Paul Fussell — “Thank God for the Atom Bomb”

This post is a stunning essay by Paul Fussell published in The New Republic in 1981.  Here’s a link to a PDF of the original. On August 2 last year, we observed the 77th anniversary of the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.  This is as good a time at any to revisit the debate about whether this action was … Continue reading Paul Fussell — “Thank God for the Atom Bomb”

The Winning Ways of a Losing Strategy: Educationalizing Social Problems in the US

This post is a paper I published Educational Theory in 2008.  Here’s a link to the original. In this essay, I examine the paradox of educationalization in the American context. I argue that, like most modern Western societies, the United States has displayed a strong tendency over the years for educationalizing social problems, even though schools have repeatedly proven … Continue reading The Winning Ways of a Losing Strategy: Educationalizing Social Problems in the US

Steven Pinker — Will ChatGPT Replace Human Writers?

This post is an interview with Steven Pinker that appeared in the Harvard Gazette.  Here's a link to the original. Pinker points out the downside of AI.  The core problem is that it's not based on knowledge of how things work but on a massive ingestion of text.  This allows AI to figure the probability of … Continue reading Steven Pinker — Will ChatGPT Replace Human Writers?

Course Syllabus — School, What Is It Good For?

This post is the syllabus for a class I taught for several years at Stanford Graduate School of Education: “School — What Is It Good For?” The course's aim is to provide a guided exploration of alternative theories of the social functions that schools serve, especially in American society.  Along the way it tries to … Continue reading Course Syllabus — School, What Is It Good For?

David Bentley Hart — How to Write English Prose

This post is an essay by David Bentley Hart about How to Write English Prose, which was published online at The Lamp.  Here's a link to the original.  What I like most about it is that it's so thoroughly overwrought.  In many ways, it's a diatribe against Elements of Style and Orwell's essay on writing, both … Continue reading David Bentley Hart — How to Write English Prose

School Syndrome: Understanding the USA’s Magical Belief that Schooling Can Somehow Improve Society, Promote Access, and Preserve Advantage

This post is a 2012 piece I published Journal of Curriculum Studies, which draws on my book Someone Has to Fail.  Here’s a link to a PDF of the original. An overview of the story I’m telling: The USA is suffering from a school syndrome, which arises from Americans’ insistence on having things both ways through the magical medium … Continue reading School Syndrome: Understanding the USA’s Magical Belief that Schooling Can Somehow Improve Society, Promote Access, and Preserve Advantage

John McWhorter — The Secret Lives of Words

This post is a piece by John McWhorter about the peculiar way in which the meaning and usage of words changes over time, which was published in the Times. Here's a link to the original. The central point is this: The fit between words and meanings is much fuzzier and unstable than we are led to … Continue reading John McWhorter — The Secret Lives of Words