Thursday, January 21, 2021

News Media




News Media



nce upon a time, a man named John Doe decided to enter the political arena and run for office. He ran for city council and won. Unfortunately, his ideas ran contrary to the views of the local news media.

At one meeting, Mr. Doe proposed some infrastructure work. “For example, we might pave the sidewalks in town,” he suggested. “That would result in safer, easier walking, and it would upgrade our town’s image. After all, no more tracking mud into our homes and stores would be a significant positive for everyone.”

The next day, the local paper, the Clarion, ran this article:

 Doe Proposes Wasting Taxpayer Money

In a poorly thought-through idea and demonstrating an astonishing lack of fiscal responsibility, first-term Councilman John Doe shocked yesterday’s council meeting by proposing out of thin air that an unspecified—but likely very large—amount of money be spent to improve Pleasantville’s already perfectly good infrastructure, making the suggested expenditure a waste.

And as if that weren’t enough foolishness, Doe added insult to injury by claiming that throwing money away on infrastructure would “upgrade the town’s image,” implying that Pleasantville suffers from a negative image. If so, it’s people like Doe who are contributing to it.

This sort of scurrilous attack on the good people of this city is intolerable. Just who does Doe think he is that he can feel free to cast disrespectful calumnies on this nationally well-respected town? Such an insufferable insult should be . . . [Etc.].

 The next day, a reporter from the Clarion interviewed his colleague sitting next to him in the news room.

“Hey Tom, why do you think this Doe character proposed putting in sidewalks?” the reporter asked.

“Who knows? Maybe he’s just a do-gooder. Or maybe he owns stock in the paving company. Or maybe he took a bribe from the concrete plant. Anything’s possible these days.”

The next day, the Clarion ran this story:

 Councilman Might Have Taken A Bribe

Sources speculated yesterday that Councilman John Doe might have taken a bribe from a company potentially involved in completing the infrastructure project Doe proposed at a recent council meeting. The fact that observers could identify no other reason for the proposed “improvements” lends weight to the bribery possibility.

Not only is taking a bribe reprehensible in itself, but it is inexcusable in the context of local government, where small municipalities have limited resources. To think that Doe is willing to cash in on his friends and neighbors is just despicable and tells us that he does not understand even the basic principles of local government. How such a self-serving, seemingly dishonest person could ever get elected . . . [Etc.].

Mr. Doe was understandably upset by this charge, so he called the Clarion to protest.

“I have never taken a bribe for any purpose, nor would I,” he said.

The next day the Clarion ran the following news:

 Councilman Doe Denies Taking A Bribe

Yesterday, Councilman John Doe, already embroiled in a pay-for-play controversy over accusations that he has taken one or more bribes in exchange for proposing unneeded make-work projects in the city, collapsed under public pressure amid the whispering campaign that had concluded not only was he guilty of the extortion attempts, but was actively pursuing other payola schemes of a similar kind but with potentially greater payoffs.

Of course, Doe denied, a little bit too artfully, that he had ever taken one or several bribes in order to propose ridiculously expensive and wasteful infrastructure projects around town.

Such projects would, of course, need to be paid for by stealing taxpayer money from other accounts in the city’s already very tight budget. Perhaps school bus service and school lunches would be eliminated, forcing our youngsters to walk to school, often in dangerous neighborhoods. Even those who weren’t victimized by crime would be unable to concentrate because of the distracting discomfort that an empty stomach and lack of essential food intake would cause. But then, Councilman Doe apparently does not care about. . . [Etc.].

 Once again, Mr. Doe could not let such remarks pass without comment, so he went downtown to the Clarion offices and talked to the editors.

“My proposal,” he told them, “would be paid for by long-term municipal bonds, repaid over thirty years through a few dollars a year increase in property tax. There would be no impact on the current city budget.”

The next day, the Clarion featured this article:

 Councilman Proposes Huge  Tax Increase

In an interview at the Clarion yesterday, inexperienced councilman John Doe revealed himself as just another tax-and-spend politician when he proposed a ruinous debt to pay for his foolish and unnecessary infrastructure idea by imposing a needless, heavy, thirty-year tax burden on city taxpayers, their children, and their grand children. When concerned citizen Ernie Mellick was asked what he thought about the councilman’s ridiculous proposal, he replied, “I don’t think we want no crooked bribers rising our taxes. They is just too much [expletive deleted] corruption around here, anyway.”

