Propaganda in the grammar book

Sarah of Trying to Grok worried about using her old college essays to teach English 101 class to soldiers in Korea.

That paper about gay marriage? Perhaps not in a military setting. The one on how Malcolm X is a racist? Not with half of the class being African-American. OK, how ’bout the one on hate speech? But what if they disagree and we spend the class debating the First Amendment instead of talking about the thesis statement?

Then she saw the examples of independent and dependent clauses in the textbook. The left-wing propaganda was a turn-off. For example:

“One of the odd things foreigners notice about Americans — whether Republicans or Democrats, urban dwellers or country folks — is their intolerance. This intolerance frequently extends to race, creeds, and role expectations, carrying with it a willingness to shun and physically punish the ones perceived as different. It often baffles foreigners, many of whom regard the United States Constitution, with its emphasis on respect for individual freedoms, as enshrining just the opposite principles of tolerance and understanding.

It’s not good writing or good analysis.

Via Amritas, who is a linguistics professor.

Update: Now Sarah’s students are writing parodies of their textbook:

“One of the many odd things foreigners notice when they come to the United States about American people is their intolerance, but most of them are the same way when Americans come to their country.”

If I understand correctly, her students are GIs stationed in Korea, not a country known for ethnic tolerance.

Update: I understand incorrectly. Sarah tells me she’s now teaching in Germany.

About Joanne


  1. jeff wright says:

    This is the kind of stuff that drives me nuts. The self-loathing of modern American lefties is astounding. In no other country has the so-called intelligentsia made such a cottage industry of bashing its own country and people. Worse, these idiots have driven many good Americans into the camps exemplified by the Limbaughs and the Hannities.

    An honest rendering of one passage would be, “One of the odd things foreigners notice about Americans — whether Republicans or Democrats, urban dwellers or country folks — is their lack of xenophobia compared to other countries, their willingness to accept millions of people from other cultures and their acceptance of the need to spend their hard-earned money on integrating such people into their society.”

    Is it any wonder that “liberal” has become such a bad world in many circles? We didn’t change; the mouthpieces did. To think that someone actually thought a textbook with this kind of crap was suitable for American soldiers is incomprehensible.

  2. I don’t know that this is really “propaganda” since it’s an empirical truth. Foreigners do make that claim about Americans.. whether Americans are actually that intolerant is another issue.

    It’s the same as saying “George Bush lied about having knowledge that Iraq posed an imminent threat” or “Bill Clinton lied about about not having a sexual relationship with an intern”… those statements are both true- not simply propaganda (said to support a concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine).

  3. John Thacker says:

    Except, Nina D., that George Bush never said that Iraq was an “imminent threat.” In fact, he said that “Some people say that we must wait until Iraq is an imminent threat,” but that we couldn’t afford to wait until they actually had weapons, that attempting acquire them was threat enough. Read Snopes, for example, for a refutation.

  4. Sandy P. says:

    Geez, or just read the SOTU, isn’t that where it was?

    I can’t believe that’s still floating around.

  5. Here is the SOTU address it came from. For those too lazy to click, the relevant quote is:

    “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)”

  6. Nina D. says:

    Yes, i was hasty. My point is still the same: We could say Bush lied about not deciding to attack Iraq until 2003 because it’s clear Cheney and bush were decided in 2001.

    The point is just because something is unbecoming of one perspective doesn’t make it propaganda – especially if its true.

  7. A comment like this in a textbook probaby usually goes unchallenged because the kids haven’t ever been outside of the U.S. and don’t have the perspective to challenge it. When you try to pull this stuff off on people who have been around, it doesn’t work…

  8. Mad Scientist says:


    Really? If you can prove that Bush or Cheney actually decided in 2001 through their words, then I will buy your premise. I doubt, that you can, however.

    The best you can say is that Bush and Cheeney considered attacking Iraq in 2001. I believe if they decided it, it would have happened a whole lot sooner.

  9. Here we go again…
    This wasn’t the topic of this post, but I cannot let this pass…

    Conservatives like to point to the SOTU address as “proof” that Bush never said the threat was “imminent”… but every other statement and his actions belie that…
    In a high-profile speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, Bush said, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.”

    Hmmm… “on any given day” certainly implies imminence.

    In November 2002, he said this about Hussein:
    “If we don’t do something he might attack us, and he might attack us with a more serious weapon. The man is a threat…. He’s a threat because he is dealing with Al Qaeda.”

    Also, Bush repeated claims first mentioned by the British that Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack at the West in as little as 45 minutes…

    Hmmm… again, “45 minutes” implies imminence as well.

