I got back from the annual ETS meeting last week and have a few general impressions to share:
1) New Orleans has great food (I know, it’s obvious, but it was!). And, as usual, the banquet is a gastronomic mistake (though the desert was pretty good, the rest of the meal – uninteresting compared to the neighborhood eateries).
2) The job market is horrible. At the ETS job posting area, there were zero jobs posted. Now that does not mean no jobs, but it does suggest something! I talked to a friend from a school which had 2 searches approved earlier (so they are proceeding), but he also mentioned they are planning significant cuts in next year’s academic budget. I’m guessing the first academic cuts (at least the easiest) would be to not hire…so perhaps it’s worse than it appears. And rumors of a closing or two were floating around (just rumors, of course), but it would not be surprising if the school year results in a couple here and there. This would only make things worse. So – be thankful for your job, whatever its difficulties!
3) I talked to a friend from yet another school (you are probably noting a theme here – that’s what conferences are for!) and he mentioned that in his first hour or two at the conference he had talked to three different people commenting on how administrations were taking advantage of the economic crisis to subvert traditional academic principles of governance. If those represent a trend (and if administrations are increasingly driven primarily by financial considerations rather than mission), the future of evangelical education will be bumpy at best. Noll’s classic critique (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) may be found to understate the problem!
4) Another friend put out an offer to teach Greek online for a year to students for $150, hoping to get a few students. He got 50. A reminder that the possibilities for education in this world of new technology (especially for those who don’t need credentialing and degrees) are exciting – and for institutions with all our tradition overhead, challenging.
5) In conversations, a friend suggested that we are lacking a good history of the ETS. He’s right, and as the remaining founding members will probably not be with us for long, it’s time for someone to begin that work. Any takers?
Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be thankful for in evangelical academics. There were many wonderful papers (I got to a few of them), always lots of interesting books to buy (and later read), and though we differ on specifics there is a commitment to scholarship and all that entails on the part of the vast majority of attendees. The time always refreshes and encourages me.