Category Archives: Articles for Discussion

The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in Our Time

The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in our TimeAristotle wrote Rhetoric, The Art of Persuasion almost 3,000 years ago, and it’s influence on the culture is significant.   The idea of Ethos-Pathos-Logos seems so obvious, that it is hard to remember that a lot of my students, and our culture in general, have not been exposed to these ideas.

It’s a shame, really.  In fact, it is more than a shame.  It is dangerous.  Yesterday’s shooting at the Congressional baseball baseball practice was evidence of that danger.

When people don’t know how to effectively argue, they also lose their ability to effectively deal with the emotion and anger of the human condition.  Frustration mounts, but there is no place for the frustration to vent.  Anger just builds and builds, and because the angry person cannot effectively communicate their frustration and anger, or open themselves up to see another view to mitigate their seemingly endless cycle of miscommunication, they become isolated and desperate to be understood in ways that are toxic to the society around them.

Cussing, when I stub my toe, may be temporarily effective to deal with the stress of that moment, but cussing will usually not help if I am angry about my phone bill, or the mistimed traffic lights on my commute, or the political situation in Washington. For those issues, I have to move beyond cussing and bitching and start thinking of how to formulate an argument to persuade others.  I need to persuade others with sensible arguments (logic) that connect to my audience (pathos), and encourage them to do the right thing (ethos).  Unfortunately, few people are capable of wielding the delicate and powerful weapon of rhetoric.  Instead, they go into their home offices or stand in their kitchen and post vitriolic tantrums or, worse–they arm themselves with physical weapons and conspire to physically harm or eliminate those with whom they disagree (the most extreme form of an Argumenum Ad Hominem fallacy).

The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in Our TimeRhetoric is not hard to learn, but it is difficult to master.  It takes practice and persistence, and it also takes a clear understanding of your audience.  By “audience” I do not mean the unwashed masses of social media butterflies that may retweet or repost a clever snide comment.  Audience consists of the very person or people you wish to persuade.  In order to make an argument, you must have true empathy for those who disagree with you.  You must spend some time getting to know why they feel the way they feel, what their position is, and how you might most effectively reach them.

The simple act of understanding an audience forces the rhetorician out of their carefully buffered political or social silo, and into a meaningful study of an opposing view.  This forces the rhetorician to begin consideration of alternative perspectives, and, usually, some self-reflective consideration of their own perspective.  This is the beginning of critical thought.

Critical thinking is the self-reflective analysis of thought, action, and reaction.  In order to be truly persuasive one must be willing to push themselves out of their own comfort zone, and away from their usual cadre of political, social, and cultural like-minders, to grasp at the brass-ring of subjective analysis:  “What makes my opponent think the way they do?”  Once an opponent is viewed not as a flawed human being; but as a sane, intelligent person with rational thought–civility must persist, and civil discourse blooms.

It is this tradition of civil discourse, so hopelessly forgotten in our contemporary daily lives, that has been the basis of democracy, law, and basic human decency for thousands of years.

So, with this in mind, I appeal to you to revisit rhetoric in your own life.  If you don’t know how to effectively argue, begin to learn.  Start with understanding those around you and practicing gentle persuasion.  Watch some videos on rhetoric or maybe, if you have an opportunity, pick up that classic by Aristotle.  It really is worth your time.


What Facebook Doesn’t Get about Friendships in the 21st Century

It's time for Facebook to recognize something obvious about friendship in the 21st Century.


Let’s start with the basics:  there are two types of Friendships:  Virtual and Real-World.

I know this is something that has been brought up before, or I wouldn’t have the proper lexiconic terms to apply to these relationships–but I don’t think anyone has made the oh-so-obvious leap I am about to make within the walls (virtual or real-world) walls of Facebook’s corporate structure.  If they had, we would have a very different way to categorize our friendships in Facebook.  I don’t think about my friends as “friends” and “close friends,” as Facebook now categorizes them.  I think of them as “virtual friends,” and “real-world” friends.

We should be able to shuffle our friends into these two categories, and then have an option to change our relationship status from “virtual friend” to “real world friend” when we have an opportunity to meet.  This is important, because it is a big moment when we can finally meet someone with whom we have only had a virtual relationship.

I’m not saying that virtual friends cannot be good friends, and that “virtual friend” is somehow a lesser status.  I count among my closest friends some people I have only known via the internet–but there is something inherently different about seeing that person in the flesh, speaking to them, and having a moment to embrace them.  That is an entirely different type of friendship, an elevation of status that recognizes a human connection.

In fact, I was thinking to myself, that there should be a ritual to this process.  There is nothing more annoying than standing there with little to say to your newly minted “real world” friend.  I know when Germans move from referring to a person as “Sie” (a formal “You”) to “Du” (an informal and friendly “You”) they perform a ritual known as “Bruderschaft Trinken” (a drink to friendship).  It is a formal process where the older or more respected member of the friendship suggests to the other to drink “Shemollies” to formalize their friendship.  Then, the transition from “Sie” to “Du” becomes formalized, and they refer to one another in the familiar from that moment on.  I have always thought that this quaint custom of friendship is one full of power and beauty.

In this world of increasing inhumanity, it is ritual that makes and keeps the bonds of human relationships.  Wouldn’t a similar ritual, and maybe an exchange of a “friendship token” of some sort make sense when one moves from virtual to real-world friend?  I think I would like to make a collection of those friendship tokens, to treasure them, and to look at them as I age.  It would be a talisman of sorts, a touchstone to represent the friendships that transcend the virtual world.

