How a new Autocorrect program could hijack your soul

by David Alm September 10, 2014

Dennis Paoli, the coordinator of the Reading & Writing Center at Hunter College in New York City, has a short but very effective definition of writing: Writing is thinking and vice versa. In other words, to write clearly you also need to think clearly, and clear thinking is often achieved through writing. I’ve participated in numerous workshops over the […]

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Is the university over?

by David Alm August 16, 2014

Minerva — hardly a word you’d associate with higher education. It sounds more like a brand-name medication designed to treat anxiety — Minimize your nerves with Minerva! Or maybe a South American root that generations of indigenous populations have used to cure everything. But no. If a 39-year-old entrepreneur named Ben Nelson has his way, the word Minerva will not only […]

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How Gary Coleman taught me to read

by David Alm April 11, 2014

There’s an episode in the final season of Diff’rent Strokes in which Arnold (Gary Coleman) acts up in class and is challenged by his teacher, played by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to teach a lesson one day. His topic is to be A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and he doesn’t want to do it. But he forces […]

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Writing your way into college

by David Alm October 1, 2013

Bard College announced this week that it was introducing a new admissions option for prospective students, one devoid of GPAs, test scores, and other stone-cold metrics that, some say, do little to represent a complete human being or how well they’ll actually do in college. Starting next year, smart high schoolers who might not look […]

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You don’t need to study the arts. Or do you?

by David Alm September 20, 2013

He was the last person you’d expect to say that people don’t need to study the humanities. He’s made an entire career out of them — as an educator, as an organizer of public programs, and as a widely published essayist and literary critic. But a little more than a week ago, over a couple […]

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The disillusioned and the lost, or, Frances Ha’s life lessons

by David Alm June 7, 2013

Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha, takes us into the world of a young woman a few years out of college. The effect is startlingly accurate, at times painful, and generally brilliant. The subject is familiar territory for Baumbach, who has built a career exploring the existential angst of young, educated, well-meaning people who were […]

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What Is a Thesis? (a.k.a. La Thèse)

by David Alm March 3, 2013

Credit for this video goes to Brandon Hopkins, who teaches English at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. Hopkins, who conceived, wrote, and stars in this gem, graduated from the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities, where he wrote an award-winning thesis that contained both a claim AND substantial reasons for making […]

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The fallacy of the 10K B.A.

by David Alm February 1, 2013

In an Op/Ed for today’s New York Times, Arthur Brooks offers himself as evidence that cheap, zero-residence higher education not only works, but is a moral imperative. The moral imperative has less to do with the correspondence part of the equation, and more with the low cost that correspondence (i.e. online) education allows. See, Brooks […]

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Can we love fiction once we’re no longer seeking answers?

by David Alm December 26, 2012

I once asked my father, who had majored in English, gotten his master’s degree in English, and for years had dreams of being a full professor of English before he decided (wisely) to pursue a more stable career instead, why he no longer read novels. I was in college at the time, and just discovering […]

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Bill Gates on the higher-education crisis

by David Alm December 10, 2012

While state funding for higher education plummets, tuition soars to make up the difference. As a result, young people are often being saddled with insurmountable debt, all in the name of getting that all-important college degree. So they drop out along the way, presumably because it’s too expensive to do all at once (at least […]

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Learning to love non-fiction

by David Alm November 30, 2012

Last week, the New York Times published a piece on its website about the seemingly insurmountable challenge of teaching students how to write. The author, an English teacher, concludes not that students need to read more non-fiction (the vast majority of their high school curricula is already non-fiction), but better non-fiction. She cites the example […]

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Philip Roth retires from fiction

by David Alm November 11, 2012

Last year, Philip Roth said he was done reading fiction. Now he says he’s done writing it, too. Roth’s literary output could be compared to Woody Allen’s with film. Since he published his first collection of short stories, in 1959, he has written 27 novels and two books of non-fiction, as well as several essays. […]

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The ironic death of postmodernism

by David Alm October 11, 2012

I am currently teaching a class at Hunter College titled Journalism & Society, which analyzes the impact of journalism on culture and vice versa. We discuss corporate consolidation, the so-called “independent media,” the real import of “fake” news, and the ultimately limited ability of any news organization to tell us everything we need to know. […]

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The endless, perplexing, and ultimately essential question of whether writing can be taught

by David Alm October 8, 2012

In this month’s Atlantic, Peg Tyre writes about a school on Staten Island that has “revolutionized” writing pedagogy: by going back to basics. Judith Hochman, who originally developed the very old-fashioned approach to writing pedagogy that New Dorp High School is now using, told Tyre that “kids need a formula, at least at first, because what […]

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Exit seminars, enter Prada

by David Alm August 2, 2012

While many universities are beefing up their online course offerings, those of us who had memorable college experiences may console ourselves with one thought: the college will still be there, for anyone who wants to take classes in real time with real professors and fellow students in the same room. It may be a small […]

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