Ten other citizens were asked, and they all rejected Doe’s preposterous proposal scornfully. Molly Beartree commented, “I heard that Doe wants to pay for his plan by stealing food from the mouths of babes and children. No more school lunch. That means that if Doe gets his way, kids will starve. Sick children will die. He’s an evil man.”

Another citizen added, “Doe is a murderer.”


 Nearby on the first page, was another article.

 Protest Planned

Over Crazy Doe Proposal

Molly Beartree, a long-time, well respected resident of Pleasantville, told the Clarion today that she is fed up with the “idiocy,” as she puts it, of Councilman John Doe’s proposal to slap a ruinous thirty-year tax on residents to pay for what some have said is a project born of bribery. “I’m sick and tired of all the underhanded crookedness going on in this town,” she said. “It’s time we made our voices heard.”

Asked if she planned to get together with angry friends to protest against the councilman, Mrs. Beartree said that was a possibility. “We just might do that tonight. We’re meeting in Smith Park at 8:00 pm. We have signs already made.”


That night a few dozen protesters met at the park where Mrs. Beartree spoke to them. She informed the crowd about Councilman Doe’s character: “Doe is a slimy, bribe-taking crook who wants our children to die in the agony of terminal hunger pains while he lives off the fancy food he can afford because of the bribes and kickbacks he takes.” She then said, “Are we going to take this? Are we going to sit by while Doe rapes our city and kills our children?”

The crowd screamed, “No!”

Mrs. Beartree then yelled, “Then let’s march to Doe’s house and tell him we aren’t going to take it anymore!”

The anger of the crowd increased as the citizens marched toward Councilman Doe’s house and began to chant, “Doe, Doe, got to go! Doe, Doe, got to go!” When the crowd arrived at Doe’s house, it wasn’t long before his windows were smashed and his front yard destroyed. Protesters ran through Mr. Doe’s house, spilling paint on the floors and walls. Mr. Doe called the police, but by the time they arrived, his house was in ruins.

The next day, the Clarion ran the following story.


Hundreds Protest Doe’s Underhanded and Self-Serving Proposal

Last night hundreds of Pleasantville citizens exercised their free speech rights and, in a mostly peaceful demonstration, protested Councilman Doe’s plot to empty the city treasury in order, as some have speculated, to pay back his cronies for the bribes they gave him.

There were some reports of damage to Doe’s front lawn and an unconfirmed claim that a window had been broken, whether as a stunt by Doe to gain sympathy or by some other means was not clear.

A fire department spokesman, speaking on the scene, said that none of his men had broken the window. Similar disclaimers were offered by the police department, ambulance service, sheriff, and bomb squad. Mr. Manny Jonson, of Manny’s  Towing, said that neither of the cars he was hauling away was still on fire when he arrived, and he saw no signs of violent protest.

The Clarion concluded its story by saying that Mr. Doe was unavailable for comment.


Truth is the foundation of civilization, society, relationship, prosperity, and progress. Those who lie or distort the truth for their own ends are worse than selfish. They are destroyers.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Your Reputation Has Folowed You


Your Reputation

Has Followed You



armer Hugh was lounging around the potbelly stove in the general store when one of his workers burst in the door, more animated than the farmer had ever seen him. “Mr. Hugh,” he said excitedly, “Mr. Carpenter’s son has just been caught stealing your oranges, right off the tree in broad daylight.”

“What?” demanded farmer Hugh, growing quickly angry. “This time he’s going to jail, since he has a reputation for stealing people’s crops.”

“Speaking of the devil,” said Mr. Steele, the store proprietor, “here he comes now.” Everyone looked as the young man entered the store, oblivious to the stares because he was caught up in a conversation with young Emily Pratt, considered by many to be the town beauty. After an irresistible glance at the girl, the men turned their attention to the boy.

“Just look at that,” said Mr. Hugh’s worker. “He walks just like a thief.”

“He looks like a thief, too,” added Mr. Hugh.

