How to Disagree

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here’s an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy: Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at…

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Republican National Convention: Scrutiny of Melania Trump’s speech follows plagiarism allegations

As a college English teacher, I come to the table with a nuanced professional stance on the value of originality in writing. In a given discourse community, I can refer to common ideas without making it look like I am claiming original thinking. For example, when I was an undergrad with a work-study job in the theatre department’s scene shop, I saw a tired grad student scowl at the lopsided chicken-wire…

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The cultural implications of the myth that English majors end up working permanently at Starbucks

Would you like facts with that? English majors are statistically more likely to end up as CEOs, doctors or accountants than food service workers. The top occupations for English-degree holders ages 27 to 66 are elementary and middle school teachers, postsecondary teachers, and lawyers, judges, magistrates and other judicial workers. Indeed, English majors, who go on to a range of careers, are less likely to work in food service than…

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The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb.

The song “No One Is Alone,” from the musical Into the Woods, always gives me chills. Last year when my daughter was learning it in her voice class, I helped her work through some of the words. While the whole musical has a dark tone that I find comes too close to nihilism, in the context of that darkness, I find this part deeply moving: Everybody makes One another’s terrible mistakes Witches…


The Myth of the Unemployed Humanities Major

Students who work their way up to leadership positions in clubs, get work-study jobs or internships writing press releases or running social media accounts or editing newsletters, who take challenging courses (and do the hard work necessary for getting an A), and who practice writing and talking about what they learn are already demonstrating the skills employers want. Writing a few music reviews for bands you like couldn’t hurt, but…

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‘Thought Leader’ gives talk that will inspire your thoughts

Saving this for the next time I assign an oral presentation. Now that doesn’t sound important, and it’s not. But if I repeat it three times, I’m making you believe that it is important… Let’s look at a picture of the planet for no reason …. Slowing my speech, lowering the volume of my voice, by looking at you directly, and by making a list on my fingers, I’ve made you…