31 December 2011

Nurturing Mothers and Indulgent Grandmothers: Why College Students are Academically Adrift | Education Matters

Nurturing Mothers and Indulgent Grandmothers: Why College Students are Academically Adrift | Education Matters

'Academically Adrift' Students are not learning because they don't read.

Provost Gary L. Miller's discussion of the book Academically Adrift, Wic...

EWA Interview: Richard Arum on "Academically Adrift"

13 December 2011

Using Viktor Shklovsky « BIG OTHER

Using Viktor Shklovsky « BIG OTHER

"...Let’s start at the start. Viktor Shklovsky (1893–1984) was one of the founders of the intellectual movement we today call Russian Formalism (along with Boris Eichenbaum, Roman Jakobson, Vladimir Propp, Yuri Tynianov, others). Broadly speaking, they wanted to understand artworks by breaking them down into their constituent parts, or devices (“priem”)—what we might call tropes or techniques or mechanisms. Different members of this circle studied different devices, and there was not always a clear consensus as to which devices mattered the most. Rather, what unified the Russian Formalists was their dedication to identifying devices, and to explaining how they worked in concert with one another—as well as how those arrangements changed over time. (Forgive me this oversimplification.)

Here is one such example: they distinguished between a narrative’s fabula (story) and syuzhet (presentation). The two need not line up exactly. If someone asks you what the movie Fight Club (1999) “is about,” you might say, “Well, it’s about a guy (Edward Norton) who invents an alternate persona, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), in order to give himself the courage to break out of his mundane white collar existence.” But of course that’s not at all how Fight Club presents itself to the audience. The narrative’s presentation begins at its climax, which is interrupted, and only then proceeds to the the story’s chronological beginning. From that point on, the film contains a mix of chronologically-ordered scenes and bits of narrative exposition (Northon’s voiceover) that allow us, ultimately, to return to and understand the climax, which is then resolved in the final minutes of the movie. Furthermore, the narration conceals from us for most of the film’s running time the fact that Tyler Durden is the psychological creation of the nameless narrator/protagonist.

Formalism helps us explain this kind of narrative phenomenon. By separating story from presentation, we can begin to speak of them independently from one another, as well as to understand how they relate. From this follows many other concepts: for instance, we can see how exposition is back story that gets related (narrated) in the narrative present, whereas a flashback is a scene that’s chronologically embedded in the narrative present. And so on...."

20 October 2011

“We the people” vs. “us the people” | The Grammarphobia Blog

May 12, 2011

“We the people” vs. “us the people”

Q: Populists often stress democratic values by invoking the phrase “we the people,” but lately they’ve taken to using it not just as a subject but as an object as well. Thus: “We must never allow [insert villain] to trample on we the people!”

A: “We the people” is a subject; “us the people” is an object. Here’s how they look in sentences:

“We, the people, elect our leaders. Our leaders are elected by us, the people.”

In both of those noun phrases, “the people” is an appositive. It identifies or explains the preceding noun or pronoun by using a different term (like the name in “My son, John”).

We’ve written on the blog before about appositives, which are sometimes surrounded by commas, as in our examples above.

An appositive never changes the case (that is, subject or object) of the pronoun it follows. That’s why the entire phrase “we the people” is always a subject and “us the people” is always an object.

The words “we the people” resonate with Americans because they introduce the preamble to the Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If ever a phrase deserved proper handling, it’s “we the people.”

It’s demeaned when misused as a grammatical object (as in, “Don’t trample on we the people!”).

Check out our books about the English language

Permanent Link

“We the people” vs. “us the people” | The Grammarphobia Blog

16 October 2011

Florida Studies: Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Florida College English Association

Florida Studies: Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Florida College English Association
Editor: Paul D. Reich and Maurice J. O’Sullivan
Date Of Publication: Oct 2011
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-3275-5
Isbn: 1-4438-3275-8
This volume contains a variety of essays about Florida literature and history by scholars from across the state representing every kind of institution of higher learning, from community colleges to small liberal arts institutions to large universities. The first section, Pedagogy, explores the challenges facing Florida teachers at both the high school and undergraduate levels. The essays in Old Florida take on a myriad of texts that provide evaluations of Florida and its culture from the 1540s through the 1950s and include evaluations of Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Pat Frank. The final section, Contemporary Florida, continues to identify the state’s place within larger literary, cultural, and political traditions.

