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Has life in the age of casual magic made moviegoers numb to the amazing?

This is one of the reasons I’ve become more interested in local theater. The dropped lines, unexpected blackouts, and last-minute casting replacements are what makes it so much more engaging to me than a slick professional production. Avatar left me completely numb… yes the visuals were stunning, but I feel much more connected to fantasy characters in a BBC-TV video production from the 1980s. We are living in an age…

Robo Grader

Standardized-test robo-graders flunk

“According to professor of theory of knowledge Leon Trotsky, privacy is the most fundamental report of humankind. Radiation on advocates to an orator transmits gamma rays of parsimony to implode.’’ ANY NATIVE speaker over age 5 knows that the preceding sentences are incoherent babble. But a computer essay grader, like the one Massachusetts may use as part of its new public school tests, thinks it is exceptionally good prose. –Standardized-test…

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Finished Reading The Chronicles of Prydain

We could hardly stop reading just before the big final battle. And really, how could I stop reading until we found out how the battle turned out. And once the battle ended, could we stop before we found out whehter Taran finally proposes to Eilonwy? So it was a quarter past midnight when we finally finished reading my tween the fifth book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series. The…

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What Can You Do With a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?

Victoria Blodgett, director of Graduate Career Services at Yale University, told me, “People who take their Ph.D.s into other realms are not necessarily being hired for their content expertise, but for their process skills: the ability to do excellent research, to write, to make cogent arguments.” These skills, it turns out, are in high demand. | So why are humanities Ph.D.s outside academia so invisible? One reason is that within…

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English teaching: Johnson: Talking past each other

When I got to college, I had already learned complex grammar fairly well thanks to 3 years of High School Latin. At the University of Toronto during grad school, I took a history of the English language course, which helped tremendously when I later took a medieval drama course. It was very clear during that language course that a good portion of my classmates were hearing much of the grammar…

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Dear Google: You Should Have Talked to Me First

Teacher Jen Marten responds to Google’s latest educational initiative: Do you know what Accelerated Reader and programs like it are doing to readers these days? I’ve heard of teachers being reprimanded for not leveling all their classroom books. I know of school libraries where children have to show the librarian a card with their reading level on it before they can check out books. I know of kids excited about…