Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Random bullets of--squirrel!

Because we've reached that point in the semester was I saying? Oh yes: because all these interesting but utterly unbloggable crises keep walking into my office or ringing my phone, and because assignments keep piling up at the very same time that holiday events eat into my free time (whatever that is), and because--squirrel!--and just because, here are some random bullets of just can't think straight:

  • I have come to the conclusion that dealing with the surgery scheduler at my doctor's office is bad for my blood pressure. I've been trying to schedule a routine colonoscopy since April, but various obstacles have arisen and been dealt with in due course, with the result that I'm scheduled to undergo that delightful procedure on Dec. 19. But just now I got word that I will be charged a large fee for failing to show up for the procedure on an earlier date--a date the doctor had previously cancelled! Is it any wonder that I have the surgery scheduler's phone number on speed-dial?
  • In case you're wondering how I'm going to get my final grades in on Dec. 20 when my last final exams come in on Dec. 16 and I'm doing colonoscopy prep on Dec. 18 and the colonoscopy on Dec. 19, well, I'm wondering the same thing.
  • If I'd known that all it would take to change a student's life forever was to demonstrate how to format hanging indent in Microsoft Word, I would have done it weeks ago. (Which I did, but apparently some people weren't paying attention.)
  • And if you want to feel old, take a look at some of the things my students wrote about what was happening "back in the 1900s": women were not allowed to work outside the home and had to wear long dresses all the time; slavery had only recently been abolished; and poverty drove people to desperate measures to feed their families. Ah yes, back to the thrilling days of 1997, when everyone dressed like Granny Clampett and cooked road-kill possums for supper!
  • This morning on the way to work I heard Alvin and the Chipmunks singing "Christmas Don't Be Late" (click here), but at this point I'd like to request that Christmas just slow down and move a week or two into January. Whom shall I call to request that schedule change?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Missing a magical voice

Last night in the middle of a big confusing kerfuffle I was suddenly overcome by a desire to call my mom and find out what she'd have to say about the whole situation. But of course I didn't. No phone lines in the grave.

This doesn't happen often. Of course I think about my mother, especially at this time of year when I recall how she used to grill me for information about what sort of Christmas gift every member of my family might want, and then she would come through with the book I'd been longing for or maybe a nice warm sweater. Today, it's not the gifts I think of but the warmth in her voice when we talked on the phone. We lived 800 miles apart for most of my adult life, so we talked on the phone a lot.

Once upon a time my mom had a magical voice full of love and caring. Years ago when my daughter was a toddler, a 17-year-old girl driving a borrowed Firebird ran a stop sign and crashed into my car. I was bruised and shaken and my daughter screamed her head off until the police car pulled up with its flashing lights, stunning her into sudden silence. 

My car was totalled but I was fine--or at least that's what I kept telling myself. My husband was in the middle of grad-school final exams and couldn't be disturbed so I needed to deal with the insurance people and find a new used car quickly (with a toddler in tow), and I really didn't have time to be anything but fine so I held myself together for two full days. Then my mother called out of the blue just to chat. That's when I fell to pieces.

Sometimes I just need to talk to my mom--but how did she know?

If I could talk to my mom today, I'd talk to her as she was back then, before disease started eating away pieces of her personality, diminishing her ability to understand and communicate. But even at the end, when she was suffering so horribly, she kept trying to comfort the rest of us and take care of our needs. Lying on her back in the hospital bed, helpless, inert, she would look right at me and ask, "Can I get you anything?"

Last night I tried to channel that voice, to embody the warmth and caring while dealing with a different family member in crisis, but being far away from the situation made me feel helpless, as if my hands were tied. How did my mom manage to convey all that caring across the miles, across the years, across the phone lines? That's what I wanted to ask her. But, sadly, she's not taking calls.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Okay, so maybe I am a lemming

They tell me that today is Cyber Monday, but who gets to decide these things? If I officially declared this entire month No-Shopping-Vember, would anyone listen? Probably not, and yet apparently millions of people listen to the mysterious forces who have declared this Cyber Monday, the forces behind the Facebook ad that keeps telling me to go ahead and shop at work today because my boss is shopping online too! (A statement, by the way, that demonstrates utter lack of understanding of both business ethics and my boss.)