Paul D. Reich is an Assistant Professor of English at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His areas of teaching and research include late 19th and 20th century American literature, African American literature, the American West, and popular culture. His work has appeared in Teaching American Literature, Modern Fiction Studies, and Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction.

Maurice J. O’Sullivan is a Professor of English and the Kenneth Curry Chair in Literature at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In addition to articles on literature and pedagogy, he has published The Florida Reader (1991), Crime Fiction and Films in the Sunshine State (1997), and Orange Pulp (2000).

Price Uk Gbp: 39.99
Price Us Usd: 59.99

Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)

Home - Cambridge Scholars Publishing

06 September 2011

CriticalThinking.org - 31st International Conference

CriticalThinking.org - 31st International Conference

The Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking have together hosted critical thinking academies and conferences for more than three decades. During that time, we have played a key role in defining, structuring, assessing, improving and advancing the principles and best practices of fair-minded critical thought in education and in society. We invite you to join us for the 31st International Conference on Critical Thinking. Our annual conference provides a unique opportunity for you to improve your understanding of critical thinking, as well as your ability to more substantively foster it in the classroom and in all aspects of your work and life.

Choose from the following sessions when registering. Choose one for each day section. See preconference and conference schedule and sessions for full titles and descriptions.

  • Developing a Substantive Approach to Socratic Questioning Through Critical Thinking
  • 25 Weeks to Better Thinking and Better Living: Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Take Charge of Your Life
  • Three Historical Approaches to Critical Thinking and Their Significance for the Design and Assessment of Post-Secondary Curriculum
  • CANCELED How to Work Together with Colleagues to deepen Your Understanding of Critical Thinking Through Extended Book Studies
  • Teaching Students to Think Within a Field or Discipline
  • What are Intellectual Traits and How Does One Teach for Them?
  • Understanding the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Emancipating the Mind
  • Fostering Critical Thinking in the Secondary Classroom
  • Advanced Session: ‘On the potential of the critical vocabulary of the English language as an academic lingua franca’ (for returning registrants)
DAY TWO Morning
  • The Role of Administration in Creating Critical Thinking Communities
  • Using Peer Review on a Typical Day to Foster Substantive Critical Thinking
  • Teaching Students to Distinguish Strong and Weak Sense Critical Thinking
  • Fostering Critical Thinking in the Social Disciplines
DAY TWO Afternoon
  • Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Teach Students How to Study and Learn
  • Why Transfer of Learning is a Common Consequent of Teaching for Critical Thinking
  • Teaching for Intellectual Autonomy and Intellectual Courage
  • Sociocentric Thinking as a Barrier to Cultivating the Intellect
  • Concurrent sessions - choose at the conference
DAY FOUR Morning
  • Teaching Students Fundamental and Powerful Concepts
  • Why I am Ashamed to Belong to the Human Species
  • What I Think of When I Design Instruction
  • The Art of Close Reading and Substantive Writing

The conference begins with 4 options for preconference sessions. These are for both new and returning registrants. The rest of the conference will consist in approximately 40 sessions offered over four days. Participants will choose in advance the sessions offered during the preconference and on days one, two, and four of the main conference. On the third day of the conference participants will choose from approximately 30 sessions.

All conference sessions are designed to converge on basic critical thinking principles and to enrich a core concept of critical thinking with practical teaching and learning strategies. For a fuller explanation of core critical thinking concepts review the Thinker's Guide Series or articles from our library.

Throughout our work we emphasize and argue for the importance of teaching for critical thinking in a strong, rather than a weak, sense. We are committed to a clear and "substantive" concept of critical thinking (rather than one that is ill-defined); a concept that interfaces well with the disciplines, that integrates critical with creative thinking, that applies directly to the needs of everyday and professional life, that emphasizes the affective as well as the cognitive dimension of critical thinking, that highlights intellectual standards and traits. We advocate a concept of critical thinking that organizes instruction in every subject area at every educational level.

