Practicing Intellectual, Evidence-based Disagreement

This is what a busy literature seminar on evidence-based disagreement looks like.

I’ve asked the students to pair up to create a 2-3-minute podcast that demonstrates they can participate in a respectful, evidence-based disagreement over Poe’s “The Raven.” I asked each student to introduce the other student’s position, and to do so respectfully, without caricaturing or demeaning the ignorant or evil jerks whose opinions or values or life experiences dare to differ from theirs. I made a direct reference to the political tension most of us are seeing played out on social media and in the real world. The students took their MacBooks and iPads and are now, I presume, diligently working.

Readers Are Liars: The 1928 Study That Predicted the Future of News

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-02-10-pmThe invention of the telegraph and the syndication of news brought national and even international news to local readers. This didn’t just change how newspapers worked. It changed what newspapers meant. | In the late-1800s, there were papers for every “class, sect, and political group,” Gallup said. Local journalism in that time was easy to do. When each writer was a member of his own audience, he could trust that anything interesting to him would be of equal interest to his readers. But as newspapers got bigger, journalists were suddenly writing for massive crowds that included every class, sect, and political group. Suddenly, journalists were writing for people they didn’t know at all. —The Atlantic

What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake?

This sounds a lot like wishful thinking, but there’s plenty to learn from well-articulated alternate opinions.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-12-21-17-amWhat if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths—the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from—instead of chasing the online chimera? —Politico

How “Hail Mary” Became Inextricably Linked to American Football

I am revamping an existing “News Writing” course so that it becomes “News, Arts and Sports Reporting,” and am thus trying to educate myself about sports writing. Good writing is engaging no matter what the subject is. This is a great example. The headline is written for an international audience. Without assuming that the reader already knows what a “Hail Mary pass” is, and without assuming that the reader knows what the “Hail Mary” prayer is, the writer informs without belaboring the obvious or alienating the informed.

img_4694The Hail Mary, like an anvil falling from the sky toward Wile E. Coyote’s head, has an inexorable and painful nature to it. What makes it maddening for defenses is that they know exactly what is coming and yet are sometimes powerless to stop it (according to ESPN Stats & Info, roughly 10 percent of the Hail Mary passes attempted over the past five years have worked; as a metric for success, that is low, but as one for prayers answered, you could do a lot worse). —Newsweek

The Best Word Book Ever, 1963 and 1991.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-11-53-45-pmAs a child, I obsessed over many Richard Scarry books. I liked What Do People Do All Day best, but I also remember this one fondly — The Best Word Book Ever. As a parent, I don’t think I owned a copy of this one — we just checked it out of the library every so often. This Flickr set is a wonderful discovery, documenting changes — some subtle, others not-so-subtle.

For instance, a father is added to a kitchen scene that previously featured only a mother; a mother pushing a pram is changed into a father; bows and ribbons are added to the heads of a steamroller driver and a bass drum player, and “cowboy” is removed from the options on a “When you grow up… what would you like to be?” page, and replaced with “gardener” and “scientist.”


Rolling Stone heading to trial over debunked story of UVa rape

img_4692For the first time since Rolling Stone magazine’s shocking story about a brutal gang rape at the University of Virginia hit shelves two years ago, the public may hear from the young woman at the center of the now discredited article “A Rape on Campus.” | A defamation trial against the magazine is set to begin Monday over the November 2014 article about the woman identified only as “Jackie” and her harrowing account about being gang raped in a fraternity initiation. University administrator Nicole Eramo, who counseled Jackie and claims the story cast her as its “chief villain,” is seeking $7.85 million. —Chicago Tribune

Fake News Taints Facebook’s Trending Topics

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-6-14-56-pmIn an experiment conducted over several weeks following Facebook’s promotion of the fake Megyn Kelly story, the Post recorded which topics were trending for it every day, on the hour, across four accounts. | That turned up five trending stories that were “indisputably fake” and three that were “profoundly inaccurate,” Caitlyn Dewey reported. | There’s no way to know whether those were the only false or highly inaccurate articles that made the Trending Topics feed during the experiment’s run. |”If anything, we’ve underestimated how often” Facebook trends fake news, Dewey wrote. —TechNewsWorld

Imagine, if you will, a Shakespeare course / Propos’d in blank verse like the Bard would write

Verses Proposing a New Course: “Shakespeare in Context”

William Shakespeare (Portrait)You’ll pick a modest count of Shakespeare plays–
Say, five. Three weeks to each you’ll dedicate.
One context week, one week on text, and next
One week to multi-modally create
A research paper, podcast, monologue,
Or supercut of twenty diff’rent Lears
Who curse their sixty daughters’ cruel hearts.
Professional and student actors we will hear,
In stagings mounted locally. What’s more,
We’ll screen some films that Shakespeare’s paths re-tread:
“Shakespeare in Love,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Ran,”
And “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,”

Shall we attempt a scattershot approach,
And sample every genre of the bard?
Choose one great comedy, one tragedy,
One hist’ry, one romance, and one wildcard?
Or alternate the focus; be perhaps
Tragi-comic now, hist-romantic next?
Imagine this your Shakespeare syllabus
Must specify the context for the text.

Imagine filling out the paperwork.
What contexts do you focus on, and why?
What are the five main plays you choose to read?
You want to challenge, not to terrify.

No final shall the students take! Instead,
They’ll write a 10-page research paper, or
Submit a mini-documentary
With local expert interviews galore.
This course must cover early British lit,
So Beowulf and Chaucer must appear.
Elizabethan rivals must we read,
And echoes of the Bard in later years.

Imagine versing up your Shakespeare course
In ten-beat lines that syllabize the plan.
Deanward march your bold iambs! Alas,
Your title, “Shakespeare in Context,” won’t scan!