    Over the course of 2002, one can kind hundreds of Bush and Rumsfeld statements that definitely imply the threat was imminent, if not actually saying the word itself…

    One more for the road… when Rumsfeld was asked about the nuclear threat from Hussein, he replied:
    “Those who raise questions about the nuclear threat need to focus on the immediate threat from biological weapons.”

    Hmmm… “immediate”?? Not an exact, but a close synonym for “imminent.”

  10. Now back to the topic at hand:

    One of her other anecdotes/examples of supposed leftist bias in grammar texts:

    “It may seem profitless to worry about a nuclear holocaust–a third world war in which entire continents could be wiped out. However, after we study the historical trends of world powers and realize how simple it is to create nuclear power, common sense dictates that the possibility must be confronted honestly.”

    As I already commented in her blog:
    (1) Gee, why is your first example considered a “liberal” example??? Wasn’t Condi Rice supposed to give a speech on 9/11 about the immediate threat of nuclear missile attack from unstable regimes, and how necessary it is for us to create a “Star Wars” missile defense???
    (2) I don’t doubt one can find a few “liberal” examples in grammar texts… but your few anecdotes don’t prove anything… I’m sure I could find a few “conservative” examples…
    Trying to prove a point by reliance on anecdotes is futile, because those who disagree could easily find competing anecdotes…
    So unless you have an objective study of some sort, then this is pointless…

  11. Mad Scientist says:


    Way to go dude! You most likely were defending Clinton with his precise parsing “it all depends on what is is” but then you put words into Bush’s mouth when it suits your fancy.

    Nothing like having it both ways.

  12. Mad Scientist says:

    Now back to the topic at hand.

    There is a decided undercurrent in teaching earth sciences that “global warming” or “climate change” is a universally accepted and agreed to fact. Nothing is further from the truth. The tree-hugging granola heads are mis-teaching sciences because they seem to be singularly unqualified to teach it.

    When was the last time anything positive was taught about “chemicals”? This is why you get the crap about dihydrogen monoxide that was a topic here a couple of weeks ago.

    The bias runs deep.

  13. Nina D, meet Bill Clinton and the US COngress. In 1998, they decided the policy of the US toward Iraq should be regime change.

    Also, I don’t really understand how Bush can specifically say something is NOT an imminent threat and you can decide that he did say so. Ignorance is strength, eh?

    That statement about the US in the main post is astoundingly ignorant.

  14. Andy Freeman says:

    > I’m sure I could find a few “conservative” examples…

    Go for it.

    Supporting data is one difference between opinion and substantive argument.

  15. Mad Scientist:

    Clinton was despicable with the Monica Lewinsky affair. Nice of you to try to divert attention from the topic at hand… I’ve noticed its a convenient ploy of the right these days to try to change the subject to Clinton when you cannot
    substantively refute the claims.

    So Mad Scientist, your whole argument seems to be: “CLINTON” was scum, so therefore Bush gets a pass on ANYTHING.

  16. Mad Scientist…

    Give me a break… I’m a scientist as well,
    so don’t think you can automatically trump me on science.

    Nice of you to bring up global warming… now what the hell does that have anything to do with the topic of this thread? Oh yeah, just more aimless ranting against the “liberal media”, or “liberal academy”, or “liberal science”…

    Joanne linked to a site claiming supposed bias in grammar texts… the examples of bias were sorely lacking… especiallyt the one about the worry about nuclear war as a leftist worry…

  17. Mr. Freeman,

    Did you even read?
    I said arguing by anecdote is pointless…
    Let’s see, if I went to the library, dug up some grammar texts, found some examples of supposed conservative bias, and posted them, you would change your opinion an agree with me?

    No, I didn’t think so… because I hope you would be smart enough to realize that arguments built up solely by anecdote prove NOTHING…
    As I said, unless you can point to an exhaustive, objective study proving bias, then it is pointless to argue back and forth with competing anecdotes.

  18. Shawn Lee says:

    Such anger and hostility… All in a blog comment box, not even a forum.

    Anyhow, Clinton screwed up.

    Oh yeah, and getting back to the point of this article; it is rather amusing that blame America is the automatic response.

  19. Mad Scientist says:


    My point was not that “Clinton was scum” (although in my opinion he is) so “Bush should get a free pass” . All I am saying is that elastic rulers have no place in a discussion. If Clinton’s words were beyond reproach (according to some) then the same rhetorical twists, when used by Bush should also be beyond reproach.

