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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Apparently Some “Safe Spaces” Need to Be Preserved


Here are some excerpts from a scathing article in Roll Call on the Senate’s silencing of Elizabeth Warren. Written by Mary C. Curtis, the article is titled “GOP Seeks a Safe Space from the Words of Coretta Scott King,” highlighting the hypocrisy in the Far right’s absolute disdain for the creation of “safe spaces” on campus:

For a party and an administration that ran on being tough guys, afraid of nothing and no one, and disdainful of “PC culture,” whatever that’s supposed to mean, Republicans are, like President Donald Trump, proving to be poster boys (and, yes, the crew is testosterone-heavy) for the perpetually offended, perfect pictures of bullies who crumble when one of their targets dares talk back. . . .

Who would have thought that the words of human rights and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King could rattle the sensibilities of Senate Republicans, one of whom recently…

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The Answer to Campus Unrest—Another Kent State


Writing for the Detroit News, Michael Gerstein reports:

A northern Michigan Republican Party official resigned on Wednesday after landing in hot water for implying in a tweet that university protesters in California should be stopped violently.

Dan Adamini, the Marquette County Republican Party secretary, apologized for his tweet. It made national news because of its apparent call for a repeat of the Ohio National Guard’s shooting of four students at Kent State University in 1970, when nine other university students were also wounded amid a Vietnam War protest.

Adamini said Wednesday he has received hundreds of death threats over the uproar and that he resigned Wednesday because he’s hoping it will satisfy those outraged by his statement.

“Whenever you’re involved in an organization, you want to be an asset,” he said. “At the moment I’ve become a distraction, and that’s not helping anybody. I stepped aside so hopefully the…

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North Dakota Bill Bans “Safe Spaces”


What follows are some excerpts from an article written by Andrew Haffner for the Bismarck (ND) Tribune:

“A bill described by its sponsor as a means to ensure freedom of speech in North Dakota higher education by rejecting ‘political correctness gone crazy’ has passed in the state House.

“Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, sponsor of House Bill 1329, said the proposed legislation is a response to an ‘attitude that free speech is not free speech’ on campuses where he said expression is discouraged by university policy.

“Though the House Education Committee gave a ‘do not pass’ recommendation, the measure passed 65 to 25 on Monday. It needed 48 votes to pass the House.

“Becker defined the term ‘safe space’ as a designated location where ‘the rules guard each person’s sense of self-respect, dignity and feelings’ by restricting discourse on a litany of subjects ranging from LGBT identity to political affiliation.

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