May 13, 2013, 1:38 pm
Truth, we’re told, is the first casualty of war. But as I hunker in my office bunker, the dull thud of history term papers landing on my desk, columns of sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden students trudging past the door, I’m convinced that truth is also the first casualty of undergraduate paper writing. It is not only the historical truths trampled in the mangled and muddied papers written by my students. More insidiously, a deeper truth also suffers. Only tatters remain of the contract, implicit but immemorial, that teachers will grade student papers fairly and honestly. This shared conviction, that the students’ level of writing can be raised only if the teacher levels with them, now seems a historical artifact.
At the start of the spring semester, as with every semester, I told my students that while this was a history course, the most important thing I could teach them in 15…
April 17, 2013, 12:00 pm
In the uproar that followed Suzy Lee Weiss’s “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me,” one assumption was left untouched: that Weiss, like any student, would be better off at an Ivy League college than at one of the Big Ten universities she now plans to attend.
As someone who split her undergraduate career between a large public university and an Ivy, I’d like to suggest something different: Weiss (who, full disclosure, is the sister of a friend) is lucky to have gotten those rejections.
I, like Weiss, was a middle-class white girl from the suburbs who started her freshman year at a big state university feeling entitled to a fancier education. When I secured a spot in Harvard’s transfer class, I was sure I stood only to gain: My classmates in the University of Maryland’s upper-level English classes asked questions that struck me as hopelessly naïve, I got A’s on…
February 7, 2013, 11:54 am
A pointed topos has emerged among English educators in the media in the last few years. It concerns a statement uttered by the educator David Coleman at a gathering of many educators in Albany, hosted by David Steiner, then-Education Commissioner of New York State, in April 2011. At the time, Coleman was the lead architect of the Common Core State Standards, the education effort sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers that set out to draft new standards in mathematics and English language arts from kindergarten to 12th grade. The Common Core standards have evolved into the most sweeping reform of public schooling in many decades, a controversial reform with Coleman himself an object of strong feelings on both sides.
Coleman has since become the head of College Board, and the Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and have the full backing of the Obama…