Social Studies Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 (page 3)
Social Studies Critical Reading
Questions 1–7 are based on the following passage.
This passage explores the theory that the first three years of life are critical in the development of a child's character and suggests a parenting model that strengthens moral behavior.
Does a baby have a moral conscience? While a baby is not faced with many serious ethical dilemmas, his or her moral character is formed from the earliest stages of infancy. Recent research has shown that the type of parenting an infant receives has a dramatic impact on the child's moral development and, consequently, success later in life. The renowned childcare expert T. Berry Brazelton claims that he can observe a child of eight months and tell if that child will succeed or fail in life. This may be a harsh sentence for an eight-month-old baby, but it underscores the importance of educating parents in good child-rearing techniques and of intervening early in cases of child endangerment. But what are good parenting techniques?
The cornerstone of good parenting is love, and the building blocks are trust, acceptance, and discipline. The concept of "attachment parenting" has come to dominate early childhood research. It is the relatively simple idea that an infant who is firmly attached to his or her "primary caregiver"—often, but not always, the mother—develops into a secure and confident child. Caregivers who respond promptly and affectionately to their infants' needs—to eat, to play, to be held, to sleep, and to be left alone—form secure attachments with their children. A study conducted with rhesus monkeys showed that infant monkeys preferred mothers who gave comfort and contact but no food to mothers who gave food but no comfort and contact. This study indicates that among primates love and nurturing are even more important than food.
Fortunately, loving their infants comes naturally to most parents and the first requisite for good parenting is one that is easily met. The second component—setting limits and teaching self-discipline—can be more complicated. Many parents struggle to find a balance between responding promptly to their babies' needs and "spoiling" their child. Norton Garfinkle, chair of the Executive Committee of the Lamaze Institute for Family Education, has identified four parenting styles: warm and restrictive, warm and permissive, cold and restrictive, and cold and permissive. A warm parent is one who exhibits love and affection; a cold parent withholds love; a restrictive parent sets limits on her child's behavior and a permissive parent does not restrict her child. Garfinkle finds that the children of warm-restrictive parents exhibit self-confidence and self-control; the children of warm-permissive parents are self-assured but have difficulty following rules; children of cold-restrictive parents tend to be angry and sullenly compliant, and the most troubled children are those of cold-permissive parents. These children are hostile and defiant.
The warm-restrictive style of parenting helps develop the two key dimensions of moral character: empathy and self-discipline. A warm attachment with his or her parent helps the child develop empathetic feelings about other human beings, while parental limit-setting teaches the child self-discipline and the ability to defer gratification. The ability to defer gratification is an essential skill for negotiating the adult world. A study conducted by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, tested a group of four-year-olds' ability to defer gratification. Each child in the study was offered a marshmallow. The child could choose to eat the marshmallow right away or wait fifteen minutes to eat the marshmallow and receive another marshmallow as a reward for waiting. Researchers followed the children and found that by high school those children who ate their marshmallow right away were more likely to be lonely, more prone to stress, and more easily frustrated. Conversely, the children who demonstrated self-control were outgoing, confident, and dependable.
This research seems to answer the old adage, "you can't spoil a baby." It seems that a baby who is fed at the first sign of hunger and picked up on demand can perhaps be "spoiled." Most parents, however, tend to balance their baby's needs with their own. Many parents will teach their baby to sleep through the night by not picking up the baby when she awakes in the middle of the night. Although it can be heart wrenching for these parents to ignore their baby's cries, they are teaching their baby to fall asleep on her own and getting the benefit of a full night's sleep.
While many parents will come to good parenting techniques instinctually and through various community supports, others parents are not equipped for the trials of raising a baby. Are these babies doomed to lives of frustration, poor impulse-control, and anti-social behavior? Certainly not. Remedial actions—such as providing enrichment programs at daycare centers and educating parents—can be taken to reverse the effects of bad parenting. However, the research indicates that the sooner these remedies are put into action the better.
- The primary purpose of the passage is to
- a. advocate for the ability to defer gratification.
- b. educate readers about moral development in infants.
- c. chastise parents for spoiling their children.
- d. inform readers of remedies for bad parenting.
- e. demonstrate the importance of love in child rearing.
- In line 8, the word sentence most nearly means
- a. statement.
- b. pronouncement.
- c. declaration.
- d. judgment.
- e. punishment.