“And listen to him,” said Mr. Steele. “He even talks like a thief.”

By now the young man had stopped talking to Emily and exchanged his look of infatuation for one of bewilderment, in response to the scowls of the three men. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Wrong? Wrong?” said Mr. Hugh, sarcastically. “No, nothing’s wrong—that some extended time in jail won’t make better.” There was a heavy emphasis on the words “extended time in jail.”

“I don’t understand,” the young man said.

“Oh, come off it,” said the worker, almost snarling. “Your reputation has followed you.”

Just then, Mr. Carpenter, the boy’s father, entered the store. “Come, Henry,” Mr. Carpenter said, sharply.

“What is it, Dad?” Henry asked.

“Your brother Jeremy was just caught stealing oranges from Mr. Hugh here.” Mr. Carpenter tipped his hat to Mr. Hugh. “I’m so sorry about this. We’ll make it right. Now, we’ve got to go to the courthouse.”

The three men looked as if they had been slapped in the face. None spoke until after Mr. Carpenter and Henry left.

“Actually,” said Mr. Steele, “he doesn’t really talk like a thief after all.”

 “And he doesn’t walk like a thief, either. He doesn’t have that slinky gait,” added Mr. Hugh’s worker.

“And on second look, he looks pretty normal, not really like a thief,” admitted Mr. Hugh.



Too often, the path to knowledge is blocked by the prideful assumptions we ourselves place in front of us.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Boring Story



A Boring Story



nce upon a time, a literature class was studying Shakespeare. “The next play we’ll read,” said the teacher, “is Hamlet. As with Shakespeare’s other tragedies, we’ll find a mix of serious drama, comedy, philosophy, psychology, and more.”

“I just love these plays,” said a student, taking notes on her laptop.

“He really knows how to explore human nature,” said another student, cleaning his glasses.

“Shakespeare is boring,” said a red-haired girl.

In a few days, the class discussed the play. “What stood out to you about the play?” asked the teacher.

“The gravedigger scene was hilarious,” said one student.

“I liked the ‘to-be-or-not-to-be’ soliloquy,” said another.

“The play was boring,” said the red-haired girl.

“Okay, class,” the teacher continued. “In order to get some deeper insights into the play, you’re going to give me a five-page paper responding to one of these six topics. It’s due in two weeks.” The teacher handed out a sheet with the topics on it.

After looking over the topics, one student said to those around her, “I like all of these. How am I going to choose? I wonder if we can write on more than one?”

Another student raised his hand and asked, “Is it okay if we write more than five pages? It seems to me that there’s a lot to say on several of these topics.”

“All these topics are boring,” said the red-haired girl.

“You can’t find any of them at all of interest?” asked the teacher.

“No. They are just boring.”

“Then why don’t you write a five-page essay on ‘What is interesting’?”

“Sounds boring,” muttered the red-haired girl under her breath.



X Those who are easily bored expect the world to offer constant excitements to them on a platter.

X Those who are seldom bored use their curiosity to find their own excitement.

X Those who are easily bored are not necessarily lazy, proud, and unintelligent, but that is what others often think.



Questions for Thought and Discussion

1. Discuss with others what things, subjects. or entertainments you find interesting and which  you find boring. For each one, can you explain why?

2. If you had to write a five-page essay on “What is interesting?” what would you say?

3. Over time, have you changed your mind or your interests so that some things you used to find boring you now find interesting, and some things you used to find interesting you now find boring? How do  you account for the changes?


Picture This



Picture This



n a city far away, both in time and location, there lived a police captain who used figures of speech to improve the impact of his statements. One morning when his sergeant arrived, the captain turned to him and declared, “Sergeant, there’s an infestation of drug dealing rodents paving the innocent streets of Langomere with a poisonous buffet of criminal agendas.”

“I hear you, sir,” said Sergeant Smith. “Let’s go down to that neighborhood and arrest those drug dealers.”

“Yes,” the Captain said. “It’s about time that the strong arm of the law shined as a beacon that dances through the beehive of criminal sewers like a wrecking ball sweeping the floors of a pig sty.”

“But we really need to find the guys at the top, added Sergeant Smith.”

