What are you reading, watching, thinking about this week? As usual, here’s a few which have been on our mind. Let us know your thoughts on any/all of them. 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.
1. No Christianity Please, We’re Academics: In Inside Higher Ed, Wheaton professor Timothy Larsen calls for universities and faculty to confront bias against Christians in higher education. Though there are some studies to back up his claims, he focuses on a couple of personal examples of bias and ignorance faced by himself and an undergraduate student.
[After getting a “F” for a paper defending traditional marriage,] John could never get better than a C for papers without any marked errors or corrections. When he asked for a reason why yet another grade was so poor he was told that it was inappropriate to quote C. S. Lewis in work for an English class because he was “a pastor.” (Lewis, of course, was actually an English professor at Cambridge University. Perhaps it was wrong to quote Lewis simply because he had said something recognizably Christian.) Eventually John complained to the department chair, who said curtly that he could do nothing until the course was over. John took this to mean that the chair would do nothing and just accepted the bad grade.
Larsen also cites some comments rejecting his proposal for a scholarly book of essays on T. S. Eliot’s Idea of a Christian Society, which largely focused on the truth/relevance of Christianity as a belief system, rather than the importance of Eliot’s book or the quality of the proposal.
As you might imagine, the comments on the article have gotten pretty heated.
2. How private will public higher education institutions become and how does that not only affect cost, but the vision for what receives attention on campus? Tom recently visited Penn State University — State College. He was once again impressed by the roar of this inspirational flagship campus, particularly in contrast to what is happening just to the north.
TWO things define the State University of New York. It’s huge. And compared to its public peers, it’s weird.
[Response]: “My belief is that to move an organization forward you have to have a common, comprehensive and ambitious agenda,” Dr. Zimpher said. “It has to be aspirational. It has to move you. I think the full manifestation of SUNY is underexposed and underexploited. If people really knew and understood the difference these campuses make in their communities they would be amazed.” …
“The strategic plan doesn’t talk about educational missions, it doesn’t talk about affordability or accessibility, there’s very little about undergraduate education and keeping it affordable and accessible,” said Phillip H. Smith, president of the powerful United University Professions union, which represents more than 34,000 academic and professional faculty members. “It reflects an attempt to corporatize the university.” — The Accidental Giant of Higher Education (Peter Applebome. NY Times. 7/19/2010)
PS. For more on the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, read Stop Raiding the Ivory Tower — a 7/27/2010 NY Times Op-Ed by Peter D. Salins (a former provost of the State University of New York, is a professor of political science at the State University at Stony Brook).
3. The Senior Professor: Deadwood or Iceberg? (David D. Perlmutter. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 7/25/2010). Tom particularly appreciated the second comment which focused upon the question of productivity and for what end it is pursued, i.e., publications for tenure (not the advancement of knowledge)?
4. How to Land a Job at a Small College (Nancy Hanway. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 7/25/2010). Lots of practical material to pray through as you craft a letter which
- succinctly and “cleanly” shares your enthusiasm/passion for and preparation to work at a small college
- provides helpful glimpses of (but doesn’t overdo) your dissertation, any gaps in your file, and personal interests.
5. The Best Magazine Articles…Ever: Kevin Kelly, editor-at-large for Wired, has assembled a great list of, well, the “best magazine articles ever,” based on recommendations from a few dozen readers and writers. The article includes a link to submit your own recommendations. Articles range from 1945 to 2010; include sports writing, politics, nature writing, philosophy, technology, science writing, and more; and feature a few writers you might have heard of (John Updike, David Foster Wallace, John McPhee…). A great way to waste some time expend your fields of knowledge.
[BTW, in addition to his ground-breaking work at Wired, Kelly is a Christian and is also heavily involved with the Long Now Foundation. Here is a CT interview about his faith, religion, and technology titled “How Computer Nerds Describe God.” Kelly has written a paper titled “Nerd Theology” and appeared on This American Life speaking about his dramatic conversion.]