Category Archives: teaching

It was misrepresented

Last week I made a post about the UNC student who allegedly received an A- for a 146 word plagiarized paragraph on Rosa Parks. I thought it smelled funny. Yes athletes are allowed to dodge hard college work–who doesn’t believe that? But this just smelled “off,” for the reasons explained. Well it turns out it […]

This is a fake

So recently ESPN  did a story about big time college athletes and academics. Exhibit A was a “paper” allegedly turned in by an athlete at UNC. The paragraph, on Rosa Parks, allegedly received an A- Here it is: The internet agrees: this is an outrage. I agree too. This is an F in a class […]

Why does History Matter?

A friend recently re-posted an old piece from The Onion, in which the nation’s “Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What’s Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions.” I asked my grad class to blog about why they’re taking a history class, and why they think it matters, so it’s only fair that I […]

Assigning your own book

Do you assign your own book in class? I typically don’t, but I’m thinking about doing it for next semester Arguments for the practice 1. It’s the best damn book on the subject! Nobody else has done this! There is no other book like it! It’s indispensable! 2. The chance to talk to the author […]

The end-game of critical thinking

A friend sent me this link, from last month’s Washington Post, about the Texas GOPs Party platform calling for a ban on critical thinking. The plank in question reads: We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) […]

The necessity of algebra

Recently Andrew Hacker published an op-ed in the New York Times about Algebra. It’s extremely hard for many people, and it’s of dubious practical value, he says. We should de-emphasize it. I’m entirely sympathetic to this point of view, even though in general, I support the agenda of the traditional liberal arts. I’m one of […]

Reclaiming the flag

Today is the fourth of July, and we’ve decided to fly a flag. My wife and I have both hesitated to put out a flag. We both felt it’s become associated with jingoistic rightwingery, with eagle-and-flag empty bluster and an odor of compulsion. My wife grew up on military bases, where the raising and lowering […]

Formalism and the article

Getting a Ph.D. is pretty hard. You have to amass a lot of information, but beyond that, you have to learn a specific language–not just professional jargon, but the form of academic discourse. That form is usually casually taught, by experience, rather than formally, as a set of precepts. But there is a form, and […]

No thing’s any good

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet) “A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one, it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.” (Aldous Huxley) With those words in mind, consider the music of Shooby Taylor, “the Human Horn” Stout Hearted Men Lift […]

The existential despair of teaching

I teach American history at a state university. I like the job, for many reasons, not all of them noble. But I walk out of nearly every class with a feeling of having failed. Nearly every class. I suspect that’s true of most teachers. This could just be neurosis, because according to the standard metrics […]