From: http://www.criticalthinking.org/Conference/2011_Conference.cfm

30 August 2011

Using the Socratic Method by Rick Garlikov

More About the Socratic Method

Using the Socratic Method

Bryan Bloom, President of Deal Management Systems, Inc. came across "The Socratic Method: Teaching by Asking Instead of by Telling" and wrote to ask me to explain further how to use the method. In particular he sought a step-by-step recipe for generating the questions. I cannot imagine such a recipe because each subject is very different and the background of each student or group of students may be very different from that of other students or groups. Also, I thought I had explained it about as well as I could in the original article, but he wrote back saying that though I had given an example of its use in that paper, I had not explained it. So I responded to that with the following e-mail, which he replied subsequently that he found very helpful. I am posting it here in case others might also find it helpful. The italicized remarks following the brackets are from his e-mail:

> Rick - thanks for the reply. Actually, you didn't explain it, but you did give an example.

I am going to quote a couple of passages that I considered to be an "explanation" though you might not have, and then I will try to elaborate on them a little.

> As it is called a "method" I am assuming that it can be coded and learned/taught somehow.
> Maybe I am incorrect. However, the word method would indicate something repeatable and
> identifiable.

Interesting. Not sure. It is very identifiable, but not easy to originate; perhaps like a composer's style in that regard. You can identify Beethoven's works generally but not easily produce one as great because content is as important as style, and the content takes some expertise. But since you have raised the issue, I am going to see whether I can come up with a generalized methodology of some sort for you.

> How did you learn how to do it?

It sort of comes naturally to me because I learn by analyzing things. Once you have analyzed something into its essential logical components, it is easy to see how to proceed, or lead someone else, from one to another. And, especially if you have taken wrong paths and made errors in your analyzing the thing, it is real easy to notice when others are going down a wrong path, and to know what they need to focus on in order to bring them back to the right path.

Second, I read many of Plato's dialogues in which Socrates is portrayed as using the method in many different cases. That was not particularly helpful at first, however, because the problems and comments in those dialogues do not make much sense to the modern reader who is not a philosopher and who is not aware of the signficance of the problems today; and while I recognized what Socrates was doing, the particulars did not make much sense because the questions and answers seemed bizarre or "tricky" instead of logical.

First, the following are the passages from the essay which I thought were explanatory:
"These are the four critical points about the questions: 1) they must be interesting or intriguing to the students; they must lead by 2) incremental and 3) logical steps (from the students' prior knowledge or understanding) in order to be readily answered and, at some point, seen to be evidence toward a conclusion, not just individual, isolated points; and 4) they must be designed to get the student to see particular points. You are essentially trying to get students to use their own logic and therefore see, by their own reflections on your questions, either the good new ideas or the obviously erroneous ideas that are the consequences of their established ideas, knowledge, or beliefs. Therefore you have to know or to be able to find out what the students' ideas and beliefs are. You cannot ask just any question or start just anywhere.

"It is crucial to understand the difference between 'logically' leading questions and 'psychologically' leading questions. Logically leading questions require understanding of the concepts and principles involved in
order to be answered correctly; psychologically leading questions can be answered by students' keying in on clues other than the logic of the content."

So let me give another example, this time from teaching the technical details of photography.

Lens' apertures and camera shutter speeds each are based on letting in either twice as much or half as much light depending on which direction one goes. Not a particularly difficult concept once you see it, but the trick is getting people to see it and to appreciate what it signifies then. So I start out by asking people if they were watering their garden for five minutes, at a constant hose pressure, how much water they put on their lawn. The correct answer is that they don't know, if they were not measuring. But the next question is, if they watered for 10 minutes at the same rate, how much more water they would put on in that 10 minutes compared with how much they put on in just five minutes. The answer is "twice as much" -- even though they do not know HOW much that is in either case. Then I show them, the aperture sizes of the lens -- the whole openings, and ask them which lets in more light, a big hole that I show them, or a small hole that I show them. The big hole. Then I show them, with the back of the camera open (no film, of course) which lets in more light: the shutter being open a long time or the shutter being open 1/1000 of a second. Clearly the shutter's being open a long time lets in more light if the amount of light is contant throughout the time the shutter is open.

