Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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We probably don’t know what we’re talking about

Yesterday I was reading the newspaper while waiting for my daughter to get out of ballet class. To my right were two women engaged in a typical conversation between parents whose only true connection is that they feel the same activity—in this case ballet—benefits their kids.

One woman was from England, the other Mongolia: they said as much to each other. I couldn’t tell a thing about their social class, except that they paid for a lot of activities. Their cliched conversation—unaware of its bragging and ironies—meandered typically. The kids liked ballet but not gymnastics, karate but not horseback riding, skating but not soccer—or maybe it was soccer but not skating, maybe diamond cutting but not glass blowing.

Whatever. There just wasn’t enough time in the day anymore for all these activities! And school! The homework! Argh!

It was excessive. Truly excessive. Several hours each day. How could their daughters, seven year old girls, get transported from their ninja training to their preparation for the Bolshoi when they also had several hours of daily reading and math?

Soon enough, the women came to the magical discussion: Common Core. All of this was the fault of Common Core. The math was too difficult and the reading too excessive and the numbers funny and the words arbitrary. To quote: “This Common Core is asking them to find the cumulative. Why do they need a word like cumulative?” Then she bragged: “I didn’t even learn that in college.”

I tried to ignore the conversation, as my blood was already boiling just from reading the news. But they kept at it with their Common Core and the meddling and the funny numbers and strange bubbles and the several hours and frustration about why learning couldn’t be fun. (As opposed, I guess, to cumulative.)

I finally interrupted them. “Excuse me,” I said as politely as I could. “I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but your conversation leaves me curious. What actually is the Common Core?”

Shishwish wang dabble and frockfrack too complicated. Frigmack moof mackle and ploopluck weird methods. Agwack mick mickle. Zeepopeepopuck. No, impossible, shippity pippity, Because parents can’t do the math.

The women spoke their shishwish wang dabble with conviction and passion. They were so certain of their frigmack moof mackle that their eyes opened wide as entrances to mansions. By the time they got to zeepopeepopuck, they had already built an eight wonder of the world, and there it stood before me in the shape of a Pippity.

The point of this post is not to defend the Common Core. America has long ago burned all of its books and sold off the ash as truth. At attempt to unify what all American kids should know at the end of each grade is bound to present problems, but that’s a discussion for another day.

My point is that these women were guilty of the very thing education should be built to fix. They had no idea what they were talking about but pretended they did. Their evidence was that their daughters’ math homework was unfamiliar, more difficult than they could bear. They did not ask the questions any educated person should know to ask: If as a professional adult I can’t figure out a 2nd grader’s math homework, is it because the problem’s too difficult or my skill level too low? If I don’t know what the Common Core is, how do I know it has something to do with these math problems I don’t like? 

Maybe the reason we can’t figure out our kids’ math homework—um…2nd grade arithmetic—is because we never learned any math at all, just a method to get to an answer within the context of a particular kind of exam. We remove that method and context and find ourselves lost; the cumulative effect of our “education” leaves us spewing nonsense in public, blaming something we don’t understand, have not even bothered to read about, and yet we speak confidently, presenting our ignorance as a paradigm, all while our daughters plié before a polished mirror. Maybe the point of this education reform was to keep future generations from turning into us.

With less than 48 hours left before our polling places open, we can rest assured. The reason we find ourselves in the mess we face is not because of something outside us. We’ll be in this mess so long as we believe that spewing ignorance with confidence is everyone’s right. Because we’re all entitled to our opinions, all our opinions are correct.


Photo from Wikipedia

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Every administrator’s dream syllabus

Swanson Collidge

English 102 or 104 (pick one)

Autumn 2014

 Instructor:       Dr. Karuvius Zakoostix                                                                                       Office: 401 Scissorbill Hall

Office Hours:

M/W    00:00-24:00
T/R      24:00-00:00
F        All day
S        Always open
Sun      Satan equated himself to God. So do those who rest on the 7th.


Mobile:                       +1 312 233 3452
Wife’s Mobile:           +1 312 233 3451
Home address:          4061 S Winchester Court


There are no requirements for this class (except for payment, see below).

