You do not need permission to do the right thing. No one can give you permission to do the wrong thing.

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Brooke Allen (Q4Colleges.com)

The unspoken contract when you are hitch-hiking is that you need to be more interesting than the radio. One summer (circa 1973), Debra and I decided to see how far away from New Brunswick, New Jersey we could get when all we had was $49 and three weeks.

We knew that repeating your own life story over and over gets repetitious so we used a little trick. We would ask each person who gave us a ride to tell us their story and then we would tell the next person the previous person’s story. Continue reading “You do not need permission to do the right thing. No one can give you permission to do the wrong thing.”

Creative Plagiarism

Is imitation a form of flattery – or stealing?

By Paula Marantz Cohen (Drexel)

In recent years, I have come across something that I call creative plagiarism. Almost every time I teach fiction-writing, one or two students seem compelled to write a story that closely resembles a published work we’ve read. These students are not trying to perpetrate a deception, since the material they incorporate has been previously discussed by the class, usually only a week or two earlier.

I was able to shed light on what might be going on through an exercise I did with my creative-writing class. I asked them to read two short stories for discussion at our next meeting. I provided the stories in photocopy, with the authors and the dates removed.

The stories were “Mrs. Adis,” by the British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith, published inThe Century Magazine in 1922, and “Sanctuary,” by the African-American writer Nella Larsen, published in the magazine Forum in 1930. Larsen’s story, as those familiar with her biography will know, was quickly viewed as a Continue reading “Creative Plagiarism”

Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Warren Goldstein

Like many people in the academy, I have found myself uneasily stewing over the murders at Virginia Tech. My students and I have spent far too much time glancing over at our classroom door, wondering whether we would have been able to hold it shut if a gunman had wanted in; would I have had the courage of Liviu Librescu, who students said died protecting them?

I was lucky; I didn’t have to deal with Seung-Hui Cho, unlike my poor colleagues in the Virginia Tech English department, who had formed a departmental task force to discuss him. At least they tried. They resisted the Continue reading “Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students”

Keyword: Placement

Do we have a moral obligation to care about our students’ futures?

By Leonard Cassuto (Fordham)

We can all agree, I expect, that the practical goal of graduate education is placement of graduates. But what does “placement” mean? Academics use the word without thinking much about it.

We can learn a lot about a practice by looking closely at how we describe it. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, editors of the 2007 book Keywords for American Cultural Studies, say the study of such words shows “the way we think about the work we do.” Looking at the “genealogies” of keywords then, we can see not only where those words come from but also how they structure fields of inquiry, and where future thinking may go in those fields.

“Placement” is a great keyword for Continue reading “Keyword: Placement”

Not Quite Bulletproof

What have you learned about life?

By Jon T. Coleman (Notre Dame)

To rise in academe and reach the high ground where review committees stop questioning your record and deans quit pondering your trajectory, where students applaud when you close out the semester with your lecture on the War of 1812 and Stephen Colbert invites you on his Report to plug your book, one must cultivate an entry-level superpower.

Save your supersonic speed, your laser-beam eyeballs, and your ability to communicate with sea life for emergencies and holiday parties. Instead concentrate on blocking projectiles. To get a job, to surmount third-year review, to receive tenure, to advance to full professorship, to merit a Wikipedia page that you didn’t write yourself, all you need to be is bulletproof. And if you want a Kevlar career, do as I say, not as I did. For while I excelled at thwarting some bullets, I had zero talent for dodging the countless shots I administered to myself.

As with most things scholastic, bulletproofing starts Continue reading “Not Quite Bulletproof”

The Problem with Talking about Intellectual Virtues

What should colleges teach?

By: Brooke Allen (Q4Colleges.com)

The problem with talking about Intellectual Virtues is that it can give intellectuals the feeling they are virtuous when they are just talking.

Colleges might not think of themselves as being in the business of teaching virtues (like honesty, courage, fairness, wisdom, and love of the truth) but the fact is they can reinforce or squash good instincts. For example, a student I know wrote a college admissions essay that began with a graphic description of the earth under attack by aliens when he, as super-hero, arrived to save the day. His essay concluded by saying he wanted to go to college to save the world.

Three years into college I introduced the student to the Heroic Imagination Project (www.HeroicImagination.org). Its founder, Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, wrote to the student asking how they might work together to change the world. The student wrote to me, “I’d rather not change the course of history than risk changing it for the worse.” I can not tell you how imagined courage become timidity but I can tell you when and where it happened.

Question: How can the people at colleges do a better job teaching courage? Continue reading “The Problem with Talking about Intellectual Virtues”

A Song of Vice and Mire

What do academics do wrong?

By Rob Jenkins

For fun, I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s marvelous fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, about a medieval-ish kingdom and its wars and intrigues. If you haven’t yet encountered the books (five in the series so far), I highly recommend them, as Martin deftly intertwines fantastical elements, such as dragons and wights (medieval zombies), with a quasi-historical storyline to create a kind of J.R.R. Tolkien-meets-Philippa Gregory effect.

What fascinates me most about the narrative, however, is the extent to which it parallels my experiences as a community-college professor and administrator. As I follow the political machinations of the fictional court at King’s Landing—the alliances and conspiracies, the jealousies and betrayals, the dalliances and beheadings—I am frequently put in mind of actual people I have known and events I have witnessed over my 27-year career. Sometimes I wonder if George R.R. Martin isn’t really just a Continue reading “A Song of Vice and Mire”