Last semester, I had a student in English 101 who I’d also had for her sophomore and junior years in high school. She wrote the following on the back of her final exam last month. This note made me feel good for days after. Really, if you can say something nice to a teacher, rest assured that will have done something meaningfully kind for another human being.
Today, I attended a teacher orientation at UNLV, prior to English 101 classes starting next week. Department leaders showed some slides, and one of them included the phrase “rigorous opportunities throughout.”
The phrase immediately struck me. Each word has the letter O twice. In the first word, they’re separated by one letter, in the second by two letters, and in the third by three.
An excellent teaching moment came my way yesterday. My English 101 class spends the last half of the semester doing a unit on persuasive writing, and the textbook has a whole section on logical fallacies. In addition to a dry review of them last night, I ended class with something a little more unique and practical.
I told my classes about the already-infamous “Asians in the Library” video that a girl at UCLA did a couple of weeks ago, and then showed it to them. As we watched, we stopped it often so we could identify specifically which logical fallacies she was committing. It was hilarious, controversial, and really drove the point home–the world is full of people who make stupid arguments, and we have the tools to deflate them.
On a more serious note, for someone like me who truly believes that racism is a thing of the past, a relic that’s been relegated to only the most extreme fringes of society, no matter how loudly some professional grievance-mongers continue to crow about it, it’s really disturbing to hear something every now and then like this that shows us that there really is still some serious racism out there. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t think of any way to view this video with a charitable explanation–this young lady just simply comes across as an ignorant bigot.
My notes on her logical fallacies are after the jump; see how many you can spot!
Here I am, whiling away the time as the last several students in this section of English 101 finish their final exam essay. In another hour, the semester will be over for me, nothing left of it but to wrap up grading the last few items and turn in my paperwork tomorrow.
As a few of the students come by the desk to shake my hand on the way out, I look up from the book I just started this evening: Reading the OED, by Ammon Shea. It caught my eye on the new release shelf as I was checking out a DVD of Oedipus Rex for my English II class. So far, it’s pretty good: clearly modeled on A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All (where Shea’s book chronicles his year-long study of the entire Oxford English Dictionary, Jacobs’s similarly humorous memoir covered his year-long reading of the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica), it’s clever, accessible, and yet still just obscure enough to be nerdy fun.
Something in the first chapter reminded me of a great experience I had a couple of years ago. I was sitting in a chair at United Blood Services, giving blood and passing the time with the new issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I came upon a story called “Brimstone P.I.“, by Beverle Graves Myers. Within the first paragraph, it was apparent that this was no typical procedural. The very novelty of it sucked me in.
It’s about a dead detective–in hell–who’s called upon by the devil to find out who’s been decorating the place with greeting cards and air fresheners. Continue reading →