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Dr. Bobby Teaches Ferris Bueller as Rhetor

My former student, Bobby Kuechenmeister, uses Ferris Bueller’s lesson on faking out his parents as an example to teach ethos, logos, and paths.  The last time I checked, most of my undergrads said they would probably recognize a Ferris Beuller reference, but in a class today of 9 only 3 raised their hands when I asked if they knew “The Karate Kid.”

Grappling with Genocide: Fostering Empathy and Engagement through Text and Image (NEH funded education summit, Seton Hill University, July 11-22 2022)

Some of my amazing colleagues have collaborated on an amazing NEH-funded summer institute that provides teachers in grades 6-12 with resources for teaching about genocide. The event, scheduled for summer 2022, includes units on the erasure of Native Americans, an empathy-building Narrative 4 storytelling workshop, and more. There’s a stipend for participating in this event, and on-campus housing is available at a very modest cost — about 10% of the stipend. See the details on the Grappling with Genocide website. Here is how John Spurlock describes the event on his blog: During the two weeks of the institute, students will…

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True Q (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 6) Visiting Intern Exhibits Q-like Powers

Rewatching ST:TNG On its way to help an ecologically devastated planet, the Enterprise-D picks up a clever young intern, who reveals for us her secret power of making puppies appear from nowhere. Amanda (played with an impressive mixture of maturity and teenaged vulnerability by Olivia D’Abo) chats with Dr. Crusher about family, and we learn she was adopted as a baby. Right before a cargo container falls on Riker, she deflects it with a gesture. Later, in engineering, the warp core suddenly acts up and explodes, but she manages to reverse the explosion and restore the ship. Q suddenly appears,…

Letter to the editor: Why our English department deserves more respect

I came very close to accepting an offer to Purdue’s Ph.D. program, so it’s heartbreaking to read about the recently announced cuts to the famous and influential writing program. (What English teacher or writing student hasn’t relied on resources from the Purdue OWL?) [A] university that is only good at STEM education is nothing more than a trade school. I came to Purdue to work in a university, and not in a trade school. The horror stories coming out of our English department — how else would you describe the stories when the department head feels compelled to use phrases…

Axios journalism style delivers traditional news content in scannable format

In addition to the fact that it’s good news that a federal judge is responding rationally to science, logic, and our basic human obligation to care for the most vulnerable members of our society, I’m also interested in the way Axios labels each paragraph of this news story and supplies details with bullet points. It’s an interesting blend of journalism and writing scannable text for busy online readers. Copying and pasting text from the Axios website is annoying because of the embedded non-standard formatting. (I had to recreate the look on my page.) A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Texas…

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Simulations are powerful tools for understanding our world. Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. It also tells the story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance the male-dominated field of police investigation and to establish herself as one of its leading voices. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true…

Loki’s Loop Escape Room

Great  concept for a virtual escape room devoted to debunking fake information online. For years a supplement called “Euphorigen” has been used by the very wealthy to boost brain activity and productivity. Now the Government wants to make the benefits of Euphorigen available to everyone by introducing it into the public water supply. The company that makes Euphorigen claims to have completed successful trials, and an announcement of the deal is expected shortly. But your investigator friend has suspicions, and has heard that a prominent scientist has recorded a statement on whether or not the company’s claims are to be…

Lies about history in Texas can be traced to the Lone Star State’s own Big Lie: The Alamo

Yet many Texans feel they need the Alamo story. As one of the authors of Forget the Alamo stated, the myth speaks to what many Texans desperately want to believe about their state: that it arose from heroic circumstances, and that there’s a reason Texas is special. This includes the current crop of Republican Texas legislators. Instead of allowing critical thinking and a serious examination of the historical record, Abbott and his allies decided to go the despotic route and unilaterally declare the false mythology is now fact. In a move that critics decry as a pure expression of fascism, the Texas governor requires his “patriotic…

I’m really enjoying seeing how my students are responding to Hamlet.

As part of a class assignment, one student took some friends to see the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park all-female production of Hamlet. One of her friends is from Vietnam, and my student was very proud that she could answer his questions about what was going on. Many students, even the English majors, confess that in high school they never tried to read Shakespeare’s language, but instead depended totally on modern-language paraphrases. That means that from year to year, they never got any better at understanding Shakespeare’s original language. Early in the term, I usually walk students through the first…

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent

I’m shocked… shocked that a reporter published a newsworthy story about a rookie cyber-blunder made by a powerful government agency. A reporter viewed the HTML code (a one-click process on many web browsers) and noticed that the social security numbers of school teachers and administrators were embedded in web pages served up by Missouri’s department of education. The reporter contacted the agency, and held the story until the problem was fixed. The governor is now calling the reporter a “hacker,” and vowing legal action. “The state is committed to bring to justice anyone who hacked our system and anyone who…

Trying to Tame Huck Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in America. I regularly teach it in my American Lit class. I never use “the n-word” in lectures, and I remind my (mostly white) students of the power of the word, but the version of the text I assign doesn’t edit that word out. I also have students listen to an audio interpretation of Pap’s tirade, in order to draw attention to how the author uses humor to mock the most openly racist character in the book. I think they recognize the stereotyping at the beginning of the…

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“We hate math,” says 4 in 10 – a majority of Americans

If 30% love math, and 30% are neutral about math, then the 40% that hate it could be the largest group, hence the majority. If so, then the headline might actually be brilliant. EDIT: Or not. A “majority” means “more than half.” The word I was thinking of is “plurality.” For the record, editors often write their own headlines to fit the available space, or to generate more traffic. Here’s how CNN reported this story (under the  headline “The most unpopular school subject“): “Twice as many people said they hated math as said that about any other subject.”  

Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

The headline is oddly STEM-specific, but yes, it used to be that if you worked with computers at all, you had to understand your computer’s file directory structure, so all college instructors could expect that their STEM majors had probably learned this concept as part of their earliest computer training. But the “search” function on individual computers (and also the list of recently saved files that almost every software tool puts into its “load” menu) means generation Z usually doesn’t need to internalize the concept that a document exists at a single location on a hard drive. I have recently…