Prison Reform

In the United States today there are more than half a million criminals serving time in jails or prisons. Most prisoners are male high school dropouts between the ages of 18 and 29. Even more shocking is the fact that the number and rate of imprisonment has more than doubled over the past twenty years, and the recidivism- that is, the rate for rearrest-is more than 60 percent.

Although the stated objective of the criminal  justice system, on both federal and state levels, is to rehabilitate the inmates and reintegrate them into society, the system itself does not support such a goal. Although most jails are located within the community, prisons are usually geographical or psychologically isolated and terribly overcrowded. Even in the more enlightened prisons, only one-third of the inmates have vocational training opportunities or work release options. Even fewer have access to qualified counselors, psychologists, or social workers.

If prisons are indeed to achieve the goal of rehabilitating offenders, then the prisons themselves will have to change. First, they will have to be smaller, housing no more than five hundred prisoners. It has been shown that crowding in large facilities is not conducive to behavior modification. Second, they will have to be built in or near population centers with community resources available for gradual reintegration into society. This must include social and psychological services. Finally, prison programs must be restructured to provide work release and vocational and academic training for all inmates to prepare them with skills that carry over into their lives after release. In addition to parole terms and community supervised work release, successful models for such collaborative efforts between the criminal justice systems and the community already exist in several hundred half-way houses throughout the country where inmates complete their sentences while beginning to reestablish their lives as productive members of society. Studies suggest that imprisonment as it is currently administered must be viewed as punishment rather than reform. Until we approach the problem in terms of changing behaviors rather than segregating offenders, prisoners who are released will probably return to a life of crime.


(Practice Exercise for Reading by Baron)


Endangered Species

There are three valid arguments to support the preservation of endangered species. An aesthetic justification contends that biodiversity contributes to the quality of life because many of the endangered plants and animals are particularly appreciated for their unique physical beauty. The aesthetic role of nature in all its diverse forms is reflected in the art and literature of every culture, attaining symbolic status in the spiritual life of many groups. According to the proponents of the aesthetic argument, people need nature in all its diverse and beautiful forms as part of the experience of the world.

Another argument that has been put forward, especially by groups in the medical and pharmacological fields, is that of ecological self-interest. By preserving all species, we retain a balance of nature that is ultimately beneficial to humankind. Recent research on global ecosystems has been cited as evidence that every species contributes important or even essential functions that may be necessary to the survival of our own species. Some advocates of the ecological argument contend that important chemical compounds derived from rare plants may contain the key to a cure for one of the diseases currently threatening human beings. If we do not protect other species, they cannot protect us.

Apart from human advantage in both the aesthetic and ecological arguments, the proponents of a moral justification contend that all species have the right to exist, a viewpoint stated in the United Nations World Charter for Nature, created in 1982. Furthermore, if humankind views itself as the stewards of all the creatures on Earth, then it is incumbent upon human beings to protect them, and to ensure the continued existence of all species. Moral justification has been extended by a movement called “deep ecology,” the members of which rank the biosphere higher than people because the continuation of life depends on this larger perspective. To carry their argument to its logical conclusion, all choices must be made for the biosphere, not for people.


(taken from Practice Exercise for Reading, by Baron)



Definition/Illustration for Reading Comprehension Text

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse was not Walt Disney’s first successful cartoon creation, but he is certainly his most famous one. It was on a cross-country train trip from New York to California in 1927 that Disney first drew the mouse with the big ears. Supposedly, he took his inspiration from the tame field mice that used to scamper into his old studio in Kansas City. No one is quite sure why he dressed the mouse in the now-familiar shorts with two buttons and gave him the yellow shoes. But we do know that Disney had intended to call him Mortimer until his wife Lilian intervened and christened him Mickey Mouse.

Capitalizing on the interest in Charles Lindbergh, Disney planned Mickey’s debut in the short cartoon Planet Crazy, with Minnie as a co-star. In the third short cartoon, Steam Boat, Mickey was whistling and singing through the miracle of the modern soundtrack. By the 1930s Mickey’s image had circled the globe. He was a superstar at the height of his career.

Although he has received a few minor changes throughout his lifetime, most notably the addition of white gloves and the alterations to achieve the rounder forms of a more childish body, he has remained true to his nature since those first cartoons. Mickey is appealing because he is nice. He may get into trouble, but he takes it on the chin with a grin. He is both good-natured and resourceful. Perhaps that was Disney’s own image  of himself. Why else would he have insisted on doing Mickey’s voice in all the cartoons for twenty years? When interviewed, he would say. “There is a lot of the mouse in me.” And that mouse has remained one of the most pervasive images in American popular culture.


(taken from Practice Exercises for Reading by Baron)


Narrative/Sequence for Reading Comprehension Skill


Although he created the game of basketball at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dr. James A. Naismith was a Canadian. Working as a physical education instructor at the International YMCA, now Springfield College, Dr. Naismith noticed a lack of interest in exercise among students during wintertime. The New England winters were fierce, and the students balked at participating in outdoors activities. Naismith determined that a fast-moving game that could be played indoors would fill a void after the baseball and football seasons had ended.

First he attempted to adapt outdoor games such as soccer and rugby to indoor play, but he soon found them unsuitable for confined areas. Finally, he determined that he would have to invent a game.

In December of 1891, Dr. Naismith hung two old peach baskets at either end of the gymnasium at the school, and using a soccer ball and nine players on each side, organized the first  basketball game. The early rules allowed three points for each basket and made running with the ball a violation. Every time a goal was made, someone had to climb a ladder to retrieve the ball.

Nevertheless, the game became popular. In less than a year, basketball was being played in both the United States and Canada. Five years later, a championship tournament was staged in New York City, which was won by the Brooklyn Central YMCA.

The teams had already been reduced to seven players, and five became standards in the 1897 season. When basketball was introduced as a demonstration sport in the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, it quickly spread throughout the world. In 1906, a metal hoop was used for the first time to replace the basket, but the name basketball has remained.


(Practice Exercise for Reading, Baron, p. 120)