Then I explain that the amount of light by making the hole one size smaller lets in exactly half as much light. And making the shutter stay open half as long does the same thing. So you can decrease the light by half that hits the film EITHER by decreasing the aperture one amount or by increasing the shutter speed by one amount.

Then to test whether they understand the full force of that, I ask: what happens if you decrease the aperture by one amount and then increase the amount of time the shutter is open by doubling it; how much have you changed the amount of light that hits the film? The answer should be that you basically have not changed it at all.

So, if different combinations of aperture and shutter speed do not change the exposure of the film, how do you decide which combination to use? Or does it not matter?

They won't know that, but they see it now as a puzzling question, so you are half way there.

Well, I can devise questions to get them to see how shutter speed works -- e.g., what if you take a picture of someone that takes 30 seconds to shoot, what is likely to happen?

They can answer that. The picture will be blurred because either the subject will move or you will shake the camera because you cannot hold it steady for that long [without a tripod].

But I have no questions I can ask about aperture, because most of them will have had very little experience with using different apertures for something, unless they are lens specialists. The only likely experience many of them have, if they use bifocals, is that outside in the sunlight they probably won't need them, whereas in dim light, they particularly need them. Sunlight narrows your pupils, and a narrower opening gives more depth in focus. But that is not worth trying to ferret out of people by the Socratic method of asking leading questions and hoping they will have had the experience and be able to remember it, etc.

At any rate, in order to employ the Socratic method, you have to first know the logical sequence of steps from one point of knowledge to another. That is not easy to begin with.

Second, you have to be able to recognize wrong answers and come up with a question so logically related to their answer that they see right away their answer was mistaken. E.g., you ask someone "What do you want your newspaper ad to do?" And they say "I want them to see we are having a sale." Well, you have to know first that is NOT what they want their ad to do. If that is all they wanted their ad to do, they could simply have the ad say "___ company is having a sale". What they want is for the ad to get people to come to buy stuff. The question is then how to get the ad to do that. Well, it will depend on the store; it will depend on what they have to entice customers with; it will depend on who their potential clientele is, etc.

The Socratic Method is easy, if you understand the logic of what you are explaining; it is impossible if you do not.

So, if you understand that logic, what you do is you ask questions to see how much your "student" understands first. That way you know where to begin any explanations, Socratic or otherwise.

Once you know the starting place, you have to know what the "next" thing you want them to know is.

Then you have to come up with a question that leads them there. It has to be a question that is specific enough to be helpful. It is like playing charades, however, in that you will go down dead ends sometimes. What seems like a really clever way to get a word across in "Charades" doesn't always work.

If the person gives a wrong answer, you have to decide whether there is any merit in showing them why that answer is wrong, or whether you just need to show them that it is.

I begin teaching my ethics course by asking students when it is right to break a date and why. Well, they might come up with 15 different answers, and what they say may or may not prompt a response question in your mind. One time a girl said that she thought it right to break a date if the guy didn't own a car. I said "So if Ralph Nader, who doesn't have a car, and, I think, doesn't even have a driver's license, showed up at your door with a helicopter and a qualified pilot and was going to fly you to Paris in a private jet, you think you should break the date?" She amended her requirement to her date's needing to have transportation. When I asked about public transportation, she added that she meant with regard to the rural area in which she lived at the time because without transportation there would be no way to get to anywhere interesting for a date that involved more than just being together.

Once, in the early 1970's, I had a whole class of kids say that you should break a date whenever you wanted to because honesty was always the best policy. So I asked "What if it were for the prom, and the guy had rented a car and a tux, and just as he is walking up to your door, you decide you don't want to go?" or "What if the girl had bought an expensive dress and was really looking forward to going, etc., is it right to call her 15 minutes before and say 'forget it, I don't want to go'?" Would that be right? These kids all said "Yes, because honesty is the most important thing." So then I asked "What if you honestly want to kill someone? Would that make it right to do it?" They all said "Yes, if you are willing to suffer the consequences." I wasn't getting anywhere with this sort of line of questioning with these students.

