All posts by Dr. Sean

About Dr. Sean

Dr. Sean has over a decade of teaching experience at universities in the US and Asia. He earned a BA with honors from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. You can read more about his teaching and research here.

Top For-Profit Colleges Now Able to Offer High Quality Liberal Arts Education


PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 6, 2015 — Readerly, an edtech company based in Portland, Oregon, announces the launch of their latest product, @MyWesternCanon. @MyWesternCanon is a revolutionary online platform that empowers for-profit universities to offer their students a high quality, yet affordable, liberal arts education, simultaneously while they pursue vocational training.

Today’s elite universities, institutions like Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford, all require their students to take liberal arts courses as they prepare to assume leadership roles in the global economy. Columbia University is famous for its “core curriculum,” a series of small face-to-face seminars where students read and discuss the great works of Western literature and philosophy. In these seminars, students develop critical and creative thinking skills, become discerning citizens of the world, and perhaps most importantly, participate constructively in a long-running conversation on the Big Questions of life—what is called, “the life of the mind.”

But due to the changing nature of the global economy, universities less prestigious than the well-endowed elites increasingly emphasize vocational training over “the life of the mind.” As a consequence, the study of humanities subjects like literature and philosophy, the backbone of a quality liberal arts education, is in terminal decline.

A recent study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities reported that “4 out of 5 employers agree that all students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts.” The study also found that, at peak earnings ages, the salaries of liberal arts majors surpass those of preprofessional majors.

Readerly is an edtech firm that specializes in innovative online curriculum design. The company has ambitious plans to work with high-profile for-profit universities seeking a competitive edge. Readerly helps these colleges, which have traditionally specialized in preprofessional skills training, to incorporate the liberal arts into their online learning environments.

Readerly is introducing a new product into the education market, @MyWesternCanon. @MyWesternCanon is a Twitter feed that features the great literary and philosophical works of the Western tradition. It lets students “follow” these works during their time at college, thus read the great works of Western literature, history, and philosophy. By retweeting or favoriting tweets from the likes of Aristophanes, Jean-Jacque Rousseau, and Mary Wollstonecraft, students are engaging with the great minds of the Western tradition.

“@MyWesternCanon allows students to read the entire Western canon in easily digestible tweets,” says Readerly CEO, Dr. Sean Miller. “So while they bone up on information technology and business management, majors that will guarantee them high-paying careers in today’s fast-paced economy, they’ll be getting a quality liberal arts education as well. It’s a win-win.”

Follow @MyWesternCanon today at

About Readerly

Readerly is an edtech company that helps people master a body of knowledge quickly. Along with @MyWesternCanon, the company makes Readerly, an app that hones critical reading skills through interactive gameplay.

Dr. Sean Miller

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PR Newswire

When it comes to college admission, aim beyond the block


What’s the point of the college admission application?

In short, it’s a story about you that helps admission officers determine whether you’ll succeed at their college.

Will you:

  • make the grade academically?
  • contribute something unique to the college community?

When I was a junior at Columbia, I joined the Taekwondo club. I’ve forgotten most of what I learned at the club, but one bit of advice the master gave us stuck with me. He said, “When breaking blocks of wood with fist or foot, don’t aim at the surface of the wood, but beyond it.”

What does this have to do with college admissions?

Think of admission to your first-choice college as the block of wood. Maybe it’s a thick block—difficult to crack, let alone break. The best way to improve your chances of breaking the wood—of getting into your first-choice college—is to aim past it. That means clearly demonstrating in your application that you’re already well-prepared to excel academically there.

Aim Beyond the Block

As I said, the audience for the story of you is the admission officers who read then pass judgment on your application. In a sense, admission officers are gatekeepers. Once you pass through the gates, though, you’ll be spending the majority of your time trying to please an entirely different audience—your professors.

Having been a professor, I know what professors want from their students. If you know how to please professors now, even before you’re in college, you’ll have a crucial advantage when you apply. And that advantage will carry over to the courses you take once you’re enrolled.

Our mission at Readerly is to help you aim beyond the block.  To this end, we offer holistic test prep tutoring.

