Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

How America Lost Its Scientific Edge and How to Get It Back

Chance Layton

NAS member Edward Dougherty writes on the decline of science and remedies to make Americans competitive once again.

Teaching History for Liberty

David Randall

The text of a recent speech given at Case Western Reserve University by NAS's Director of Research.

The Origins of the Readable Writing Method: Part II

John Maguire

John Maguire tells how he started teaching students to write using the Readable Writing Method. Part 2.

The Origins of the Readable Writing Method: Part I

John Maguire

John Maguire tells how he started teaching students to write using the Readable Writing Method. Part 1.

Books With Spines: Bad Teachers

NAS

NAS inaugurates its Books With Spines series. Join us in selecting good books about bad teachers!

APUSH Teachers Speak

Ashley Thorne

High school AP U.S. history teachers are coming forward to share their dissatisfaction with the current version of the College Board’s APUSH framework.

Academic Social Science and the Group

William H. Young

William Young examines the social sciences' shift of focus from the individual to the group.

Academic Social Science and Scientific Literacy

William H. Young

William Young examines the misunderstanding and misuse of scientific concepts by academic social scientists.

APUSH, Not Common Core, Threatens Concept of American Exceptionalism

Kevin T. Brady

Kevin T. Brady finds the APUSH standards a far greater problem than Common Core.

Saving Civilization, K-5 Edition: An Address at Great Hearts Academy

Peter Wood

Peter Wood addresses elementary school teachers on the grammar school as the "engine of civilization" at Great Hearts Academy in Phoeniz, Arizona.

Unpersuasive book argues that higher education should have a leftist bias

George Leef

"It reminds me of Don Quixote. Lazere wants his friends to see how gloriously he jousts with and punctures all those horrible right-wingers. But Cervantes’s novel is entertaining; the pages of this book are pointless and screechy."

Prager U: The Government vs. the American Character

Jason Fertig

Explosions in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare programs are changing the American character for the worse—from one that focuses on individual responsibility and giving, to one that focuses on consumption.

Columbia Teachers College Study is Broad and Subjective

Marilee Turscak

The Columbia Teachers College's new study, College Educational Quality, aims to assess academic quality in higher education. The research methods, however, merit much questioning.

Common Core State Standards: Schools of Education

William H. Young

William Young examines the serious inadequacy of education schools in preparing teachers for the K-12 classroom.

Will the Internet Replace College?

John Maguire

John Maguire reviews two books that ponder whether the rise of "online" will mean the downfall of higher education as we now know it.

Common Core State Standards: College and Career Readiness

William H. Young

William Young discusses the serious decline in literacy and quantitative skills among students currently entering college.

Common Core State Standards: Nonfiction Versus Fiction

William H. Young

Wiliam Young examines the controversy over CCSS proposals for K‒12 reading content.

A Profession at Risk: Teaching Humans in the New Millennium

David Clemens

David Clemens reviews a new collection of essays and asks, "What is real education, and why does it need defending?"

Before Turning Students into Writers, Teach Them Grammar

Troy Camplin

Should students be taught how to be writers or how to write?

Here's One Writing Prof Who Gets Results

George Leef

To teach students how to write well, explains John Maguire, train them to use active verbs and build good sentences.

The "Affirmative Action" Colleges Really Need

George Leef

Robert Weissberg writes for the Pope Center on how students can encourage good teaching and discourage bad teaching through operant conditioning.

Teacher Movie Mythology and Won't Back Down

Peter Cohee

While most movies about teachers seem mythical, the recent movie Won't Back Down is a different type of teacher movie.

The Mind of Students

Will Fitzhugh

Students' minds are the main engines of academic work; we should try to learn what's going on inside them, argues Will Fitzhugh.

Prager U: Free Market Morality

Jason Fertig

Is the free market morally superior or inferior to other economic systems?

Sometimes, Teaching is Beyond Wonderful

George Leef

This is a wonderful piece on teaching.

Signs of the Times: The Queen’s English Society Folds

Glenn Ricketts

Defending the Queen's English is a very hard sell these days.

"Teaching as a Subversive Activity": The Theory of Political Indoctrination

Zombie

Teachers have a "moral imperative" to shape students' beliefs and make them "agents for change," declared a lanugage professor at a recent Berkeley lecture.

"Diversity": Is There Anything It Can't Do?

John Rosenberg

Can high scores on a nine-point "interactional diversity scale" keep students in school longer?

What? We Were Supposed to Use Dictionaries? - No Comment

Glenn Ricketts

Sometimes small things can shed light on larger problems - consider this case, for example.

Sentenced

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs Stanley Fish’s new book on how to teach college rhetoric.

How Not to Manage Classroom Management

Glenn Ricketts

Student rudeness and uncouth classroom conduct are the stuff of legend these days, and it's frequently been covered at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and elsewhere.

Answering the Critics of Online Education

Douglas Campbell

The online classroom is different from, not inferior to, the traditional classroom, argue two faculty members of an online university.

Video: Naomi Schaefer Riley on Colleges in the Prestige (Not Teaching) Business

Tenure and a heavy emphasis on research over teaching are among the factors that dilute contemporary higher education, says Naomi Schaefer Riley.

