Creative Beasts with Crayons

Photo by Michael Ruiz

(Originally published as part of Digital Writing Month, 2012)

Digital writing is emergent writing. It mutinies at the imposition of form, the edicts of the grammars of old. It rails to change the rules. It raises the flag of anarchy. The council of digital writing is one of spontaneity, rambunctiousness, the aloof horror of invention, the frenetic joy of dismantling what came before, and the abdication of the author. It is audacious, demanding that we writers free it from the prison of specific rigor. It emerges. It revolts. Continue reading


The Specter of the Author

“I find nothing so singular to life as that everything appears to lose its substance the instant one actually grapples with it.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

(Originally published as part of Digital Writing Month, 2012)

Photo by joctaviothomas

The author is dead. She is become as a specter. Faceless, genderless, subject not now only to scrutiny within her own text but to exorcism from it. That text never again will be her own, but a relic of her fondest desire, her wish toward something that mattered, something that made her matter. Yet, she becomes no more than a wisp behind the words, a half-embarrassed face in the mirror, bodiless, wordless.

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Hey Texas, which one of you is Gregor Mendel?


The New York Times today reported a new battle in an old war has begun. In Texas, educators, scientists, and creationists are meeting again to wrangle over how evolution should be taught in schools. The article states that the primary focus of groups wanting to revise the curricular approach to evolution are the “weaknesses in Darwin’s theory.” These educators are concerned that teaching evolution as a theory without holes is irresponsible, and “akin to secular religion.” Biologists and evolutionary theorists, on the other hand, believe that exposing children to a theory that isn’t perfect will open them up to pro-creationism arguments. Their argument seems to say that if evolution isn’t taught as a scientific fact, the curriculum will “bring creationism in through the back door.”

As a teacher, I want to raise my hand and ask this question: “In the end, isn’t this not at all about creation versus evolution, but about how we teach our kids to think?” Continue reading

Let Go of the Bar

magic_kingdom.jpgI haven’t posted in a while. I haven’t wanted to talk about teaching. Something happens to me when I talk about teaching, and it’s not unlike a child at Disneyland. When I went to Disneyland for the first time, I was in the fifth grade, and me and my family had but one day to explore the magic kingdom. My enthusiasm for riding every ride (and some rides twice), for buying up all the mouse ears and tee shirts and candy, for taking pictures with all the crazy costumed college students far over-reached the possibility of a single day in the park. Time and time again, I felt disappointed by what we weren’t able to do, especially when around me there seemed to be so much possibility. Disneyland is immersive, unlike any other theme park I’ve been to. You can walk the alleyways and streets and paths of Disneyland without ever the imperative to think about the outside world. Disney World is even more immersive – almost delusional in its immersion – where the rules of normal time and space seem intentionally suspended. Bills? What bills? Deadlines? What deadlines? Work? Are you kidding? There’s Winnie-the-Pooh! Oh, and look, there’s a honey pot on his head. Continue reading

Message in a Bottle?

To be honest, I don’t know if this post should find a home here at Slam Teaching, or if it belongs more on my personal blog. I am posting it here, I think, because of late I’ve developed a sort of burgeoning community of teachers concerned with the state of teaching and learning – all of whom communicate with me primarily through this blog, through Twitter, and through e-mail. This “community” looks in reality like a cluster of web pages, lines of text, and the occasional synchronous conversation (also most usually text). I suppose one of the reasons I’m posting this, in fact, is because this “community” right now seems both incredibly involved and engaged, and utterly distant. Continue reading

of Rules and Relevancy

url.jpegAn instructor comes to me with a quibble about late policies in my department’s composition courses. I’m feeling ornery and rushed when he e-mails, I’m feeling curious and obstinate, so I ask him: “What is your pedagogical reason for penalizing late work?” I know when I ask this that it’s not really a question that needs asking. Is it? Penalizing late work is an assumed practice in teaching. Not unlike the way that “you’ll sit there until you finish your vegetables” is an assumed practice in parenting. Or teaching your dog to sit is always part of dog training. But this morning when he e-mails me and I’m feeling ornery and curious (and I really don’t want my decisions on the subject challenged), I ask the question. Continue reading

Where What We Do…

photo-5.jpgNow and then, it’s important to retreat. I most often enact the time-honored tradition of moving away from the bustle in order to build a cabin, climb a mountain, consult the stars, or just get some perspective in times when I feel overwhelmed by the newness of an environment, some hysterical novelty, or too many ideas that come crashing together all at once. These last few days in the very early part of 2008 have seen a jarring smashing together of all three aforementioned conditions. My teaching and pedagogy, my relationship with the Web, and the natural conflict-slash-synergy between theory and practice, unexpectedly, have been rolling and roaring around like monster trucks at a rally. (It occurs to me that I might need to unpack the word “rally” in this context…) Continue reading