Category Archives: Teaching Writing

A curiosity with Lewis Terman and George Stoddard

I heard of Lewis Terman and George Stoddard’s argument while mulling over a quiet disaster.

For five Saturdays over a recent semester I taught an “Advanced Language Arts” class to seventh and eighth-graders identified as gifted. Hosted by a nationally-known program advocating for gifted education and selected after advertising the class to an unspecified number of schools, our group was small, five girls and two boys, and met for three hours at a time. Our focus was creative nonfiction: personal narratives. No grades, no testing, just exercises, encouragement and feedback. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been surprised the class didn’t go as planned but these children had been identified as gifted, they were giving up several Saturdays to meet, their parents had paid three hundred bucks for the privilege and—this is where I made my first mistake—I accepted the assertion by one of the administrators in the program that I should assume they could read and write at the same level as the first year college students I’d been teaching for the past few years.

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Godwin’s Law (1994)

Why I post this now can’t be easily explained other than that I’m amused by the idea and way he writes about something both silly and disturbing. The writer, Mike Godwin, is Wired magazine’s legal counsel and the article Meme, Counter-meme appeared in their October 1994 issue.

Opening paragraphs:

It was back in 1990 that I set out on a project in memetic engineering. The Nazi-comparison meme, I’d decided, had gotten out of hand – in countless Usenet newsgroups, in many conferences on the Well, and on every BBS that I frequented, the labeling of posters or their ideas as “similar to the Nazis” or “Hitler-like” was a recurrent and often predictable event. It was the kind of thing that made you wonder how debates had ever occurred without having that handy rhetorical hammer.

Not everyone saw the comparison to Nazis as a “meme” – most people on the Net, as elsewhere, had never heard of “memes” or “memetics.” But now that we’re living in an increasingly information-aware culture, it’s time for that to change. And it’s time for net.dwellers to make a conscious effort to control the kinds of memes they create or circulate.

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Intelligence testing…a smattering of articles

From The New York Times (and Magazine)

The Junior Meritocracy, by Jennifer Senior

Gifted Programs’ Criteria Vary Widely by Pam Belluck

Raising Our IQ by Nicolas Kristof

(I’ll add more as time goes on…if you’ve got any send ’em my way.)

Monoprints, Hurricanes, Garry Trudeau, David Foster Wallace and the book that made me want to write.

Relationships between research and artistic inquiry and between the visual arts and writing, this is what I have on the brain.

Monoprints and defining research

In the opening chapter to Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practices, Patricia Leavy describes the plight of many academics who, immersed in the required tasks of the college or university, promise themselves they’ll do their real work, the work they want to do, but they’ll do it later. The line reminded me of the opening to Teaching to Transgress where bell hooks confesses to becoming depressed after receiving tenure fearing she would not get to do the work she wanted to do. (In hooks’ case, teaching became part of the work she  welcomes.) I offer these two references as I relate to both of them. They’ve found their answers; I’m still looking.

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On being a slow reader

I’m not a particularly fast reader — okay, truth is I’m rather slow — and the more interested I’ve become in writing the more I’ve slowed down. Even though I know it’s not true a part of me wishes I could rip through 2-300 pages in a day or two. I know how to do it, how to hunt for content and move on, but the scavenger hunt approach to reading isn’t very fun and my guess is it’s related to why many people learn to dislike reading.

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