- The author presents the study about rhesus monkeys (lines 19–22) to
- a. prove that humans and monkeys have a lot in common.
- b. suggest that food is used as a substitute for love.
- c. support her assertion that love is the most important aspect of good parenting.
- d. disprove the idea that you can't spoil a baby.
- e. broaden the scope of her argument to include all primates.
- According to the third paragraph of the passage, a cold-restrictive parent can best be characterized as
- a. an aloof disciplinarian.
- b. an angry autocrat.
- c. a frustrated teacher.
- d. a sullen despot.
- e. an unhappy dictator.
- Based on the information in paragraph four, one can infer that children who are unable to defer gratification are most unlikely to succeed because
- a. they are unpopular.
- b. they lack empathy.
- c. their parents neglected them.
- d. they are unable to follow directions.
- e. they lack self-discipline.
- Which of the following techniques is used in lines 59–64?
- a. explanation of terms
- b. comparison of different arguments
- c. contrast of opposing views
- d. generalized statement
- e. illustration by example
- The author of this passage would be most likely to agree with which statement?
- a. Babies of cold-permissive parents are doomed to lives of failure.
- b. Good parenting is the product of education.
- c. Instincts are a good guide for most parents.
- d. Conventional wisdom is usually wrong.
- e. Parents should strive to raise self-sufficient babies.
Questions 8–16 are based on the following two passages.
Passage 1 describes the potlatch ceremony celebrated by native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Passage 2 describes the kula ring, a ceremonial trading circle practiced among Trobriand Islanders in Papua New Guinea.
Among traditional societies of the Pacific Northwest—including the Haidas, Kwakiuls, Makahs, Nootkas, Tlingits, and Tsimshians—the gift-giving ceremony called potlatch was a central feature of social life. The word potlatch, meaning "to give," comes from a Chinook trading language that was used all along the Pacific Coast. Each nation, or tribe, had its own particular word for the ceremony and each had different potlatch traditions. However, the function and basic features of the ceremony were universal among the tribes.
Each nation held potlatches to celebrate important life passages, such as birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. Potlatches were also held to honor ancestors and to mark the passing of leadership. A potlatch, which could last four or more days, was usually held in the winter when the tribes were not engaged in gathering and storing food. Each potlatch included the formal display of the host family's crest and masks. The hosts performed ritual dances and provided feasts for their guests. However, the most important ritual was the lavish distribution of gifts to the guests. Some hosts might give away most or all of their accumulated wealth in one potlatch. The more a host gave away, the more status was accorded him. In turn, the guests, who had to accept the proffered gifts, were then expected to host their own potlatches and give away gifts of equal value.
Prior to contact with Europeans, gifts might include food, slaves, copper plates, and goat's hair blankets. After contact, the potlatch was fundamentally transformed by the influx of manufactured goods. As tribes garnered wealth in the fur trade, gifts came to include guns, woolen blankets, and other Western goods. Although potlatches had always been a means for individuals to win prestige, potlatches involving manufactured goods became a way for nobles to validate tenuous claims to leadership, sometimes through the destruction of property. It was this willful destruction of property that led Canadian authorities, and later the U.S. government, to ban potlatches in the late 1880s.
Despite the ban, the potlatch remained an important part of native Pacific Northwest culture. Giving wealth—not accumulating wealth, as is prized in Western culture—was a means of cementing leadership, affirming status, establishing and maintaining alliances, as well as ensuring the even distribution of food and goods. Agnes Alfred, an Indian from Albert Bay, explained the potlatch this way, "When one's heart is glad, he gives away gifts. . . . The potlatch was given to us to be our way of expressing joy."
The inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific, are united by a ceremonial trading system called the kula ring. Kula traders sail to neighboring islands in large ocean-going canoes to offer either shell necklaces or shell armbands. The necklaces, made of red shells called bagi, travel around the trading ring clockwise, and the armbands, made of white shells called mwali, travel counterclockwise.
Each man in the kula ring has two kula trading partners—one partner to whom he gives a necklace for an armband of equal value, although the exchanges are made on separate occasions, and one partner with whom he makes the reverse exchange. Each partner has one other partner with whom he trades, thus linking all the men around the kula ring. For example, if A trades with B and C, B trades with A and D, and C trades with A and E, and so on. A man may have only met his own specific kula partners, but he will know by reputation all the men in his kula ring. It can take anywhere from two to ten years for a particular object to complete a journey around the ring. The more times an object has made the trip around the ring the more value it accrues. Particularly beautiful necklaces and armbands are also prized. Some famous kula objects are known by special names and through elaborate stories. Objects also gain fame through ownership by powerful men, and, likewise, men can gain status by possessing particularly prized kula objects.
