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Michal Brody
Oakland, California and Valladolid, Yucatán
Recent Activity
We grew up surrounded by commercials, right? On TV, at the movies, on the radio, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and at sports arenas. So we know when we’re being pitched to. Or do we? Can you spot a paid influencer on your social media feeds? Always? Really? Influencer marketing is a whole new world of selling, and the norms and standards are still, um, let’s say, “under construction.” Wiredstaff writer Paris Martineau explores some of the details in this November 2018 article. Martineau, “Inside the price war to influence your Instagram feed” What is influencer marketing? Why is... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Whether frequently or just once in a while, most of us eat food prepared in restaurants, school dining halls, or fast food places rather than our own kitchens. How much do you know about the work involved in getting your meal into your hands? How are the workers treated and compensated? In this August 2018 Civil Eats essay, graduate student and environmentalist Spencer Robins argues that informed and engaged consumers can help bring about change not only for food workers, but for society at large. Robins, “Are eaters the key to better restaurant wages and working conditions?” Robins mentions several... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Smartphones get blamed for a lot of what may be wrong with social interactions these days, including a decline in “soft skills” that some say is the reason why young people are poorly prepared for the labor market. It’s refreshing to read someone who has other ideas about this lack of career readiness and ways to fix it. Community college administrator Matt Reed proposes a change to general education requirements in this October 2018 essay in Inside Higher Education. Reed, “Career navigation as a Gen Ed” Reed advocates for the establishment of a gen ed requirement in social skills because... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Prestige universities across the globe share many of the features that account for their excellence—“celebrated faculty, groundbreaking research,” and comfortable, well-maintained facilities. There is a huge difference, however, in the source of funding for these institutions; those in the US are overwhelmingly private schools, while prestige universities in the rest of the world tend to be publicly funded. Alia Wong, education writer for the Atlantic, discusses some of these contrasts in this September 2018 essay. Wong, “At private colleges, students pay for prestige” Although she never states it directly, what is Wong’s principal criticism of US higher education? Summarize her... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Do you love the ads that pepper your TV shows, online content, walks through your neighborhood, and almost everything else? We didn’t think so. But sometimes ads are clever, interesting, and engaging, right? How can you filter out the annoying ones and keep the entertaining ones? There’s no simple answer, but innovator and technology writer Laura Desmond explores the possibilities of advertising’s future in this May 2018 NewCo Shift essay. Desmond, “The future of advertising is in the hands of ad blockers” Desmond has nothing but praise for the advertising students she recently met at the University of Texas. Why... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Parents all over the world want good lives for their children. That’s not a controversial statement, nothing to write home about. But what does it mean to have a “good life”? Is it only about economic prosperity? And is prosperity only measured across generations? Washington Post economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson observes what may be a new trend in this August 2018 column. Samuelson, "The rise of downward mobility” Samuelson is writing about economic anxiety in the US, something that many people have been experiencing for a long time. Why is Samuelson worrying now? Summarize his argument. Although Samuelson is... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
“Vegan hot dog” isn’t an oxymoron, and it doesn't attempt to replicate the taste of an all-beef frank. What it does, according to Wired staff writer Emily Dreyfuss, is offer a “comprehensible” product that can participate in protein-centered social events such as backyard barbeques. Dreyfuss explains her ideas in this July 2018 essay. Dreyfuss, "In defense of the vegan hot dog" Dreyfuss is writing about meat, both real and fake. Unlike many articles about meat and vegetarianism, however, Dreyfuss focuses on neither nutrition nor ethics. What is Dreyfuss’s focus? Summarize her argument. Is her point well argued, with sufficient, reliable... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Experts, authorities, and ordinary people in all walks of life have observed (and complained) that our gadgets have taken over our lives and attention spans. And, as always, there’s an app for that (dozens of them, actually), and many people offer those tech-based solutions. Others say quitting cold turkey is the only remedy. Arielle Pardes, senior associate editor at Wired, proposes a different approach in her July 2018 essay in the magazine. Pardes, “In the age of despair, find comfort on the ‘slow web’” It’s not hard these days to find advice and suggestions for combatting internet overload, but Pardes... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Who doesn’t love a good story? Nobody, probably. But in addition to their entertainment value, stories serve an important social function. In this April 2012 Boston Globe essay, literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall presents evidence from the emerging science of the story to argue that “most fiction, even the trashy stuff, appears to be in the public interest.” Gottschall, “Why fiction is good for you” In his opening paragraph, Gottschall poses a question: “Does fiction build the morality of individuals and societies, or does it break it down?” How does Gottschall answer the question? Summarize his reasoning. Is his argument persuasive?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