Required Texts

Students intending to read should select books they find suitable.

General Education Objectives

The primary general education objectives served by this course call for students to “pass the class through registration,” “use any technology* to pass,” and “demonstrate the ability to value passing.” The course also requires that students “understand and apply personal values and ethics regarding the need to pass.”

Catalog Description

Students further develop the skill to pass the class. The course focuses on passing as a means of passing effectively. In the process of passing, students learn to analyze how they passed and to construct a complex or simple passing grade. Students also learn basic text based, electronic and virtual passing methods and procedures.

Optional lecture three hours per week.


The only thing you need to do in this class is pass.

Outcomes: Successful students will

  • register within the first four weeks of the term
  • choose to write or read or not
  • pass, logically
  • search for things in the library and Internet (if they have time)
  • distinguish among individuals’ unique ways of passing the class
  • demonstrate comprehension of what it means to pass
  • identify credible and relevant means to pass
  • say “I passed”

Evaluation Criteria

Assignment grades, and ultimately course grades, will be determined by a student’s ability to “pass the class through registration,” “use any technology* to pass,” and “demonstrate the ability to value passing.”

Attendance Policy

Students may opt to pass in class or outside of class. A passing student need not be present.

Academic Honesty

If you fail to sign up to pass the class yourself, no one else may pass the class for you. Passing is limited to one (1) student per student ID #, and a registered student may only pass one (1) time each semester. See college catalog for more information.

Guidelines for Optional Papers

Students may, if the wish arises, choose to submit written essays. They should adhere to the following requirements

  • Please use ink
  • Please use typing paper (unless you only have a ruled notebook, then that’s fine)
  • Type or use a word processor (unless you like writing by hand).
  • Say something in your essay if you’d like your professor to say something besides “this passed”.
  • Possible topics include:

1.) Write about something you like. Say how much you like it.
2.) Write about something you don’t like. Say how much you don’t like it.
3.) Write using the word like. Do it often, like, in every sentence. Twice, like.
4.) Write about the time when it was unfair.
5.) Write about the time when you had the most fun, ever.

Final Exam

There is no required final exam. Students opting to take a final exam should make special arrangements before finals week.

*technology is anything that you can use to pass besides yourself or another human being. 



Students who do not submit their payment in full by the seventh (7th) week of the semester automatically forfeit the right to PASS this class or to receive any CREDIT for it on their transcript. Acceptable PAYMENTS may be made by money order, cash, wire transfer or credit card. No personal checks. No refunds. 

customer service



Photo by Random Retail 

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What your college values

If anyone in America is confused about what our institutions of education value, be sure to read this brilliant letter penned by former NYU student Lucy Parks, addressed to the president of NYU.

If you’re lazy, here’s the heart of the matter:

…It was made clear to me that NYU doesn’t value me as a student or a member of the community. NYU only values me as the amount that I can pay, and when I can’t pay what the institution asks there is no help for me.

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This is how you give a commencement speech

“The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” -David Foster Wallace

These kids probably learned more from the commencement speech than they did from four years in college. Enjoy and share.

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Announcing a new column

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be writing a weekly column for The Good Men Project. It’ll be titled True Community and appear in the Education section. Each Wednesday, I’ll be posting an article about my experiences in the community college where I work. My focus is, obviously, on men’s issues in the field of higher education.

I’m really excited to be back on The Good Men Project after a hiatus of a few months. People new to my blog should know I edited the Marriage section for a year, and I contributed writing across sections.

Here are some greatest hits:

Becoming a Man Who is Ready For Love

Equating Love With Possession

Let’s Stop Blaming Disney

Enjoy the teasers. The first article will run tomorrow. I’ll make announcements here and on all my social media. I hope you’ll “Like” my Facebook page so that you won’t miss any updates.

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This is on my syllabus

I’ve put this on some of my syllabi this semester:


E-mail etiquette:

E-mail is a convenient tool to help us communicate. It is NOT, however, a free-for-all. You should be courteous when you e-mail your professors. Please write in complete sentences and in actual English; do not fill your message with SMS jargon or slang. If you don’t have time to write a respectable, readable message, you should not write it at all but seek some form of communication that fits your schedule.