The only way Cyber Monday would tempt me would be if Amazon offered a Get-Out-of-Cyber-Monday Free card, but then I would have to indulge in Cyber Monday Madness to order it, which would defeat the purpose. 

Which is what, exactly? Why resist an activity that millions of cyber-shoppers find irresistible?

I don't resist online shopping. In fact, in the past week alone I have dedicated a significant number of minutes (not hours) to perusing my children's Amazon wish lists and oohing and aahing over all cute things at the Melissa and Doug Toys site. But I employ a similar shopping method both online and off: write a list; dash in and buy what I need; and then dash out again as quickly as possible without being distracted by shiny pretty things. Since this kind of shopping is incompatible with massive crowds, I've never shopped on Black Friday, even though I know this makes me un-American. (So sue me.)

What I resist is the herd instinct, that desire to shop simply because everyone else is doing it, lured by "deals" that really aren't that great. Here's an example: I love to visit the local shops on Small Business Saturday because they offer special sales and holiday snacks, and I always get a chance to chat with interesting people. However, I did not participate in the local promotion: buy something at 15 different downtown shops in one day and earn a gift card. Why not? I had only three items on my list and I do not know how to spread out three purchases over 15 different shops, especially since all three items were available in only one shop. To earn the gift card, I would have had to find some small thing to purchase in another 14 shops, many of them specializing in the kinds of gift items I resist. I do not need any more smelly candles or "primitive" crafts or festive flags to hang in my yard, and I'm not going to buy them for others just so I can earn a "free" gift card.

So I may be a crank and a Grinch and un-American to boot, but when it comes to shopping, I am not a lemming! Of course, scientists tell us that even lemmings aren't lemmings in the metaphorical sense either, so I'm in very good company. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

From creativity to cranberries--so many thanks!

Any litany of thankfulness this week must begin with the half dozen students who missed appointments with me on Monday and Tuesday, opening some unexpected grading time so  I wouldn't have to take any grading home with me for Thanksgiving break. Thanks, students!

I'm thankful too for the students whose talents have been on display these past few weeks--playing and singing and performing in a play and sharing their creative writing at our departmental reading last week. I love seeing them shine in so many areas outside the classroom, and I love it even more when they shine inside the classroom too.

I'm thankful for the aroma of ginger and cranberries filling my house as I made the annual batch of tart cranberry chutney, because even though we joined the in-laws to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, I can't enjoy the holiday season without a big bowl of chutney in my fridge and more to share with others.

For safe travels through the rain and family and friends gathered around the table I give thanks, and for a chance to tell my granddaughter stories and help her with her bath and help my grandson endure the hassle of an ear infection. For a son and daughter and son-in-law who make me proud and fill me with confidence about the future, and for a husband who puts up with me even when I'm so tired that cranky is my default mode, I'm forever thankful.

For cashew nuts and corduroy, for children's smiles and giggles, for seven years since my last chemotherapy session, for a big ugly chunk of debt fading away to nothing, for so many things I can't begin to count, I'm thankful today. (The challenge, of course, will be to carry that thankfulness forward to tomorrow.) 


Monday, November 21, 2016

Putting Dylan on the syllabus

It started off as a joke--honestly, I never really intended to put Bob Dylan on my American Lit Survey syllabus, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize. But as I was casting about for ways to revise the assignment for the poetry analysis paper to solve a particular problem, I had an epiphany--a crazy idea that just might work.

The problem is that my students are afraid of poetry. Not all poetry, of course, and not all students either, but the Survey class attracts many students seeking general education credit, who tend not to be poetry-lovers. In fact, if I were to calculate the ratio of poetry-haters to poetry-lovers in any given semester, I would never set foot back in the classroom.

For many students, hatred of poetry springs from an intense, crippling fear of getting the interpretation wrong, as if each poem carried a secret hidden meaning accessible only to the initiated, and the fear of missing this secret hidden meaning sends them scurrying to online sources promising to reveal the secret. The result is a pile of papers stuffed with thinly disguised paraphrase of cliches drawn from web sites. Depressing.

I want them to think about what poetry is, what it's made of, and what it can accomplish in the world, but instead they serve me a bland cliche casserole. How to engage them in the question of why poetry matters?

