Welcome to the most advanced level of English 2B. As with English 2A, the aims of this course include providing students with opportunities to (a) use oral English skills obtained prior to entering the university, (b) extend that knowledge through a variety of speaking and listening activities, and (c) gain confidence in their ability to function in English both inside and outside the academic community of the university.
The Basics ...
English 2B (advanced) syllabus (coming soon)
For those of you that had me as an instructor last year, you'll remember that I insist on polite email when you contact me. For those of you that are new to my classes, note that you must write to me in appropriately formal language. Lest you not know exactly what I want, please take a close look at how to write a polite e-mail.
As you will know from class, this term you and a partner will be required to make a mini-presentation about one aspect of one of our topics. The details of your mini-presentation are here for your reading pleasure.
Reading The New York Times
This section includes random—yet somehow related—links from the units in our textbook, Reading The New York Times, by Hideki Watanabe and Yoshitaka Kozuka. Enjoy!
First, as you'll know from class, you are required to do some
extra reading from the
Week 1 — New Bid to Phase Out Whaling (September 22, 2017)
In case you're not aware of this, I would like to introduce whaling briefly. This has a long history in many areas, one of which is Japan. On the other side of the world we have also witnessed a long history, part of which includes sailing ships like in the image to the right as well as those featured in Melville's 1851 seminal work, Moby Dick; or, The Whale.
Let's begin with Japan's decision to cancel its 2014 hunt.
Of course, at the heart of this debate we find several parties, including the International Whaling Commission as well as such environmental groups as Greenpeace and the folks from the organization that brings you high-speed boats that harass the Japanese whaling fleet and occasionally get squeezed between ships, too.
I wasn't aware of this until just recently, but apparently we have imported a considerable quantity of whale meat from Iceland in the interest of providing it for "consumers" here. I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the necessity of doing so ... think it over, Gentle Students.
Week 2 — Other Whale Hunts (September 29, 2017)
One area in which whale hunting persists is in Alaska. Here we have a remarkable video about the Barrow whale hunt.
A somewhat similar issue involving a protected animal also exists in the US. I am speaking of our national symbol, the bald eagle, and its cousin, the golden eagle. Both of these magnificent birds are protected under US law, meaning it is illegal to hunt, kill, capture, or even disturb them. However, Native Americans (i.e., Indians, First Nation People) are permitted to possess eagle feathers and other parts because of their use in traditional culture. Again, this is not something I had ever thought about (we learn something new every day, don't we?), but where exactly do such people obtain eagle feathers and such? The answer is at the Eagle Repository, of course, as you'll see in the clip above (click the eagle).
Remember we will have no class on October 6, but we will continue our discussion on whaling on the following Friday, October 13, with a roundtable discussion.
Here, my minions, we have more material on the roundtable. This is, of course, based on the Arthurian legend in which King A meets with his knights around a table, the shape of which was not square. Although the topic is different, here is a good example of a roundtable discussion in which President Barack Obama met with students to discuss the cost of education. I would also like you to read this page from The Busy Teacher about roundtable discussions.
Week 3 — Roundtable Discussion on Hunting Whales (October 13, 2016)
Gosh, people, we will have a roundtable discussion today (which you cleverly ascertained from the heading, I suspect).Unit 8 — The Meaning of Grades
Week 4 — Meaning of Grades (October 20, 2017)
Harvard University, as you perhaps have heard, is considered one of the finest universities in the world (take that, Oxford!). It draws students from around the world to study in its hallowed environment, but not so long ago it came under criticism for so-called grade inflation, which we will have talked about in class.
Not everyone agrees, however, as you'll read in this article from The Atlantic in which the author writes in defense of grade inflation at Harvard.
Hmm, I happened on a website devoted solely to grade inflation. It is cleverly located at gradeinflation.com ... wow. At any rate, while a relatively unattractive page, it does contain quite a bit of information in addition to lots of figures — have a look and draw your own conclusion, Gentle Students.
Here we have an interesting argument for your consideration. These two slightly hair-challenged gents suggest that grade inflation has unrecognized benefits, which I'd ask you to ponder prior to reading the article. In what possible way could grade inflation be a positive thing?
Week 5 — the History of Letter Grades (October 27, 2017)
Let's begin with a story about the letter grading system and why it is likely to remain in place. (Quite frankly, I was surprised to learn that it is not really such an old system.)
