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Language Log » 25 Questions for Teaching with “Word Crimes”

A little perspective is good. So is genre awareness… anybody who takes this song literally is missing the point of satire. After the apocalypse happens and society collapses, my knowledge of the difference between irony and coincidence won’t help me escape the zombie hordes. While “grammar nerds” are psyched about Weird Al’s new “Word Crimes” video, many linguists are shaking their heads and feeling a little hopeless about what the…

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The 3 Scariest Words A Boy Can Hear (“Be a Man”)

Former NFL player and current pastor Joe Ehrmann reflects on the power coaches have over the identities of boys. There’s two kinds of coaches in America: You’re either transactional or you’re transformational. Transactional coaches basically use young people for their own identity, their own validation, their own ends. It’s always about them — the team first, players’ needs down the road. And then you have transformational coaches. They understand the…

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The Truth About Test Scores

It’s not hard to design a test that has a high likelihood of producing just about any outcome desired. Let’s not forget that a test cannot possibly measure all that is taught. Therefore, designers rely on sampling what they believe are the most important concepts in any given subject. But suppose the mission is to sort out students (e.g., the SAT). If the test were heavily loaded up with items…

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The Uses of Being Wrong

Unlike that of most physical and natural scientists, the ability of social scientists to conduct experiments or rely on high-quality data is often limited. In my field, international relations, even the most robust econometric analyses often explain a pathetically small amount of the data’s statistical variance. Indeed, from my first exposure to the philosopher of mathematics Imre Lakatos, I was taught that the goal of social science is falsification. By…

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How not to attract women to coding: Make tech pink

Just watched videos of the musicals “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Legally Blonde,” so cultural attitudes about women in the workforce are on my mind. Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.” Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects, Losh says. Women are grossly underrepresented in engineering and computer science careers, a…

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Educators approve national campaign to halt high stakes, “toxic tests”

Not a news item, but an announcement from a stakeholder. As a homeschool parent and college teacher, I’m interested in the rhetoric of the “toxic testing” pushback. Increasingly frustrated with the abuse and overuse of high stakes standardized and the negative effects on student learning, nearly 9,000 educators approved a national campaign to reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by standardized tests and to implement more effective…

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We are the product that Facebook has been testing

Up to now, I refrained from posting anything on the FB “contagion” issue, but this article seems to have the right approach. Facebook has made no secret of the fact that its news feed is a manipulated version of reality. It selects the posts and links to display prominently that it has found through testing are the most likely to interest users, and encourage them to return and post themselves.…