Enter Bob Dylan--and, for the sake of variety, Leonard Cohen, both much in the news lately. Here is the current draft of the American Lit Survey poetry paper prompt: 
When Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, many objected: "He's a songwriter, not a poet." Similarly, when songwriter Leonard Cohen died, many people mourned the passing of a "poet." This raises the question: What is a poet? And if a poet is someone who writes poems, then what is a poem?

This paper will require you to answer that question. First, pick either Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen as your test case, and then write an essay arguing that Dylan or Cohen is or is not a poet for reasons you will state. The successful essay will
  • articulate at least three specific criteria that characterize poetry;
  • provide examples from at least two works by Dylan or Cohen; and 
  • provide examples from two others poets on the syllabus (for contrast or support).
I hope that this assignment will drive students to think deeply about what constitutes poetry, and even if they want to argue that a poem is something that rhymes, that's just one point. They'll have to look more deeply for the others, and they'll have to find some point of comparison between Dylan or Cohen and other poets on the syllabus, like Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, or Li-Young Lee. 

If nothing else, I've given them something to argue about, and what could be better than a room full of student arguing about the nature of poetry?  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is "comic jeremiad" a contradiction in terms?

What's the difference between a jeremiad and a rant?

The question arose in my comedy class yesterday as we discussed the efficacy of comedy in persuasion, using examples dealing with gun control, which isn't exactly a guffaw-inducing topic. We looked at some Onion articles ("NRA Calls for Teachers to Keep Loaded Gun Pointed at Class for Entire School Day") and Samantha Bee's impassioned response to the Orlando massacre (click here). 

I asked the students to think about an issue they feel strongly about and then decide which would be more likely to change their mind: a researched essay presenting reliable data or a humorous rant. Their responses were pretty evenly split, which can be read two ways: either comedy is a more effective persuader than I'd imagined or else students recognize the value of serious research.

One thing they agreed they would not find persuasive would be a jeremiad. Apparently nobody wants to be preached down to or condemned, but comedy makes a bitter message more palatable. So they want a funny jeremiad--does such a thing exist? 

(I think we call that a rant.)

I meant to rant and vent,
to cant 'til they'd repent,
to scorch them with a jeremiad--
But I made them laugh instead.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A thankful Thursday

I'm not going to refer to this as a thankless job any more, thanks to the first-year composition student who thanked me this morning for making him write so much and get lots of feedback on his writing. "It's made me feel more confident in my writing," he said. 

I often hear the complaints, the whining from students who claim they've never had to write a paper so long!!! --Who think writing 1000 words each week is torture or wonder why they should have to read all those comments on their drafts. 

But then I see the subtle improvements in style and organization, the mastery of skills that were previously pretty rusty, the improved fluidity in approaching writing prompts. I'm convinced that writing a lot and getting frequent feedback makes a significant improvement in their writing skills, but it's not every day that a student recognizes the improvement.

And when he does, all I can do is say thanks right back. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On reading the room

A sea of blank looks accompanied by silence--how am I supposed to interpret that? Did you not understand? Were you even listening? Are you in there? Hello?

Then a wave a laughter fills the room. No problem interpreting laughter: You got it! You really got it!

Two students who always come to class together, sit together, leave together, suddenly start arriving separately and sitting on opposite sides of the room. Ooh, trouble in paradise? Better not draw attention to the rift--I wouldn't want anyone to run from the room in tears.

A student in the back eagerly nods and smiles--at some brilliant point I've just made or at something she sees on the smartphone cleverly hidden beneath the desk? I can't see enough to know. Call on her for comment? Absolutely--and this time she has something interesting to say about the topic at hand. Next time, who knows?

They keep me on my feet, these students, forcing me to constantly scan for meaning in their facial expressions and body language. Reading the room is one of those essential skills I never learned in grad school but had to develop through experience, always aware that as I'm trying to read my students, they're trying to read me as well. Sometimes we get it wrong without quite knowing why, but when we get it right, the class and I work together like an improvisation team, building a beautiful learning experience. 

And when we get it wrong? Well, there's always next time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Perplexed, picky, and persnickety

I'm sitting in my office waiting for a student who promised to come in and explain how all those pages of text from online sources ended up in his paper word-for-word without any quotation marks or citations, but the student is late, which is a good thing because it gives me a brief writing break but a bad thing because--seriously, dude, you beg for an appointment at an awkward time to seek mercy after committing obvious plagiarism? You'd better show up.

