Learning Skills

Identifying &
Evaluating Biases


For General Education 110

Ancient Greece

Interpretations   On an earlier assignment we discussed interpretation and how interpretation is as important as the facts themselves. You examined your own answers and distinguished between facts and interpretations and identified some interpretations as pre-interpretations, that is, interpretations you already formulated before you read the text. Most interpretations are pre-interpretations; your textbook, both the on-line version and the cloth version, also involve pre-interpretations that determine which facts will be selected and how those facts will be ordered and presented. Such use of pre-interpretations is called bias.
   Biases operate in several ways.
  • First, biases determine what the author feels needs to be explained and what the author doesn't feel needs to be explained. So the author of your text feels that Greek democracy needs to be explained, but doesn't feel that Greek oligarchy needs to be explained.
  • Second, biases determine what information will be included and what information will be excluded.
  • Third, biases determine the hierarchy of knowledge, that is, what facts the author tells you is important and what facts the author tells you are less important.
  • Fourth, biases arise from the world view of the author, that is, you can explain biases by identifying aspects of the author's culture. That's why histories written in the nineteenth century are different from histories written in the twentieth century, not because we've gotten better at writing history but because our world view has changed.

The Assignment

For General Education 110

   For this assignment, I want you to consider the way democracy is presented in your textbook, either the on-line or the cloth edition. It's clear that democracy was a limited and short-lived phenomenon and that many Greeks, including Plato, Aristotle, and Thucydides, disapproved of it. Here's the question: does your textbook have a bias in its presentation of democracy and Athens? What is that bias? What forms of government does your textbook feel need to be explained? What information does your textbook include? What does it exclude? Finally, how do you account for these biases? What world view seems to be operating in the author's presentation of Athens and democracy?


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World Cultures

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-15-97