THE WRITER’S DILEMMA: Part 2, Why Your College Philosophy Class Matters

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It’s not uncommon to hate your college Philosophy 101 class.

This isn’t surprising, considering most philosophy classes at that level are taught badly by professors who care more about their own personal philosophy than helping students learn about the subject (a stereotype which is sadly true more often than not).

The failure of introductory philosophy courses is probably one of the biggest failures in college education.

I could go on about how the McDonaldization of degrees, and how the philosophy class is just one example of this…increasingly focused on efficiency (large classes who are reading summaries rather than primary texts), calculability and control (emphasis on exams – particularly online – with right or wrong answers rather than essays), predictability (focus on the syllabus and requirements rather than fostering an open learning environment) . . . .

Like I said I could go on. . . .

My point is, the failure of philosophy classes is the failure of teaching students how to read, how to think, and – ultimately – how to write.

My freshman Fall semester of college I took two courses The Good Life and Western Civilization I. These required honors class were intended to fulfill that Philosophy 101 class. We read Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Epictetus, Plotinus, Virgil, Homer, and many other great philosophers – all primary texts (we had the hard task of trying to decipher Aristotle without a handy summary of what some academic thinks he meant.

Once again, I digress (my mind is unfocused today, for that I apologize).

The point is, time after time I would receive papers back with glowing reviews for my writing style. Yet, these papers were also typically B grade papers. Why? Because I did not adequately explain my argument, I made leaps in logic, I did not carry the reader through my writing well.

Well shit.

How does a person do that? All those missed steps in my paper were filled in my head, but it didn’t occur to me to explicitly explain them. Wasn’t it obvious?


And that’s why I needed my philosophy class.

Those dull. Tedious. And – in my opinion – badly written books.


But what those books did was teach me how important it was to define my thoughts, my arguments, and my words.

Perhaps not so tediously though.

The 10 Step Process of Turning Bs into As

Beginning freshman year, I began to learn how to write without leaps in logic. The best part – this doesn’t just apply to college essays. I have found it useful in content writing, in my personal blog, and in my creative writing.

No matter what you are writing you want your reader to understand it. So, without further ado, here is the process I developed that allowed me to avoid getting Bs and start getting As.



Review: Human Acts by Han Kang


This book is a haunting.

It challenges in the most demanding way possible, that the reader consider humanity. Not just philosophies or theories about humanity, but also the little moments that define who we are to ourselves and each other.

It forces the reader to acknowledge the violence so often enacted on people’s humanity.

It requires a response. As the New York Times review so aptly put it:

“What is humanity?” the book asks. “What do we have to do to keep humanity as one thing and not another?” This question made me rethink — and retranslate — the Korean greeting, and realize how hasehyo could be taken as a more forceful verb, insinuating a command. Instead of “Are you at peace?”, it could also be, “Are you doing peace?” Or “Are you practicing peace?” As in, peace comes not with passivity but with participation. As in, peace requires action, just like violence. And only now do I see yet another aspect of the novel’s English title: “Human Acts,” the tacit verb suggesting that, in the end, perhaps our actions are what matter.

Am I practicing peace?

That question reverberated in my mind every time I put this book down. It is a question that lingers now that I have finished. I believe it is a question that will continue to pester me until I find some kind of answer.

While the book gave no clear answers to this question – only offered a rich, kaleidoscopic view of human life. It gave tears – both mine and the writer’s – and it gave glimpses of joy; but mostly it expanded slim definitions of who a person is and asked the reader to contemplate the secret lives of those around us.

Having Fun with the ABC Book Tag

I had planned to write the second installment for my writing tips series….however, after a work party yesterday I’m hungover and miserable today.

Also…just in general my brain is a bit fried this week. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically worn out. So instead of wracking my mind to come up with some clever or insightful post, I thought I would do a book tag. It’s light-hearted, fun, minimal effort….everything I need to get myself through the week.

