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Don’t Be Cruel

[M]angled syntax, disordered thinking, and frequent error happen to be hallmarks of a novice writer learning a new discourse. If we incorrectly assume they reflect a lack of effort or character — and base our feedback on that assumption — we do our students a disservice and risk inflicting real damage. | It takes enormous amounts of time and mental energy to craft substantive, constructive comments that will truly help students…

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Breaking: Student consults syllabus before asking question about course schedule

NASHVILLE, TN – Vanderbilt University is currently under lock down after a student reportedly consulted his syllabus before asking a question about the course schedule. At least one Associate Professor is in serious condition after going into shock, and several other professor have suffered mild fainting episodes. Police have been able to confirm that Jose Gomez, a junior at Vanderbilt, had raised his hand during the first meeting of History…

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When Students Won’t Do the Reading

Reading this story from IHE recalled my undergraduate class with Austin Quigley (then the chair of the U.Va. English department), who had us write about the newly-published Stoppard play Hapgood. This was in about 1989 or 90, so it was not possible to Google for a plot summary. Even looking up contemporary reviews would have meant a trip to the library microfilm reader. On the day we were to discuss the play — the…

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ALL ABOUT ‘ARCHIE’ – Jason Robert Brown

A few years ago, my daughter got to perform in a Stage Right summer camp production of 13: The Musical. The show’s dark humor and tween angst, and stunning performances by the young cast, made it one of my favorites. Here is a thoughtful essay written by the show’s creator, about one of the lead characters, Archie, who is bullied and ostracized for having a terminal disease (but who is…

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What Khan Academy’s Fun, Free Learning Empire Has to Do with Dystopian Social Control

Over the Christmas break, I’ve been churning through Khan Academy math drills, so that I can be a more effective homeschool parent. It’s actually kind of fun watching my score go up, and earning badges. In the way that birds who are trained to peck buttons for food think it’s fun to peck their little beaks bloody. As a grad student ploughing through Kant and Derrida, I found it an intellectual relief to run a computer program through…

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Imagine all the people. Just reading their damned syllabus.

These are not the rhetorical choices I would make in order to convey this message to my own students, but I can certainly identify with the author’s evident frustration. My own syllabus has a FAQ section, and in the first week or so of classes I usually assign an open-notes “Syllabus Quiz” so that students can get points for demonstrating that they can, in fact, read the syllabus. Imagine you’ve…

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Coding Bootcamps and the New For-Profit Higher Ed

There are actually a number of narratives – some of them competing narratives – at play here in the recent push for coding bootcamps, MOOCs, and other ed-tech initiatives: that everyone should go to college; that college is too expensive – “a bubble” in the Silicon Valley lexicon; that alternate forms of credentialing will be developed (by the technology sector, naturally); that the tech sector is itself a meritocracy, and…