Ice Cream and Sharks

Scene: writing classroom.   Me: (setting up a lesson about correlation vs causation) What would you say if I told you that ice cream attracts sharks?   Student: I’d say you’re an idiot.   Class: (chortles and gasps)   Student: (looks worried)   Me: Don’t worry, this is definitely the highlight of my teaching day. Please tell me *why* you’d call me an idiot.   (The student went on to…

Bottled Authors: the predigital dream of the audiobook

There was no way to preserve sounds before the nineteenth century. Speeches, songs, and soliloquies all vanished moments after leaving the lips. That situation changed in 1877, when Thomas Edison began working on a machine that could mechanically reproduce the human voice. Edison’s team successfully assembled a device on which Edison recorded “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” a nursery rhyme that would become the first words ever spoken by the phonograph.2 Depending on how you define the term, Edison’s inaugural recording of verse might be considered the world’s first audiobook.. –Matthew Rubery, Cabinet Magazine

No, Dr. Seuss is not being “banned” or “censored” — but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is voluntarily retiring six books that contain racist stereotypes

It’s nothing new that Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel used racist stereotypes, particularly in his wartime political cartoons. I’m seeing social media chatter from people who a few days ago were up in arms about the gender of a potato (which was overblown, manufactured hype) and who are now leaping to the defense of Dr. Seuss, who is (according to the memes) being “banned” or “cancelled.” In fact, it was the…

The Value of Truth: We are living through an epistemological crisis.

In the jargon of academia, the study of what we can know, and how we can know it, is called “epistemology.” During the 1980s, philosopher Richard Rorty declared it dead and bid it good riddance. To Rorty and many other thinkers of that era, the idea that we even needed a theory of knowledge at all rested on outmoded, Cartesian assumptions that the mind was an innocent mirror of nature;…

Making Connections in Virtual One-Shots

I often invite my colleague Kelly Clever to give the “library session” to my freshman writing students. Of course there’s only so much anyone can accomplish in a single session, but my students often credit her for helping them make the leap from a general idea to a well-formed research question. Maybe they end up changing their topic a few weeks later, but the good experiences they have during the…