Good Teaching is Especially Important for Libertarians

George Leef

Economics professor Steven Horwitz (St. Lawrence University) writes about how important it is for libertarians to be excellent teachers. "Not everyone will be the next Hayek," he writes. "Most of us will have our greatest impact in the classroom, where the number of students we teach over a career can add up very quickly. That's going to be many more people than the number who read our relatively obscure scholarly articles (though not this column!)." Horwitz explains what it takes to be an excellent teacher: passion, empathy, and love. Young people often leave high school with their heads filled with statist assumptions and cliches. If we ever turn off the road to serfdom and onto the road to liberty, professors like Steve Horwitz will have played a key role because they got their students to question those assumptions and cliches.

Video: R.V. Young on Sex and Freshman Composition (or: Why You Can't Think)

Andy Nash

A discussion of how English literature was taught in the past, with more effective results.

The Real Purpose of Education

David Clemens

Good teaching should result “in a lighting of those lamps in the mind and in the heart that shall eventually show the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Faculty Members, But Not Teachers

Glenn Ricketts

First Things editor R.R. Reno takes a look at the ongoing discussion about the connection between ever-increasing costs at academic institutions and the large number of faculty members who do little or no teachng. Their primary purpose seems to be to enhance their school's public profile and keep the undergraduate applications on the rise.

But if you're a student trying to find them in a classroom, good luck: they're getting paid - a lot - to write, write, write. What would be the impact on institutional expenses, Reno asks, if we put 'em to work with even a couple of additional courses per year? A lively comments thread follows.

Random Thoughts On Student Evaluations

Glenn Ricketts

It's pretty easy to find bona-fide empirical studies illustrating some of the major limitations of those student surveys that most of us are obliged to administer to our classes every semester.

Audience Participation

Will Fitzhugh

Students should take responsibility for their own motivation to learn, not rely on teachers to provide it for them.

Is the Internet a Mad, Hallucinating Deity?

David Clemens

In “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagines a gargantuan Library in which are shelved books that together exhaust all possible combinations of letters.  Obviously, “[f]or every rational line or forthright statement there are leagues of senseless cacophony, verbal nonsense, and incoherency.”  One book simply repeats the letters “MCV” over and over and over while another is gibberish except for the line “O Time thy pyramids.” But since the books exhaust all possible verbal representations, on some shelf in the “unimaginably vast” Library sits your own correct biography, including your death.  Unfortunately, the “perhaps infinite” Library also contains a nearly infinite number of slightly or grossly corrupt biographies, and you could never know the difference even should you be so fantastically lucky to find one, a probability that “can be calculated to be zero.” Blogging this past year, I’ve come to feel like one of Borges’ los hombres de la Biblioteca.  When I post something on a site that allows them, I receive comments, but often on some other composition, no longer what I had written but slightly or grossly false having been filtered through the hermeneutic apparatus of the commenter.  As I read them, like Prufrock, I sigh,

That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.

A word or phrase is plucked from my essay and with it a commenter embroiders a fabulous if irrelevant tapestry.  Or a commenter assumes I have implied something veiled that he alone can perceive.  Or a commenter misreads (overlooking “a single letter” sends some readers into a parallel universe).  Once there, the commenter soapboxes, snarks, pontificates, rants, or vogues, using the post as an occasion for remixing my words into something uncannily familiar but unquestionably or bizarrely different.  It was Karl Popper who said ". . . it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood . . . .”

When RCA’s mascot dog Nipper heard “his master’s voice” from the trumpet of an Edison-Bell gramophone, he cocked his head in a bemused “huh?”  And I hear you, my misreaders, though I sometimes tilt my head like Nipper and wonder, “How did you get that?” and “Where did I say that?” and “What are you talking about?”  As Borges’ narrating hombre asks, “You who read me—are you certain you understand my language?”  Blog commenters never doubt that they understand the blogger’s language (even better than the blogger).  Blog posts and comment threads seem to me like volumes added to what will become a Library of Babel. The signal-to-noise ratio changes constantly and noise is winning.  Today, the Internet frequently seems best at producing and disseminating misinformation (which becomes permanent and searchable). Borges’ notes that “infidels” believe the Library of Babel (like entropy or the Internet) may really be a monstrous temple of dreck since its endless collections "affirm all things, deny all things, and confound and confuse all things, like some mad, hallucinating deity.”

Is Teaching a Team Sport?

Jason Fertig

Students learn better when their courses fit together and build on one another. Jason Fertig counsels professors in each major to see themselves as teams united by overarching education goals.

Shut Up and Listen, Together

Keith Whitaker

A night at the symphony prompts Keith Whitaker to consider the value of the disciplined attention and shared experience that should characterize the college classroom.

Is Academic Freedom a License to Indoctrinate?

Peter Wood

The more license faculty members take to act like political agents in the classroom, the more society will treat them as just that.

A Radical Proposal for Re-Structuring Higher Ed

robkoons

Pajamas Media has posted an article by "Publius Audax" proposing nineteen radical reforms. which force on us the question: is there any other way to restore teaching as the fundamental mission of the academy?

