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Nate Silver & Truth Seeking Behavior

Nate Silver presents his BS-meter — modeled on the old terror alert system — to evaluate information sources and “expertise.”

“Probability is the waystone between ignorance and knowledge. Sometimes the pundit who says ‘I don’t know’ is the one you should trust.”

March 9, 2016

Independent, innovative …

March 7, 2016

… a really really long poem about everything

Concluding Thoughts

“One purpose of a liberal arts education is to make your head a more interesting place to live inside of for the rest of your life.” —Mary Patterson McPherson, President, Bryn Mawr College

“I thought that the future was a placelike Paris or the Arctic Circle. The supposition proved to be mistaken. The future turns out to be something that you make instead of find. It isn’t waiting for your arrival, either with an arrest warrant or a band; it doesn’t care how you come dressed or demand to see a ticket of admission. It’s no further away than the next sentence, the next best guess, the next sketch for the painting of a life’s portrait that may or may not become a masterpiece. The future is an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, and if you have the courage of your own thought and your own observation, you can make of it what you will.” —Lewis Lapham 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

“It ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at!” —KRS-ONE, Ruminations

March 6, 2016

Poverty & Eviction

Ehrenreich, Matthew Desmond’s ‘Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City’ (Sunday Book Review)

Desmond, The Eviction Economy (Sunday Review)

The “right to be let alone” in 1890

Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that “what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.”

Warren and Brandeis, “The Right to Privacy” (4 Harvard L.R. 193 (Dec. 15, 1890).

“Competing Interests in Apple Standoff Split U.S. Agencies” — NYT March 5, 2016:

Driven by competing and sometimes clashing interests about privacy, national security and the economy, some of the president’s most senior aides are staking out a variety of positions on the issue.

Erwin Chemerinsky, “Rediscovering Brandeis’s Right to Privacy.” 45 Brandeis Law Journal 643-657 (2007).

The first research paper I remember writing was in fifth grade and it was a short biography of Louis Brandeis. What was most special to me was that he was Jewish. As a ten-year-old Jewish boy in 1963, I aspired to be Sandy Koufax.But lacking any semblance of athletic ability, Brandeis offered the possibility of another, more realistic path. I never met a single lawyer growing up and probably Brandeis was one of the first that I ever even heard about.

At the wonderful symposium at the University of Louisville on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Brandeis’s birth, his grandchildren told me that his Jewishness was a key part of his identity. Undoubtedly, it shaped how the world treated him and how he saw the world. The intense opposition to his confirmation in 1916 surely was fueled, in part, by anti-semitism. Once on the Court, he had a colleague, Justice James McReynolds who refused to have a photo taken together or to allow his law clerks to speak to Brandeis’s clerks.  Brandeis was instrumental in the early days of the Zionist movement.

Brandeis’s work as a lawyer and as a Justice seems obviously to have been influenced by the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam” — the duty that each of us has to heal a broken world. Brandeis certainly did this as a public advocate, as an attorney, and as a Justice. One other way he accomplished this was as a legal scholar.

Context. So much context. For example? Why Online Privacy Should Be The Defining Cause Of The Millennial Generation.

I am human; therefore, nothing human is alien to me

I Googled the phrase “I am human; therefore, nothing human is alien to me” just for kicks, to see what people are doing with it, and to see if they link it to the concept of empathy, like Leslie Jamison does. (375,000 results, so somebody is doing something.) I found this video of Maya Angelou — it’s only 3:00 minutes, so go ahead — and she ties it to humility. Interesting. 

She also puts the emphasis on alien, rather than to me.

March 3, 2016

Page A1, above the fold

Every Classroom

“Every classroom is an act of making citizens in the realm of that room, and every room is a figure for the larger community.” ~ A. Bartlett Giamatti, A Free and Ordered Space.

February 28, 2016

Compare & Contrast With Young Women Voters

This is a great opportunity to compare & contrast the demographic — and associated rhetorical language? — that we read about a couple of weeks ago: young women your age who feel no obligation toward Clinton:

There are many reasons Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is polling as much as 30 percentage points behind Mrs. Clinton among black voters in South Carolina. Many African-Americans in the state say they do not know him well. Others bristle at his criticism of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul, seeing it as an attack on the president’s legacy. Mr. Sanders wins points for his takedown of Wall Street and his vow to make public colleges free and health care available for all, but some wonder whether these ambitions are too lofty given the deeply divided Congress. 

