Bridging Course: Basic models of summaries

In gSomeone Is Stealing Your Lifeh (The LA Weekly, 26 Jan. 1990), Michael Ventura argues that American workers are being treated as slaves, and calls on employers to value the contribution of workers to the success of companies. For the majority of Americans, the ideal that the individual is free to find his or her own happiness is an illusion. Employees have no control over any aspect of their work and the living standards that they are able to achieve by working have declined. Those who wish to control their working lives do so by becoming employers, but in order to become profitable, they have to exploit their workers to the full. The author accepts that successful entrepreneurs deserve high rewards for their hard work and the risks they have taken. He also recognizes the role played by investors. However, he argues that the success of a company derives from the hard work of the employees as well. They deserve to share in the rewards and they should also be involved in major company decisions since these affect their lives. The author asserts that his view is worth of consideration because it is based on his experience in a variety of lower paid jobs, not on academic study.

In gOur Schedules, Our Selvesh (Utne Reader, Jan.-Feb. 2003), Jay Walljasper points out that instead of increased leisure, technological progress has produced a situation where our lives are dominated by tightly organized schedules. There are three main causes. First, the increase in economic activity caused by globalization combined with the disenfranchisement of labor have forced lower-paid workers to work harder in order to make ends meet and put even higher-paid workers under more pressure. Second, new technology means that we can never be beyond the reach of the office. Finally, we are faced with a greater choice of leisure activities so we tend to overload even our non-work schedules. As a result, every second of our life is planned in advance and we have lost the freedom to act on impulse. One solution is political: to shorten working hours, increase paid holidays, and give workers more power in the workplace. Another is to change our attitudes to time, so that we control our schedules rather than being controlled by them.

In gLos Pobresh (an extract from Hunger of Memory, New York: Bantam Books, 1983), Richard Rodriguez describes the impact of an encounter with a group of unskilled Mexican laborers while he was working on a construction site during his university summer vacation. When he began the job he hoped that by experiencing physical labor, which his father considered to be genuine work, he would achieve a closer understanding of his immigrant roots. However, he realized three things. The first was that he would never reach a full understanding of the nature of physical labor because he knew that his experience of it was temporary. The second was his discovery that there was no one type of worker, but that they were all diverse individuals and that the majority were middle-class in their outlook. Third, the subdued behavior of the Mexicans helped him to understand how his access to higher education had given him the power to assert his rights. Because of his privileged background, he would never truly be able to understand the viewpoint of underprivileged members of society.

In "Students Shall Not Download. Yeah, Sure."(New York Times, 20.09.03), Kate Zernike describes the attitudes of students at Pennsylvania State University to illegal downloading of Internet material. She points out that while they are aware of the illegality, they think that is all right to ignore the law on this issue, just as they ignore the age limit on the consumption of alcohol. This attitude is encouraged by various factors: the ease by which they are able to download, their assumption that the Internet belongs to everyone, and the availability of Internet services on campus and their importance to university life. Warnings against illegal downloading from the university authorities have little effect because students do not agree that such downloading causes any harm. In fact, they argue that they spend money on bands that they would not know about had it not been for illegal downloads. Unlike older people, they see no point in paying money to buy a recording of a song. Threats of punishment make students more cautious, but in no way lead them to stop downloading.

Model answer to "Write a summary of Daniel Anderson's findings about television's influence on children, as explained by Madeline Drexler on pp. 176-178."

In "Don't Touch That Dial" (Boston Globe, 28.07.91), Madeline Drexler introduces the findings of Daniel Anderson, a psychologist and academic who thinks we should focus on the role of television in families and society as a whole rather than on its effect on children's mental development. In fact, he denies that watching television lowers IQ scores. Children watch television actively, learning to analyse the images that they see. Moreover, the time that they spend watching television is not time that would otherwise have been spent reading. The real debate should be about the possible effect of the content of television on children's ways of thinking, not about television-watching itself. Schools should use television as a way of teaching critical thinking. Parents should watch television with their children and talk about it, rather than using it as a baby-sitter. They should pay attention to the quality of what their children watch; if a child seems to watch too much, they need to ask what else the child has to do, and whether s/he is trying to escape real life for some reason.

Note: "Don't Touch That Dial" is the second article in this download.

Basic model (from New Directions, p. 59-63):
In "School is Bad for Children" (The Saturday Evening Post, 8.02.69), John Holt argues that orthodox education systems ruin children's emotional and intellectual development, and suggests various improvements. He points out that pre-school children are already skilled learners, since they ask questions about everything, are highly motivated and not afraid of experimenting or getting things wrong.. Instead of building on these strengths, however, schools adopt an authoritarian approach and isolate education from the real world. Children become passive and lose confidence. He thinks that the situation could be improved first by introducing more freedom and flexibility. Attendance would be voluntary, learning would take place outside the classroom as well as within, and non-teachers would share their experiences of life with children. In addition, he advocates interactive group learning, self-assessment and an end to the fixed core curriculum.