egg laid by Night and gave birth to the other gods. The creation of human beings seems not to have interested the Greeks very deeply; of various versions, the most prominent made Prometheus their creator—he having molded them of clay.

In Vedic mythology, creation began with Aditi, celestial space. Sky and Earth were sometimes regarded as the first goddesses, sometimes as the original male and female elements, which are known to so many other mythologies; later the sky was personified as Varuna. The first man was Manu; his daughter-mate Ida was born of the food that he offered as a sacrifice to Vishnu in gratitude for being saved from the flood.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Crusades

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Crusades. This is a half-page worksheet with a five-sentence reading and three comprehension questions. While it is a good general introduction to a complex series of events whose legacy remains very much with us today, it is obviously inadequate to the topic. Because, like almost everything else available for download at Mark’s Text Terminal, this is a Microsoft Word document, it can (and certainly should, in my estimation) be altered for the needs of your students.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, 19 November 2021: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on the Interstate Highway System

The passage of President Biden’s signature legislation, the Build Back Better Bill, strikes me as a perfect occasion to post as this week’s Text this reading on interstate highways in the United States, along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I think it’s important to note that a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, advanced the legislation enabling the construction of a national highway system of the scope our our interstates. What I mean to say here is that once upon a time, Republicans didn’t march in lockstep with each other in holding the idea that government investments in public works is “socialism.”

We take these highways for granted now, but when they were built, they eased shipping and leisure travel to an extent I think we now find difficult to imagine. They also homogenized American commercial culture and, over time, reduced regionalism, which as anyone familiar with the phrase “The Old Weird America” will understand and probably regret. Can I buy you lunch at Perkins/Stuckeys/McDonald’s/Cracker Barrel/Burger King ad nauseam (in some cases literally)?

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.