But one important reason for Mrs. Clinton’s support is that many black women, the drivers of the black vote, see this election as their chance to make up for the hard decision they had to make eight years ago. And in 2008, 98 percent of black women cast their ballots for Mr. Obama. Four years later, black women had the highest voter turnout of any group.

For Black Women in South Carolina, It’s Clinton’s Turn

Poverty, Compassion, and Ideology

In this erudite, sweeping, and subtle study of attitudes toward the poor in late Victorian England, formidable intellectual historian Himmelfarb (The New History and the Old, 1987; The Idea of Poverty, 1984, etc.; History/CUNY) shows that she is as gifted with “moral imagination” as the philanthropists she so much admires. Using Charles Booth’s 17-volume Life and Labour of the People of London (1982), Himmelfarb begins by distinguishing between statistical and perceived poverty, exploring the enigma of how, statistically, there could have been as much poverty at the close of the 19th century as Malthus and Mayhew had claimed earlier (about 30% of the population) although the quality of life had improved, with the poor having the advantages of more education, sanitation, housing, health care, security, and pensions.

A humanitarian businessman, Booth was primarily concerned with helping the laboring or “deserving” poor as opposed to the destitute, those without access to these advantages. Similar humanitarian efforts based on science and morality were organized through secular charities, socialist religions, and odd groups such as the Salvation Army and trade unions, as well as through such individuals as Octavia Hill, who appropriated small clusters of houses all over London for the poor. The fear was that the poor would become dependent on assistance, that charity would become welfare. And that, Himmelfarb explains, is exactly what happened through the reforms of socialist groups such as the Marxists and Fabians, leading ultimately to the nationalization of resources, though not property, and the distribution of benefits among all those who fell below some arbitrary level of acceptability. Difficult, provocative, eloquent, and packed with original observations relevant to our time. Himmelfarb concludes that, although the definition of poverty will change, there will always be a stable reservoir of poor requiring the social conscience, compassion, and charitable action exemplified by the later Victorians.

The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians (Kirkus)

February 24, 2016

From The Discourses of Epictetus

“Neither desire nor aversion.”

“Be not swept off your feet by the vividness of the impression, but say, ‘Impression, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are and what you represent. Let me try you.’”

“Let me test you.”

“Let me spend some time with you.”

Discourses (Epictetus, AD 55 – 135)
Book II, ch. 18.

February 23, 2016

Carapicuíba Game Design class

9:40 section: Here are some photos from my Google Hangout chat with our new Brazil friends this morning at Faculdade de Tecnologia de Carapicuíba. We might use zoom.us next time. We’re going to have some intercultural discussions with them, and they’ve expressed real interest in getting to know some CDM Game Designers on our end! Can you help me make that happen?

I was able to chat with Van (professor), Rodrigo, Cristiane, Ariovaldo, Edson, and others, and it was a real treat!


Three gatekeepers

Sunday 2/21 Page A1

February 21, 2016

You’re posting a lot of song lyrics

It’s not what you look at …

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think

From George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (U of Chicago Press)

Here are some words and phrases used over and over in conservative discourse: character, virtue, discipline, tough it out, get tough, tough love, strong, self-reliance, individual responsibility, backbone, standards, authority, heritage, competition, earn, hard work, enterprise, property rights, reward, freedom, intrusion, interference, meddling, punishment, human nature, traditional, common sense, dependency, self-indulgent, elite, quotas, breakdown, corrupt, decay, rot, degenerate, deviant, lifestyle.

The same, of course, is true of the liberal worldview. Liberals, in their speeches and writings, choose different topics, different words, and different modes of inference than conservatives. Liberals talk about: social forces, social responsibility, free expression, human rights, equal rights, concern, care, help, health, safety, nutrition, basic human dignity, oppression, diversity, deprivation, alienation, big corporations, corporate welfare, ecology, ecosystem, biodiversity, pollution, and so on. Conservatives tend not to dwell on these topics, or to use these words as part of their normal political discourse. A description of the liberal and conservative worldviews should explain why.