Don’t #13: During your college interview, don’t be pretentious

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

A photo of Burnett’s son Vivian wearing one of two Little Lord Fauntleroy suits that his mother made for him; one of the suits is on display. The Fauntleroy suit – of velvet, lace, and silk – caused a fashion sensation

This tip overlaps with the ones about not being boastful, contentious, or mendacious.

Actually, that’s a pretty good definition of pretentious: someone who’s simultaneously boastful, contentious, and mendacious.

It’s someone who puts on air, who thinks all too highly of himself and his own precious opinions.

Again, the “character” you’re shooting for in this little performance is someone who’s confident yet considerate. Someone who’s accomplished yet modest. You’re not Little Lord or Lady Fauntleroy. You’re ambitious, yes, but also, as they say, down-to-earth.

As such, during your college interview, try your best to avoid disparaging things you find déclassé—like McMansions, Disney films, or country music.

If you happen to have a strong opinion about some artifact of popular culture, try to be sensitive to its perceived value, however absurd, to its principle consumers.

Also, avoid pontificating on matters obviously well beyond your ken. Even the Pontiff himself would come off as pretentious if he offered up a long-winded and—inevitably—inaccurate disquisition on superstring theory.

In short, don’t pretend to be someone important. Yes, we’re all unique and special snowflakes. But therein lies a paradox. If we’re all so special, being special becomes ordinary. Under such conditions, how can we distinguish ourselves?

Don’t #12: Try not to be obsequious around your college interviewer

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

Coronation Of The Emperor Napoleon

Another bonus SAT word! Obsequious means “eager to please,” usually to a fault. It’s the opposite of contentious.

We tend to become obsequious when faced with authority figures who have something we really want.

The rationale for being obsequious during your college interview might look something like this: This college is prestigious. The person sitting across from me has a say in whether I get in. If I suck up, she’ll like me. If she likes me, she’ll give me a positive evaluation.

Remember, though, that the interview is a conversation, not a coronation. You’re not there to kiss this person’s ring, however much power you think she may hold over you and your destiny. You’re trying to show that you’re well on your way to becoming a thoughtful, confident adult. That’s what the interviewer is looking for. Not a simpering kit who turns his belly up at any sniff of authority. Sure, you want to be courteous, but definitely not submissive.

Don’t #11: During a college interview, don’t be argumentative

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

Title: The Political Chess-Board Date Created/Published: 1910 Feb. 5. Medium: 1 print : wood engraving. Summary: Joseph Cannon playing chess with straw man labelled "Congress", using toy men on chessboard with squares labelled "important committee" and "freak committee".

I’m going to beat this over your head one more time: An interview should feel like a chat, not a debate. And certainly not a knockdown, drag-out argument. You’re not trying to one-up your straw-man opponent, prove how smart you are, or, be categorically right.

In this situation—a college interview—getting along is much more important than being right.

If your interviewer happens to make a particularly ridiculous or egregious assertion, just take it in stride. Pause. Acknowledge the other’s point of view. Then deflect the conversation elsewhere, preferably to a topic that’s not so charged, like Middle East peace, abortion, or immigration.

Just kidding. You can always steer the discussion back to the college experience. After all, that’s why you’re there.

Being argumentative is a risk especially for those of you who do a lot of coding. You know who you are. I’m talking about guys—why is it usually guys?—who believe that the purpose of conversation is to regurgitate as many facts as you can muster:

Techie 1: I know this, this, and this fact.

Techie 2: Yeah, but, I know that, that, and that fact.

Techie 1: And I know this fact too.

Maybe this style of anti-conversation has a lot to do with the influence of coding on their thinking. The beauty of code is, in the context of a program, it’s either true or false. Code either works, or it doesn’t. That’s comforting, but certainly not how real conversation works. I digress.

Another lesson from improv acting is worth keeping in mind: When your partner in conversation makes a point, the best way to fan the discussion is not to offer a response prefixed by a “no” or even a “yeah, but.” Rather, answer with a “yes, and.”

Conversationalist 1: I assert a claim about the way the world is.

Conversationalist 2: Yes, and your claim about the world has this interesting implication. What do you think about this implication?