Archive for January, 2010

Faith and Reason

January 30, 2010

A lovely passage from Anthony Bloom (from his essay Doubt and the Christian Life). I especially like the last line:

That means we must be very severe and sober when we speak of our faith, for we often say “I believe this and that” when we have taken it from someone else that it is true –we don’t care to investigate it in depth, and as long as this truth or illusory truth is not destroyed or broken down, then we take it for granted. This is a bad faith; this is what one of our Russian theologians called “the aged sacrament of faith that does not think.”

On Lectures

January 30, 2010

A somewhat contrarian discussion about lectures. A strong preference for seminars over lectures is expressed by many across the entire ideological spectrum. Not so Barry Strauss:

I love teaching lecture courses, but then, when I was a student, I loved taking lecture courses. I was a sucker for lectures from my first day of college, because I was already infatuated with the beauty of words, and a good lecture is nothing if not an art form. Efficient communication it may be, but a lecture can no more be reduced to the delivery of information than a Ferrari can be reduced to fuel injection. A lecture aims at imparting not just what is true but what is beautiful.

Read it all!

Atheist conversion

January 29, 2010

Interesting interview with Jacob Needleman, an atheist philosopher who came to believe in God. Here’s how he describes his experience teaching a religion class and then describes the impact of his transformation:

It meant I had to read theologians, Christian writers like St. Augustine—whom I had hated. You see in my book where I talk about burning the pages of the book, that’s exactly what happened. I’m not exaggerating. I was so happy to see it go up in flames; I had suffered so much from that book. And later I read it and I loved it—a great, great man.

For Profit Education

January 29, 2010

Charlotte Allen decries the failure of for-profit education:

What happened? How did a for-profit college model morph into today’s basement-reputation for-profit model, exemplified by Saturday Night Live’s fictional “University of Westfield,” where the students mainly learn how to fudge the fact that their degree are from the University of Westfield? I blame the corrupting influence of federal money, the easily available Pell grants and guaranteed loans that began to flow with the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Easy federal money has contributed to a vast growth in enrollments at both non-profit and commercial institutions, a ballooning of tuition costs, and, in the for-profit sector, a focus not on the academic outcomes that might build a school’s reputation as a selling point but upon getting as many bodies as possible into their classrooms.

There are some lessons for the non-profit education world in what is happening here, I would think. Specifically, the corrupting influence of a single-minded focus on budgets and enrollment, without sufficient attention to one’s academic mission.

In a later comment, she clarifies:

The point of my piece is that wherever you have free money, you have rent-seeking — and also disincentives to provide quality services when you can coast along on mediocre services.


January 29, 2010

Found this discussion of Princeton in a post over at Phi Beta Cons:

According to Wikipedia, an early Harvard brochure “laid out the purpose of all education: ‘Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Iesus Christ which is eternall life, Joh. 17. 3. and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.’”

A challenging ideal which the business of academic life (in all its challenges) can deflect us from. A nice reminder.

A Great Tenure story

January 25, 2010

Academia has its share of odd stories, but I have to admit, I really like this one. It’s an Ohio State case (since I’m from Michigan, I don’t really care for the Buckeyes anyway, so it adds to my enjoyment a bit). The faculty member is at risk of not getting tenure due to “collegiality issues,” including allegations that he threatened to have his “enemies” teach classes on Friday afternoon – the horror!

But even better is this killer paragraph:

When Reader learned that Hodson planned to recommend against awarding tenure, he made the bizarre decision to expose scars on his arms where he had used a branding tool to burn the words “comfort” and “truth” into his flesh. Reader branded himself during a difficult divorce two years earlier, and he told investigators that he wanted to demonstrate to Hodson and Robert Stewart, the school’s associate director, that his commitment to work had contributed to the dissolution of his marriage.

Now that’s commitment to education I can believe in.

Spanking Study

January 24, 2010

Here’s a column on a recent study on spanking. A reasonably balanced discussion.

T.S. Eliot on Lost Causes

January 22, 2010

A helpful thought from T.S. Eliot:

There is no such thing as a Lost Cause, because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that it will triumph.

via John Miller

Review of “The Lowering of Higher Education in America”

January 22, 2010

An interesting review of what looks like an interesting book. Especially interesting is his suggestion that the emphasis on “access” has led to a lowering of standards and expectations.

The World’s greatest golfer

January 22, 2010

Now that the semester has started, it may be a bit before I can get in a new rhythm. In the meantime, this note about the world’s greatest golfer:

Kim Jong Il, the sweetheart of North Korea, is fond of golf. Indeed, he is the greatest golfer in history. Do you remember? According to the North Korean state media — the only kind of media to be found in North Korea — Kim shot a score of 34 the very first time he played golf. He shot 34 over 18 holes on a championship golf course, par 72. His round included eleven holes in one. Presumably, he got even better after that debut round.

Pretty amazing, eh? It made me laugh.

h/t Jay Nordlinger at the Corner.