The exchange of these ceremonial items, which often accompanies trade in more mundane wares, is enacted with a host of ritual activities. The visitors, who travel to receive kula from their hosts, are seen as aggressors. They are met with ritual hostility and must charm their hosts in order to receive the necklaces or armbands. The visitors take care to make themselves beautiful, because beauty conveys strength and protects them from danger. The hosts, who are the "victims" of their visitors' charm and beauty, give the prized objects because they know that the next time it will be their turn to be the aggressor. Each man hopes that his charm and beauty will compel his trading partner to give him the most valuable kula object.
The objects cannot be bought or sold. They have no value other than their ceremonial importance, and the voyages that the traders make to neighboring islands are hazardous, time-consuming, and expensive. Yet, a man's standing in the kula ring is his primary concern. This ceremonial exchange has numerous tangible benefits. It establishes friendly relations through a far-flung chain of islands; it provides a means for the utilitarian exchange of necessary goods; and it reinforces the power of those individuals who win and maintain the most valuable kula items. Although the kula ring might mystify Western traders, this system, which has been in operation for hundreds of years, is a highly effective means of unifying these distant islanders and creating a common bond among peoples who might otherwise view one another as hostile outsiders.
- According to Passage 1, potlatch is best defined as a
- ceremony with rigid protocol to which all Pacific Northwest tribes adhere.
- generic term for a gift-giving ceremony celebrated in the Pacific Northwest.
- socialist ritual of the Pacific Northwest.
- lavish feast celebrated in the Pacific Northwest.
- wasteful ritual that was banned in the 1880s.
- According to Passage 1, the gift-giving central to the potlatch can best be characterized as
- In Passage 1, the author's attitude toward the potlatch can best be described as
- According to Passage 2, the men in a kula ring are
- linked by mutual admiration.
- hostile aggressors.
- motivated by vanity.
- known to one another by reputation.
- In Passage 2, line 30, the word victims is in quotation marks because the
- word might be unfamiliar to some readers.
- author is implying that the hosts are self-pitying.
- author is reinforcing the idea that the hosts are playing a prescribed role.
- author wants to stress the brutal nature of the exchange.
- author is taking care not to be condescending to the Trobriand culture.
- According to Passage 2, necklaces and armbands gain value through all the following means EXCEPT being
- in circulation for a long time.
- especially attractive.
- owned by a powerful man.
- made of special shells.
- known by a special name.
- Gift-giving in the potlatch ceremony and the ritual exchange of the kula ring are both
- a ritualized means of maintaining community ties.
- dangerous and expensive endeavors.
- a means of ascending to a position of leadership.
- falling prey to Western culture.
- peculiar rituals of a bygone era.
- Based on information presented in the two passages, both authors would be most likely to agree with which statement?
- Traditional societies are more generous than Western societies.
- The value of some endeavors cannot be measured in monetary terms.
- It is better to give than to receive.
- Westerners are only interested in money.
- Traditional societies could benefit from better business sense.
- Which of the following titles would be most appropriate for both Passage 1 or Passage 2?
- A Gift-giving Ceremony
- Ritual Exchange in Traditional Societies
- Ceremonial Giving and Receiving in a Traditional Society
- The Kindness of Strangers
- Giving and Receiving in a Faraway Land
Questions 17–25 are based on the following passage.
The author of this passage, a professor of English literature at a major university, argues that affirmative action is a necessary part of the college admissions process.
When I began teaching at Big State U in the late 1960s, the students in my American literature survey were almost uniformly of European heritage, and most were from middle-class Protestant families. Attending college for these students was a lesson in homogeneity. Although a number of students were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and some even worked "down South" on voter registration, most students considered segregation to be a Southern problem and many did not see the discrimination that was rampant on their own campus.
