Week in Review: St. Olaf and Husbands Edition

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.

Giant blackboard at St. Olaf College

A typical St. Olaf classroom...featuring a gigantic blackboard build for the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man

Mike here. Tom has spent the week in an intensive theology course, so I’m tackling the Week in Review solo. This is a great opportunity to clean out my “guilt file” – articles that I’ve had bookmarked for weeks and haven’t had a chance to write about yet. Enjoy!

1. How does a Christian college remain distinctively Christian? The usual answer has to do with defining who can be a faculty member or student. At Duke Divinity’s Call & Response blog, Jason Byassee ponders St. Olaf College, which has taken a different path.

A school can make Christianity a robust possibility, but not a mandate. It can offer top-flight worship. It can ask faculty across the board to respect the historic Christian mission of the school. And in that way, it can create room for possibility, hopefully to lure, woo, entice students and faculty into more faithful Christian life.

2. Homosexuality and the Moral Failure of Higher Education (R. R. Reno, First Things, Aug. 5) Wow – some title, eh? We linked to a column by R. R. Reno last week, and we’re a little late to this one (which, as you might imagine, has generated considerable online discussion). Reno, of course, is writing about the cases of Kenneth Howell at Illinois and Jennifer Keeton at Augusta State, but Reno expands the point to cover all of higher education. It’s difficult to select or summarize a single point from Reno’s argument, though this is a good quote:

Sexual liberation seems to have become the great moral cause. It is true that American schools expect ideological homogeneity on all manner of topics, and being pro-life or a person of faith—or even a Republican—can get you in trouble. But homosexuality alone seems to call forth the full repressive power of educational institutions.

3. Is the Husband Going to Be a Problem? (NY Times, August 12) Carolyn Bicks (English, Boston College) shares the experience of her husband and herself as they faced a problem common to many academic couples: a long-distance marriage. To “normal” people, the obstacles they overcame to pursue their dream of academic careers seem both heroic and insane:

When the hiring season was over, we’d landed two good tenure-track jobs in two good cities with two airlines that flew directly between them. I dismissed the nagging concerns the process had raised for me and threw myself into divvying up the wedding platters. We pooled our moving allowances, packed up a Ryder truck in California, dropped half of our stuff in my new Midwestern city, then drove to his East Coast city and dropped off the other half. We had our car on a trailer behind the truck. This made backing up a treacherous proposition. For the whole 3,000 miles, one of us would jump out to scope the turnaround prospects whenever we were about to pull off. The literature scholar in me loved the metaphor: There was no going back.

Bicks even manages to time the birth of their first child to fit into a 10-week research break. There are still more twists (they eventually join each other in the same city, only for her husband’s tenure bid to rejected). In case you have family who wonder what the academic life is like, this could be a good essay to share.

Photo credit: John McNab via Flickr

Bad academic advising and the strange lives of 20-somethings, after the jump.

4. Confessions of a Bad Academic Advisor (Chronicle, August 8) Mark Montgomery comes clean about his academic advising abilities – or, rather, his lack thereof.

It’s a simple process, but apparently I’m no good at it. Some years ago, over pizza one night, a group of advisees explained to me how disappointing they found the experience of having me as an adviser. I was genuinely surprised. They spoke of coming to me, with jittery enthusiasm, to announce the first life-altering decision they had made on their own, with no supervision by parents: to major in economics.

Personally, I’m thankful for Montgomery’s honesty. My own undergraduate advisor was truly awful – at least as bad as Montgomery, if not worse. Through his negative example, he makes a good point that, for students, the choice of a major and their classes is a moment of tremendous importance, but rarely for their professors.

5. What Is It About 20-Somethings? So asks Robin Marantz Henig for the New York Times Magazine. Henig

sheds light on an often overlooked segment of the population…the post-baby boomers who must endure “legislated nostalgia (to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually own)” and who indulge in “knee-jerk irony (the tendency to make flippant ironic comments as a reflexive matter of course . . . ).”

Sorry – that actually the Publishers Weekly summary for Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (published in 1991). Funny how young people who are unlucky enough to graduate from college in the middle of a recession are seen as defining a strange new post-adolescence stage of life…

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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