Selecting the Better Inference

Directions: For each passage, choose the inference that more effectively sums up the main idea.

Note: Italicized vocabulary words are all defined at the end of the exercise. As you work your way through the passages, see if the context, or setting, can provide you with a definition for the italicized words. Then jot the definitions in the margins. When you finish the exercise, check your definitions against those on the list.

1.Thanks to his dashing good looks, ready wit, and gorgeous wife, it was fairly easy for John F. Kennedy to win the American public’s heart and be remembered as a hero. In contrast, his successor Lyndon Baines Johnson is often remembered as something of a buffoon. Johnson’s hangdog face and crude manner made him seem slightly ridiculous in the role of president. Yet it was Johnson who pushed through the civil rights legislation that guaranteed equality to all people regardless of color. It was Johnson who fought for legislation that guaranteed medical care for those who could not afford it. And it was Lyndon Baines Johnson, he of the doggy face and slightly oily manner, who did what no other president before had dared to do. He put an African-American on the Supreme Court. While John F. Kennedy had feared the wrath of segregationists and hesitated before giving black civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall a seat on the Federal Appeals Court, Johnson paid the segregationists no mind. On June 13, 1967, he nominated Marshall to become a member of the highest court in the land.

a. No matter what he did, Lyndon Baines Johnson was not taken seriously as a civil rights leader.

b. The achievements of Lyndon Baines Johnson have not always earned the respect they deserve.

2. Sir Isaac Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation, which says that two things exert a gravitational force or pull on one another and that the power of that force is related to the mass of each object and the distance between them. Sixteen years after Newton formulated his theory, he claimed that it was inspired by a piece of fruit. According to Newton, he got the idea from watching an apple fall from a tree in his yard. When Newton told the apple story, even his admirers dismissed it as the ramblings of an old man. Still, that disbelief didn’t stop the story from circulating. With the passage of time, Newton’s tale got an additional twist. According to the revised version, Newton discovered the law of gravity when an apple fell and hit him on the head as he dozed under a tree. Although this version also makes a good story, there’s no evidence that it really happened either.

a. Always an odd man, Sir Isaac Newton was giving to telling lies as he got older, and he made some very bizarre claims about the source of his scientific discoveries.

b. There may not be any truth in the notion that a falling apple inspired Sir Isaac Newton to formulate the law of universal gravitation.

3. Before the Civil War, slave holders consciously destroyed families in an effort to keep their slaves lacking in kinship and therefor more docile. Thus mothers would be separated from children, sisters from brothers, and husbands from wives. But interviews with former slaves conducted in the nineteen thirties by members of the Federal Writers Project reveal that this conscious strategy of family destruction did not always have the desired effect. In the slave community, adults took responsibility for children in general. Thus children could count on being cared for even if their parents suddenly disappeared. Similarly, older children took care of younger children, whether or not a blood relationship existed between them. Letters and records discovered by the historian Herbert Gutman (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom) also show that slaves sometimes managed to keep in touch with family members long after they had been sold. In one case, Gutman quotes a letter from a mother writing to a son whom she had not seen for twenty years. Time had not severed the bonds of maternal love, as she wrote: "I love you Cato...you are my only son."

a. Although slave holders consciously tried to destroy slave families in an effort to maintain control, members of the slave community found ways to maintain and keep alive family ties.

b. The Federal Writers Project documented the horrendous practice of family destruction consciously carried out by slave holders in an effort to keep their slaves feeling both rootless and powerless.

4. When Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie Robinson to be the first player to integrate baseball’s all-white major leagues, several team members signed a petition against Robinson’s entry. There were also rumors that the St. Louis Cardinals would boycott their series with the Dodgers if Robinson played. Robinson himself said that spring training was a nightmare. Some players turned their backs when he entered the locker room or refused to shake his hand. Not only did opposing team members try to spike Robinson as he ran the bases, but he also received death threats warning that he wouldn’t survive his first game. Unfazed, Robinson batted.297 in his first season. He was also named Rookie of the Year and led his team to the World Series.

a. Branch Rickey seriously underestimated racism in the major leagues when he chose Jackie Robinson to be the first black player to play in the major leagues.

b. Although Jackie Robinson had to face racist threats and insults when he became a Dodger, he refused to be intimidated; instead he played baseball like the champion he was.

5. When the first volume of Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s research Sexual Behavior in the Human Male appeared in 1948, it purported to investigate the sexual life history of the average male. Almost instantly, the book became a bestseller and the subject of widespread controversy. Many people were shocked by Kinsey’s findings because it suggested, among other things, that adultery among married men was quite common. It also implied that homosexuality was much more widespread than most suspected. Kinsey’s research shocked the American public because it claimed to describe males in general, yet we now know that it focused mainly on middle class, white, college-educated Midwesterners. Some of his subjects were also prisoners and sex offenders, and there was no way of testing the truth or falsity of their claims. In addition, sex researchers today now acknowledge that subjects willing to report on the intimate details of their sex lives are not necessarily representative of the general population.

a. Alfred Kinsey’s research may not accurately represent the sexual experience of the average American male.

b. When Alfred Kinsey published his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, he was totally unprepared for the storm of outrage that followed the book’s publication.

Vocabulary from this quiz

Paragraph 1:Buffoon: Fool
Segregationists: people who believe that different races should be strictly separated

Paragraph 3: Docile: Obedient, unquestioning
Paragraph 5:Purported: Claimed

Last change made to this page: Feb. 28, 2014

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