Lest you think that this issue has escaped the attention of scholars, allow me to introduce a couple articles
that address this issue. The first,
Schneider and Hutt (2013)
This article provides a historical interpretation of one of the defining features of modern schooling: grades. As a central element of schools, grades-their origins, uses and evolution-provide a window into the tensions at the heart of building a national public school system in the United States. We argue that grades began as an intimate communication tool among teachers, parents, and students used largely to inform and instruct. But as reformers worked to develop a national school system in the late nineteenth century, they saw grades as useful tools in an organizational rather than pedagogical enterprise-tools that would facilitate movement, communication and coordination. Reformers placed a premium on readily interpretable and necessarily abstract grading systems. This shift in the importance of grades as an external rather than internal communication device required a concurrent shift in the meaning of grades-the meaning and nuance of the local context was traded for the uniformity and ńingibility of more portable forms.
(mouseover to read the abstract) looked at the evolution of grades from a pedagogical tool into an organizational one. In the second, Durm (1983) Abstract
"Is that information going to be on the test?" This question is one teachers often hear from students. When instructors hear this, they should realize those particular students probably consider grades a higher priority than learning. It seems, for some, that securing a higher grade point average takes precedence over knowledge, learning career-related skills, and other aspects needed to compete in today's world. This fact, coupled with the realization that many college students will, if given a choice, opt for the "easy teacher" rather than one from whom they may learn more, should make teachers reexamine the current system of grading.
, the author suggests that the priorities of our traditional grading system are need of reconsideration.
Contact me if you're interested in readng the articles.
Here you'll find a short but interesting video about grade inflation at Ivy League universities.
Remember that November 3 is a holiday.
Your homework: As mentioned in class today, because we will have no class on November 3, your homework to write a letter to someone find an example of the formal letter format that you'll use, and here is the explanation sheet for that letter. Please look at both of these files carefully.Unit 11 — Nobel (and Other) Prizes
Week 6 — Physics Nobel for Ultra-Thin Carbon (November 10, 2017)
Probably the most widely known prize for outstanding achievement in any given field is the Nobel Prize, which is awarded in six categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace, and economic sciences. The 2015 prizewinners included two Japanese scientists, of course.
Week 7 — the Ig Nobel Prizes (November 17, 2017)
Surprisingly, however, the criterion for being selected for an Ig Nobel Prize is that the project, the research, makes people laugh and then think. Here we have a TED Talk by one of the founders of the Ig Nobel Prizes, Dr. Marc Abrahams.
Other awards exist for offbeat or humorous work. One of my favorites is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which recognizes shockingly poor opening sentences and short works in writing.
Not all prizes are held in such high esteem, however. China has awarded its own Confucious Peace Prize since 2010, yet the recipients of this prize have included rather suspect characters such as Presdient Vladimir Putin of Russia and most recently Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe. Neither of these gentlemen has an exemplary record with respect to peace, however.
Lest you not be familiar with the history of Zimbabwe, allow me to enhance your knowledge a bit. Until 1980 it was a British colony known as Rhodesia in honor of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th-century businessman, diamond magnate, and politician whose name lives on in the names of Rhodes University and Rhodes Scholarships.
Remember that November 24 is a holiday.
Week 8 — To Revise or Not To Revise? (December 1, 2017)
This week, Good People, we will have you in groups and considering several issues dealing with the Nobel prizes. You might first read this article by Ed Yong that makes a persuasive case that the Nobel Prizes in science are absurd. A second op-ed piece by Gabriel Popkin in The New York Times suggested that the Nobel Prizes should be updated.
Details of your assignment are located here, and you will have much of today's class to comtemplate these and construct your responses. In addition, here is a sample paper about gaslights in which you will see the format that I would like.Unit New — Same-Sex Marriage
Week 10 — US Supreme Court Rules For Same-Sex Marriage (December 8, 2017)
In a remarkable (and long, long overdue) decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a right for all US citizens across the country (If you would like to print the article, it is here as a Word document) Different states in the US had various laws regarding same-sex marriage, but this decision reduced those to a collective moot point. From that day forth, all marriages between two people—regardless of gender—were deemed legal and afforded the same protection and rights. As I noted, this is a remarkable and long-overdue step. Here is a report from ABC News on the Supreme Court decision.