So the next day I gave them a really terrible assignment that made them all angry. Then I told them I lied and that they really didn't have that assignment. That really made them angry. And they wanted to know why I had tormented them. I asked whether they thought it wrong for me to do it just because I wanted to. They did think that wrong. I reminded them of their own principle from the previous day. They gave up that principle.

You have to know what the logical ramifications of their wrong answers are, especially where it leads that they are not likely to want to go. Then all you have to do is to ask a question or to that uses their own logic to get them to a place they are unhappy with, and they will give up their wrong answers.

Then, to get them along the right paths, you have to know what experiences are likely to give them good insights, and focus your questions about those experiences or ideas.

There is a methodology to this, but it is so general when talking about any content or subject matter area, that it is almost impossible to describe in a specific step-by-step manner. The questions you would ask about flying a plane are different from what you would ask for baking a cake but the general principals of what you are trying to do are the same.

Finally, it doesn't always work. Socrates used to tick off people doing this; they thought he was mocking them by asking them stupid questions or tricking them into being confused because he was clever. They brought him to trial, convicted him, and executed him. While execution is not as much a potential problem today, the method still really irritates people when you (as it seems to them) "show them up" in subjects they think they are expert. Illogical people do NOT like this method used "on" them; and they cannot see it as a method that is being used "with" them in order to help them.

FROM: http://www.garlikov.com/teaching/smmore.htm

Keyboard shortcut for screensaver

From: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/24811-45-keyboard-shortcut-screensaver

It's easy as 1, 2, 3...

Click Start, Search

click All Files and Folders

Click Look in: (drop down arrow)

Click Browse (in the box that opens)

Click My Computer, Local Drive C:, Windows, (scroll down) press System32

Now, Look in: will read System32

click in the All of part of the file name: box and type *.scr
(screen savers have the file extension of .scr, the * means you want every file that ends with .scr.)

The names are a little cryptic, but somewhat legible. The marque is ssmarque, pipes is sspipes...you'll figure it out.

Now, right click on the one you want, let's say it's ssmarque. Click Create shortcut. XP will ask you if you want to create the shortcut on the desktop. Click OK.

Now the fun part (it's easy, don't let some smart ass "guru" tell you it can't be done!)

You'll see your new Shortcut on the desktop. Right click it and then click Properties.

You'll see a box that reads Shortcut key: that reads 'None'. Click in the box...you'll see your cursor flashing next to the word None. Simply hold down the Ctrl key and then press any key you want to use. I use "M" for the marque so my shortcut keys are Ctrl + Alt + M to immediately open the screen saver. Just press Ctrl to go back to whatever you were doing (and hope the boss didn't notice!).

As far as I can tell you have to have the Ctrl + Alt as part of the shortcut keys.

dan50m50@yahoo.com *Write if you have problems with this.

From: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/24811-45-keyboard-shortcut-screensaver

Start the default screen saver in XP with NirCmd command-line tool

NirCmd - Freeware command-line tool for Windows

Start the default screen savernircmd.exe screensaver

How to Make a Computer Screen Go Black With Powerpoint

How to Make a Computer Screen Go Black With Powerpoint - wikiHow


  1. 1
    Open PowerPoint. You can do this by searching in start menu then all programs folder.

  2. 2
    After you have opened up PowerPoint, press f5 to view the show.
  3. 3
    Press b while the show is up.
  4. 4
    Watch your screen goes black.
  5. 5
    To make it go back, press b again then hit space bar until you have finished the slide show.

28 August 2011

Lies ELA Teachers Tell Themselves - #1: "Correcting student errors teaches them better usage."

FROM: Tim Fredrick's ELA Teaching Blog:

Lies ELA Teachers Tell Themselves - #1: "Correcting student errors teaches them better usage."

Editing_2This really is one of my biggest pet peeves about ELA teaching - over-correcting student writing mistakes. What do I mean by "over-correcting"? Let me back up a bit and describe how I avoidover-correcting.

