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…

College students in a lecture hall. A facilitator is kneeling in the aisle, talking to a smiling student.
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Moving from Debate to Empathy

In my freshman writing class, my job is to teach students how to write a researched essay. I encourage students to pick topics that interest them, but I warn them that if they go into their project already convinced that one answer is correct (that euthanasia should/should not be legal, that abortion is murder/healthcare, that high schools should increase funding to whatever activity they did in high school and cut…

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The Curtains Were Blue: In Which I Fix Another Meme.

Above is my response to a meme that makes some shaky assumptions about the purpose of an English classroom. Exploring the intent of the author is a huge part of the English discipline, but it’s far from the only way to study (or teach) literature. Author intent, new historicism, reader-response, structuralism.. the list goes on. Perhaps I will make more of these memes to introduce some of these other topics…

Illustration of glowing chain links in a shovel of dirt.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani: My Great-Grandfather, the Nigerian Slave-Trader

This fascinating essay, by the grandchild of a Nigerian slave trader, explores a complex cultural legacy. At least as provocative as “Did Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?” and the stunning, bitter “Molasses to Rum (to Slaves)” from the otherwise cheery musical 1776. African intellectuals tend to blame the West for the slave trade, but I knew that white traders couldn’t have loaded their ships without help from…

Handwritten, all-caps note on printed script from which Trump read: "THERE WAS NO COLUSION"

Fascinating details in reports about Trump’s Russian retraction

We’re all still reeling from Trump’s statement yesterday that he “didn’t see any reason why it would be” true that Russia had meddled with the US election. Standing there next to Putin, he publicly rejected the positions of multiple US intelligence authorities. Today, in the face of blistering criticism from foes and friends alike, including powerful members of his own Republican party, the president backtracked, saying that he misspoke –…