Appropriate topics

1.) I have a question about the reading or about a writing issue.

2.) I do not understand what you said in class about a discussion topic.

3.) I cannot come to your office hours this week but would like to see you at a different time or arrange to talk to you on Skype.

4.) I will have to miss class next week and would like to arrange something.

5.) I have a scheduling problem or a conflict.


Inappropriate topics (I will ignore these messages)-

1.) Please tell me what you covered in the class I missed.

2.) What’s the homework?

3.) U have 2 (something something) 4 me.

4.) Imma gonna b goin 2 a gr8 fam vaca next week so u need 2 (something something) 4 me pronto.



Essay prompts for contemporary college students

Final exam
Instructions: Pick one (1) of the following prompts. This means you should not pick more than one or less than zero. You *may* pick a prompt other than number 1. “Pick one (1) prompt” means you pick less than two prompts from among the possible ten. If this is confusing, please ask for clarification.

Compose an essay of at least fifty (50) words. Good luck.


Consider this ethical dilemma: The person you love more than anyone in the world has been kidnapped by a madman with a biological weapon at his disposal. He will either shoot his single hostage in the head or deploy the weapon in a major metro area, killing millions and possibly starting a pandemic. But he is leaving the choice up to you. You decide if he kills millions or his hostage.

Explain how will you face society after you refuse to sacrifice yourself. Will you mostly text or will you also be available on Facebook? At which time and on which days? Also, explain in detail why the deployed biological agent will have no effect on you.


Imagine a nightmare scenario: the internet, television and mobile phones have been deactivated for 48 hours by a Texan whose superpowers allow him to control all electronic communication. Explain who must step forward immediately—either a government leader, a representative of private business or an educator—to ensure your self-esteem feedback loop is properly maintained. What punishment will be appropriate in the event that s/he fails?


What would give you greater pleasure: fucking a vampire or killing a zombie? Explain in detail and be sure to use relevant sources.


Imagine that you found some money to buy a car. You ended up driving this car through a bus shelter, killing a pregnant woman, her unborn son, a veteran of Iraq and a rabbi. The police arrived to discover that you have no insurance, that your license is suspended and your car unregistered.

Using what you have learned this semester regarding civics and ethics, explain if the person who misplaced his money, your parents, educators, the salesmen of the automobile or the urban planner who left a shelter in your path are most responsible for this atrocity. What would be an appropriate punishment for the guilty party?


Once you graduate from college and secure your dream job, where will you go for your first summer vacation? Describe in detail.


Imagine the online service that has been writing all your essays suddenly went bankrupt. Although it would be legal for an opportunistic competitor to charge you double or triple for a last-minute service, would this price increase be ethical? Be sure to apply at least one principle of business ethics to your argument.


Invent at least three facts that would help support an essay arguing for the creation of a grade higher than an A and meant for the most special students. Be sure these facts do not contradict any of the facts you have invented on earlier essays this semester. (They are recorded in the class database.)


Cut and paste a text written at a level that is four to six times higher than your current reading capacity. Do not document where you found this text. (Failure to follow this instruction will automatically lower your grade to B+. Do not test this!)


Consider this theoretical situation: In an effort to keep tuition costs from skyrocketing, the college devises a plan that allows instructors to supplement their income by charging students fees to write their assigned essays for them. This equals an automatic “raise” for faculty to the tune of 35-40%, but costs the college nothing. Students, instead of paying online essay writers, divert those funds to their instructors. Given that the instructors already know what they will write, AND that they are the only one who will “read” these essays anyway, should they be written at all? If these essays never exist, would your degree be more or less marketable?

10.) If any of the above prompts offends or confuses you, make up your own prompt. Be sure to take the offensive material to the dean and demand a full refund for the semester. (Note: in most circumstances, students who receive refunds do not get credit for having taken the class.)

Extra points:

+50 for writing at least three complete sentences
+100 for writing at least one coherent paragraph
+500 for demonstrating vague knowledge of at least some of the assigned reading material
+1000 for completing the assignment without your asinine hip hop ring tone erupting