    As far a global warming goes, the jury is still out. However, I do not see many conservative scientists arguing that it is an imminent threat that must be dealt with through feel-good tripe like the Kyoto protocol.

    Bashing Bush on this is a favorite tactic of Al Gore and the rest of the tree-hugging granola heads, even though they know that treaties can only be ratified by the Senate.

    The problem is when I see my nephews bring crap back from school that promote the US in particular and industrialized nations in general as the “bad guys” because we drive SUVs and rape the environment every chance we get because we don’t care about global warming.

    Add to that the idiots I get from NYPIRG trying to get me to sign their latest environmental initiative that has no basis in science or fact.

    What starts early lasts a long,long, time.

    As for nuclear war being a leftist worry, I agree that it is a concern on both sides of the aisle. However, the approaches are quite different. Which is “left”?

    1) Disarmament and nuclear-free zones.

    2) Missile defense.

    Hint: if the text is biased to #1 without serious discussion of #2, then it’s left.

  20. Nina D. has just demonstrated how to hijack a comments thread. And you guys fell for it.

  21. Mad Scientist:
    The example about nuclear war made no mention of which solution in preferred…
    The quote ended with:
    “common sense dictates that the possibility must be confronted honestly.”

    The example was probably the first sentence of an essay… so we have no idea just from the first sentence which way the author is leaning… “common sense” to this author could mean nuclear disarmament, or it could be missile defense… who knows just from that one sentence… please PROVE to me, anyone, how this example is evidence for leftist bias, as the original blogger contends it is…

  22. Mad Scientist:

    (1) I think most scientists agree that global warming is a problem. They have honest disagreements on: magnitude of problem, cause of problem (natural or man-made), ways to mitigate its effects. The question for POLICY MAKERS is: given the incomplete data is: what do you do? Do you act PRE-EMPTIVELY, better safe than sorry? Or do you wait until more definitive data comes in, hoping that it won’t be too late to mitigate the effects? Should we wait until the threat is IMMINENT? (Oh, the irony…)
    (2) Missile defense? Get real… you know d*mn well on this one that the vast, vast majority of scientists think this is pork for defense contractors… by all means, let’s put some R&D into it, I have no problem with that… but you really are fooling yourself if you think this is a solution to the possibility of nuclear disaster.

  23. Walter Wallis says:

    About the “45 minutes” thing.
    A 4.2 inch chemical mortar can be set up in 5 minutes by a good crew, who could then get off a round of gas or biological agent every 15 seconds for a half hour or so. Whomever was recieving this attention would understand that the 45 minute citation was conservatively accurate. They had the shells, they had the agents, they used the shells and agents. They could have used them again, and might have had we not phoned and E-Mailed Saddam’s top commanders and explained how they would personally stand war crimes trials if they used WMD’s.
    This is just one more instance of a slogan based on ignorance beating out reality.

  24. Walter,

    You miss the point.
    I’m not disputing the “45 minute” claim…
    I am saying that if Bush believes it is true,
    then the threat is IMMINENT…
    You cannot have it both ways… Bush repeated this “45 minute” claim as part of the reason why Hussein was so dangerous… that he could attack us at any moment with almost no warning… Bush certainly wanted to leave the impression that the threat was “IMMINENT” even though he did not use those words explicitly.

  25. Mad Scientist says:


    1) No, most scientists do NOT agree that global warming is a problem. They cannot even agree if it is real.

    2) The “vast, vast majority” of scientists do not think it is pure pork for defense contractors. Give me a hard number (percentage) before you go flipping around weasel words. As a “scientist” you should know better.

  26. Send jab to Korea to give GIs essay assignments … or maybe not.

    I find many textbooks at school level of depressingly low quality, and I assume the biases are mainly due to simple ignorance. This sort of stuff gets passed on at teacher training college and is then just parroted.

  27. Walter Wallis says:

    Perhaps I am touchy because the 45 minutes was, in England, condemned as a lie, and here at home it has morphed into “mushroom cloud” and such.

    History books may well call this war “The War of the Nuances.”

    The Kyoto Treaty was a license for the rest of the world to tax U.S. productive efforts into unprofitability. The Democrats knew this, as demonstrated for their overwhelming vote against Kyoto, and yet they still beat Bush over the head for his rejection.

  28. JAB…why do you think missile defense is not “real”? A ballistic missile follows a completely deterministic trajectory. What scientific reason would make it impossible to intercept?

    In the years before WWII, a British prime minister said that “The bomber will always get through,” and many agreed that air defense was impossible. Fortunately, the developers of radar, advanced fighters, and fire control predictors were not dissuaded from continuing in their efforts.