So I'm annoyed--angry, even--at the amount of time I'll have to spend tracking down the sources of the plagiarized passages, meeting with the student, filing the appropriate paperwork with the Provost's office, and no doubt listening to appeal after appeal before this incident gets put to rest. 

And I'm further annoyed at the way previous students' bad acts have inspired me to add new and persnickety requirements to assignment sheets until they become these immense lumbering agglomerations of prose longer than the assignment itself. A small example: in my first-year writing course, a library research assignment requires students to check a book out of our college library, summarize a chapter, evaluate its usefulness for their research, and write a proper citation. Students always question the most nit-picky detail of the assignment: no credit at all unless they show me the actual physical book.

That requirement arose in response to previous students who
  • wrote a summary of a chapter of a textbook from another class;
  • grabbed some random book they found lying around the dorm on the day the assignment was due;
  • delegated one member of the clique to check out a library book and write a summary that the rest of the group merely paraphrased;
  • wrote a summary based on a book review in a magazine; or
  • invented details about an imaginary book out of their clever little heads.
I could go on, but it's too depressing. At some point in the process I get to tell them, "I know it's not fair for you to have to work harder just because some student long ago discovered a clever way to game the system. Welcome to the real world!"

So today I sit here waiting for a student whose actions may inspire yet another persnickety paragraph to be added to an assignment sheet, when I would really prefer to congratulate the 19 other students who did not plagiarize but instead wrote papers that fulfill the requirements of the assignment, often elegantly and persuasively. I'd like to tell my recalcitrant student, "Go and do likewise." But first the student would have to show up. 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Simply being, with grandkids and birds

I'm sitting by the big picture window with my four-month-old grandson on my lap, his head turning as he scans the room for interesting stuff, but then he looks outside and locks his eyes--on what? Does he see the bluejays tussling for the best spot at the feeder, the finches flitting around the thistle, the first junco of the season hopping in the grass? Or is he puzzling over the colorful maple leaves shaking in the wind? Whatever he sees, it has his full attention.

Then along comes big sister: "Grandma, I want to watch birds with you!" Fortunately, there's room at the window for all of us and plenty of birds to go around. But she doesn't stay for long. She is very, very busy serving invisible soup to a menagerie of stuffed animals, and then she wants to color and build a marble tower and play her uncle's drums.

This is what I like about spending time with my grandkids: I don't have to be smart or creative or reasonable or even coherent; I just have to be here. Sometimes that's about all I can manage, but fortunately, it's enough.
Grampa enjoying his sweeties.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Techless wonders

I thought my bag felt a little lighter than usual as I was walking toward my office this morning, and I soon realized why: no computer. Yes: I used my office laptop to take minutes at a meeting last evening and then took it home--and left it there. Oops.

Things I accomplished this morning without my computer:
  • filed a pile of miscellaneous paperwork in appropriate folders
  • tossed a pile of old exams into the shredder
  • put a pile of books back in their places on the shelves
  • proofread a pile of legal papers from my dad, trying to locate all the places where my phone number was incorrect (but at least they were consistent!)
  • wrote a letter (on paper! by hand!) to a former student, after searching through my desk drawer for a note card that said something other than "Thank you" or "In sympathy" (and now I wonder about that sympathy card: I clearly bought it intending to express sympathy, but to whom?)
  • turned toward the place where my computer normally sits at least a dozen times intending to write an email, only to once again realize that it wasn't there
Things I did not do this morning in the absence of my computer:
  • read email
  • write email
  • blog
  • read online news, blogs, or social media sites
  • correct the error on a rubric that led to a student's receiving an incorrect grade
  • locate my favorite version of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" to post on Facebook 
  • write up the minutes from last night's Faculty Council meeting (which took two and a half hours despite a limited agenda and once again raises the question: why can't six PhDs figure out how to conduct faculty governance in under two and a half hours a week?)
  • tap away at the computer keyboard while my first-year composition students practiced Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Paragraph
  • check my online schedule to make sure I can leave campus early today to prepare for the grandkids' visit

So all day I've been playing it by ear, flying by the seat of my pants, and trusting that the world will continue turning despite the absence of my laptop computer. And if it doesn't, I'm counting on you to let me know. (But not by email.)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Carrying on through the fog

Anyone want to talk about the weather? It's still out there, doing its daily thing. Hey, how about that fog this morning?

