Monday, September 28, 2009

Critical Reading Collaboration, Caleb Caswell and Ramona Korpan

The title of "Bias Free Language: Some Guidelines" by Rosalie Maggio, elicits the idea of an essay based on writing without expressing a particular attitude to either side of an argument. The author may use technical language with large amounts of explanation and examples to elucidate her point of argument; showing some essays that do this well and others that do not. The examples given would be more-so for application to commonly used subjects; trying to inspire idea's rather than creating several specific extreme examples. Maggio's book, "The Bias-Free Word Finder" extrapolates on many of her ideas and contain more examples of bias-free language.

"The Word Police" by Michiko Kakutani was more straightforward. The expectations set out by the title were achieved by the topic being about terms and colloquialisms that have become regarded as inappropriate in public usage. It also includes a history of how these changes became social norms, and the future progression of language that may be censored later on.
Both essays include several examples of terminology that could be substituted as bias-free in place of gender or race sensitive terms. Two examples of terms that are bias-free which are not included in either essay would be mail-carrier as opposed to mailman, or server in the place of waitress, and many more exist.

According to Maggio, four excuses people make to avoid using unbiased language are as follows:
1. To demonize other races in times of conflict (racial slurs, eg. gook, nigger, wop, etc)
2. To discourage women from attempting careers in certain areas (eg. mailman, longshoreman,etc)
3. To demonize another group in an area of public debate (eg. Newspaper articles referring to another group that may support abortions as "killing human babies" rather than "removing fetal tissue")
4. Being used to certain terms and considering them colloquial and acceptable

In the case each issue, Maggio suggests that language affects the way we act, and by disposing of these harmful terms, we can create a society that is more open to change and collaboration by several peoples and sexes. What we may have considered excusable due to location or era does not excuse bigoted behavior or treatment, as location and era are relative to each individual. Her final counter-argument goes as such: "Bias-free language is logical, accurate, and realistic. Biased language is not."

Kakutani uses a quote from Maya Angelou's poem "Humankind", wherein she addresses people of many different races and social standings. Starting with a wide spread of politically correct terms for races, she continues with titles for people from specific countries, religions, sexual affiliations, and social positions. Kakutani implies that Angelou has created "a kind of official embrace of multiculturalism", along with a new political stance of inclusion.

Below is a video that shows what can happen when bias-free language and outlooks are applied to culture that is inherent within a nations history.

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