“What Teachers Make” Sequence of Assignments

Every year I rewatch Taylor Mali’s passionate defense of “What Teachers Make.” As part of a sequence of assignments designed to help students write a more engaging personal literacy narrative, I use Mali’s speech. Yes, it’s my job to teach composition, but composition is a term that applies to music, photography, choreography, athletics, etc. Students already have an intuitive sense of what makes a good Vine, what makes a good…


The Rhetoric of Anthems and the Drama of Kneeling

I don’t follow sports, so I don’t feel fully equipped to comment on the issue, but when a friend raised it via an email I thought I’d share my thoughts about the rhetorical and dramatic nature of patriotism and protest. I have often wished I could attend a concert/literary discussion where singers performed the national anthems of countries from trouble spots around the world, and then people from those countries…


World Trade Center Literary and Cultural Reflections (first posted September 11, 2001)

Not knowing what else to do, in the numb hours after the towers fell, I made a web page that explored the World Trade Center in literature and culture, as well as urban technology in general. I updated it a bit over the next few weeks or months, but have mostly left it as an historical record.    As journalists improvised to meet the public’s demand for online updates (in…


Facebook’s Censorship Problem Is What Happens When a Tech Company Controls the News

Facebook makes editorial decisions that affect its presentation of news through its “news” (?) feed. But Facebook is in the business to make money for Facebook, and the trending topics feed is just a tool to keep people on Facebook. Someone needs to assign Facebook a faculty adviser. In the space of a single day, Facebook has managed to: Draw condemnation from a Norwegian news organization for censoring a famous…


Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?

Fascinating theory. The hard work of raising helpless babies is part of the natural selection process that made us as a species so intelligent. Natural selection favors humans with large brains, because those humans tend to be smarter. This may create evolutionary incentives for babies that are born at an even earlier developmental stage, which require more intelligence to raise. This creates the dynamic: over time, helpless babies make parents…


Breakfast Battle from “The Miracle Worker” (Pamela Lee as Annie Sullivan and Carolyn Jerz as Helen Keller)

A few weeks ago, my 14yo played Helen Keller in the Latrobe Cabaret Theatre’s production of The Miracle Worker. This clip is from a rehearsal of the epic breakfast scene, a wordless battle of wills between young Helen (who has been blind and deaf since she was a toddler) and her teacher Annie Sullivan (played by the amazing Pamela Lee). I used an abbreviated version of this scene in an…