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June 6, 2007
Everyone focuses on neurasthenic high school juniors desperate to get into good colleges, but let's shift for a moment to the professors awaiting them.Today's New York Times features exactly the sort of student I want to see in my classrooms at George Washington University. He's independent, odd, intellectually curious, and living a somewhat difficult life. I'm thrilled that our admissions committee saw what there was to see in him.
June 6, 2007
Here was my day, in a sentence: “The past of the character greatly contributes to the meaning of the novel as a whole.” Indeed. Many, many AP English Lit essays I graded today began with the same startling insight. Please pass the hemlock.
June 6, 2007
If I knew the literature well enough, I'd start developing a theory of academic gossip. As it is, I'm stuck at the level of observations.Over the past few months, some really provocative pieces of gossip have been flying around campus. (Happily, I haven't been the star of any of them.) I've heard the same (or closely related) rumors from multiple sources, each from a different angle. As a piece of anthropological fieldwork, it's kind of fun.
June 5, 2007
According to this article in the Boston Globe, Gov. Patrick is considering a plan to make community colleges in Massachusetts tuition-free by 2015. As appealing as the idea is at first glance, I have to recommend against it.
June 5, 2007
Jim Barkus, Chief Reader for AP Literature, told us our punctuality each day and steady application to the task of reading student essays would get the job done by Saturday evening; we weren’t to worry about our speed. It’s a little hard not to think of speed, though.
June 3, 2007
How stupid are American university students, professors, and sports boosters willing to be?Very, Selena Roberts points out in today's New York Times. They'll spend all their money on coaches who'll stay a few months and then get massive buyouts. They'll lie there while sports directors send ticket prices up the wazoo.
May 31, 2007
No, not with childcare; I have that under control. When Mrs. Churm left Sunday for the NAFSA conference in the Twin Cities, which will last a week, I blew my bosun’s whistle to call my two little boys away from the window, where they were sadly waving goodbye to their mother. They fell in. I blew it again, and they snapped to attention.“Rule One!” I said.“Daddy’s number-one job is to keep us safe!” Starbuck shouted. His little brother, Wolfie, said, “Bye,” and started biting my cell phone.“Rule Two!” I said.“Daddies always win,” Starbuck shouted.
May 31, 2007
When a high-profile, well-compensated professor who’s also his university’s assistant vice president of government relations is convicted of a serious crime, you know he’ll find the right words to convey his regret, the enormity of the event, etc.There it is, up there, in my headline.I mentioned in my last post the AP article summarizing the just-ended academic year as having been primarily about theft and greed and dishonesty. Here’s a sample story.
May 31, 2007
Near the end of each semester a student inevitably asks, “Why is literature always about bad stuff?” Even if we’re not reading, say, Titus Andronicus (dismemberment, cannibalism, it’s got it all), cummings (“his rectum wickedly to tease / by means of skilfully applied / bayonets roasted hot with heat”), or Erdrich’s “Red Convertible” (suicide, students suspect, maybe), it’s a fair enough question. Do you know a literary work in which everything turns out great?

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