Month: March 2017

Can Statistics Reveal the Secrets of Great Writing?


In an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, Megan Gambino interviews data journalist Ben Blatt on his recent efforts to apply data analysis to literary works.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Gambino’s article, which frame the interview:

In most college-­level literature courses, you find students dissecting small portions of literary classics: Shakespeare’s soliloquies, Joyce’s stream of consciousness and Hemingway’s staccato sentences. No  doubt, there is so much that can be learned about a writer, his or her craft and a story’s meaning by this type of close reading.

But Ben Blatt makes a strong argument for another approach. By focusing on certain sentences and paragraphs, he posits in his new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, readers are neglecting all of the other words, which, in an average­length novel amount to tens of thousands of data  points.

The journalist and statistician created a database of the text from…

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More on the Most Recent Report from UnKoch My Campus


In an article published by AlterNet, Alex Kotch reports on the material released by UnKoch My Campus showing how the intensifying calls to protect free speech on campus are being used as a cover for suppressing progressive dissent and protest on campus—covering some of the same points that I highlighted in a recent post on the topic:

Kotch adds what amounts to a timeline on these efforts:

In 2014, Virginia passed the nation’s first law banning so­called “free speech zones,” which restrict protected speech to designated areas often far away from events that students want to protest. The following year, Missouri enacted a Campus Free Expression Act forbidding “free speech zones” without imposing punitive measures.

But while more recent legislation bans free speech zones as well, it also restricts student free speech in scenarios where, lawmakers claim, free speech is protected.

Legislators in some states including Illinois and…

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Koch Network’s Student Protest Ban Disguised as “Campus Free Speech”


This is the latest report from UnKoch My Campus. Although it does not entirely align with other recent discussions of this topic posted to this blog, I think that it contributes some new elements and details to that discussion:

In the past month, state lawmakers across the country coordinated an effort to file “campus free speech” bills. These bills make it illegal for students to protest in a way that “disrupts” the speech of anyone who has been invited onto campus.

In a familiar twist, the free speech being protected is that of private donors and corporations, rather than students.

So far, bills have been filed (in some form) in CO, NC, VA, TN, ND, UTIL, and WI, with FL possibly next. These bills have found bipartisan support, and very little resistance, sailing smoothly through committee after committee. In Utah…

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Women’s History Month



Some links to resources of possible interest:

Women’s History Month:

National Women’s History Project:

New York Times Learning Network: Celebrate Women’s History Month:

Smithsonian Education: Women’s History Teaching Resources:

Science NetLinks: Women’s History Month:

National Education Association: Women’s History Month in the Classroom:

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Statistics of the Day: Higher-Ed Related


Here is another item to put in the folder of false assertions about how Federal tax policy screws the wealthy and exists to provide giveaways to the impoverished.

In reporting on an Issue Brief produced by the Pew Research Center, the Hechinger Report highlights the widening gap between the value of Federal tax breaks for higher-education costs and the value of Federal and State grants to students, in particular need-based grants. These two graphs from the Issue Brief show not only that the value of the tax deductions now exceeds that of the grants, but that this represents a major shift—in fact, a reversal of priorities—that has occurred over the last three decades:


The overview provided by the Hechinger Report indicates that a significant portion of various types of student aid that most would assume would be awarded on the basis of need (such as work-study grants) are instead awarded…

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