Since the 1960s there has been a sea change in university admissions. Key Supreme Court decisions and federal laws made equal opportunity the law of the land, and many institutions of higher learning adopted policies of affirmative action. The term affirmative action was first used in the 1960s to describe the active recruitment and promotion of minority candidates in both the workplace and in colleges and universities. President Lyndon Johnson, speaking at Howard University in 1965, aptly explained the reasoning behind affirmative action. As he said, "You do not take a man who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him to the starting line in a race and then say, 'You are free compete with all the others,' and still believe that you have been completely fair." Affirmative action programs in college admissions have been guided by the principle that it is not enough to simply remove barriers to social mobility but it is also necessary to encourage it for minority groups.
In recent years, affirmative action programs have come under public scrutiny, and some schools have been faced with charges of reverse discrimination. Preferential treatment of minority applicants is seen as discrimination against qualified applicants from the majority group. Despite widespread support for the elimination of prejudice, most whites do not favor the preferential treatment of minority applicants, and affirmative action in college admissions has been abolished in several states. In my view, this trend is very dangerous not only for minority students but for all students. Thanks to a diversified student body, my classes today are much richer than when I began teaching in the 1960s. For example, when I teach A Light in August by William Faulkner, as I do every fall, today there is likely to be a student in the class who has firsthand knowledge of the prejudice that is a central theme of the novel. This student's contribution to the class discussion of the novel is an invaluable part of all my students' education and a boon to my experience as a teacher.
Some may argue that affirmative action had its place in the years following the Civil Rights Movement, but that it is no longer necessary. To assume that all students are now on a level playing field is naïve. Take for example the extra-curricular activities, AP classes, and internships that help certain applicants impress the admissions board: These are not available or economically feasible for many minority candidates. This is just one example of why affirmative action still has an important place on American campuses. When all things are equal, choosing the minority candidate not only gives minorities fair access to institutions of higher learning, but it ensures diversity on our campuses. Exposing all students to a broad spectrum of American society is a lesson that may be the one that best prepares them to participate in American society and succeed in the future.
- In line 4, the phrase a lesson in homogeneity can be most accurately described as
- a slight against civil rights workers.
- an ironic observation about the uniform character of the student body.
- a comment on the poor quality of the education at Big State U.
- a sarcastic comment about the authors' former students.
- the author's' rueful view of his poor teaching skills.
- In line 10, the expression sea change means
- The author uses the quote from President Lyndon Johnson in (lines 18–21) to
- provide an example of discrimination in the past.
- show how Howard University benefited from affirmative action policies.
- make the passage more interesting.
- explain the rationale for affirmative action.
- prove that affirmative action has been effective at promoting diversity.
- According to the passage, the greatest danger of abolishing affirmative action in college admissions is
- allowing reverse discrimination to take hold of college admissions.
- creating a "slippery slope" of discrimination and prejudice.
- losing the benefits of a diverse campus.
- returning to the segregation of the past.
- complicating the job of the college admissions board.
- From the information provided in the passage, one can conclude that the author
- has personally benefited from the effects of affirmative action.
- considers affirmative action a necessary evil.
- favors accepting poorly qualified candidates for the sake of diversity.
- despises the opponents of affirmative action.
- thinks that affirmative action will eventually be unnecessary.
- The word feasible in line 46 most nearly means
- The tone of this passage can best be described as
- The author gives all the following reasons for continuing affirmative action in college admissions EXCEPT that it
- fosters diversity.
- provides fair access to higher education.
- is necessary to promote social mobility.
- exposes students to a broad spectrum of society.
- prepares students for the future.
- The argument for affirmative action in the workplace that most closely mirrors the author's reasoning about affirmative action in college admissions is
- it is the law of the land.
- diversity in the workplace better prepares a company to compete in the marketplace.
- a diverse workforce is more efficient.
- a less-qualified minority candidate is still a great asset to a company.
- it is the right thing to do.
- b. The primary purpose of the passage is to educate readers about the importance of good parenting in developing moral character in children. Choices a, d, and e are too narrow. Choice c is not supported by the passage.
- d. The author is using sentence in the sense of a conclusion reached by a judge in a criminal trial. She is asserting that to conclude that an eight-month-old baby is already destined for success or failure is a harsh judgment on such a small child. Note that choice e, is incorrect because punishment is the result of a sentence, and does not make sense in this context.
- c. The author opens the paragraph with the assertion that love is the cornerstone (foundation) of good parenting. The monkey study, which indicates that the need for love supercedes the need for food, is used to support that assertion.