“Of course,” the Captain agreed. “We will dismember those running snakes whose octopus arms stretch over this great city and pollute it with the poisonous tea of broken dreams. But a hundred sharks rolling through their balance sheets will slap them in the bank account of egotism as if a helicopter attacking the cesspools of evil put out those wicked fires all the way down to the bottom of the ocean.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Let’s roll.”



 Remember that the primary function of language is to communicate. All the other functions, including persuasion, entertainment, information, warning, exposing, punishing, amusing--are subordinate. Therefore, writing that fails to transfer the author's intention to the hearer or reader, fails.

Figurative language can  heighten nearly any communication, by making it more visual, imaginative, interesting, lively, and understandable. But of course, figurative language uses words in ways that are out of the ordinary compared with straight prose. Readers who mistake this are communicated with less well. Reading figurative language literally creates confusion and misunderstanding.

One sign of poor communication occurs  when the reader discovers that the writer is using mixed metaphors without knowing it. For example, "Approving this plan to pave the sidewalks will put this city on a fast train to the future where every school child can fly safely from home to classroom without fear of a flat tire."

Questions for Thought and Discussion

 1. Point out the mixed metaphors in the story.

2 Discuss the effect the mixed metaphors have on the reader.

3. The author obviously intended the story to be funny. What is funny about it and why?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Butterfly and the Shotgun


The Butterfly

And the Shotgun



 butterfly had just emerged from its chrysalis and was flexing its wings in the warming sun. “I’m not sure, but I think I can fly,” the butterfly said, hopefully. But it sat on the branch for some time, continuing to warm its wings while it remained in some doubt about making an attempt to fly.

Finally, the creature summoned enough courage to flap its wings. Surprised by its success, the little butterfly at first flitted around awkwardly, barely in control of its motions. After a while, though, it got its bearings and managed to fly happily, if not with complete assurance, around the meadow.

Just then, a man with a large, double-barreled shotgun saw the butterfly flitting around not far away. “Hmmph,” he sneered. “Another uppity caterpillar who thought he could fly all over the place and not have to crawl anymore.. I’ll show it.” Then he raised his gun and blasted the butterfly into many  unrecognizable pieces.

“That’ll teach him and his insect pals that it takes a lot more than they’ve got to rule the sky, especially when Jeb and his trusty pal, the Blaster, are here.”



This story reminds us that new thoughts are often delicate and tentative and should be treated gently in their tentative, early forms. To react to a new thought with energetic condemnation is to use a shotgun to kill a butterfly.


Questions for Thought and Discussion

1. Why is an early, tentative thought compared to a butterfly just learning to fly?

2. What, do you think makes some people so eager to “shoot down” the ideas of others?





Sunday, January 10, 2021







ere’s my lawn mower. See if you can find the problem.”

The problem? What makes you think it has only one problem?”

“It doesn’t work.”

“That’s a symptom. That’s not a problem.”

“Okay then, you mow the lawn with it.”

“Look, I’ll fix it. It’ll be ready in five days.”

“Five days!”

“Yeah. What’s the problem?”

“My wife.”

“Has she been using the mower?”

“No. She’s been using her mouth.”

“To cut the grass?”

“Look, can’t you fix it any faster than five days?”

“I dunno. Now that I look at it, I think it’ll take at least a week.”

“I’ll be back in five days. It had better be ready or my wife will kill me.”

“Hey, if it’s that bad, why don’t you get a new one?”

“Do you have any idea how much a divorce costs these days?”

“Naw, all I carry is Toro. Here’s a sexy red baby for only one twenty nine and change. You can’t beat that.”

“Yeah, they tell you you’re getting a good deal when you buy it, and it hums and purrs quietly and does the work diligently and satisfactorily at first.”

“That’s right. So you are interested in a new one?”

“But after too short a time, the purring turns into clanking and growling and barking. And it’s all you can do to keep it going straight.”

“So. . . .”

“And as they get older, it seems that as the performance diminishes, the maintenance goes up.”

“Shall I wrap up the Toro, then?”

“I guess not. Just fix this one. No use spending extra money on a new one that will just break down like all the others.”

“Okay, sir.”