“It doesn’t grow on trees, you know!” Many complaints about the use of valuable resources begin with that statement. Some fruits and edible resources, however, do grow on trees. Environmental justice worker and UCLA doctoral student Comfort Azubuko would like to see more fruit trees in public spaces, and she outlines her proposal in this June 2018 essay on the Earth Focus blog of KCET. Azubuko, “Edible city: Privileging tree aesthetics misses opportunity to feed our urban food supply” Trees are beautiful, no doubt about it; they make streets and neighborhoods much more attractive and livable. Azubuko argues, however, that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
We want our doctors to be competent scientists, of course; our bodies are complicated instruments, and doctors need to learn a lot. Since medical training can’t cover everything, should it focus only on the hard sciences—the anatomy, the chemistry, the bioengineering? Dr. Angira Patel, professor of pediatrics and medical education in Chicago, argues that medical training should include more than just science in this May 2018 essay from the Pacific Standard. Patel, “To be a good doctor, study the humanities” What reasons does Patel offer for her argument that doctors need a good foundation in the humanities? Is her argument... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Men’s major league sports coaches are proven leaders, role models, iconic authority figures, sometimes even larger than life. And, up to now in the US, they’ve always been men, but that may be about to change. San Antonio Spurs (NBA) player Pau Gasol talks about that possibility in this May 2018 essay in the Players’ Tribune. Gasol, “An open letter about female coaches” Gasol expresses pride in the NBA, and he also asserts that the league is “just getting started.” What is it just starting to do? And why is Gasol proud? In the middle of his essay, Gasol pivots... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
A TV sitcom is just a frivolous thing, right? Not worth taking seriously, surely. Except that we do; we take TV shows and TV characters very seriously. The enormous hoopla and press coverage surrounding the reboot of the sitcom “Roseanne” is a case in point, and TV writer and actor Kelvin Yu makes a very specific criticism of the program in this April 2018 New York Times essay. Read it here: Yu, “’Roseanne’: When a punch line feels like a gut punch” Yu refers to the “subtle yet loaded implications of the joke” he heard on “Roseanne” the night before.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
March Madness draws a lot of attention to many colleges and universities that don’t usually get noticed, and the lack of recognition applies to much more than sports. In this March 2018 essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, education professor Kevin R. McClure argues that public regional universities across the US should receive much more funding, status, and respect. Read it here: McClure, “The problem with calling UMBC a Cinderella” It doesn’t look like it at first, but McClure’s essay isn’t really about basketball at all. What is it about? What is McClure arguing for? Summarize his main point.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Spring break, yay!!! *Cough*—not so fast. Spring break is a nonstop party for some, but for others, it’s lonely and hungry. When campus food service shuts down, when there are no cooking facilities available, things can get very grim. In this March 2018 New York Times essay, Harvard sociologist Anthony Abraham Jack reports on a serious situation for many students who stay on campus while those with resources scatter for vacations. Read it here: Jack, “It’s hard to be hungry on spring break” According to Jack, food insecurity among college students affects more than just their physical health. What other... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Oh, those famous ‘three little words’! No, not “I love you,” although they’re important, too, of course. The ‘three little words’ of our era are “I hear you,” and don’t underestimate their power. But here’s the thing: it’s easy to hear the voices and ideas that we already agree with. How well do we hear other ideas? How well do we listen? Two friends—self-defined progressive Joan Blades and self-defined conservative John Gable—talk about what happened when they learned to listen to each other in this November 2017 TED talk hosted on the website AllSides. Read it here: Blades & Gable,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
Some Twitter users have hundreds of thousands of followers. Wow, they must be really important celebrities. Or maybe they have interesting and influential ideas. Or maybe they’ve just paid for a few thousand follow bots to puff themselves up. Isn’t that . . . cheating? Not according to technology researcher danah boyd, and she explains why not in this February 2018 essay on the blog NewCo Shift. Read it here: boyd, “The reality of Twitter puffery. Or why does everyone now hate bots?” According to boyd, bots aren’t really a problem on Twitter, at least not in terms of puffing... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2018 at They Say / I Blog
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. Read it here: 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... 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. Read it here: 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... 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. Read it here: 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?... 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. Read it here: 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... 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. Read it here: 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... 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. Read it here: 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... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at They Say / I Blog
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. Read it here: 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... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at They Say / I Blog