So, how about it Facebook?  Can we have a “virtual friend” relationship status for our friends, and an announcement to others when we change that status?  Can we begin a new ritual and a new way to look at something that is so obvious in our lives?  Imagine the financial tie-ins!  Friendship tokens could be the new hot commodity — and evolve to include Internet of Things and Virtual Reality tie-ins.  Not only would this make common sense, it would make business sense as well.

Let’s start a movement!  Tweet and post your support and comments with #FriendshipStatus! Let’s design some friendship tokens, and get busy making one of the first social-media rituals.

Do You Love a Free and Open Internet? Then Get Rid of Your AdBlock NOW!

imgresI just removed Adblock from my phone and my computer.  Yeah, I will miss being free of the advertisements, but I also want to make sure that the internet that I love–the one with all the free tools and great advice and wonderful blogs–stays that way.

Every single one of you that still has an adblocker needs to realize that what you are doing is wrong.  You should not be enjoying the free internet if you won’t at least spend some time looking at the ads that support it.  Yes, those ads are annoying, but they are also paying for your right to access free content.  Those businesses, and spammers, and silly cat video promoters are doing you a big favor–so, you should , at least, spend some time looking over what they have to share with you.

I will even readily admit that I do, on occasion, click on the ads I see, just to make sure that my favorite internet blogger gets some traction on the ads on their site.  I want to make sure that the advertisers know that some of us do see those ads, do notice them, and do click.

Like it or not, the world runs on money, and the people who share great tools and advice and great blogs need to get paid at the end of the day.  If you start blocking the very same ads that give those people revenue, you are insuring that the next generation of internet stars are practicing their craft behind an internet paywall.

I think of using an adblocker somewhat like being a petty thief.  Yeah, you may get away with it, but you will, eventually, make everything a lot more expensive for everyone else.  It’s not fair to enjoy the benefits of an open internet if you won’t at least spend a few minutes closing pop-ups.

So, I’m hoping that you will join me.  Get rid of the adblocker on your computer and your mobile phone, and take a stand to protect free and open internet access–an internet paid for by those annoying, essential, and sometimes creepy ads.


Confessions of an Academic Platypus

imgresWOW. I have never been to an International Society of Technology and Education (ISTE) conference before.  In fact, I have never been a member of ISTE until now.  You see, ISTE is mostly a K-12 organization, so there were very few of us University Ivory Tower members there mixing with the hoi polloi of teaching.

But, I was there.  I was TOTALLY there.

Why? For the simple reason that K12 teachers are the change makers, the developers, the directors of the educational experiences our students have before entering college, and I wanted to see what they were up to, technologically. Also, frankly, I have somewhat lower expectations for what Higher Ed faculty are up to, technologically.

Innovation, Thy Name is K12.

I have come to the disturbing realization that most of the higher education establishment is dragging its heels on technology, and instead of being out in front of education (as we should be) and leading innovation, we spend our days hunched over the yellowed pages of bygone syllabi or lost in the netherworld of Learning Management Systems.

I can’t tell you how many times I have begged fellow faculty members to just take a quick look at what Google Drive can do, or how to use Zotero in the classroom.

It is difficult to explain to “Dean Scowl” (a.k.a. almost any Dean I have ever met) how important it is that I have adequate WIFI in my classroom so my students can build a PLN in Twitter, when Dean Scowl has never used Twitter (and doesn’t want to), doesn’t know what a PLN is (and doesn’t want to know), and spends our valuable 15 minutes together lecturing me on the importance of student confidentiality and the danger of using the internet.  Sigh.

EdTech-Higher Ed Edition

It was liberating, to say the least, to know that there is such a thing as a “Technology Coach” in K12, that those Technology Coaches are making real change possible in our school systems, and that both faculty and students are demonstrating daily (not just lecturing) that learning is a life-long process of: [innovate-attempt | innovate-fail | innovate-succeed | Repeat].  I would love to know when Technology Coaches are going to become something in the PostSecondary (i.e. HigherEd) world.  (I have the distinct impression that my skill-set is about five years ahead of the jobs–unfortunately!).

The Problem of Differentiation in Higher Education

There are two problems with differentiation in Higher Education:  One is that Higher Ed frowns on anyone who is out of their “niche,” . . . and the other is that the niches are ill-defined.

Let me explain.  First, I am always out of my niche (you guessed that, right?).  I’m SUPPOSED to be an English Professor. That means, of course, I should concern myself with literature and writing . . . but there is the problem.  Literature and writing have spilled out beyond the pages of books and onto screens.  It Continue reading →

Mesopotamia: Lost Civilizations

In order to prepare us for our first discussion of World Literature, I would like you to have some context of not only the history of the literature, but the way in which that information was collected.

You will find that context in this Time-Life Video: Mesopotamia: Lost Civilizations.

It is approximately 50 minutes long, and will represent your first homework assignment of the semester:

New York Times Article For Discussion Board #2

Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed.

It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information, say educators who study plagiarism. Continue reading →

Discussion Board #2: 9:25 Class

Please comment on the plagiarism Article from the New York Times.  Your comments should be based upon personal experience and opinion, and should be at least 100 words long for full credit.

Video for PreTest


Here’s the link:

Discussion Board–1:40


Most of you can’t get on InSite yet, so I am posting this discussion board to my blog.

What do you think is the purpose of an Origin Story?  Please use at least two examples from the reading to back up what you say.

Please answer in a comment to this post that is at least 100 words long.  Make sure you include your name so I can give you credit.

Discussion Board–12:15


Most of you can’t get on InSite yet, so I am posting this discussion board to my blog.

How do you think Origin Stories affect a culture?  Please use at least two examples from the reading to back up what you say.

Please answer in a comment to this post that is at least 100 words long.  Make sure you include your name so I can give you credit.

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