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Michal Brody
Oakland, California and Valladolid, Yucatán
Recent Activity
Today, robots and AI-enabled devices can vacuum your carpets, remind you to water your plants, or give you a weather forecast for next week’s trip to Disneyland. But can a robot commiserate with you at the end of a hard day or applaud you for a personal triumph? Well, maybe not yet, but soon, for sure. Wired writer and editor Arielle Pardes tells us all about it in this January 2018 article. Pardes, “The emotional chatbots are here to probe our feelings” Pardes’s essay promotes a personal assistant very different from Siri, Alexa, or any of the other AI helpers... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Criticisms of amateurism in college sports usually center around compensation for student athletes. Here, sports historian and former NCAA national champion distance runner Victoria L. Jackson calls out college sports amateurism for another reason—racism. Her January 2018 op-ed was published in the Los Angeles Times; Jackson was also interviewed for the Chronicle of Higher Education by Emma Kerr. We suggest that you read both pieces before responding to the questions. Jackson, “Take it from a former Division I athlete: College sports are like Jim Crow” Jackson calls herself “a huge sports fan” but says that she “won’t be watching any... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Just how important are community colleges in the landscape of higher education in the United States? Well, nearly half of US undergraduates attend a community college; that makes them pretty important. Two community college presidents—Gail Mellow of LaGuardia Community College in New York and DeRionne Pollard of Montgomery College in Maryland—argue in this February 2017 Baltimore Sun article that community colleges are the key to healing the nation and its people. Mellow & Pollard, “Community colleges can heal a divided America” Why do Mellow and Pollard believe that community colleges are so vital to the United States? What’s so special... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Many of the students at top-ranked universities have worked enormously hard to get there. They know that a degree from such an institution will pay off in “the market.” Such an emphasis, however, has its own costs and consequences. Vanderbilt University student Jorge Salles Diaz takes a step back and poses some larger questions in this November 2017 essay in the student newspaper Vanderbilt Hustler. Salles Diaz, “Let’s be honest about why we’re here” Salles Diaz, a student at a top-ranked university, notes that he and his classmates have “come here with the idea that we want to be the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
You’ve probably been hearing the phrase “global village” for your whole life, and the phrase is usually associated with warm and fuzzy feelings about the interconnectedness of all people and the universality of the human condition. The reality, however, as we’ve been seeing recently, is not especially warm and very far from fuzzy. What’s gone wrong here? Technology observer and popular author Nicholas Carr addresses the topic in this April 2017 Boston Globe essay. (If you are using the Readings version of the book, you may also want to read another of Carr’s essays in Chapter 17 of your text.)... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Every day, it seems, there is a new revelation of sexual misconduct by a public figure, and every day we’re less shocked, more sickened. What can we do? How can we move forward? These are not easy questions, but they need to be addressed. Author Kate Harding proposes some concrete steps in this November 2017 Washington Post essay. Harding, “I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign” Harding is unstintingly critical of Senator Al Franken for the sexual abuse that he has admitted to, but she doesn’t recommend that he be removed from... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Avoid salt. Avoid sugar. Avoid fat. Avoid meat. Avoid avoidance. Hah! You weren’t expecting that last one, were you? Aaron E. Carroll, Indiana University professor of pediatrics, offers some unexpected diet advice in this November 2017 New York Times essay. Carroll, "Relax, you don’t need to ‘eat clean’” To support his argument, Carroll provides many examples of recent “food fears,” including salt and fat. List all the other frightening ingredients that Carroll discusses. Is the long list of scary foods necessary to support his argument, or would it have been more persuasive if he had focused more deeply on just... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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We’ve been hearing a lot lately about free speech, and we know that it’s a core value—so important that it is protected by the US Constitution. But do we all agree about what free speech really means? Ahh. Not so simple. Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. addresses some of the free speech issues currently being debated in this September 2017 Time Magazine essay. Glaude, Jr. "“The real ‘special snowflakes’ in campus free-speech debates” Glaude opens with several well-publicized incidents as examples of the stifling of free speech, but the bulk of his essay has more to do with the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Something must be wrong with my TV. The video of my football game is perfectly clear, but the announcer’s voice is too high-pitched. Oh. Wait. The announcer is a. . . . WOMAN?! Avid football fan and fantasy writer Claire Wallace responds to the historic milestone with shock and delight in this September 2017 Huffington Post article. Wallace, “A woman’s place is in the broadcast booth” As Wallace’s title proclaims, she is applauding and celebrating the almost unbelievable event of a woman sportscaster doing the play-by-play calls for a nationally televised Monday night NFL game. She’s doing more than just... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