When “Mockingbird” Was New (1960 NYT Book Review)

Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Dies at 89

Fashion Thesis Statements: “The Thinking Woman’s Runway”

Seeing eight collections a day has a way of focusing the mind, even when your phone keeps pinging with global news events.

At their best, shows are an opportunity for designers to have a say: to put clothes out there the way they want them to be seen, without the mediation of retailers (who decide what to buy) or stylists (who decide what to combine with what) or critics (who pick their own adjectives) or even consumers. They are a thesis statement, a position paper.

Shows are not — and this may sound weird, but it is true — about clothes. They are about ideas; the clothes just express those ideas. Or they should.

The Thinking Woman’s Runway

February 20, 2016

Phenomenological Peer Reviews

Phenomenological = describing an activity, an event, a feeling, an effect.

Two models for reading and recording your peer reviewer partner’s essay on SoundCloud:

Model #1: read the essay straight through, without stopping, and trying to approximate the tone in which you think it’s meant to be read. After reading it, then provide a few minutes of phenomenological commentary.

Model #2: this is the one I did in class today — comment as you go, remarking on the experience and effect as you read, approximating the tone in which you think it’s meant to be read. This one can get a little more chaotic but also more fun because you are trying to describe your reading experience as you read.

What a phenomenological peer review does not do: focus only on praise, corrections, or criticism.

What we’re looking for is your experience reading the essay — how it made you feel, not making corrections or arguing back. A phenomenological-reading peer review is a description, so we expect to hear you saying things like,

“This made me feel …”

“I felt swept right up in the rhythm of that paragraph …”

“I’m confused here. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from this”

“I’m not sure what that sentence is trying to do.”

“That made me laugh”

“This made me a little sad”

“This reminds me of …”

“My essay is on a similar topic, and this made me think about …”

“Intellectual bricolage”

Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo,’ Songs of Praise and Self

February 18, 2016

February 16, 2016

Tuesday notes

  • Is this a good time to remind ourselves from week one?: “good writing” is not merely good grammar and structure — it emerges, rather, from ongoing, rigorous, critical & reflective thinking, ideally with other people. Also, “good writing” makes something happen in the world.
  • Trust this process: reading, thinking, discussing, brainstorming, deciding on a rhetorical purpose, drafting, revising, editing, revising again, proofreading
  • Op-Eds and the Writing Center
  • Daily reading as a way to build vocabulary
  • Is it interesting to you that reading is both a solitary, individual act — you do it alone, really, in isolation — and a public, community, social act, in class?
  • Do you think reading can be an act of composition, too?
  • Article II, Section 2

Working with tone:

Let them preach pessimism. You emphasize a warm nationalism — a basic confidence that America is not going down in decline, that it is still the nation best positioned to dominate the 21st century, that confidence is a better guide than anger or fear.

Sanders and Trump have adopted emotional tones that are going to offend and exhaust people over time. Watching the G.O.P. South Carolina debate I got the impression that Trump’s exhaustion moment is at hand.

The candidate who has the audacity to change the emotional tone of this whole election will win the White House and have a shot at rebinding the civic fabric of this nation.

David Brooks: The Roosevelt Approach


Winter 2016:


Letter to the Editor

In response to Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory

Other letters in response to the article

February 14, 2016

Madeleine Albright: My Undiplomatic Moment


Kimmelman: In Rome, Caravaggio Still Beckons

Kimmelman: In Rome, Caravaggio Still Beckons Hoi Polloi

February 13, 2016

More or less agog

NYT 1919: Albert Einstein and Relativity in the Pages of The Times

NYT 2016: 

February 12, 2016

An Ethic of Caring

And Care Ethics, via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

February 11, 2016

Toward one possible definition

Arguing, advocating, persuading with a purpose

To convince, to persuade, to advocate: claim + support
More often than not, out-and-out defeat of another is not only unrealistic but also undesirable. Rather, the goal is to persuade readers that we should change our minds about an issue, or to rethink an issue, or to care about an issue. [When Beauty Strikes]

To reach a decision or explore an issue: exploratory essay
Often, a writer must enter into conversation with others and collaborate in seeking the best possible understanding of a problem, exploring all possible approaches and choosing the best alternative. [Who is a Feminist Now? and Is It Wrong to Watch Football?]

