A Romanov in a Pau Garden: A Glorious Last Moment in Living History

One sunny morning in Pau, one of the neighbors came to take some plants for his garden.  The elderly gentleman in the photograph on the right is Monsieur Romanov — a  descendant of the Romanov family, rulers of Russia from 1613 until the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Continue reading → A Romanov in a Pau Garden: A Glorious Last Moment in Living History

Why People Hate Teachers

As a teacher and a lifelong student, I have always been wary of those who choose to aggressively use a blue editor pencil to belittle an author, or a teacher who wields a red pen like a cudgel to punish a student writing effort.  U.S. Representative Mark Takano is a teacher who has, unfortunately, proven himself to be in the latter category as a pedantic wonk who ruins the idea teaching to learn by making a mockery of the important and real process of revision.

Here’s what Rep. Takano said on his Tumblr account — as he tried to explain his overzealous political persecution of the other side of the aisle — and he oddly starts his defense with an incomplete sentence:

A draft letter by Republican members to Speaker Boehner is circulating congress looking for cosigners. I thought I’d offer my edits to the author before they submitted their final version… Still not signing it.

Continue reading → Why People Hate Teachers

Does the Western Literary Canon Need Fewer White Men?

Ask a random current student if he or she has read something by William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, or Mark Twain, and the answer will almost certainly be a yes— whether that “yes” is voiced with fondness, indifference, or bitterness. Ask that student’s parents or grandparents the same question, and despite generational gaps, the answer likely will not change.

Continue reading → Does the Western Literary Canon Need Fewer White Men?

My Portuguese: Neighbourhood Watch

As I am new to Portugal, and as I do not speak the language apart from a few basics, I had expected that there would be times when I would feel lost or be at a loss as to how to approach certain things.

I had also anticipated a fair amount of anonymity and had certain expectations — false ones it turns out — about how I would be able to live my life in and around my house and how I would be able to carry out my everyday business and chores such as shopping, banking and other vital necessities.

Continue reading → My Portuguese: Neighbourhood Watch

Relearning English in the USA

I was pretty confident about my language skill when I came to the USA in 2004 from India, but it took a nose-dive within 20 minutes of my landing there. It was amazing to hear the responses for all the “thank yous” I offered. From the regular “no problem at all, and my pleasure etc.” to a slightly unusual “no probs and you bet” to a stunningly musical “hmm…hmm” almost swept me off my feet.

Continue reading → Relearning English in the USA

On Not Giving an A++++++++++ Grade

Grade inflation is a major problem on college campuses, and it is the sworn duty of the faculty to carefully and cautiously grade all student work the same.  Students tend to expect an “A” grade just for showing up to class when, in structured reality, a “C” grade is what a student earns for merely meeting the minimum requirements for any course.  A “C” is a fine grade — but a lot of students seem to feel a “C” grade is the same as an “F” grade when it is not.  A “C” defines the middling ground for a course and that is the honest grade most students earn, even though faculty tend to inflate grading the middle just to keep the peace.

Continue reading → On Not Giving an A++++++++++ Grade

Attacking the Common Core: Building a Nation of Illiterate, Xenophobic, Non-Mechanical, Artisans

We’re in trouble in the good ole USA.  Our academies of higher learning are giving in to the bad behavior of the students seeking to earn diplomas from their educational institutions.  Our values as a civilization are under attack by leading educators who wish to dumb-down the curriculum to better suit students who are applying to colleges stupider, less talented, and much more self-interested than ever before.  The disconnect between classroom realism and real life reality is enough to make your brain explode in flames as you come to realize our great nation of minds is quickly decaying into a leveling pit of repurposed mediocrity:

Continue reading → Attacking the Common Core: Building a Nation of Illiterate, Xenophobic, Non-Mechanical, Artisans