Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

Science writer Jon Horgan writes: We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job. But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now…

Clever Modernization of Hamlet: Polonius with an iPhone

I teach Shakespeare in a literature class. I encourage students to call up a college production on YouTube, or listen to a BBC radio adaptation, and read along with their script. However, I remind students that because I’m an English teacher, I’m asking them to focus on the script, not on any individual director’s production of the script. Students whose responses refer to line delivery, facial expressions, or camera angles may certainly be engaging with the choices that the actor made during that performance, but my task in the literature classroom involves asking them to pay attention to the words…

Advice for alternate pathways in journalism: re-entering the workforce after taking a break; transitioning to college teaching

A colleague put me in touch with an award-winning TV journalist who took some time off for eldercare, and is now having a rough time re-entering the profession. Here’s the advice I collected, which includes the wisdom of a former student who’s now a TV producer in Houston, and also draws on other sources I use when I teach career readiness classes for English majors.

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

It’s exam week, and at the moment I have exactly one unmarked assignment (for a paper due Friday)

It’s exam week, and at the moment I have exactly one unmarked assignment (for a paper due Friday). I didn’t lower my standards or assign less work; I did spend instructional time more strategically, with more in-class journaling, peer workshops, and conferences. I still have work on its way in and deadlines to meet, but at the moment I have a breather.

The Nagus (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 11) Quark is named the financial leader of all Ferengi

Rewatching ST:DS9 In an episode focusing on father-son dynamics, Jake declines the chance to spend time on Bajor with Sisko, Nog bears the brunt of punishments heaped onto his father Rom, and the visiting Ferengi leader Zek expresses dissatisfaction with his son Krax. I give credit to actor Wallace Shawn and the make-up team and everyone else involved in creating such a repulsive caricature; but the truth is I just didn’t like spending time with the cackling, wheezing, decrepit Grand Nagus. For a race that is famous for being greedy, I think the depiction of Ferengi is a bit inconsistent,…

A Man Alone (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 4) Crime scene clues implicate Constable Odo; Keiko tries to start a school

Rewatching ST:DS9 After threatening a man who later turns up dead, Constable Odo becomes the prime suspect. The episode takes its time getting started, with character-driven bits developing Bashir’s one-sided interest in Dax, Sisko’s adjustment to his former mentor Curzon Dax’s new identity as Jadzia Dax, Sisko’s insistence that the Javert-like Odo play within the rules, Quark and Odo’s grumbly familiarity, the beginnings of a friendship between Jake and Nog, and tension between O’Brien and his wife Keiko. We also meet Rom (Nog’s father and Quark’s brother), but the writers obviously haven’t determined Rom’s personality yet — he seems brutish…

NASA astronaut: Russians were ‘blindsided’ by reaction to yellow suits

I posted a while back about the yellow and blue color scheme of the suits worn by Russian cosmonauts who had then just arrived at the International Space Station. This story says all three Russian had gone to a school whose colors are yellow and blue, and that they did not intend the colors to have any political significance. Those suits were likely designed months or even years in advance. So, because I posted something that suggested the opposite, it’s only fair I post this interpretation. In his first public comments since returning to Earth aboard a Russia space craft,…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In April, 2002, I was blogging about an autistic person’s guide to asking a girl on a date; The Inform 6 Beginner’s Guide; broken links;

In April, 2002, I was blogging about Instructions for “Asking a Girl on a Date” (autistics.org) The Inform Beginner’s Guide (I edited this book on programming text adventure games in Inform 6) Broken Links: Just How Rapidly do Science Education Hyperlinks Go Extinct? (yes, the link was broken but I linked to the backup on the Internet Archive) Faking It: Sex, Lies and Women’s Magazines “Prenatal memory and learning” (language acquisition begins before birth) “Did I Miss Anything?” (poet’s creative response to a “question frequently asked by students after missing a class”) A Salon article mocking the New York Times…

Ungrading after 11 weeks

Mathematics professor Robert Talbot reports on his ongoing experiment with ungrading — giving feedback and emphasizing the students’ metacognition, rather than encouraging them to fixate on “marks.” (Students who are less equipped to self-evaluate might actually benefit from the clear signposting provided by grades, so in his experience, removing grading from education does not magically remove inequities in the classroom.) I think it’s possible to have a hybrid setup in a lower-level course (like I’m teaching this summer) where the work that addresses the lower reaches of Bloom’s Taxonomy is graded using specifications with marks, while the upper levels of…

How to Use the Feynman Technique to Identify Pseudoscience

Simon Oxenham quotes physicist Richard Feynman: “I finally figured out a way to test whether you have taught an idea or you have only taught a definition. Test it this way: You say, ‘Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language. Without using the word “energy,” tell me what you know now about the dog’s motion.’ You cannot. So you learned nothing about science. That may be all right. You may not want to learn something about science right away. You have to learn definitions. But for the…

How Not to Hate Shakespeare

The problem isn’t Shakespeare—it’s how he’s been taught. […] Since Shakespeare’s work is “not of an age but for all time,” as Ben Jonson famously put it, I suggest that you get over your Bardophobia and embrace your inner Bardolator. Trust me, it’s worth it. First, you need to relax. You’re not stupid. You’re not a philistine. Shakespeare didn’t write in “olde English” (a common misconception), but his “early modern English” still causes problems for audiences. Shakespeare’s language is about 90 percent the same as the English we speak today, but that ten percent can be irritating. For instance, certain…

Journalists prefer in-person interviews. Emailing questions to strangers and expecting them to write out their answers is not journalism.

An interview means a real-time give-and take, not a list of questions you email. Most people worth interviewing are too busy to write out their answers to help you meet your deadline. If you can’t meet in person, ask if your source will do a videoconference, or even (if they’re the right generation) an old-fashioned phone call. (Gasp!)

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Lower Decks (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 15) Junior officers star in a coming of age drama

Rewatching ST:TNG As Riker and Troi discuss crew evaluation reports in Ten Forward, we spend time with four junior officers who would normally get a few lines each. We already know Nurse Ogawa and Ensign Sito (one of the cadets who obstructed an investigation in s5e13 “The First Duty“). Lavelle is a square-jawed Dudley Do-Right and Taurik is a Vulcan with a dry wit. With their friend Ben (a gossipy civilian waiter) they look on as the series regulars sometimes encourage, and sometimes check their ambitions.  After a drill session on the bridge, where RIker offers a tip to the…

Selected Negative Teaching Evaluations of Jesus Christ

“Not what I expected. They say his area of specialty is carpentry, but we never built anything.” “Kind of absent-minded. My name’s Simon, and he’s called me ‘Peter’ for the entire semester.” “I wanted to like this class, but on the first day, he submerged us in a river instead of going over the syllabus, and that was kind of a lot.” […] “I asked him to sign my accommodations form from the Disability Services Office, and he spit on the ground and rubbed the dirt in my eyes. I can see now, but it was still rude.” —McSweeney’s