To change yourself
Sometimes you will find yourself arguing primarily with yourself, and those arguments often take the form of intense meditations on a theme, or even of prayer. In such cases, you may be hoping to transform something in yourself or to reach peace of mind on a troubling subject. [Leslie Jameson]

February 10, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Donald J. Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont harnessed working-class fury on Tuesday to surge to commanding victories in a New Hampshire primary that drew a huge turnout across the state.

The success by two outsider candidates dealt a remarkable rebuke to the political establishment, and all but guaranteed protracted, bruising races for each party’s presidential nomination.

Mr. Trump, the wealthy businessman whose blunt language and outsider image have electrified many Republicans and horrified others, benefited from an unusually large field of candidates that split the vote among traditional politicians like Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who finished second, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.

NYT: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Win the New Hampshire Primaries

2016 Super Bowl & 1968 Olympics

What do Beyoncé, Tommie Smith and John Carlos have in common? They all managed to get the white political establishment to sputter in outrage by daring to celebrate their identity and mention – gasp – racial politics at a public event.

In 1968, Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos, who had won the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race at the Mexico City Olympics, bowed their heads and raised their arms in a clenched-fist salute during their medal ceremony. Politicians and talking heads were furious at this political gesture at the Olympics, where the carrying of national flags and the playing of national anthems are revered traditions — and political gestures to their core.

This year, Beyoncé has the right-wing commentariat gasping because she performed her new song “Formation” during the Super Bowl halftime show. The song is about, among other things, the way the mostly black victims of Hurricane Katrina were and still are ill served, to put it mildly. Its accompanying video mourns the black victims of undue police violence. And it includes other references to white racism in American history. (And, yes, Beyoncé and her backup dancers raised their fists in the air during their Super Bowl performance – imagine that!)

NYT: Beyoncé’s Halftime Show Inspires Ridiculous Criticism
BBC: 1968: Black athletes make silent protest

February 9, 2016

The trouble

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”


February 8, 2016

Revision advice for writers

There’s a special place in hell

While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Ms. Albright, 78, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing a woman to the country’s highest office. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders, 74, often speaks of, she said the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Mrs. Clinton, 68, laughed, slowly clapped and took a large sip of her beverage.

In an attempt to explain Mrs. Clinton’s struggles with female voters in New Hampshire, where the nation’s first primary will be held Tuesday, Ms. Albright said during an NBC interview on Saturday that women could be judgmental toward one another and that they occasionally forgot how hard someone like Mrs. Clinton had to work to get where she is.

NYT: Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright Rebuke Young Women Backing Bernie Sanders

Does your state have an ethos?

“While the Vermont electorate is liberal and its ethos collectivist, the New Hampshire ethos is fiercely libertarian. New Hampshire is the only state that does not ticket adults if they are not wearing a seatbelt.” 

NYT: More Than a River Separates Bernie Sanders’s State From Primary’s

The Alejandro González Iñárritu film, set in the Missouri wilderness of the early 1800s, is an ode to the survivalist ethos and, by extension, a frontier aesthetic as much entrenched these days in the twin realms of pop culture and fashion as it is in the national psyche.

NYT: ‘The Revenant’ Lends Trapper Chic a Dose of Gritty Realness

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

NYT/David Brooks: I Miss Barack Obama

Your weather & paragraph development update

Is this an example of waiting too long to deliver the paragraph’s most important information?:

Swiping right

NYT: ‘Feel the Bern’? Maybe Not on Tinder

February 6, 2016

Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define

NYT Modern Love College Essay Winner: Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define

February 5, 2016

To what extent should the G.O.P. be the advocates …?

Just because you do not take an interest in politics …

February 3, 2016

What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?

 We often think of empathy as a skill rather than the long-ago, neuronally ingrained bioevolutionary tool for survival that it actually is: the ability to inhabit the feelings of fellow beings (the word empathy derives from the Greek en, which means ‘‘in,’’ and pathos, meaning ‘‘suffering’’ or ‘‘experience’’); the ability to feel, for example, their fear over a threat; or thrill over a newly found food source; or sorrow over a loss, which has as much to do with the fabric of a community as any other. Empathy, in this sense, can be thought of as the source of all emotion, the one without which the others would have no register.