[Tap, tap--is this thing on?]

What about baseball? Sure, the season's over, but my guy Francisco Lindor got a gold glove! When will I be able to get a Lindor bobblehead to stand beside my Omar Vizquel? My team may have lost in the end, but there's always next season!


Let me tell you about my grandkids!

[Chirp, chirp.]

Okay, I've got nothing. Nothing to say about the election, and no words sufficient to comfort the student who fears for his family's safety at a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric has been blessed by the masses. I can't even listen to the radio without wanting to yell. I'm just trying to keep calm and carry on through the fog. (Even if I can't find the words to talk about it.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Existential Crisis 101

The student in front of me had two big problems: how to survive this semester and what to do with the whole rest of her life. I was able to help with the first problem but the second still needs work.  

Yes: we've reached that time in the semester when everyone seems to be suffering severe existential crises. I keep having students tell me they don't know why they're here, with here meaning in this class, in college, away from their family during rough times, or stuck in deep holes they've dug for themselves. I never took a class on how to deal with distraught students, but I know how to listen, when to offer the Kleenex box, and when to call the Counseling Center for an immediate intervention.

I worry more about the students who don't know they need help, or who know they need help but can't take the first step toward getting it. What do you do with a failing student who insists that everything is just peachy-keen and who resists my every attempt to alert him to impending doom? I confess that I may have raised my voice. Just a little. Okay, more than a little. I'm not proud of myself, but the situation called for something extreme, and if cursing isn't an option, maybe a little extra volume might get the point across.

But now I'm sitting quietly and waiting, between appointments, for the next crisis, Kleenex box at the ready and Counseling Center on speed-dial, but some of these messes require sturdier tools. 

Hand me a shovel, will you? It's time to start digging.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Hiking through history

If pressed, I could come up with a valid pedagogical reason for my class field trip yesterday, but mostly I just wanted to take my Honors students on a hike up the side of a hill on a beautiful fall afternoon.

The absence of cell-phone coverage at Mountwood Park was an asset--no Pokemons in those woods!--so they had no excuse not to listen when I asked them things: What's different about this tree? (The only tree blooming in November--witch hazel, source of pioneer medicines.) Why are we seeing a stone wall in the middle of dense woods? (Because this hasn't always been woods. Second-growth forest covering a former cow pasture.) Why are these ruins located at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere? Why would anyone build a mansion way up here? (Because this hasn't always been the middle of nowhere; the ruins are evidence of the great wealth that flowed into the area during the first oil and gas boom in the late nineteenth century.)

My students recently finished reading Cold Mountain, in which Inman walks through autumn mountains much taller than this little foothill, moving silently to avoid capture by the Home Guard. As we hiked briskly over paths covered with dry leaves, we sounded like a herd of bison thundering past. "If we're Inman," I said, "We're dead."

But the cool fall air and strenuous uphill hike made us feel fully alive and invigorated, and that's as good a reason as any for a field trip. Maybe along the way we learned a little something about how to read layers of meaning on a landscape, but mostly we just enjoyed a nice autumn hike in the woods.  

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Running into the flames (and dragging my students behind me)

Putting a textbook on the syllabus without having first read it is risky, which is why I rarely do it. Next semester, though, I'm teaching Creative Nonfiction, a class in which it's important to get a taste of cutting-edge essays, so I went ahead and adopted The Best American Essays 2016 before the book was even in print. Now comes the moment of truth: I finally have the book in my hands and a few hours to kill. Will it work?
The writer has to be like the firefighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, is to run straight into them. Your material feels too hot, too shameful, to even think about? Therefore you must write about it.
That's Jonathan Franzen in the Introduction, a rich and rewarding essay about the writing of essays. I normally wouldn't ask students to read the Introduction to an anthology, but in this case, it does exactly what I want from a reading assignment early in the semester. I haven't finished the book yet, but the essays I've read vary in style and substance but not in demonstrated willingness to take risks, to move beyond the stuffy constraints suggested by the very word essay

I knew I was taking a risk when I put the book on my syllabus, but in this case, it looks like the risk will pay off.    