When dealing with usage problems (and this includes punctuation, grammar, mechanics, etc), it is important to deal with one problem at a time and spend a lot of time on it. I'll spend a month or more helping students with one problem (not every lesson or for a whole period, mind you). A big one for my students - one that usually takes more than a month - is subject verb agreement (SVA). At the beginning of the year, I'll cover basic SVA. Students will practice in groups, those who have the down helping those who don't. After spending a few lessons doing group work, I'll move students into individual work. Now, on writing assignments, I only correct SVA errors as that is the only problem we have dealt with as a class. I don't correct run-ons and fragments even though my students have problems with those. When I conference with students about their formal writing assignments and they have SVA errors, I will spend some time in the conference focusing on those errors. If in a final draft of a paper the student has those errors, I will mark the error with a reiteration of why I'm marking it. This process may take a month or more in order to really focus on SVA.

The next step, after I feel that we've spent enough class time on SVA (again, usually a month or more - not all lessons during that month - just here and there as needed, once or twice a week mini-lessons), I'll move on to run-ons and fragments. The process is repeated with group work then individual work and then in conferences. The difference is that now I'm helping students in conferences and in my written comments with two skills: SVA and run-ons/fragments. Even if I see loads of comma errors, I don't mention them or mark them. I put them in the back of my mind for later areas of study.

This represents teaching and learning about mechanics that is focused and effective. Why? When students reach the secondary level, we can assume two things. First, they've probably received grammar instruction before (no, you aren't the first teacher to notice they have grammar problems). Second, many of their errors are so ingrained in how they use language that one mini-lesson or mark on a paper is not going to do the trick in reprogramming their brain and how it understands the use of language. At this point, they've been making the mistake so much that it looks and sounds correct to them. This will take time and focus to switch.

In addition, I don't correct errors that we haven't discussed in class. Yes, I can assume that students have had grammar instruction before, but I don't always know the topics that were covered or whether this grammar instruction was good. In the best of scenarios, I would be able to ask the teachers who had the students before me what they covered and how, but we in education are used to not having the best of scenarios.

Actually, let me highlight something ... I don't even correct errors on papers. I mark them. There's a difference. Correcting is when you put the 'correct' answer on the student's paper; marking is when you mark that they made a mistake but do not give them the 'correct' answer.

There is this distinction (and this gets me back to my original point) because correcting student mistakes is not instruction. Correcting their mistakes is editing, and if that is what you enjoy you should have gotten into book publishing. We are teachers and our job is to teach students how to use the English language. Correcting mistakes on their paper - and worse, over-correcting every single mistake we can find whether or not we have covered it in depth in class or not - is not teaching. If you correct errors on their papers on a first draft, they will go back and fix them on their computer mindlessly. They then turn in a paper that is 'perfect,' and you feel good about yourself. But, did they learn? Some would argue, yes they did. So, how? Osmosis? They learned just because they fixed the mistake? If that is learning, then they would never make that mistake again. How many times have you corrected an error on a student paper and that student makes the same exact mistake over and over? (Now, there are situations in which the student made a silly error and you 'caught' it. The student really knows what to do but was just a bit careless. There, your problem is not grammar knowledge it is proofreading skills. That's different.)

I heard a teacher at the end of last year say, "I'm sick of fixing all their mistakes. After twenty, I'm going to stop." I laughed to myself because everyone is so impressed with how well her students write, when in fact her students write so well because they have an incredible editor - her! We are not editors; we are teachers. We need to be focused with our instruction on mechanics. One topic at a time for a significant period (when I say significant period, I mean that we take 20 minutes once or twice a week for a month or more if needed - not every day all day for weeks on end) and work with students on conferences to explore their errors. Marks on a paper are not instruction. Teacher-student interaction - either whole group, small group, or individually - is instruction.

Focus on grammar instruction, not correcting mistakes on paper.

FROM: Tim Fredrick's ELA Teaching Blog:

13 March 2011

Report on Readercon

Reposting of a blog entry from The Mumpsimus:

10 July 2005

Readercon: Day 3

Today was the end of Readercon, and everyone looked a bit dazed and even bedraggled, though happy. Corrections to my earlier posts have already begun to appear in the comments -- please feel free to correct anything you think I mistyped, misperceived, or missed. (Thanks to Kathryn Cramer for doing so already.)

