How to be a critical reader
How to be a critical reader

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How to be a critical reader

1.4.2 Fact or opinion? (2)

Activity 4 Part 2

Task 2

Read just the sections of Text 3 that are in bold type (below). Decide whether they express facts or opinions and choose Fact or Opinion for each section. What helped you to decide? Give the reason for your choice in the boxes below.

The accounting cycle: students then and now

January 2009 – Compared with the students in the 1970s, today’s accounting students are uneducated and unfit for a college education.

[1] I have been teaching full time for over thirty years. During that span of time, one sees many, many students, and it amazes me how different they have been over time, and the inequality continues to grow. [2] Compared with the students in the 1970s, today’s students are uneducated and unfit for a college education.

Before proceeding, let me state two premises. [3] First, I do not think there is any significant difference between the two groups in terms of native, raw intelligence. Instead, the distinction between yesterday’s and today’s students when they first set foot on college campuses rests in their educational backgrounds, analytical thinking, reading abilities, willingness to work, and their attitudes concerning the educational process. In short, they differ in terms of their readiness for college. Second, I am focusing on the average student who majors in accounting. Both groups arise from a distribution of students. The less able of yesteryear’s population had some weak students, and the more able of the present-day population has some very strong students; however, when one focuses on the means of these two groups, he or she finds a huge gap.

[4] Thirty years ago I required my Intermediate Accounting students to derive the future and present value formulas, including the present value of a perpetuity, which requires a knowledge of limits. I gave up on that over a decade ago when I observed that the average student had no idea what I was talking about. Worse, they didn’t care.

Today’s students cannot read at what used to be a tenth-grade level. I learned this dramatically when I wrote a couple of textbooks in the 1990s. [5] Editors at both publishing houses insisted that I rewrite my materials so today’s student could read it. I was forbidden to employ large or ‘fancy’ words and had to simplify the grammar. Today’s students cannot read critically. If I really want them to perceive anything, I have to tell them. Of course, that doesn’t work in the long run because I won’t be there in the future to help them read essays.

Worst of all is attitude. [6] Yesterday’s student was willing to work; today’s student is not. Past students thought of education as a privilege; current students view it as an entitlement. Earlier students took responsibility for their mistakes; contemporary students call mom and dad, who in turn call their attorneys. Previously, it was honorable to obtain a B and at least acceptable to receive a C, especially with the harder classes. [7] Nowadays, students want at least a B for signing up for class and an A with any effort expended on the course, regardless of knowledge displayed in the classroom.

Ketz, J.E. (2009) ‘The accounting cycle: students then and now’, www.joannejacobs.com/2009/02/unfit-for-a-collegeeducation/# comments

Question 1a

Section 1

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is a.

Question 1b

Reason

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Answer

Details about the author’s life.

Question 2a

Section 2

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is b.

Question 2b

Reason

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Answer

Broad generalisation, which won’t apply to all students.

Question 3a

Section 3

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is b.

Question 3b

Reason

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Answer

The author says ‘I do not think’, which indicates he is about to give an opinion.

Question 4a

Section 4

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is a.

Question 4b

Reason

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Answer

Details of the author’s past history, therefore fact.

Question 5a

Section 5

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is a.

Question 5b

Reason

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Answer

Details of the author’s past history, therefore fact.

Question 6a

Section 6

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is b.

Question 6b

Reason

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Answer

Broad generalisation, which won’t apply to all students.

Question 7a

Section 7

a. 

Fact


b. 

Opinion


The correct answer is b.

Question 7b

Reason

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Answer

Broad generalisation, which won’t apply to all students.

Comment

Did you find it difficult to work out what was fact and what was opinion in Text 3? This may be because the author makes several sweeping generalisations and presents opinions as fact. As you saw in Activity 2, authors of academic texts usually express their opinions with caution. This is called ‘hedging’. In the next section you will see how hedging works.

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