Just an Example

| Thursday, July 9, 2009

Textbooks love using examples. It's a way to illustrate the information in a real-world setting. It's a way to repeat everything they just said in a different format. And especially when featuring a hypothetical John or Betty, it can be a nice creative change from the dry informative bulk. I can appreciate all of that, especially on technical topics that don't entirely click in my head until there is some sort of hands-on connection.

Writing and speech textbooks use examples a lot, too, but this is where I start to wonder whether examples become overkill. Writing and speech classes usually require a lot of thinking and writing on my part, and although the lectures and reading are pretty catalytic to the learning process, the actual project is most of it (including planning, writing, revising, and reflecting). When having to read this textbook before starting on a large writing assignment, I'm interested in what insight it has to show me, but in a concise format, please. Paragraphs slow me down. I want lists and tables. With long reading assignments, I usually skip paragraphs and try to focus on the main points, sometimes reading deeper if I want to know more about one. But sometimes paragraphs are all they've got. It's annoying, because that's especially when without warning, they will start in on an example. Like this.

For example, Toni, a recently graduated computer engineer,

I stopped right there. Toni? That is a girl's name. I scanned the next few sentences and confirmed that yes, Toni was a she. Well excuse me for acknowledging this as a little uncommon, but we all know that out of a handful of computer engineering graduates, you're probably not going to come across a female until you grab another handful or two. I don't have a problem with other women in that field, obviously; I'd totally be fine with more. I'm just a little taken aback at how deliberate that is.

Why do they do this? Is it to make the example kind of pop out as an interesting one, like "Ah that's pretty cool, a lady in engineering in a position of power in a firm, I wonder what her deal is"? Or is it just to offer diversity, like how they put stock photos of happy minority figures on company webpages? Or maybe it's to keep PC-weenies from stopping in their tracks in their edumacation to go "Why do all computer geeks have to be men?!" Well good for them--I stop in my tracks at the opposite. (I guess they just can't win.)


Maybe these things are subtle details that shouldn't require a second thought, but I really can't help but notice. I'm not sure what that makes me. Maybe even... my outrage was just a giant excuse for me to procrastinate on my reading.


Anonymous said...

it sounds like kind of thing our father would get outraged at. it's also the kind of thing that's a waste of time for one to get outraged at.