Reading Digest (15-22 December)

Here’s a round up of various articles, posts and stories I came across in the past week:

The Reading Room at the British Museum
© ceridwen CC BY-SA Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/433966

Is this the future of academics?

The How I Get By series in Vitae describes the diverse everyday lives of academics: in one of the most powerful articles I’ve read this week, they present an interview with Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor who teaches Spanish and Italian – and is homeless.  In her words:

I’m not married and I have no children. I’ve always been a career girl. Before I got into higher education, I worked in the music industry in Italy. I traveled with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder as their interpreter. Today I’m a professor and I don’t have a mailing address.

Time to abolish the graded essay?

Elsewhere in the academe, some professors seem to have had enough with graded essays, and suggest that we do away with them altogether:

Students hate writing them so much that they buy, borrow, or steal them instead. Plagiarism is now so commonplace that if we flunked every kid who did it, we’d have a worse attrition rate than a MOOC.

No mojitos in the lecture hall, please

Back in Greece, the University of Athens have decided to extend the academic year until mid-August in an attempt to compensate for the disruption caused by industrial action and inept ministerial micromanagement. The decision will not affect the Law School, who have apparently decided the Winter Semester cannot be salvaged and have already deferred all students to the next academic year:

Με αυτή την απόφαση της Συγκλήτου θα γίνουν οι 13 εβδομάδες του χειμερινού εξαμήνου με μια παράταση και στη συνέχεια οι 13 εβδομάδες του θερινού έως τις 9 Αυγούστου. Στο διάστημα αυτό, τα τμήματα του Ιδρύματος θα κανονίσουν κατά περίπτωση τα θέματα των εξετάσεων και των παραδόσεων τους. Το ακαδημαϊκό έτος κανονικά λήγει στις 30 Αυγούστου.

Why is English pronunciation so hard?

On a different topic, here’s a very interesting blog post on the structure of English syllables, which should be of use to teachers of English:

Learners have different strategies for dealing with clusters. Some learners (e.g., Japanese) will insert vowels between consonants in a cluster – this process is known as vowel epenthesis – in order to preserve as many consonants as possible. […] Here’s a favourite comparison of mine: In Japan, MacDonald’s, which is /məkˈdɒnəldz/ in SSBE, is known as “ma-ku-do-na-ru-do”…

Are you Parent 1 or 2?

Finally, it appears that schools in Lithuania are set to replace references to ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ in their records, in favour of ‘Parent 1’ and ‘Parent 2’. It is my understanding that the Ministry of Education in Greece recently developed an integrated database for all the students in primary and secondary education – one wonders whether they considered this option.

The issue first flared up in 2010, when the Council of Europe issued a recommendation for EU member states to exclude words “mother” and “father” from the official documents as a manifestation of sexism.

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