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This book tag — well more of a book survey — originated at The Perpetual Page-Turner. This was the perfect tag for my worn out brain, practically created for just this situation. As she even writes, ” Feel free to join me. . . if you are feeling like you want to let down your metaphorical blogging hair and do something silly to relieve some pressure off your blogging shoulder. . . .”

So, here goes. . . (more…)

Pier Walks

Silence was a prison no more
Noise no longer chaos
Conversation held no power
When a gentle effervescent space blossomed

Around Hobbesian anarchy reigned
Horns honked, demanding the right to occupy space not their own
Trash piled on corners and in crevices
Reminders that decay would approach

But within. . . within
A simple kiss was all – forming a new contract
Releasing from the heavy dictates of mortal codes
As silence swarmed around, resisting

Aimless wandering in the quiet
But, the quiet is better with you

Fragment: Scarlet

Eyeballs with lids peeled back

Thoughtfully wander across the room.

Blue, Brown, Grey, Green, every-

One rests staring at me.


I’ve been caught!

Red handed — literally!

A saw covered in sticky platelets,

My soul laid out like that guilty Plantagenet for all to see and condemn.


My own eyes turned downward at the ragged stumps–

Where my legs once were–

Now just sharp bone, tangled

Veins and crimson.


Questions begin to erupt like magma.

Coming to the surface, turning into destruction and lava,

Lascivious commentary.

Crude descriptions of this madness.


But I merely sat,

The pain numbing into complacency

Because —  just for a moment —

I was freed from the tyranny of thought.

Guilty Confessions: 17 Books I Should Have Read

Image result for the name of the rose by umberto ecoI always have a long list of books to read, whether they are books on my bookshelf already or one of the dozens of books recommended by friends, family, professors, random people on the street… the list seems to go on and on.

And choosing which books to read and when is not always an easy decision. Do I want to read something short or long? Fiction or non-fiction? Old or new? There are so many options it can be a task in itself to choose just one.

This act of choosing which books to read also means that there have been many books that have been left unread. Books that as a self-professed reader and lover of books and especially as an English major pursuing a Masters in publishing, I’m embarrassed to admit I have not read.

Now, this year I have made some headway towards correcting these oversights. I finally read Lolita and Rebecca; Atlas Shrugged and Outliers: The Story of Success; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Americana by Don DeLillo.

However, for every book that I check off my list, I’m left with dozens more still to go. So, now that we are over halfway through the year and as I am assessing my reading goal and beginning to plan out books for the remainder of the year, here is a list of 17 books (in honor of today’s date) that I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t yet read!

17 Books I’m Embarrassed I Haven’t Read


A guide to manipulating people to obey you – or a simple explanation of “Orwellian”

This may be a little choppy, my time for writing was short, but I really wanted to share this video!

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I’ve long appreciated dystopian novels, from the famous Hunger Games trilogy and 1984 to the less well known Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Throughout my youth and adult life I have gobbled up many dystopian novels.

While not all the dystopias I read were successfully written or smartly imagined, one common theme that slinked through most was that of language manipulation. Language can be used as a mechanism for control – through rewriting history and propaganda it can be used to manipulate people’s thoughts.




Froggy Memories

The frog — startled by my presence — skipped across the surface of the pond before diving into its safe abyss. My mind tripped as well, following him momentarily into the comforting depths of memory. Flickering momentarily to a childhood spent in stealth and frog traps. Time smeared back to those innocent days, free of humid worry and heavy doubts.

Common frog (Rana temporaria):

Books, Books Everywhere!

"Please, sir, there are enough books for everyone. You don't have to run." | http://writersrelief.com: Good morning on this wonderful Monday morning (I know — wonderful and Monday seem like  an oxymoron don’t they?). I know I haven’t posted much during and since my trip to London, so I thought I’d merely give an update on the books I’ve gotten during this time (which have been many.)

And yes, the British Library was most incredible.

While in London — despite visiting many bookstores and spending hours browsing and burdening my very patient boyfriend with dozens of books — I only brought back three books (damn you luggage restrictions!). One of those books was for a friend and I’ve already given it to her, but the two I got for myself make me very excited. (more…)