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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…

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The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom

Maybe the students in this photo are diligently peer-reviewing each other’s work. I know full well students are not always attentive during my classes, but a study that explores whether laptops help students perform better on pop quizzes makes the interesting assumption that we measure learning by comparing scores on pop quizzes. (Or that students actually take notes, which is another issue altogether.) I teach very few courses where I…

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Office Hours Are Obsolete

I have nothing against holding office hours. If no students show up, I just use the time to answer emails or check my gradebook and reach out to students who are falling behind. My office is also in a somewhat out-of-the-way place — at least, so students tell me. A colleague ends the first day of classes by leading all her first-year-writing students from the classroom to her office door,…

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Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say

Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s. […] If there were more college graduates than the economy needed, the pay gap would shrink. The gap’s recent growth is especially notable because it has come after a rise in…