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Confuse Students to Help Them Learn

Confusing sometimes helps cats, so why not students? I’m afraid your cat badly needs to be confused. Confusion is a powerful force in education. It can send students reeling toward boredom and complacency. But being confused can also prompt students to work through impasses and arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the world. “Common wisdom holds that confusion should be avoided during learning and rapidly resolved if and when…

Academic Argument: Evidence-based Defense of a Non-obvious Position

That’s not an argument. (Yes it is.)

I spent some time this afternoon sifting through lecture notes to create a new handout: Academic Argument: Evidence-based Defense of a Non-obvious Position In everyday language, we may use the word “argument” to mean very different things. In the living room, siblings Charles and Petra argue about what movie to watch. The two groups of protestors chanted slogans and waved signs, arguing about abortion. The prosecutor argued that Wilson was at the scene of the crime, while the defense argued that Wilson…

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Language Log » 25 Questions for Teaching with “Word Crimes”

A little perspective is good. So is genre awareness… anybody who takes this song literally is missing the point of satire. After the apocalypse happens and society collapses, my knowledge of the difference between irony and coincidence won’t help me escape the zombie hordes. While “grammar nerds” are psyched about Weird Al’s new “Word Crimes” video, many linguists are shaking their heads and feeling a little hopeless about what the…

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How not to attract women to coding: Make tech pink

Just watched videos of the musicals “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Legally Blonde,” so cultural attitudes about women in the workforce are on my mind. Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.” Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects, Losh says. Women are grossly underrepresented in engineering and computer science careers, a…

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Essay on meaning of a life grounded in the liberal arts @insidehighered

For David N. DeVries, the critical thinking, openness to other viewpoints and appreciation of diversity are all well and good, but those are not why he values the liberal arts. The real reason is pleasure. The pleasure of having my mind tickled into action by the vibrations of words sprung into patterns “where more is meant than meets the ear.” The pleasure of having within my reach congeries of words…

Lawsuit Against Warner/Chappell Music Claims Happy Birthday Belongs to Public Domain

20 years ago, I chose for my dissertation texts written from 1920 through 1950, expecting them to come out of copyright one after the other during my career as a professor, but the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years. Disney has made dozens of movies based on characters that are in the common domain, but lobbied for a law to protect its own property. The story of…

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Advent of Digital Humanities Will Make English Departments Pointless — New Republic

Don’t overreact to the headline, which is the internal headline the New Republic put in its <title> tags. The headline on the page itself is not much better: “In the Near Future, Only Very Wealthy Colleges Will Have English Departments.” Both versions overhype and (in my opinion) misrepresent the author’s thesis, which is actualy “Only wealthy institutions will be able to afford the luxury of faculty devoted to studying written…