Education

Dear Penn & Teller, I really don’t want to say this, but I feel obligated to. I’m afraid you screwed up. Big time. (Of course, if this weren’t a generally family-friendly blog, where we rarely go beyond PG-13 language, I’d use a term more like one that Penn would use to describe a massive fail, which, as you might guess, also starts with the letter “f”; I think he’d appreciate that.) I’m referring, of course, to your appearance on The Dr. Oz Show one week ago (video: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Before I begin the criticism, let me just take care of the obligatory but honest statement that I am a fan. I’ve been a fan for a long time. Indeed, I remember seeing you guys perform in Chicago back in the late 1990s when I was doing my fellowship at the University of Chicago. I’ve also...
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Dear Superintendent Cortines, As communities across the nation face budget deficits we understand that many school administrators will have to make difficult decisions, but depriving Los Angeles Unified School District students of crucial 21st century educational resources such as certified school librarians is not the answer. As technologies and information gathering continue to change, students are finding themselves left behind. This is happening not because they lack access to technology or informational resources but because they have lost access to one of the most valuable resources a school can offer its students—a certificated teacher librarian. School libraries play a significant role in the lives of our children, but this move will have an even greater negative impact...
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Dear Members of the Board: I read with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation the unexpected announcement earlier this month that President Rebecca Chopp is departing Swarthmore to become the chancellor of the University of Denver. Anticipation because as a grateful graduate of Swarthmore, I can’t help but view the hiring of a new president as an opportunity for the school to rededicate itself to the true mission of liberal education, which is to prepare students for the rights and responsibilities of freedom by furnishing and refining their minds. Trepidation because I fear that Swarthmore’s next president will lead the college further down the path of politicized research and curriculum that has become the hallmark of our finest colleges and universities. It is your...
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Dear Bill Nye: I’ve always appreciated your ability to communicate science to the public. Your television shows taught us about our biological world and physical universe in an accessible, engaging manner. In recent years you have become an outstanding ambassador for science. You have helped many people understand that good science starts with a plausible hypothesis that is tested with careful design and statistical rigor, resulting in data that could be interpreted within the framework of the scholarly literature toward building or augmenting a scientific consensus. You have applied this approach to teach the scientific evidence for evolution and anthropogenic climate change. You also have publicly and robustly rebutted the pseudoscientific positions underlying creationism and...
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Dear Superintendent Ed Hightower: It’s me, Melissa. I know it’s not easy helping teachers to help students navigate the emotionally-charged events that unfolded in Ferguson. And it’s not like there is a ready-made curriculum for racial justice. One Alabama teacher has already shown how misunderstanding how to teach Ferguson can go horribly, horribly wrong. But it is crucial that you make the effort. Because the classroom is exactly the space where young people should be examining their assumptions, exchanging ideas, and engaging in democratic deliberation over the complicated questions of race invoked by the events in Ferguson. Fortunately, Twitter has already provided teachers with a great headstart with the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag. Educators around the country are using...
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Dear Ms. Leslie Knope, First, I’d like to commend you and the Pawnee, Indiana, Department of Parks and Recreation on seven brilliant years filled with laughter, tears, more laughter and the occasional cringe of discomfort. Regardless of what the audience momentarily felt, you’ve always left us entertained since the show “Parks and Recreation” premiered in 2009. Suffice it to say, last week’s finale left me even more than entertained: If you ask my roommate, she’ll tell you I hogged the TV with a tissue box in one hand and one of Urbana-Champaign’s finest Insomnia cookies in another. However, what my roommate doesn’t know about last week’s sob-fest is that while you and the rest of the gang were busy saying goodbye, I was busy planning a new position for you here at my university. The...
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Dear Wikipedia, I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all. Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we...
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We all know that innovation is key to long-term business survival and success, and yet most companies don't proactively manage it. You can quickly assess your own level of "innovation management maturity" by answering the following questions: Have you clearly and precisely articulated the type of innovation that you seek and shared that information with your partners and employees? Have you defined the exact criteria you would use to evaluate competing proposals for innovation? Do you have a clearly defined process for harvesting, evaluating, developing, and implementing innovative ideas? Are employee roles and responsibilities for innovation defined? Do you have a budget for innovation, or at least a general sense of what you could/would spend if...
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It is with great pride I am able to open this month’s Swim...
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Thank you for shopping with us today! I realize that you are traumatized and heartbroken that our store is closing. Driving to our store and spending fifteen minutes trying to find a parking spot is far more convenient than staying at home in your pajamas and ordering your book from Amazon. Your naïve belief that some sort of protest or petition could keep our store open, despite this company’s filing for bankruptcy, gives me hope for the future. Yes, this store is closing. I understand the four-foot tall signs that scream STORE CLOSING! in bold primary colors are somewhat subtle and easily overlooked. To be fair, there are only like 500 of them. We really should have more signs if we expect you to get the message. You’re right: it is completely rude of me to simply nod and point...
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