“Besides, I’ve kind of grown fond of old Gertrude. Been with me these eighteen years.”

“Right. I’ll fix the problem with the build-up and maybe add some paint and body work, and she’ll look like new.”

“That would be great. And say, could you put back some of that lively zip—if you know what I mean—that she had when I first brought her home?”

“Well, buddy, I’m sorry. I just fix lawnmowers. I don’t work miracles.”



X Too many talkers don’t know what they are talking about because they are not paying attention to the conversation they are in.


Questions for Thought and Discussion


1. How does this story use humor to give an example of the problem created when two people do not seem to be discussing the same subject?

2. Define the idea of “talking past each other.”

3. How does the use of pronouns with unclear referents contribute to the success of the story?




Friday, January 08, 2021






el and Jim were driving down the road to town when they reached a turn that headed them into the low afternoon sun.

“This is terrible,” exclaimed Mel. “The sun is right in my eyes.”

“Mine, too,” said Jim, “but it’s not so bad.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Mel. “I can barely see. And the light hurts my eyes.”

“Yes, but that means you have eyes. Eyes that can see. Aren’t you happy that you aren’t blind?”

“Well, I guess so. But why does this road have to go right in the direction of the sun?”

“Because it’s going to town and we are fortunate enough to have a reliable vehicle, time, money, and purpose for going along this road into town. We have homes to leave and to return to.”

“But the sun—“

“Brings us a new day each day and a new night each night, in a country where we are free to drive around without having to show our travel papers every five miles, or be questioned about our business.”



X Whenever you experience a loss, have an accident or injury, or just grow irritated over heavy traffic, think of how many blessings you have that render your discomfort comparatively meaningless.

X Light—such as light from the sun—provides a metaphor for revealing truth. The truth is there, but our prejudices suppress it. We put the light under a basket because we are afraid of what we might see if we hold it up high.


To light a candle is the supreme act of courage.




Questions for Thought and Discussion

1. Think of the way many people lived even just a hundred years ago and how many appliances, tools, and other luxuries they lacked.  Do you think we complain more or less than they did about how “difficult” life is?



Thursday, January 07, 2021







es, Sir, we have a very nice, quiet cottage for you and  your wife,” said the landlord to the young couple.

“Oh, we’re not married,” replied the man. “This is just my girlfriend.”

“Oh, just a couple of new romantics, eh?”

“Actually, not. We’ve been together for six years.”

“Six years? Why in the world haven’t you gotten married?” The landlord was taken aback.

“What for?” asked the  young man. “A marriage certificate is only a piece of paper. It’s meaningless.”

“I see. Well, here’s your room key.”

“Thanks. And here are the keys for the valet parking.”

“Well, thanks for the car.” The landlord began to strut toward the couple’s car and toss the keys as if he thought he owned it.

“What are you talking about? I gave you the keys so you can park it for me. Hey, where are you going?”

“It’s my car. You just gave it to me.”

“No, I didn’t. And if you don’t get out of my car, I’ll call the police.”

“So? I’ll tell them you gave it to me and they’ll take my word against yours. I’ve known many of the officers on the force for years.”

“But I have the pink slip,” objected the young man, clearly growing upset.

“The pink slip? That’s only a piece of paper—which is, as you say, meaningless. And don’t tell me you have the registration, too. That’s just more meaningless paper. See you.”

“Where are you going?”

“To my new home at 214 Willow Street.”

“No, you’re not. That’s my house.”

“Says you. But they say possession is nine tenths of the law. And I will soon be in possession.”

“But I have—.”

“And you might guess that I don’t care if you have a grant deed. That’s only piece of paper, too.”

“If you try to take my car and my house, I’ll sue—.”

“That would be great. Then you can testify as a witness for my side, affirming your recently spoken belief that the documents you are now referring to are only meaningless pieces of paper.”




X The value of many things lies in the meaning we have ascribed to them, not in their physical existence.


X Someone who pays $57 million for a three hundred-year-old painting is not buying merely a few ounces of oil paint on a canvas.