On a personal note, I have known several gay people over the course of my life, and I am pleased that their respective relationships are now equal in the eyes of the law.
Let us take a moment to review what the Declaration of Independence says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
As you will certainly notice, the Declaration does not refer to only heterosexual people. While the wording is, of course, men, this has long been interpreted to mean people instead of only males.
Week 11 — The Struggle for Rights in the US (December 15, 2017)
Today we will peruse this issue in several other contexts. We'll begin with a look at a context closer to home.
As you might have realized from our reading last week, there is a parallel in US history in the civil rights movement.
Allow me to add one final note. At about the same time as that historic Supreme Court ruling, a movie was released in the US that dealt with the issue of whether a talking, sentient being was entitled to the same rights as regular citizens.
Week 12 — English 2B Supreme Court (December 22, 2017)
As you will know from our previous class, we will be holding a courtroom discussion concerning the issue of same-sex marriage. You will assume the parts normally extant in a courtroom: lawyers, judge(s), and witnesses.Your Final Project—
As you'll know from class, you have two options for your final class, but no matter which option you choose, I would like you to dig deeply into either (a) some aspect from our textbook, or (b) some news topic (hint: look through the news links here on this page). You will need, of course, to indicate your source(s).
The result of your project will be a written report (by January 31) and an oral presentation (on January 19).[Extra unit] Unit 15 — Japan's Glass Ceiling
Week ## — Japan's Glass Ceiling (someday)
We'll begin with a clip from The Economist that provides an overview of the challenges facing women in the Japanese workplace. As you may well be aware, our somewhat hawkish prime minister has made supporting the cause of working women one of the major foci of his administration, and — notwithstanding the recent resignations of Ms. Obuchi and Ms. AAA — his cabinet does have more female ministers than has been the norm in the past.
The photo to the right is of Dr. Vera Rubin, a renowned, groundbreaking physicist.
Although it will have been a while since the 2014 Nobel Prizes were awarded, we might consider the recipients of this year's prizes. As you'll find upon reading this, very few women have been honored with a Nobel Prize in the realm of physics.
One of those mentioned in preceding article was Vera Rubin, who passed away in December of 2016. Sadly, she will thus not be honored with a Nobel Prize for her groundbreaking work.
Week ## — More Glass Ceilings (someday)
Lest you think that Japan is the only state in which women's rights have gotten the short end of the stick, let me enlighten you a bit about the US and its record on this issue. As you perhaps recall from the Declaration of Independence, the founders of the new United States of America decreed that "All men are created equal." The question here, of course, is whether men means men or men means humans. At any rate, we have a useful introduction to women's suffrage in the US, courtesy of the History Channel.
Ah, Gentle Students, click on the photo to the right and you will find an interesting TED talk by Rebecca Shambaugh titled 'It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor.'
While we looked some at the business world last week, today I'd like to venture farther afield. Rights and equality are not, unfortunately, something that can simply be corrected by legislation (in most cases) inasmuch as cultural traditions remain strong and quite resilient to change. Note, for example, how long it took the US to elect a president from the non-white male group of citizens.
To the left you will find a BBC report on four young ladies from quite different backgrounds. You might need to refer to the map in our textbook or perhaps Google Maps to locate two of the countries mentioned. [Need a bit more text here to balance things out, eh.]
As you know from class, I require polite email. Recall, too, that if you send me a file, the filename has a certain form.
Here's an example of the report style (gaslights paper) that you should use.
In a recent article Nancy McCormack (2010) addressed the question of whether
"Are e-books making us stupid". Specifically, she looked closely at what might become of
libraries as we move increasingly toward reading
e-books instead of paper books. The
abstract is here
In 2008, Nicholas Carr published a provocative article titled gIs Google making us stupid?h in which he ponders the effect of the internet and electronic sources generally on the brain. This paper discusses one source specifically, e-books, and explores whether libraries are acting wisely by moving from print to electronic book collections. The topic is considered from the vantage point of the library and from that of the patron. Specifically, the prospect of an all or largely all e-book future is considered and whether that future means an end to traditional library collections and services. The potential problems for gdeep readingh are also considered, and, specifically, whether e-books can serve as an adequate substitute for patrons who will no longer be able to use electronic collections in the way they once used print. In short, this paper explores whether e-books are making us librarians and patrons stupid.
(mouseover to read it); contact me if you're interested in readng the entire article.