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Reading should not carry a health warning

This is probably the first time in history that young readers themselves are demanding protection from the disturbing content of their course texts, yet reading has been seen as a threat to mental health for thousands of years. In accordance with the paternalistic ethos of ancient Greece, Socrates said that most people couldn’t handle written text on their own. He feared that for many – especially the uneducated – reading…

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The Little Professor: How to write an essay about teaching that will not be published in the NYT, Chronicle, IHE, or anywhere else

All instructors have to assemble their own pedagogical toolkit from the many resources out there and restock it (and recreate it) as necessary.  There is no one single way of being effective.  There is no magic spell (previous post on this blog to the contrary) that will make all pedagogical techniques effective all the time.  It is very difficult to generalize from one instructor’s experience to the next.  One gets…

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Humanities research is groundbreaking, life-changing… and ignored

Most arguments for “saving” the humanities focus on the fact that employers prize the critical thinking and communication skills that undergraduate students develop. Although that may be true, such arguments highlight the value of classroom study, not the value of research.But humanities research teaches us about the world beyond the classroom, and beyond a job. Humanities scholars explore ethical issues, and discover how the past informs the present and the…


The reluctant wisdom of a science major in my freshman writing class.

“There’s nothing left to say,” said a science major in my writing class. I had called on her during a classroom discussion of a peer-review activity. “Everyone’s already said everything.” “You can at least provide a new example from your own paper, or express an idea in your own words,” I said. The student looked skeptical. “What about the revision process?” I prompted. “What’s your next step? Give it a try.”…


Why Fan Theories Are Destroying Film Discourse

Fan theories are no substitute for critical analysis, yet they have quickly become inseparable for so many readers online. On one hand, it’s (sadly) a small encouragement that there’s any discussion about a movie that already exists, instead of a movie that will open in two years and only has a slew of set photos to its name. On the other, fan theories pose as critical analysis in spite of…

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Thoughtful PopCult Analysis of ‘Peanuts’ Deserves Better than a Clickbaity Headline Hating on Snoopy

On a shelf in the slanty room under the stairs, next to her college textbooks, my mother kept a stash of inexpensive Peanuts paperbacks — dozens of them, which reprinted the newspaper strips, perhaps on a yearly basis, maybe more frequently. I spent many a summer afternoon reading through those books, and I remember sorting the books in chronological order and noticing how the drawing style changed over the years.…