Category Archives: Uncategorized


Needed: a Revolution in Musical Training

There may have been a time when it made sense to encourage college freshmen to follow their career dreams, no matter what supply and demand suggested. But when the national infrastructure is decaying, the national debt approaching the GDP, and the indebtedness of our college graduates aggregating to more than $1-trillion, that time has clearly passed.

From what I’ve read, we need more general medical practitioners; more nurses; more scientists, engineers, and teachers of those subjects; and more…


Delicate Terms

It happened again: the single most contentious and edifying day of the semester, which I look forward to year after year. It’s the session in my editing class where we discuss racial and gender bias in language. And it’s the one in which my undergraduates, mostly blacks and Latinos from the Bronx, do the educating.

Do you prefer black or African-American? I ask them. Latino or Hispanic? Why is it wrong to call Hispanics “Spanish”? Why is the courtesy title “Ms.” neutral in a  way “Mis…


What Data Can’t Convey

Several years ago, when passing the house where my father grew up, I noted an odd distinction. Dad, it seemed, had been more familiar with the families that had lived on his street in Cincinnati than I had grown to be, a generation later, with those who lived near our house outside Buffalo. Friendly neighbors had animated his childhood in ways in which they were entirely absent from mine.

I might have left it at that. In the course of our day-to-day lives, we all have a tendency to note little t…


Betray Our Students for Publisher’s Profit?

I recently received an email from a “consultant” inviting me to help a publisher create an automatic essay-grading technology product for humanities professors to use in introductory-level courses. The consultant claimed that once completed, the program would “accurately auto-grade brief writing assignments – 500 to 900 words.” The program, the email said, “uses specific writing prompts and rubrics to achieve computer grading accuracy.”

And how will these impressive results be achieved, you ask?…


Public Intellectuals? LOL.

It’s not every day that you are carded and then tagged with a neon green bracelet so that you can listen to an eminent scientist explain evolutionary genetics. I took advantage of the fact that Oberon Theater (the second stage of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater) has a bar and ordered myself an Oberon (gin, St. Germain, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice) before taking my seat to watch “You’re the Expert,” a podcast and WBUR radio show recorded in front of a live audience.

When I first heard …


What We Talk About When We Talk About Sending Our Kids to the Ivies

For those of us who teach, work, and study in universities–especially those who, unlike me, find themselves within Ivy League institutions—no topic has aroused more passion recently than William Deresiewicz’s New Republic article, “Don’t Send Your Kids To the Ivy League.” If one can look past the article’s click-bait headline, one discovers that the substance of the piece deals with a number of weighty issues in American life: the dramatic increase in income inequality; the slow and painful de…


Get Politics Out of the Common Core

There can be no significant reform of higher education without a major overhaul of primary education and extensive changes in secondary education. One of the reasons students are graduating without being prepared to compete in today’s workplace is that far too many arrive at college without the knowledge and background to do college-level work. They have to spend their time catching up rather than taking the courses they need for their degree programs.

That poses significant challenges and creat…

Wanted: A Future for Philosophy

How goes it with the institution of philosophy? Consider the situation of “Jeremy,” a Ph.D. student in the graduate program at the University of North Texas. As a second-year student, he has a teaching fellowship. This means that in addition to taking nine credit hours of graduate coursework, he teaches two sections of “Contemporary Moral Issues” each semester. Each section has 45 students. Jeremy is responsible for the entirety of the class, just as any professor would be.

In 2014, for teaching…


It Takes a Campus to Stop Assaults

Sen. Claire McCaskill’s investigations into the state of sexual-assault policies on the nation’s college campuses have revealed a system badly in need of reform. Many of us who work in this area have been arguing as much for decades—and we welcome the increased political attention to this topic that has been catalyzed, in part, by the courageous activism of sexual-assault survivors.

While reform is needed at multiple levels, I would like to provide some recent historical perspective and context …


Lessons Learned From the Facebook Study

By now, anyone who is remotely interested knows that the Facebook data-science team, in collaboration with some researchers at Cornell University, recently published a paper reporting “experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.” If you’ve heard about this study, you probably also know that many people are upset about it. Even the journal that published it, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has issued an “editorial expression of concern