1. There are two articles that form the foundation of this
lesson. The first article, “Pump Dreams: Is Energy
Independence an Impossible Goal?” was written
in October 2004 and therefore may be dated. But its
value lies in the fact that it does an excellent job
of explaining the complex nature of the United State’s
dependence on foreign oil and the realistic road to
greater self sufficiency in this area. It contains
facts about concepts that are often talked about but
rarely explained, such as who is in OPEC and how much
oil they have. It also has some subtle instances of
bias. However, you may wish to use a more current article.
Ask the students to read the article on their own
in the first class while doing three things: Writing
ideas of the article: Citing specific statistics that illuminate
the whole discussion on oil and coal as primary fuels for
the nation; and creating questions that either they have
the ideas in the article or that other students may have
as they try to understand the complicated material of
If any of this is not completed in the first class have the
students finish it for homework.
In the second class have a discussion where the students
share what the main ideas
of the article are. Use the blackboard
or the overhead projector to make a list of these. At the
same time the class can create a second list of pertinent
that go along with the main ideas and voice any questions
that they created to help understand the article. The questions
will vary from student to student as each will approach
the reading of the article with a slightly different
of the matters contained therein. As one student poses
a question ask the others for answers and/or explanations.
is a topic being studied in the physics class concurrently,
encourage responses that come from both the article and
beyond this particular lesson.
Next put together a list of words or phrases that exhibit
a subtle (or perhaps
not so subtle) bias on the part of
the author. Ask the students to speculate about the author’s
purpose in incorporating these. Does John Cassidy wish
to portray the Bush administration’s policy toward
oil and coal consumption in a certain light? When was
this article written
and what important event occurred less than a month afterwards?
(The 2004 presidential election) Do the students think
that any author can write without revealing some sort
bias? What are their expectations about impartiality
when they read a newspaper or magazine article or watch
the news on television or the radio or go to a website
on the Internet?
In the third class the students will need their articles
from physics class. Ask them to first
re-read their articles
looking for examples of bias. Then have the students
get together with a partner and exchange articles,
their article or a portion of their article, looking
for examples of bias. They should then compare their
In the last
third of class hold a class discussion in which the
examples of bias are shared. Do some students have articles
are so technical or so straightforward that they have
6. As we do research, it is always essential to use sources that contain both
valid information and are clear explanations of the facts. Ask the students to
ponder on whether we can ever get away from some sort of bias. Can an author
slant his or her article by appearing to write in a straightforward manner, but
by leaving certain facts or ideas out? Can an author subtly make one idea more
appealing by explaining it better while glossing over other ideas or making them
appear cumbersome or illogical? Once again revisit these questions. Do the students
think that any author can write without revealing some sort of personal bias?
What are their expectations about impartiality when they read a newspaper or
magazine article or watch or listen to the news on television or the radio or
go to a website on the Internet?
Assess the student learning in this lesson by looking
at the quality and quantity of responses in the class discussions.
Even if a student struggles with the information in the “Pump
Dreams” article he or she can ask solid questions
about things. Also look at the written work done. Although
none of this work needs to be handed in, you can evaluate
how engaged the student is with the individual parts of
the lesson by walking around and checking how much each
person has jotted down in preparation for the class discussions.
There is no
homework at the end of this lesson.