Questions for Thought and Discussion

1. This story is obviously a fairy tale that would never happen. So what is its purpose?

2. Why do each of the pieces of paper exist? Are they necessary?

3. Can you think of other “meaningless” pieces of paper in common use today? What purpose do they serve?


Unsettled Science



Unsettled Science



ou have quite a book collection,” said a man to his friend, as they examined the friend’s book shelves. “I didn’t know you were such a librarian.”

“Thank  you,” said the friend. “I love ideas.”

“But why,” demanded the man, as he spied a particular book, “do you keep this anti-science junk by Arronius in your library? His conclusions have been completely refuted by everyone worth noticing, you know.”

“I am aware of that,” said the librarian. “But it seems to me that he speaks truth in sixteen places, making the volume worth preserving.”

“But selling lies by including a little truth is surely the most common way of deceiving people.”

“That is also true. But that is why we learn critical thinking. To separate the true from the false, to ferret out deception, distortion, and deviousness. In fact,” the librarian added, as an afterthought, “you might even call Arronius an educator.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” said the man. “I’d call him a prevaricator. Perhaps a duper, certainly a fraud.”

“In general,” replied the defender of Arronius, you are right, as I have said. But as I have also just said, for the sake of the small truth, however crammed away or disguised, I have kept the book. In my view, any book with even a few kernels of truth is worth keeping in order to have access to that truth.”

“Well then, why don’t you just cut out the few pages with the truth in them and toss away the rest?”

“If we were to follow that advice for all of our books,” mused the librarian, “our libraries would consist of little other than a handful of pamphlets listing obvious facts. ”

“That is the most cynical, sweeping condemnation of the scientific enterprise I have ever heard,” said the scientist, his anger obviously rising.

“Then, too,” continued the book lover, “isn’t it possible that something we now consider error may by further learning or a more careful analysis come to be understood as truth? Or that some idea that today causes us to ridicule Arronius might someday prove to be a reason to praise him for pointing the way to the truth, for discovering the right pathway, even though he was wrong on his own journey down that path?”

“So you’re admitting that the lies in those books might eventually seduce you into error.”

“Not at all. I’m saying that one century’s truth often becomes another century’s error—even in science—and that sometimes what was scoffed at in one era is exalted in another.”

“What are you,” scowled the scientist, “some kind of twisted relativist?”

“No,” said the librarian, “I believe in absolute truth but I’m not so sure that what our society or culture identifies as truth is the absolute truth. Remember John Donne’s comment: ‘On a huge hill, cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will reach her, about must and about must go.’ We praise ourselves too hastily, I think, when we celebrate a new discovery of ‘truth’ which later turns out to be false.”

By now, the scientist was red with anger. “So you would throw ‘settled science’ into the trash can and go on drinking dirty water contaminated with cholera and bleeding people to make them well. Fortunately for sane and reasonable people, we have moved beyond that and into a healthier era.”

“And I’m glad to live in a modern, healthier era—.”

“—made so by science,” the scientist interrupted. “Give me one solid book of scientific truth and you can have a thousand of those other books filled with falsehoods and errors.”

“Yes, no doubt,” the librarian continued, “but as for truths in general, I see in my own imperfections the possible imperfections of others. Too often, upon closer examination, ‘facts’ turn out to be not observable or provable phenomena, but networks of arguments whose conclusions have been settled by political agreement and compromise more than by empirical evidence.”

“I’m going to report you.”

“Whatever for?”

“For denying the scientific method.”

“What is the scientific method, anyway?”

“You don’t know? Your employment in the academy is in jeopardy.”



X The practice of science often results not in the discovery of a new truth, but the discrediting of an old truth.




Questions for Thought and Discussion

1. What seems to be the scientist’s attitude toward science? Toward truth?

2. What is the librarian’s philosophy about truth?

3. What arguments does the scientist use to support his point about science?

4. What examples does the librarian use that he says make him cautious about statements of truth?

5. The two men discussing truth have different personalities and attitudes. What can you point to in the story that reveals each man’s personality?

6. At the beginning of the story, the author describes the two men in one way, but as the story progresses, their description changes. Comment on what the changes are and what effect this has.




Locate in the story where each of the following words occurs. Then look up a definition of each word. Finally, write a sentence or two explaining the effectiveness of the word.



Critical thinking