Enough With the Essays! – A Brief Manifesto for Concept Maps

By Keerati, via freedigitalphotos.net
By Keerati, via freedigitalphotos.net

People tend to teach the way they have been taught. So when I wanted to “encourage” my students to read, I would have them submit a brief essay on an assigned text. That was dumb!

The vast majority of student essays are acts of violence against logic and style. I love my students, but most of them are terrible writers. Even back when I would teach divinity students at Vanderbilt, I regularly received essays that showed few signs they had been written by grownups with college degrees. (I blame the “Three Point Paragraph.“) Maybe I’m just overly picky and judgmental. … Okay, I probably am overly picky and judgmental, but that only makes these automasochistic assignments all the more psychotic. Continue reading “Enough With the Essays! – A Brief Manifesto for Concept Maps”

A Letter to My Daughter for her Civics Project

IMG_2384For those of you who are worried about the government brainwashing our children with Obama’s “socialist propaganda,” I present my daughter. My problem with Obama is that I do not think he is socialist enough, yet Kyla comes often comes home from school parroting political opinions that make me throw up in my mouth a little.

Last night, she told me that she was going to do a civics project where she had to write a letter to her senator about a topic she cared about. She chose gun control, or as she put it, “I want to write against people who are trying to take away our right to own guns.”


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A Teacher’s Opinion about Arming Teachers: A Guest Post by Brooke Edwards



Brook Edwards is a high school friend of my sister, but I have gotten to know her a bit better over the years. We have a shared love of teaching, and I have found her insights into practical, pedagogical, and policy issues to be full of wisdom. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, politicians and policy wonks have been talking about arming teachers. I thought maybe they should listen to a teacher’s opinion first. Brooke is dealing with a difficult family situation at the moment, and I am grateful to her for taking the time to share her experiences with us. – David J.



Sandy Hook Memorial (via Wikimedia Commons)
Sandy Hook Memorial (via Wikimedia Commons)

I taught in the inner city for four years, and the talk of arming teachers inside of the classroom got me thinking about if I would prefer to teach with a gun strapped to my hip or not. My first thought was, “Yes! Of course I would want a gun!” I was raised to believe that an armed society was a polite society and that guns helped otherwise unsavory people have better manners.

I taught social studies in one of the most dangerous school systems in America. Every year we competed with Detroit and Washington D.C. for the ignominy of having the highest crime rate in the country. Continue reading “A Teacher’s Opinion about Arming Teachers: A Guest Post by Brooke Edwards

Gifted Ed is Special Ed: Why “Nerd Camp” Matters



Originally Posted on March 20, 2012

(All opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, not Vanderbilt University or Programs for Talented Youth.)

Before I was a doctor, I started out my career teaching kids with “special needs.” I have watched a boy with Asperger’s run out of my classroom, out the building, and down the street. I have seen a dyslexic girl’s eyes light up when she finally understood a sentence. Working with special needs kids is very challenging and very rewarding work.

I still teach kids with special needs.

Continue reading “Gifted Ed is Special Ed: Why “Nerd Camp” Matters”