Toward a Saner View of Text Complexity

To Make a Prairie

sanity-insanity1

As happened a few years ago, when eighth grade students took to Facebook to share reactions to a nonsensical passage about a talking pineapple from the New York State ELA test, this year’s Common Core-aligned test made it into the news again for another Facebook incident. Somehow a group called Education is a Journey Not a Race got their hands on a copy of the fourth grade test and posted over three dozen images of passages and questions on their Facebook page. Facebook quickly took the page down, but they couldn’t stop the articles that soon appeared, such as “New York State Tests for Fourth-Graders Included Passages Meant for Older Students” from the Wall Street Journal and “Educators alarmed by some questions on N.Y. Common Core test” from The Washington Post. 

PG13_rating_WaiAs their titles suggest, these pieces took a hard look at the kind of questions and concerns teachers…

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Dear Academia: Opposing Views Are Not “Discursive Violence.”

liberal left behind

One of modern liberalism’s biggest problems is that we have taken after the Bush Administration in allowing euphemisms to redefine concepts that are already well-defined.  Why, the U.S. doesn’t torture because we don’t “torture.”  We engage in “enhanced interrogation.”  Unfortunately, the left-wing engages in this bastardization of Webster’s in a distinctly Orwellian way.  Once we co-opt a word or concept, we can use it as a weapon.  You see this in online communities.  Tweeting someone without asking for permission is “harassment.” (Not to mention a Catch-22.)  A doctor engaging in lifesaving measures during childbirth is “birth rape.”  You oppose harassment and rape, right?  So you better agree with us or you are a harasser or rape apologist.

Noted “equity feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at Oberlin College.  Ah, college.  The marketplace of ideas, where young people go to try out new thoughts and to figure out what they really…

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While you were worrying about trains, your car was trying to kill you

Grist

I am buying a ticket for the death train. It’s OK, I tell myself. Sure, not long ago a train on this particular Amtrak route derailed and killed a bunch of people. But I have to get from Philadelphia to New York somehow. I choose the train.

For one thing, the tickets are more expensive than usual, which means that even though the news has been filled for the last week with the grisly details of the crash, a lot of people, like me, are buying tickets anyway. And I rode this exact same train — from New York, to Philadelphia — the day before the crash. The greatest tragedy on that trip was the unbelievable slowness of the on-board wireless network and the tragically stilted courtship going on in the seat behind me. (Man: “Do you like Grey’s Anatomy?” Woman: “Sort of.”)

But still, I’m nervous. It’s not…

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Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today

Ramblings of a College Introvert

We’re responsive creatures, always yearning for some kind of carnal or spiritual fulfillment. So many of our conversations are dedicated to that one question: What makes us feel alive? For me it’s neither people nor adventures. It’s the shapes and colors that make up a city I love.

When I took a semester off in Cali, all I could think about was how much I missed NYC and how exciting it would be to blog about college life there. But four months after I returned to NYU I’ve only written four posts on my adventures here in the Big Apple. Ostensibly it’s because I just haven’t had the time. In reality it’s because I’ve kind of lost confidence in my writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer as I would like to be, and I certainly don’t think I’m good enough to capture the sense of wonder I feel every time…

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The Marriage Equality referendum is about real people and real lives. A Yes is a vote for love. #MarRef

140 characters is usually enough

This Friday you have the opportunity to extend to LGBT couples the constitutional rights and guarantees enjoyed by civilly-married heterosexual couples. That’s all. Despite all the scaremongering, this referendum isn’t about fear. It’s about love.

This referendum is about real people, real lives. Look at the powerful testimonies of people like Pat Carey and Ursula Halligan and Justin McAleese. Think about all those lives ruined, all that love denied. You mightn’t know it, but this referendum may well be about your brother or sister, your son or daughter, your neighbour or friend.

This is a head-to-head debate. Alongside this is a piece advocating a No vote. It probably contains the usual red herrings about adoption and/or surrogacy, redefining marriage and/or family. It may say civil partnership – despite having no constitutional protection – is as good as marriage.

Rather than waste your time telling you this is not about…

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Intricate worlds

follow your nose

The sun is already well above the horizon, but I go on down anyway.
It’s a tiny paradise of riotous sound down here, a cacophony of birds – funny to think we associate being in nature with quiet, when it can be so very noisy.
A red-winged blackbird flies straight at me as if to say, Hello! Where have you been? It’s been a few days, and you’ve missed all kinds of things – the buds are all over the trees, the geese have taken over the duck ponds, and they fight with the muskrat who’s always after their eggs, and the turtles are back, and so much is going on… what happened to you?red-winged blackbird speaksThe push-pull – some days I think, really I don’t need any more half-assed nature photos, so I skip it, stay home and do yoga.
Other days I head out, starting with a kind of…

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The French Approach to “Anti-racism”: Pretty Words and Magical Thinking

Aware of Awareness

I first came to France twelve years ago during my junior year abroad. I was the first person in my family to get a passport and I could barely contain my excitement. In the winter of 2003, two years before the riots that followed the untimely deaths of 15 year old Zyed Benna and 17 year old Bouna Traore, I landed in Paris bright-eyed and bushy tailed, armed with a very shaky grasp of French and a naive fascination with this beautiful country.

As an African-American, I was vaguely aware that France did not deal with issues of race the way we do in the United States. And when I happened to forget, French white people were keen to remind me. In one of the sociology classes I took at a university in the south of France, I hesitantly raised my hand to ask a question. The white French professor had…

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