Corrupting the Youth

On Ways to Teach Writing Very, Very Well

Or, Learning to Imitate FTW

SEK’s got a fantastic new post up at Acephalous about a particular technique he uses to teach his student’s how to imitate an academic style of writing. Or, as he puts it “a very long post about teaching non-humanities majors how to fake like they know what they’re talking about.” 

Anyone interested in writing, teaching writing, or teaching non-humanities majors would do well to read the piece.

Though he’s framed it as a retention technique — for those science majors who after 2 years of problem sets and Scantrons get to their senior year research papers with no clue how to write in an academic voice — but I think it’s worth reading for the description of his pedagogy within which this technique is embedded, too. I especially like the way he gets the students on the side of good writing and argument by showing them how to take down terrible stuff.

Go read!

Scott Eric Kaufman, “How to Bootstrap Student Diction,” Acephalous, 5 February 2010

Image cite: the trial, write,” Flickr, CC License

History and Historians, Our Glorious National Heritage

The whole epoch is disorienting

Or, Atlantic Linkages


Listen everybody: if you aren’t reading Ta-Nehisi Coates over at the Atlantic, you are missing out.

He’s a very good writer, and a very deep thinker. I mention him here — rather than just by grabbing you by the collar and preaching the cant of the converted to you individually — because recently he’s been reading through the historical literature on slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and blogging his reactions. The result is some of the most thoughtful and powerful writing on the topic, and its present relevance, that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.

What I like best of about Coates’s writing (and thought) is his how open he is to new ideas. Not uncritical; but willing to engage. That is as true of his reading of history as it is in his conversations with ideological opponents. There is, in his postings, a constant autobiographical refrain where he tracks the development of this willingness in himself, which gives it an anchor and a sincerity which even the most plaintively open-minded writers lack.
Continue reading “The whole epoch is disorienting”

History and Historians

Structures, Agency, and a Bleg


Or, An Apprentice Scholar’s (narcissistic) Lament

Ran across this the other day, and thought it worth “commonplacing”:

Ultimately, I hoped to show that we should not think of “agency” and “structure” as rivals, or even as being mutually exclusive. As I state in the last paragraph of the book, “The constraints and structures of any particular period are, however, often the creation of a previous generation’s political agents. In the short term, politics is, in fact, a world of constraints, but to agents willing to wait for effects that may not emerge for decades, the world is full of opportunity.” Agents have to operate in a world of structures. But if they have a long time horizon, they can create new structures, which will then act to constrain the next generation of agents. And so on.

~Steven Teles, “Response,” Crooked Timber, 1 May 2009, describing one of the themes of his book The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (PUP, 2008).

Continue reading “Structures, Agency, and a Bleg”