Category Archives: Teaching

Op-Ed in the Washington Post on the humanities and the history of higher education

Please read and share!

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The Past and Future of Higher Education

I indulged in a Sunday afternoon tweet storm of massive proportions today. You can read it all here.

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Humans of the Academy

I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve been involved with some friends in launching a new website called Humans of the Academy. This site offers regular profiles of ordinary humans who work throughout the academy. Its purpose is to show … Continue reading

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Now Available in Paperback!

A Consumer’s Guide to Information is now fully released everywhere it’s going to be – you can buy it in paperback from Amazon or in eBook from most eBook distributors, including Barnes & Noble and iTunes as well as Amazon. … Continue reading

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Consuming Information

I did something completely unplanned and unscheduled: I wrote an extra book. I’m still steadily working on my book on writing history as well as researching my next monograph on the policing of religious faith in early nineteenth-century Russia, but … Continue reading

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The Absent-Minded Professor

You know the stereotype: the professor with crooked glasses, bumping into doors, unable to remember his own name? I actually taught for weeks with broken glasses one semester, because I didn’t have time to replace them until the break. And … Continue reading

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Making High School Suck Less

 Today I read this article arguing that while the attention being paid lately—most notably by the President in his State of the Union—on expanding Pre-K and making college more accessible are laudable education reforms, if you look at the statistics, … Continue reading

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How to Read for Class

If you’ve tried reading a scholarly book or article the same way you would approach a terrific new novel of your favorite genre, you’ve probably discovered that the scholarly work doesn’t flow in the same way, and you may find … Continue reading

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It’s That Time of the Semester

It’s mid-term exam season! These are some checks you should do before turning in any take-home essay exam for a history class. If you have any ambition to do well, you should be at the point where you think you’ve … Continue reading

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“I need an A in this class”

If you have uttered this phrase to an authority figure at college, you have already hopelessly screwed up your chances. You’re doing everything wrong. I mean it: there’s no way to lighten up this message. You screwed up. I’m sorry. … Continue reading

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“My prof is so stupid”

I’ve heard this said on my campus. Often by a student who is also making fundamental factual and grammatical errors in the process of an extended whine that, I can only assume, was prompted by a lower-than-expected grade. I’ve also … Continue reading

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“Grades are so subjective”

Actually, they’re probably less subjective than you think. And to the degree that there is still some subjectivity, it probably works in your favor, not against you. First, in many classes these days grades may be almost completely objective, as … Continue reading

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What Is Socialism?

Judging by the way the media and the GOP talk about it, you might conclude that socialism is anything the GOP disagrees with. Teaching what socialism actually is is part of my job, so I get asked this quite a … Continue reading

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Unlearning High School in Five Painful Steps

This is addressed to all the college freshman out there. There are a few habits you may have learned in high school that will have to be adjusted in college. Remember that the chief difference between high school and college … Continue reading

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Revision

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who revise, and those who don’t. The former are writers, the latter are not. This implies that the way to become a writer, is to revise. A lot. And that’s … Continue reading

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Rules

Sometimes my students get a little too hung-up on rules, when it comes to writing essays. Mind you, some rules are vital—if your writing is ungrammatical, readers will have trouble following what you are saying. Other rules (which are really … Continue reading

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Bias

When historians read a text, we are trained to filter what it tells us through an understanding of who wrote it, with what purposes and with what intended audience. Author, audience, and purpose are all important factors in shaping the … Continue reading

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Objectivity

Many students come to college believing that academic writing is objective writing, or is supposed to be, and if it’s not, it’s “biased,” which is another way of saying “bad” or “useless.” There is no such thing as objective writing. … Continue reading

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Should you go to the best school you can get into?

Students ask me this question a lot, usually about graduate programs, and sometimes I get asked about it with regard to choosing an undergraduate program as well. Especially in these days of astronomical tuition costs and uncertain job market potential, … Continue reading

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What is academic history?

History is unique in being counted (or confused) as falling under both the social sciences and the humanities. From its beginnings in oral storytelling, history was a partly literary exercise (and thus a part of the humanistic tradition) until it … Continue reading

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“Summarize”

If you’re a college student you may often be asked to “summarize” a text or film. The tricky thing about this is that people use the word “summarize” pretty loosely, and what is being asked of you might not be … Continue reading

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Students: What to Do When You’re Drowning

1. Get help If you’re drowning in your schoolwork, the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t happening or hide. Talk to your professors. Go to the student counseling center. Talk to the dean of students. Make sure … Continue reading

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Why Is Academic Writing So Unpleasant to Read?

I’ll be the first to admit that many academic books and articles just aren’t a good read. Sometimes they could be much better written. Sometimes they’re as well-written as they can be, but the subject matter and purposes of the … Continue reading

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What is Academic Writing?

An academic essay is best defined by the PURPOSE that distinguishes it from other kinds of non-fiction writing: It aims to identify and resolve complex problems in relation to ongoing discussions among fellow thinkers about the most difficult or abstract … Continue reading

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Rogue Professors

Okay, so you’ve read my posts about managing your expectations in college, taking responsibility for your own behavior, and understanding what grades do and do not mean. And you still think your professor is being unfair. Okay, it’s possible your … Continue reading

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Being Original

Many students have the mistaken assumption that having an argument or thesis means they have to prove that some professional academic who wrote a book is wrong about his own specialty (an obviously impossible task for an undergraduate writing a … Continue reading

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What is Tenure?

 Many people think tenure means job security. That it means that educators, unlike everyone else, can’t be fired. This is nonsense. Tenure does not equal job security. It does not exist in order to protect the jobs of teachers. I … Continue reading

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Why I Hate Grading

When it’s time to grade papers, I suddenly go into housecleaning frenzies. I start preparing next semester’s courses. I finally get around to reading the most obscure and boring articles on my research reading list. I actually clear out my … Continue reading

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Billable Hours

How does an academic spend her time? Mostly out of your sight, which is why so few people actually understand the nature of academic work. What people see is our classroom teaching, and maybe our “office hours,” designated times when … Continue reading

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Top Ten Avoidable Mistakes Made by History Students

(in no particular order) 1.    Using words vaguely I frequently get the impression that many students choose words that are merely “close enough” rather than the one word that most precisely captures their meaning. Similarly, many students seem to read … Continue reading

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