The more time I spent at Serenity Park last summer, the more I came to think in terms of the expansive anatomy of empathy. And not just the shared neuronal circuitry that has now been mapped across species, from us to the other primates to elephants and whales and, we now know, to creatures with entirely different, nonmammalian brains, like crows and parrots. I thought, as well, of the extraordinary capacity conferred by that circuitry to recognize and respond to the specific infirmities, both psychic and physical (although those are essentially one and the same) of another species.

What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?

And Jameson, Mark My Words. Maybe. 

February 2, 2016

Paragraph development: PIE

[P] Point, like a topic sentence
[I] Illustration, which might be data, or a quote, or an example 
[E] Explication, which is your commentary or explanation

[P] Every wolf in Yellowstone therefore is more than just a wolf. Imbued with profound symbolic meaning, each wolf embodies the divergent goals of competing social movements involved in the reintroduction debate. Framed by environmentalists and their wise use opponents as another line in the sand in their ongoing battle for the heart and soul of the West, wolf reintroduction is a high-stakes political conflict. [I] Wolf recovery is often portrayed by environmentalists as being symptomatic of a culture in transition–an inevitable change (Askins, 1995). It is an image that plays especially well with the media: “[T]he wolf issue pits the New West against the Old West” (Johnson, 1994, p. 12), a milestone in the “transformation of power” from the Old West (Brandon, 1995, p.8). [E] Wolf restoration clearly represents change, but sound bites that reduce the social struggle over wolves to an “inevitable” transition from the old to the new are inadequate. They do not explain the underlying social issues driving the transformation. They do not capture the essence of social negotiation, the give-and-take of political exchange between social movements struggling to define the western landscape. Nor do they acknowledge that these social issues will remain after the wolf controversy has exited the center stage of public policy discourse.

Wilson, Matthew. “The Wolf in Yellowstone: Science, Symbol, or Politics? Deconstructing the Conflict between Environmentalism and Wise Use.” Society & Natural Resources. 10(1997): 453-468. (more…)

Letters to the Editor

February 1, 2016

Teju Cole: Portrait of a Lady

January 31, 2016

Douthat & Stasis


“The disappointment and impatience that people feel in a decadent era is legitimate, even admirable. But the envy of more heroic moments, the desire to just do something to prove your society’s vitality — Invade Iraq to remake the Middle East! Open Germany’s borders! Elect Trump or Sanders president! — can be a very dangerous sensibility.”

“There are pathways up from decadence. But there are more roads leading down.”

Sunday Review: Trump, Sanders and the Revolt Against Decadence

We’ll try to apply stasis to this one:

Questions of fact and conjecture

  • Did/does something happen?
  • What is its origin?
  • Is there an act to be considered?
  • What produced it?
  • What changes can be made?

Questions of definition

  • What is its nature?
  • How can the issue be defined? 
  • And once you’ve defined it, can you imagine any common ground on the issue between people who might want to take different persuasive positions on it?

To Text or Not to Text

NYT: To Text or Not to Text: A Dating Conundrum

Friday’s Arts & Leisure section

NYT: Sundance Fights Tide With Films Like ‘The Birth of a Nation’

Guadalupe again


NYT: Unequal Lives, Unequal Deaths

January 21, 2016

“I am human: nothing human is alien to me.”

I was getting the tattoo, in part, to mark a break from the man with whom I’d spent four years building and then dismantling a life. I was branding myself to mark a new era: my body was no longer entwined with someone else’s. It was mine alone again. I was moving to a new city and I had a new book coming out, and the tattoo would be its epigraph: “I am human: nothing human is alien to me.”

The quotation belongs to Terence, the Roman playwright. In the original Latin, it reads: homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto. When I first came upon it, I felt its force beyond rational explanation. I knew it was something I needed to keep saying.

Jamison: Mark My Words. Maybe.

January 18, 2016

Sunday Review, both above & below the fold

January 17, 2016

From the Sunday Book Review

“One of this nation’s most abiding myths is that social origins don’t matter. Each of us is Gatsby, or can be, with the potential to be reinvented and obliterate the past. This is nowhere more true than in New York City, where, surrounded by millions, each person supposedly stands upon his or her own merits. If we reach a sophisticated urban consensus on how to speak, how to dress, how to live, then who will know what lies beneath the surface? Who will know what any one of us might really mean by words like “home,” “childhood” or “love”?