First, the Rhysling Awards have been posted and the winners announced to all the world, not just Readercon attendees. Congratulations all around.

Now to today: I arrived in the morning to see Greer Gilman read from the third story in her series begun with "Jack Daw's Pack" and the World Fantasy Award-winning "A Crowd of Bone". I'd heard Greer read other pieces of the story last year, and it's as vivid and unique an artifact of language as the other two, so I wasn't about to miss another sneak-peak. Her writing can seem, on the page, almost opaque, but when she reads it doesn't feel the least bit difficult or obscure to me. I told her this, and she said the stories really should be read aloud, they're designed that way. There were only a few of us at the reading, but it was 10am on a Sunday morning, and it didn't really matter, because it was an appreciative group, and engagement matters more than numbers. ("The average literacy in that room," Greer said to me, "was thrillingly high." Indeed. But that's been my experience of the whole convention, and one of the things that has made it so much fun.)

I dashed from the reading to the only panel I went to today: "Experiencing Sense of Wonder for College Credit: Teaching SF in the Classroom", where the panelists were: Fred Lerner (moderator), Samuel Delany, Theodora Goss, Leigh Grossman, and Suzy McKee Charnas. The participants gave their backgrounds first -- all teach or have taught science fiction and/or fantasy classes at universities, though in various ways and forms. Things got off to a lively start when Samuel Delany said he's against teaching a historical overview of science fiction, that such an overview is impossible and a waste of time, and that he's also against trying to define "science fiction" (he explained the reasons for the latter briefly, but I'd recommend reading his comments on defining SF and the various histories of SF in Silent Interviews, because this idea wasn't really picked up and discussed much during the panel.)

Suzy McKee Charnas said she always starts with a historical overview of SF, because most students' notions of what science fiction and fantasy are comes from movies. She said she starts with Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, because it's old, but full of energy and invention, which many students don't think old things can have. Delany replied that he often does exactly the same thing, and usually starts with Bester, too, but he just doesn't call it history.

Leigh Grossman said he often starts a course with definitions provided by students answering the question "What is science fiction?" or "What is fantasy?" (he teaches separate courses on each). The responses can be illuminating and good ways to begin discussion, and without doing it the students would become frustrated because so much of what they encounter in his courses defies their expectations of what SF is and does. He said he draws across all majors, even though it's an upper-level English course with 6,000+ pages of reading per semester and 150 pages of writing (although summer class participants can get out of one paper if they go to an SF convention).

Theodora Goss said that her university is fairly conservative, and that she teaches mostly 19th century fantasy literature, because, alas, that's what easiest to convince the administrators is worthwhile for study.

There followed a lot of discussion of the lack of respect that SF gets from the academy, though most of the panelists said they've experienced more hostility from creative writing teachers and programs than from academic ones. Suzy McKee Charnas suggested the condemnatory attitude derives from ignorance of the SF field, and therefore a feeling that it's impossible to assess student work related to SF. Theodora Goss said that people in academic programs are looking for new territory to explore, since so much has been written about so many of the major literary figures. Leigh Grossman said that even though his classes aren't exactly creative writing classes, he gets refugees from other creative writing classes where the instructors pretended The Iowa Review is the only respectable market for stories.

Samuel Delany said he uses a series of single-author modules in courses, rather than a historical overview, with eight modules per semester. By using a couple of novels and some short stories by one writer, students get to see what specific writers do, rather than becoming confused by all the paradoxes and conflicts in the history of SF.

Leigh Grossman said he likes to destroy the Norton Anthology view of writing as "this writer followed that one" by talking about how writers work, their worries about money and contracts, their friendships and animosities across generations. This can illuminate and humanize past writers, writers who we think of as godlike, but who were probably just trying to figure out how to pay the rent or get an audience.

Theodora Goss said she tends to teach thematically, for instance with the theme of "the double", to show how writers take central ideas and play with them, for instance "Beauty and the Beast" as seen through Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride".

