One weirdly frustrating aspect -- for me, and for my students -- of teaching writing has been how to answer the question, "What is biased writing?" Exposure to biased writing often makes me too angry to coolly dissect the bias and explain it.

Thanks to today's piece in the NYT about how companies fail to provide working women with sufficient support for continuing to breastfeed their children at work, I now have a great example. Take a look at this assertion, and the evidence on which it's based:

Pumping breast milk has one benefit that cannot be quantified: it makes working mothers feel less guilt-ridden about leaving their children. 'There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing I am doing right by him,' Ms. Wurster said of her son, James.

We may infer from this that Mrs. Wurster is having a good time pumping her milk at work. She believes breast is best, and she is happy to be able to choose her infant's diet in accordance with her values. But can we really conclude, from what she has said, that she "feels less guilt-ridden about leaving" her son in order to go back to work? No, we can't. Her statement implies only that she is pleased with her infant feeding arrangement. She expresses no dissatisfaction at all about going back to work.

By framing the quote in this way, the author of the article implies that when a mother goes to work, she is abandoning her child. This position is patently sexist -- after all, fathers who work are good providers, and no one accuses them of abandonment.

Later: Had a couple more thoughts on 'bias'. Students tend to see it only when they read something based on beliefs with which they disagree. They don't take the next step, which is to generalize this insight to eliminate their own bias. Maybe here's a good rule of thumb: A biased article is based on or contains beliefs that -- whether one agrees with them or not -- are not supported by sound reasoning and evidence.