LSU Covers Up for Astronomer Who Bullied Class: NAS Replies

Ashley Thorne

Corresponding with NAS, Provost John Maxwell Hamilton adopts the same false assertions made by the media to try to cover up for a professor who used his class to ridicule students based on their beliefs.

A Voice from the Front Lines of the High School English Classroom

A reader offers constructive suggestions and deepens our understanding of the reasons high school teachers don’t (and can’t) assign research papers.

Take Back the Classroom from PowerPoint

Jason Fertig

Restrict PowerPoint use in teaching to pictures and videos, writes Jason Fertig. Too much PowerPoint usurps professors' authority and accustoms students to lazy thinking.

In Memoriam

David Clemens

Most good teachers had a model. Robert Pinsky had Francis Ferguson; Mark Edmundson had Frank Lears. I was lucky; I had two. My Freshman Comp. teacher was Dr. Idelle Sullens, a Stanford-trained medievalist specializing in 14th century literature. But I was mystified to learn that she had also been a naval officer in World War II and Korea. And rumor had it that she was something called a “Daughter of Bilitis.” But what really fractured my high school brain was seeing Dr. Sullens pull up in her brand new `64 Mustang. That I understood, and it elevated her beyond cool. My disturbing discovery was that one could seem professorial but also be startlingly complicated.  Two years later, it was the Lincolnesque Beat Generation scholar Tom Parkinson. One drowsy afternoon in Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium, Parkinson recited Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”with tears streaming down his partially-paralyzed cheeks (he had been shot in the face by a student). I was embarrassed but also feared that this moment was profound in a way I might never understand. How could he so reveal himself? It took years to learn that throughout one’s life, good literature deepens and grows, accumulating, preserving, and incorporating intense personal associations. Now there are poems I can’t read aloud without leaking tears. Both are gone now, but the spirits of Sullens and Parkinson still gently remind me to be unexpected, singular, complicated, and exposed so that my students will see that one day they can do the same.

Evaluate This

Peter Cohee

A seasoned public school teacher concludes: teacher evaluations as they are don't make teachers better, don't get rid of bad teachers, aren't needed by good teachers, and don't improve schools or student learning.

Is U.S. Edu-Rhetoric a Pipe Dream? A Teacher Wants to Know

Ashley Thorne

Teachers should be evaluated based on student performance - but on several conditions, says op-ed.

'Brainy' Cult Lessons in NYC

Candace de Russy

So brain-dead is much of contemporary education that, at first blush, one might be tempted at least to give the benefit of the doubt to a "Brain Education" program in which thousands of New York City public-school students and teachers are participating. Except that this program, which so far has caused the state's taxpayers $400,000, is now alleged to have ties to a cult. Numerous former employees of an organization called Dahn Yoga -- whose founder developed the teachings for Brain Education -- allege the program is controlled by a group that is part of a huge web of interrelated companies that, in the Post's words, "reels people in with lovey-dovey, group-building activities before steadily ratcheting up the pressure" and cons "participants into investing all their time and money in unproven health and healing activities." Moreover, these employees charge that Dahn Yoga's "activities are abusive and grow increasingly devotional over time to the group's founder and spiritual leader, 57-year-old Seung Huen 'Ilchi' Lee." (On the abuse front, note that Dahn Yoga has been sued by the family of Julia Siverls -- a healthy, 41-year-old CUNY professor who died during an endurance hike sponsored by the group. Her family alleged that Siverls had been drugged and made to hike in desert heat with 40 pounds of rocks in her backpack and with little water. Another former Dahn employee who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Lee settled her case against him.) But how to illustrate  Brain Education at work on the ground in New York? At a Bronx elementary school, for example, students were instructed to say, "I love your Power Brain face," to one another and to rap songs with lyrics like "I love my thalamus." You get the picture. More mad pedagogies and pedagogical scams. And more mad neglect of students who desperately need to learn to read and write, among other tried and true paths to real cerebral empowerment.

Horse-Hair Justice

Peter Wood

Thoughts on "21st-Century Skills" and where education should begin.

Seat Time at the AAC&U

Peter Wood

78% of colleges and universities use learning outcomes, survey says.

Slouching Toward the Therapeutic University: Part 1

Tom Wood

In the first of this three-part series, Tom Wood contrasts self-alienation and student-centered pedagogy.

Good Practice: An NAS Series (2)

Peter Wood

What is the best way to teach a course? To organize a curriculum? To administer a college? To serve as a trustee? We want to hear from you.

What Ails College Teaching?

Peter Wood

Is it the division of labor between tenured scholars and "teaching specialists"?

Ichabod Rides Again: A Halloween Fable

Peter Wood

What happenned to the teacher from Sleepy Hollow who longed to see the "whole child."

A Couple of Curiosities

Peter Wood

A note on two interesting pieces of education news: PBS hosts the

The Shaggy Dog Story: Has 'Reading First' Flopped?

Ashley Thorne

After the Department of Education released a study indicating the failure of federal initiative Reading First, NAS seized the moment to ponder such programs' efficacy in teaching children to read.

Getting at the Core

Peter Wood

Georgia may be headed for a new "core" curriculum.