Leigh Grossman said he often has to spend the first day scaring away people who signed up for the course because it said "science fiction" and so they assumed it would be an easy A. Theodora Goss said that happens to her, too, but there are also plenty of students who already are interested in fantasy and science fiction, truly want to be there, and are passionate about the work -- something a bit rarer in a class on Emerson.

Samuel Delany said that bringing science fiction into a creative writing class is no more difficult than bringing people of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, etc. At the beginning, he says that all genres of writing are welcome and taken seriously. After all, eventually most writers want to try their hand at SF, as did Hawthorne, Poe, and Twain. It's part of the American traiditon. On the subject of preconceptions, he said he asks students who haven't read SF to list its themes (the students who have read SF are told to be quiet). These prejudicial myths -- utopias, space battles, etc. -- are written on the board, and inevitably turn out to be a fairly accurate description of a lot of SF. He said that he then bans any talk about these subjects in general, forcing the students to focus on the actual texts without their preconceptions.

Someone made a comment about many administrators saying students won't read more than a few pages for any class, and Delany pounced on this, proclaiming the idea of "teachability" as something that has made classes of all sorts meaningless and boring. If teachers get too caught up in trying to convert people to reading, science fiction, etc., this tends to control the canon in the humanities, and not in a good way. He said he prefers teaching graduate seminars for this reason.

From the audience, John Crowley asked what some of the modules Delany uses are, and he said Alfred Bester (the famous works, plus things like "Hell is Forever"), Theodore Sturgeon, Thomas Disch, Joanna Russ, Barry Malzberg, and he's even putting together a John Crowley module. He went on to say that he avoids writers that the students would encounter if they develop any sort of interest in SF -- no need for Isaac Asimov, for instance -- and that one of the best things teachers can do is introduce students to superb writers they might not otherwise encounter. He said his selection is based entirely on his own conflicting ideas of "quality", and that he lays these ideas out for the students to discuss and argue about.

Suzy McKee Charnas said one of the reasons she likes teaching SF is that she likes to talk about the edges of ideas, the edges of culture, and that SF is very good at doing that.

Theodora Goss said that SF of various sorts often investigates and represents things realism doesn't -- for instance, 19th century fantasy could often be seen as a discussion of the fallout from Darwin's ideas, with things like Dracula raising questions about the relationship between humans and animals.

And then time ran out.

I was going to go to another panel, but got caught up talking with a few people, because rumors that publisher Byron Preiss had just died in a car accident were, sadly, confirmed.

At one o'clock, though, I went to hear Samuel Delany read an assessment of the tenth volume of The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, an essay that has just come out in The New York Review of Science Fiction. If I'd been thinking well, I would have picked up a copy of the new NYRSF, but the dealer's room closed after Delany's reading. I'm just going to have to finally break down and subscribe, because it's an excellent, insightful essay. In it, Delany compares Sturgeon to Chekhov, and an audience member afterward asked him to elaborate on the comparison. He said there is a similarly large range of characters in Sturgeon's work as in Chekhov's, though Sturgeon tends to focus more on the working class, while Chekhov had peasants and aristocrats (because that's what existed at that time). Both writers have a strong connection to landscape in their stories, and, a real humanity to their perspectives. Someone asked him what his favorite Sturgeon story is, and he said that he couldn't answer that any more than his favorite Chekhov story, because he likes their sensibilities, and, as with any writer who is of great quality, their work as a whole creates a sensibility that he likes being immersed in.

After that, I went to hear Kelly Link read part of "Magic for Beginners", the title story of her new collection, and then Dora Goss read a magnificent story that will be appearing on Strange Horizons soon, as well as some poems.

And so ended Readercon. If I find more reports from the convention, I'll post links to them. Please keep corrections, emendations, different interpretations, etc. coming in the comments sections. If you're more visually oriented, check out Kathryn Cramer's photos from the convention. She even got me, though the camera exploded immediately after. (That's Sonya Taaffe behind me, by the way. I was walking toward Kathryn to introduce her to Sonya, because David Hartwell had asked to meet Sonya, and Sonya didn't know either of the Hartwell-Cramer duo of fabulousity.)

On my way out of the convention, I picked up a registration form for next year, because it announced the guests of honor for 2006: James Morrow and China Mieville.