Thursday, December 11, 2008

Topic: Writing Assignment

10-second review: The Harper’s “Index” is a list of statistical facts that will arouse any student’s response and interpretation.

Title: “Signs and Numbers of the Times: Harper’s “Index” As An Essay Prompt.” BJ Brueggenmann. College Composition and Communication (May 1990), 220-222. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Here are some samples from Harper’s “Index.” The statistics are supported by reference sources.

“Silicone breast implant operations performed in the U.S. in 1986: 115,000.”

“Percentage increase in the number of U.S. millionaires since 1980: 145%.”

“Percentage of Japanese with IQs above 130. 10%; percentage of Americans: 2%.”

“Percentage of American women who acknowledge that they wear uncomfortable shoes because they look good: 45%.”

“Percentage of American fifth-graders who report being in love: 39%.”

“Percentage of Americans who own running shoes but don’t run: 70%.”

“Rank of shopping for clothes among American women’s favorite shopping trips: 1.”

“Rank of shopping for a car among American men’s favorite shopping trips: 1.”

“Percentage of executive men who are single or divorced: 4%; percentage of executive women who are single or divorced: 52%.”

“Budget per episode of ‘Miami Vice’: $1,5000,00; annual budget of the (real) Miami vice squad: $1,161,741.”

“Number of Americans holding reservations with PanAm for a trip to the moon: 92,002.”

Summary/Quote: “What does this fact mean to you personally? Do you have any experiences that relate to it? Why do you think these numbers are as they are?”

Comment: Hard for anyone not to respond to at least one or more of these facts. I would add another question: What questions do you have about the validity of these “facts”? RayS.

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