Week in Review: Big Questions Edition

Here’s the top five articles, books, websites, etc., that we’ve been reading or thinking about the past week. Let us know your thoughts on any/all of them.  In addition, if you have items you’d like us to consider for the top five, add them in the comments or send them to Tom or Mike.

Claude Levi-Strauss

Claude Levi-Strauss

1.  The Big Questions: Have our colleges and universities lost sight of their purpose? (Jerry Pattengale, Books & Culture, November/December 2009) critiques Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life (Anthony Kronman, Yale University Press, 2008) and recommends The American University in a Postsecular Age (Co-edited by Douglas & Rhonda Jacobsen, Oxford University Press, 2008).

2. Can a biologist trust an evangelical Christian? – InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry at Indiana University will be hosting this event next Thursday, Nov. 12.

This panel discussion features three evangelical scholars on the topic of Christianity, science and evolution. Our primary audience for this event will be scholars who are skeptical or even hostile about the idea of integrating religion and science. We have chosen the topic as part of the Indiana University “themester” on “Evolution, Diversity, and Change.” Our goals, at this point, are to provide a model of what it might look like to integrate belief in God with scientific inquiry; to put names and faces behind what can often be the demonized other (evangelical Christians); to foster a discussion about the integration of religion and science; to work at eroding the destructive binary that is assumed to exist between science and religion; and to work at building trust between the scientific community and evangelical Christianity.

For more information, check out their website, www.iugfm.blogspot.com.

3. Claude Lévi-Strauss Dies at 100 – One of the most important intellectual figures of the 20th Century died last Friday. From the NY Times’ obituary:

A powerful thinker, Mr. Lévi-Strauss was an avatar of “structuralism,” a school of thought in which universal “structures” were believed to underlie all human activity, giving shape to seemingly disparate cultures and creations. His work was a profound influence even on his critics, of whom there were many. There has been no comparable successor to him in France. And his writing — a mixture of the pedantic and the poetic, full of daring juxtapositions, intricate argument and elaborate metaphors — resembles little that had come before in anthropology.

Other reflections on his life and work: WSJ’s obituary and an elegy, NPR’s story about his 100th birthday, Eric Banks’ post at the Chronicle of Higher Ed about Lévi-Strauss’ importance.

Photo: Claude Levi-Strauss in 1992, from sagabardon via Flickr

4.  In a NY Times Op-Ed entitled Teach Your Teachers Well, Susan Engel (a senior lecturer in psychology and the director of the teaching program at Williams College) builds upon Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Urging for ‘Revolutionary Change’ in Nation’s Teacher-Training Programs.  How about this angle on the problem?

Our best universities have, paradoxically, typically looked down their noses at education, as if it were intellectually inferior. The result is that the strongest students are often in colleges that have no interest in education, while the most inspiring professors aren’t working with students who want to teach. This means that comparatively weaker students in less intellectually rigorous programs are the ones preparing to become teachers.

So the first step is to get the best colleges to throw themselves into the fray. If education was a good enough topic for Plato, John Dewey and William James, it should be good enough for 21st-century college professors. — Susan Engel, Teach Your Teachers Well, NY Times, 11/02/2009

5. Online Education, Growing Fast, Eyes the Truly ‘Big Time’ (Marc Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 30, 2009) as The $50K Club: 58 Private Colleges Pass a Pricing Milestone (Reported by Scott Carlson, Kathryn Masterson, and Jeffrey Brainard, and written by Mr. Carlson. Chronicle of Higher Education. November 1, 2009).  Looking for some thoughts on how liberal arts colleges and their ideals will survive the current economic crisis?

Traditional reasoning about the enrichment of the “student as future citizen” can only go so far when parents who pay the tuition or students taking the courses can’t see a bottom line in the form of a lucrative job after graduation. — Katharine S. Brooks, Close the Gap Between the Liberal Arts and Career Services, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 1, 2009

In Close the Gap Between the Liberal Arts and Career Services, Katharine S. Brooks, director of liberal-arts career services, University of Texas at Austin, offers some good ideas regarding career services.  For parents, students, and educators she has a new book,  You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path From Chaos to Career (Viking, 2009), which might be worth exploring.  If you’ve read it, let us know what you think.

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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One Comment

  • Tom Grosh commented on November 10, 2009 Reply

    More on Liberal Arts Education: In “A Defender of the Liberal Arts Contemplates Their Changing Role” (David Glenn. Chronicle of Higher Education. 11/10/09, http://chronicle.com/article/A-Defender-of-the-Liberal-Arts/49098/), writer Azar Nafisi responds to the question, “Why is it important for non-literature majors to study literature? Couldn’t those courses be seen as a distraction from learning to be a competent doctor, or accountant, or whatever?”

    “A. The great arguments about the value of the liberal arts for the professions have come from Martha Nussbaum. … Reading literature teaches you a way of thinking that is complicated and ambiguous. It prepares you for the ambiguities of your profession. It gives you density of thought. …”

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