Closeup of a person's hand pulling a book off of a shelf.

How Common Core Testing Damaged High School English Classes

Helping my students understand how my role as a college literature teacher differs from the role of a high school English teacher is a sometimes daunting task. Preparing students for a standardized reading test is completely unlike teaching them about a work of classic literature. In an English class addressing The Great Gatsby, depending on student ability and prior knowledge, the teacher might take several weeks to help the students find their…

Uneasy Lies the Head — Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power

John Stubbs reviews Stephen Grenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power The psychology and spectacle of villainy and the intoxicating nature of power clearly preoccupied Shakespeare. The grandeur, amoral freedom of action and sheer theatrical potential of tyrants must have moved and excited him. The case of a confirmed murderous dictator, after all, especially one with the charisma, merciless intelligence and twisted charm Shakespeare bestows on Richard III, gave unequalled scope for…

Spring office cleaning thoughts: 1) I used to print a lot. 2) I have enough tote bags.

I used to print a lot. I have enough tote bags. I found more stuff for my box of once-loved tools. It felt so good throwing away all the papers having to do with that one thing. If spiders had to crawl into one box and die, I can forgive them for choosing that other box. I used to spend a lot of time teaching students who were comfortable with…

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Books vs. Kindles: The Choice No One Made Ever

“I bought a Kindle. I didn’t immediately go home and burn all my other books. I didn’t stop buying paper books. I read both and no one came knocking at my door. It’s a boring story, I know. I’m thinking of adding in a talking pig and a plot to destroy Lady Elaine from Mr. Roger’s world of make believe. But it’s the truth. There is absolutely no reason you can’t…

Chapbooks — the latest assignment in my “History and Future of the Book” class.

Students have already done a 400-word speech, a 400-word manuscript, and a 400-word typescript. I asked them to make multiple copies of their books. They wrote, cut, pasted, photocopied, folded, and bound. Our classroom today smelled cheerfully of glue.  Up next: A “Futuretext” (whatever that means).

How Zuckerberg’s Facebook is like Gutenberg’s printing press

Historian Niall Ferguson notes that Silicon Valley is not that interested in history, which is one reason why technological gurus keep making the same mistakes. Technology that decentralizes power brings its own problems. According to Ferguson: “The idea that witches live amongst us and should be burned went as viral as anything that Martin Luther said … Indeed, it turned out that witch burning was more likely to happen in…