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What do students need to know about rhetoric?

I love giving the “what is rhetoric” lecture in my freshman writing seminar. Most students have at least heard of a rhetorical question, but most don’t know what “rhetoric” means, nor have they heard of logos, pathos and ethos. The first thing that students need to know about rhetoric, then, is that it’s all around us in conversation, in movies, in advertisements and books, in body language, and in art.…

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We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.

A chemist celebrates the liberal arts. Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs. Leonardo’s curiosity and passion for painting, writing, engineering and biology helped him triumph in both art and science; his study of anatomy and dissections of corpses enabled his incredible drawings of the human figure. When introducing the iPad 2,…

"Due Date" vs "Do Date"
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“Do Date” vs “Due Date”: Do Profs Really Have to Explain the Difference?

If there really are teachers who list assignments by “do date” rather than “due date,” I’ve never heard from one. Students who fall behind sometimes say “I didn’t know whether the readings listed for Monday are due on *Monday* or whether they are due on *Wednesday*.” How likely is it that the student really *is* confused about whether Monday=Monday or Monday=Wednesday? How likely is it that the student is exaggerating…

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Associate Dean of What?

The idea of students as customers relies on models of customer service that are not what experts in the field actually teach (as explicated in this letter to The Chronicle by Clara Burke). We develop crude quantitative evaluative tools while businesses use more and more complex qualitative focus groups and sophisticated assessments. And we apply buzzwords. For example, we now “benchmark” our top administrative jobs in ways that feed salary…

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I’m Asking My Students to Be Deliberate about the Word “Novel”

In the past few years, I have noticed more students are applying the word “novel” to any text they might be asked to study in class, whether that text is a book-length fictional narrative, a play, a poem, a political manifesto, or a collection of academic essays. I wrote up this lecture to introduce the concept of literary genre, in the hopes of communicating why it’s important that we recognize…

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How Not to Be a Jackass at Your Next Academic Conference

Okay, I confess, I was once in the audience at an MLA session about medieval drama, when someone brought up a relevant computer simulation, and there was a disagreement over how to interpret the results. I raised my hand and said, “I created that simulation,” and weighed in on one side of the debate. It all happened very fast, and I didn’t think to consider how it might have looked.

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Writing School Papers: Does Your First Version Say It All?

My colleague Mike Arnzen talked about the writing process with the Voice of America. Michael Arnzen teaches English and heads humanities studies at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. Mr. Arnzen is also an award-winning author. He says he understands the desire to write something and be done with it. “We’ve all been there. We feel we’ve done (something) good enough, and can’t we move on with our lives?” But he…