Elizabeth Strout’s ‘My Name Is Lucy Barton’

January 11, 2016

St. Teresa essay, two-page spread

Typographically speaking, it’s interesting to see how the NYT arranges and organizes text & images in print and in digital formats. Here are pages 7-8 from today’s Sunday Review, via PDFs, which is already a substantial shift from the printed page:

January 10, 2016

Sunday update

For on-campus students, your first Sunday NYT has been delivered to the Circulation Desk at the library. Once you’ve subscribed at the bookstore and received your Subscriber ID card, you can stop by the library and pick up your paper. And it’s a good one this week, so we’ll be off to a good start.

In other news, “[Marco Rubio] concluded with a dark assessment of liberal arts colleges as “indoctrination camps” protected by the political left “because all their friends work there.” (From “Chris Christie’s Punch Lines vs. Marco Rubio’s Polish on Iowa Campaign Trail”)

So you’ve got that to look forward to, I guess. 

January 4, 2016

Welcome to WRD103

Winter Quarter, 2016

Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

WRD 103 introduces you to the forms, methods, expectations, and conventions of college-level academic writing. We also explore and discuss how writing and rhetoric create a contingent relationship between writers, readers, and issues, and how this relationship affects the drafting, revising, and editing of our written — and increasingly digital and multimodal — projects.

In WRD 103, we will:

  • Gain experience reading and writing in multiple genres in multiple modes
  • Practice writing in different rhetorical circumstances, marshaling sufficient, plausible sup­port for your arguments and advocacy positions
  • Practice shaping the language of written and multimodal discourses to your audiences and purposes, fostering clarity and emphasis by providing ex­pli­cit and appropriate cues to the main purpose of your texts
  • Practice reading and evaluating the writing of others in order to iden­tify the rhetorical strategies at work in written and in multimodal texts.

You’ll be happy to note, I hope, that we build on your previous knowledge and experiences; that is, we don’t assume that you show up here a blank slate. We assume that you have encountered interesting people, have engaging ideas, and have something to say. A good writing course should prepare you to take those productive ideas into other courses and out into the world, where they belong, and where you can defend them and advocate for them.

Finally, it’s no secret around here that students who take early and regular advantage of DePaul’s Center for Writing-based Learning not only do better in their classes, but also benefit from the interactions with the tutors and staff in the Center.

This is a personal laptop-required section, so remember to bring your laptop to class:

November 21, 2015

Critical Thinking Contexts for our Class and for College

Unclear writing, now as always, stems from unclear thinking–both of which ultimately have political and economic implications. A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it, effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. – Adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, 2008.

“A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” Edward M. Glaser. An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. 1941.

Chaffee’s Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are people who have developed thoughtful and well-founded beliefs that guide their choices in every area of their lives. In order to develop the strongest and most accurate beliefs possible, you need to become aware of your own biases, explore situations from many different perspectives, and develop sound reasons to support your points of view. These abilities are the tools you need to become more enlightened and reflective “critical thinker” (p. 28). For Chaffee, critical thinking involves the following:

  • Carefully analyzing and evaluating your beliefs in order to develop the most accurate beliefs possible.
  • Viewing situations from different perspectives to develop an in-depth understanding.
  • Supporting viewpoints with reasons and evidence to arrive at thoughtful, well-substantiate conclusions.
  • Thinking critically about our personal “lenses,” which shape and influence the way we perceive the world.
  • Synthesizing information into informed conclusions that we are willing to modify based on new insight. (p. 35)

[From The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee, Boston: Little, Brown, 1998]

Habits of Mind

Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support your success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing

  • Curiosity: the desire to know more about the world. In our class, that might mean challenging yourself and stretching yourself intellectually to think beyond the obvious and inquire into issues and contexts to which you might be blind.
  • Openness: the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world, rather than merely clinging to what you already believe to be true or not true; in our class, that includes critical thinking.
  • Engagement: a sense of investment and involvement in learning; in our class, that includes focused reading of the New York Times and your contributions to the intellectual life of our class.
  • Creativity: the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas; in our class, that includes brainstorming, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
  • Persistence: the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects; developing mental discipline and rising up to challenges, rather than backing away from them.
  • Responsibility: the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others; in our class, that includes practicing good time management, and identifying and using resources available to you — office hours, the Writing Center, each other.
  • Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition: the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge: thinking about thinking and writing about writing.