This month I finished reading They Say, I Say (with readings). If you are seeking a book that will help you get started along the path to better academic writing, I highly recommend it. In about 200 pages, it introduces some effective methods of presenting your ideas as part of an ongoing dialog with other relevant scholars. I’ve recently used the book in my own lessons on academic writing and it has been popular with my students. Also included is a selection of readings to stimulate discussion and writing. Fortunately, some of those readings can be found online. A few of them are especially relevant to readers who are taking the TOEFL for college admission. They include:
- Should Everyone go to College? by Stephanie Owen and Isabel Sawhill argues that attending college is often a path to future prosperity, but not in every circumstance. Think carefully, kids!
- The New Liberal Arts by Sanford Ungar hit close to home for me. Now, more than ever, the people who have the ability to “participate in, and help shape, civil discourse.” That’s an ability that a liberal arts education might empart. One of the brightest students I have worked with recently is majoring in architecture at a very prestigious school and is minoring in…. sociology. She knows what up. She’ll be able to move comfortably in so-called “elite” circles. Be like her, kids!
- Shut Up About Harvard by Ben Casselman offers some food for thought. I totally understand why people want to go to Harvard. Those people want to not just make money, but they want to be part of the meritocracy. They want to be part of the elite group that shapes their society. I get that. But maybe we need to stop thinking so much about those particular kids and those particular schools.
Anyway. There are many more articles in the book, and most of them aren’t about education. I’ll let you find them on your own (but feel free to ask if you want me to highlight a few more options).
I also read the December 2022 issue of “History Today.” A few things grabbed my interest:
- Are the Dark Ages Inevitable? is the issue’s “head to head” column, wherein a group of professors discuss a particular historical question. Do you see what I mean about presenting your ideas as part of an ongoing dialog? Get the writing book I mentioned above! This particular column inspired me to create an integrated writing question about the Late Bronze Age Collapse.
- Clean Sheets, about the history of paper, could be adapted into a perfect TOEFL reading passage. It is almost the right length, too. Best of all, the article is fascinating. I didn’t realize that papermaking used to be such a difficult process.
The magazine also contains a few really wonderful long-form articles, but since they are all behind a paywall I won’t cite them here. But, hey, if you love history this is the magazine for you. It is the best of its category.
Finally, I read the August 8, 2022 issue of “The New Yorker.” I absolutely loved The Hard Sell, a long article about the door-to-door sales profession. Yes, that is still an occupation… and yes, it is weird. The article is at once an investigation of how the job works in 2022 and a character study of one particularly effective salesman. It’s the best thing I’ve read in this magazine all year. It isn’t really TOEFL adjacent, but it is a fascinating read.
More of this in 30 days.