- a. The passage clearly defines cold parents as withholding love (lines 32–33). Aloof means reserved or removed in feeling. Restrictive parenting is defined in the passage as setting limits (lines 33–34). A disciplinarian is one who enforces order.
- e. Lines 44 and 54–55 link the ability to defer gratification with self-discipline and self-control. Hence, children who are unable to defer gratification are unlikely to succeed because they lack self-discipline.
- e. The subject of this paragraph is parents balancing their needs with those of their child. Teaching a child to sleep through the night is an example of parents balancing their needs (for a full night's sleep) with the needs of their baby (to be picked up in the middle of the night).
- c. The passage clearly states that many parents will come to good parenting techniques instinctually (lines 65–66), which indicates that instincts are a good guide for parents. Also, line 24 states that loving an infant comes naturally to most parents something that comes naturally is instinctual. None of the other choices is supported by the passage.
- b. The passage clearly states that potlatch is a gift-giving ceremony. The author explains that potlatch is a generic word for the ceremony that comes from a shared trading language, while each nation has its own specific word for potlatch.
- a. The passage states that guests were expected to give a potlatch with gifts of equal value to what they received. This arrangement can best be described as reciprocal. The other choices are not supported by the passage.
- d. The author describes the ceremony in mostly neutral terms but in the last paragraph emphasizes the positive aspects of the tradition, which indicates a degree of respect.
- e. The passage explicitly states in lines 15–16 that a man will know by reputation all the men in his kula ring. None of the other choices is explicitly stated in the passage.
- c. The passage states in lines 26–27 that the visitors are seen as aggressors and are met with ritual hostility. This indicates that the visitors and hosts are playing the roles of aggressor and victims. The author uses quotes to indicate that the hosts are not really victims, but might call themselves the victims in the exchange.
- d. Lines 17–24 state the ways in which a kula object gains value; special shells are not mentioned.
- a. The final paragraph of each passage explicitly states the ways in which these ceremonies, or rituals, maintain community ties. None of the other choices is true for both passages.
- b. Both authors specifically discuss the non-monetary value of each ceremony. In Passage 1, lines 33–36 the author states, Giving wealth—not accumulating wealth, as is prized in Western culture—was a means of cementing leadership, affirming status, . . . In Passage 2, lines 35–39 the author states, The objects . . . have no value, and yet, this ceremonial exchange has numerous tangible benefits. None of the other choices is supported by the texts.
- c. Both potlatches and the kula ring involve giving and receiving, and both of the societies that participate in these rituals can be described as traditional. The tone of the title in choice e is more whimsical than the serious tone of each passage. Choice b is incorrect because neither article draws conclusions about traditional societies in general.
- b. The sentence preceding this phrase discusses the homogenous, or uniform, makeup of the student body in the 1960s. The author is using the word lesson ironically in that a lack of diversity is not something on which many educators would pride themselves.
- e. A sea change is a transformation. This can be inferred from the next sentence, which states that colleges adopted policies of affirmative action. Affirmative action is a transformation in college admissions.
- d. The author clearly states in lines 17–18 that President Johnson aptly explained the reasoning behind affirmative action.
- c. After stating that he considers the trend of abolishing affirmative action to be very dangerous, the author explains how a diverse student body makes his classes much richer.
- a. According to the author, one of the main benefits of affirmative action is diversity in the classroom and he states that this diversity has been a boon to my experience as a teacher (line 40). So, affirmative action has personally benefited the author. None of the other choices is supported by the passage.
- b. Feasible can mean capable of being done (possible) or capable of being used (suitable). In this context, the author is suggesting that, for many minorities, extracurricular activities and the like are not economically possible, that is they are unaffordable.
- c. The author expresses his opinion about affirmative action in a moderate, or reasonable, tone. He is neither dispassionate nor passionate, in that he expresses some emotion but not much. He is not impartial, as he is expressing an opinion.
- e. It is diversity, the result of affirmative action, not affirmative action itself, that prepares students for the future (lines 51–53).
- b. The author's main argument for affirmative action is that the student body benefits from diversity. His final point is that students who have been exposed to a broad spectrum of American society (line 51) are better prepared for their futures. The idea that diversity benefits a company and makes it better prepared to compete in marketplace most closely mirrors this reasoning.
For more practice on social studies critical reading questions, review:
- Social Studies Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1
- Social Studies Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 You are here
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