It’s a pretty simple proposition—a full-time worker ought to be able to live on the pay received for that job. Still, there is plenty of debate about the issue, with words flying around in every direction. Reporter Will Perkins states his position in this September 2017 essay in the Richmond Register of Kentucky. Perkins, “Millennial thoughts: Minimum wage and my take” Perkins states his argument very clearly—“If you work full-time in America, you should be able to live here, too.” That is, all full-time work should provide a living wage adequate to pay for life’s necessities. How does Perkins support... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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If you follow professional tennis closely, you may get an impression that the men on the circuit are covered very differently from the women. It’s more than just an impression, though; there is empirical evidence to show just how large the disparity is. Harvard University economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan wrote this examination of the topic for The Upshot, a New York Times blog, in September 2017. Mullainathan, “Sexism and shopping: Female players get most of the odd questions at the U.S. Open" Is Mullainathan using an extended example of research with algorithms in order to demonstrate sexism in sports journalism,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
When was the last time you used the quadratic equation in your real life? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Still, agility with mathematical concepts and operations is important. Does math education need a makeover? Emeritus political science professor Andrew Hacker assesses the situation in this July 2012 New York Times editorial. Hacker, “Is algebra necessary?" Hacker emphasizes, at several points in the essay, that he highly values mathematics; indeed, he considers mathematics to be “integral to our civilization.” Despite his reverence for mathematics, though, he argues that taking and passing algebra should not be obligatory in high school or college.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
The terrible events that occurred on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville and their ripple effects have been well-documented in media across the US and the world. What about the local media? Brendan Novak, an opinion editor for the Cavalier Daily, the University’s student newspaper, wrote this editorial a few days after the marches. Novak, “I was wrong about the ‘alt-right’” Novak starts right out by admitting that he was wrong. What, exactly, was he wrong about? What convinced him to reconsider his position? Is the evidence he provides persuasive? Why or why not? Every newspaper in the United... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
Dorm life. Whether you love it or hate it, avoid or envy it, you likely don’t imagine it being very different from what it already is. Los Angeles Times staff writer Conor Friedersdorf proposes an interesting transformation of college dormitories in this July 2017 column. Friedersdorf, "Ban elite college dorms” Friedersdorf admits to having enjoyed very much living in a dorm among his classmates and peers when he was a college student at an elite school, but now he is proposing replacing the system. What does he propose to replace it with? Why? Summarize his argument. Does his proposal have... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Did you memorize word lists and take tests in kindergarten? Probably not, but kindergartners in US schools today do. Clearly, not a very fun experience, but is such a direction pedagogically sound? Christopher Brown, early childhood educator and researcher, former kindergarten teacher, and father of three recent kindergartners, evaluates the changes in kindergarten curriculum in this April 2016 post on The Conversation. Brown, “Kindergartners get little time to play. Why does it matter?” Why does Brown think kindergartners should have more play-based activities in school? What reasons does he give? Do you find his arguments persuasive? Why or why not?... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Is Facebook a community resource for the common good? Yes—but it is also a for-profit corporation. Can it effectively be both at the same time? Focusing on Facebook’s Safety Check feature, London-based writer Tausif Noor examines the ways in which the company’s financial mission interacts with its community service mission in this March 2017 post to the blog RealLife. Noor, "Safety in numbers" Noor lauds Facebook’s Safety Check function, but at the same time, he is critical of it in several ways. What does Noor mean when he advises that “praise for its social initiatives should be tempered with at... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