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Writing for a real audience

"Does anyone recognize this person?"

My first-year composition students looked at the stranger standing next to me in front of class, puzzled.  
"Well, she's a woman," said a clever guy in the front row. Gold star! Then another asked, "Didn't she speak to us at Matriculation?"

Yes she did--because she's the Provost! Big round of applause for our chief academic officer!

Why was the provost visiting my composition class? Because I'd asked her to. I wanted my students to have a face-to-face encounter with the audience for their research papers.

Yes: my first-year students are doing something totally different for their research papers this fall. I'm taking advantage of the fact that the College is currently working on a major revision to our General Education curriculum; the assignment asks students to propose a change: "Your task in this essay is to write a formal memo directed to the Provost arguing that all Marietta College students should be required to complete a certain specific experience for reasons you will specify." And they have to support that argument with evidence from at least eight reputable sources.

I designed this unusual assignment because I was tired of the same old uninspired research essays on the same old tired topics. I want students to write about topics that touch them where they are, and I want them to direct their arguments at an audience they can visualize instead of some vague nameless "you." Finally, I want them to write as if their argument can make a difference.

So I asked the Provost to pay a short visit to my class, and even though I didn't know when she would visit, today turned out to be the perfect time. At the beginning of class students did some free-writing on two topics: If your proposal is approved, what will that look and feel like--what will improve? And if your proposal is rejected, what will that look and feel like--what will be lost? Then we talked about what types of evidence they will need to find to back up these claims.

When the Provost came in, she immediately put my students at their ease by asking about their topics and responding enthusiastically. The example I use in class and on handouts is "All students should be required to learn to juggle," but no one is researching that topic, tragically. Instead, they're proposing that students should be required to study abroad or take a personal finance class or attend fine arts events or learn about healthy eating choices or a host of other topics. 

I asked the Provost what kind of evidence she would need to be persuaded by a student's proposal, and she reinforced exactly what we had been doing in class: show what will happen if your proposal is approved; show what we'll lose if it isn't; provide reasons, facts, data to support your claims. Which is exactly what we'd been talking about before she arrived in my class.

Serendipity in the classroom! I couldn't have worked better if we'd planned it that way.

So now my students will write their papers with a specific audience in mind, a person who has already shown enthusiasm about their ideas and has given them clear guidance about how to win her over. Will that make a difference? Give me a week and I'll let you know.


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Professor Zombie

Okay, I'm back--mostly. All that driving in the pouring rain took a little something out of me, and then I had to face this big pile of papers that did not grade themselves while I was gone, not to mention the urgent need to stay up very late so as not to miss a single pitch of the World Series.

In other words, I'm a little out of it. Zombiesque, even, which is appropriate for Halloween week. I always tell my classes that I'm dressing for Halloween as the scariest thing I know--an English professor--but this year I dressed as an English professor whose brain cells have been scattered all along I-90.

So in lieu of something coherent to say, here are some random bits of flotsam that have washed up on the shores of my feeble brain: 

Overheard at a meeting: "Understanding the assignment is the assignment."

Overheard at another meeting: "Since 51 percent of respondents are satisfied with the program, it's doing just fine." (Which is true as long as nobody notices the other 49 percent sitting over in the corner screaming in fury.)

In a related matter, saying "No one I know has that problem" does not count as evidence that the problem does not exist.

Nobody on campus is better at festive decorating and inventive costumes than the library staff. Nobody!  You should have seen the duo dressed as Dunkin' Donuts, whose costumes involved basketball nets, basketballs, basketball jerseys, and giant plastic "donuts."

Speaking of libraries, Greta Van Susteren apparently thinks libraries are "vanity projects" that waste students' tuition dollars (link here). Her argument is based on the assumption that everyone can find everything they need to know on their smartphones. Who can spot the flaws in that argument? (Hint: start with the words "everyone" and "everything.")

Reading responses suggest that my comedy students simply don't "get" satire. "Where are the jokes?" they ask, as if jokes are the only form of comedy they recognize. So what do I do with that? Maybe I'll tell them about the stand-up comic I saw on television in Toronto last week, a guy in Toronto making fun of people from Alberta and Quebec. Comedy travels, but sometimes it loses something along the way. 

Just like me. Would someone please point me toward my classroom so I can go up there and try to make some sense?