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Books Wield a Dangerous Power

While we might point to violent video games or sexually explicit films as potentially dangerous and corrupting influences on tender or vulnerable minds, the novel is treated as uplifting and salutary, regardless of its content: a kale smoothie for the soul. When we do talk about books being ‘dangerous’, it is usually with a knowing nod and a wink: and the implication is that those of us in the know…

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When Asking the Question is Part of the News Story (New Example: Clinton Supporters)

I ask my journalism students to avoid using the phrase “When asked about…” as a default transition in news stories. While they are taught in freshman comp classes to introduce their quotes and then explain the significance of the quotes, to a journalist that’s just filler. This story from the Daily Mail (a UK publication which has a reputation for being gossipy and conservative) covers shows pictures of teens and…

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The Chronicle of Higher Education Announces Plan to Limit, Curate Comments

By 2016, the terrain has shifted. Publications of all stripes are re-examining what it means to engage with their audiences and to encourage productive conversations. Quite a few of those conversations — including ones about our work — have already moved to social media. Many publications have played down comments or eliminated them altogether; others have gone in the opposite direction, devoting more time and energy to shaping discussions. Comments have…

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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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Great moments from Pride and Prejudice

I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice in about 25 years. I always liked Mr. Bennett, though now that I have been married for more than 20 years, I can more fully appreciate his line from Chapter 1: “You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.” I love…

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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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The Post drops the ‘mike’ — and the hyphen in ‘e-mail’

When I announced these style changes, another Twitter user wrote, “wait, it’s 2015 and there are still people who write e-mail?” Not everyone is on Twitter, of course. For every online Post reader snickering at mike, there might be a longtime print subscriber baffled by mic. Because it would be impractical to edit each article separately for online and print audiences, we err on the conservative side. And, at the risk…