If a robot takes your job, you’re not the only one who loses income. Since robot workers don’t pay taxes, the government loses money, too. That fact by itself may not stimulate too much sympathy until you realize that the government’s lost income might have repaired a pothole on your street or replaced worn-out playground equipment at your local park. Science writer Matt Simon explores the issue of taxes and robot labor in this May 2017 Wired article. Simon, “Who will pay for the future if not the robots” Why does Simon think that a robot tax is worth exploring?... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Have you heard much about genetically modified (GMO) foods lately? Neither have we, but that might be changing soon. The Food and Drug Administration, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has received funding to promote GMO foods, and a lot of people have a lot to say on the subject. Caitlin Dewey, food policy writer for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, lays out the details in this May 2017 report. Dewey, “The government is going to counter ‘misinformation’ about GMO foods” Dewey reports on a complicated situation with so many stakeholders that it may seem like every... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
A new major league baseball season is now underway, competing for attention with basketball playoffs, Stanley Cup hockey, and whatever siren song trills from the phones in our pockets. In this May 2017 Atlantic essay, sports writer Will Leitch contemplates some possible rule changes intended to speed up the game. Leitch, “The secret life of pitchers” In making his argument, Leitch uses an extended example of a pitcher whose career was derailed by one unfortunate incident. What is Leitch arguing? How does the example of this pitcher help make his point? Is the example persuasive? Why or why not? Leitch’s... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
The trend toward the growing availability of online courses generates a lot of debate among university professors and administrators, among students, and among the public at large. English professor Devoney Looser was not a strong advocate of online teaching until she had the opportunity (or rather, necessity) to do it herself. She writes about her experience and change of heart in this March 2017 essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Looser, "Why I teach online" How does Looser connect the personal situation that obliged her to teach online with the circumstances of many online students? How did Looser’s opinions... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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What do fax machines have in common with electric cars? More than you may think. History professor Jonathan Coopersmith, who studied the development of fax technology, argues in this March 2017 essay in The Conversation that in order for electric cars to eventually succeed, competing electric car makers need to follow the example of fax development and adopt uniform charging standards. (In case you aren’t familiar with them, fax machines were once key business communication tools, allowing a printed document to be fed into a machine and transmitted over telephone lines; a similar machine on the other end of the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Major sports figures such as NBA star LeBron James and Major League pitcher Trevor Bauer have recently spoken publicly about their respective political stances. That’s not a new phenomenon, but it has become prominent in the news lately, accompanied by debate on the appropriateness of such public expressions. NBA reporter for Cleveland.com joins the debate in this February 2017 post. Vardon, "Why LeBron James, Trevor Bauer shouldn’t ‘stick to sports’ in Trump era: Commentary” Vardon concludes his essay by declaring what he thinks “makes America great.” What is it? Explain his argument. Do you agree? Why or why not? Vardon... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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Many of us sing the same lament: the ingredients listed on many of our food products include long unpronounceable words with mysterious purposes. What is that stuff?! Do we really need it? In this February 2017 Columbus Dispatch article, science and environmental reporter Marion Renault asserts that public mistrust of food science is actually harmful to us all, and she reports on some measures that scientists are taking to help improve communication with the public. Renault, “Are your food facts really food myths?” Renault argues that scientists—specifically food scientists—need to be able to communicate well with the general public. Do... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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It’s a time-honored strategy, and unfortunately, it works very well. Newsworthy women, from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga to Kellyanne Conway and beyond, are often publicly skewered not for their statements and ideas, but for their clothes, their hairstyles, and their bodies. Writer and law student Meredith Simons explores the harmful effects of such public discourse in this January 2017 Washington Post article. Simons, “Don’t like what a woman is saying? Call her ugly” Simons asserts that in addition to simply being unfair and unkind, insulting the appearance of prominent women has other, more harmful consequences. What are they? Summarize... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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You’ve probably had the experience. There is something you care about so deeply that you can’t imagine how its importance wouldn’t be obvious to everyone else. And yet, when you talk about it, you see the ‘so what?’ cloud forming on the faces of your conversation partners. Sociology graduate student Chelsea Johnson had this experience when trying to explain her dissertation topic—black women’s hair—to other academics and social scientists, so she decided to share some strategies she learned about “the art of persuasion” in this August 2016 blog post on The Well. Johnson, "What explaining my natural hair to PhDs... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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