Archive for January, 2011

What a Degree Means

January 31, 2011

An introduction to the new Lumina draft attempting to describe what various degree levels ought to mean. At the very least it’s a good start toward a conversation on what education ought to do. For example, the bachelor’s degree holder:

  • Defines and explains the boundaries, divisions, styles and practices of the field.
  • Defines and properly uses the principal terms in the field, both historical and contemporaneous.
  • Demonstrates fluency in the use of tools, technologies and methods in the field.
  • Evaluates, clarifies and frames a complex question or challenge using perspectives and scholarship from the student’s major field and at least one other.
  • Constructs a project related to a familiar but complex problem in the field of study by assembling, arranging and reformulating ideas, concepts, designs or techniques.
  • Constructs a summative project, paper or practice-based performance that draws on current research, scholarship and/or techniques in the field.

A fairly challenging ideal, along with the difficulties of measuring it.

The Good Life

January 29, 2011

Ronald Dworkin has an interesting essay on the good life. I’m still thinking through his argument. Lacking any theistic basis, there are differences I would certainly suggest. But in highlighting the complexity of the choices we make (e.g., should we choose the safe route or the more risky one), he makes some important observations. In sum, to live well may mean choosing the risky path even if that creates a likelihood of living a worse life! Here’s how he puts it:

But whether we are ourselves drawn to think that living well sometimes means choosing what is likely to be a worse life, we must recognize the possibility that it does. Living well is not the same as maximizing the chance of producing the best possible life. The complexity of ethics matches the complexity of morality.

Giving that as Christians we are not strictly utilitarian, that shouldn’t be a huge problem. We do the right thing without giving outcomes ultimacy. But it is interesting to see how someone can reach a similar conclusion from a different path. And perhaps it is an encouragement to live well, despite the potential costs.

Stalin or Hitler?

January 29, 2011

Based on the most recent research, a detailed discussion by Timothy Snyder of the scope of evil of both leaders and their regimes. The numbers are surprising, but what is also interesting is the discussion of why the historic evaluations have varied so widely. A clearer picture appears and in the end, we see little but evil. Does it really matter which is worse?

On the Decline of the Humanities

January 28, 2011

Here’s an interesting take on at least part of the reason for the decline of the humanities. The strife within the humanities (the culture wars) helped undermine the very enterprise. It makes a lot of sense.

Facebook Musings

January 27, 2011

Russell Moore posts on the reason facebook (and your church) might be making you sad. The point is that facebook postings offer an unusually positive take on life, which doesn’t reflect the entirety of life. Of course, we don’t post all our struggles and issues (at least most of us don’t!). The same with church; frequently it is more about a positive message.

There are other issues with facebook. This article on Faux Friendship from the Chronicle of Higher Education a while back makes some important points too.

A reminder that there are always unanticipated consequences to even good tools.

It’s a Snow Day

January 27, 2011

So I’m doing some random surfing/linking and ran across the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, which has some interesting stuff. For those with the appropriate interests, worth reading. If nothing else, if it has a few posts like this biblical studies carnival it would be worth reading.

Biblioblogging

January 27, 2011

A paper presented back at SBL (yes, a little late…) on biblioblogging, with links! An interesting history. With links!

The Greatest Obstacle to Understanding the Bible

January 27, 2011

Is thinking you already do. So John Hobbins argues, and I think with some persuasiveness. He concludes:

Unless we have already determined that it has nothing to say to us, good or bad, the first thing to learn is to read biblical literature afresh, not with eyes wide shut, but as if it were a mirror in which we might see ourselves, and the conflicts around us. The second thing might be to decide whether we agree with Marx, who said that philosophers have only described the world, the point is to change it, and whether the Bible and its tropes are a resource in that endeavor, or a stumbling-block in the way.

On Management in Times of Impending Crisis

January 26, 2011

Megan McCardle’s response to the SOTU is interesting for the comparison she makes to leaders of failed (or better, failing) enterprises. Instead of speaking the truth (as that would make things worse), he does this:

So what do those CEOs do?  They spend a lot of time talking about their company’s proud history, even if that history only stretches back a few years. They lavish extravagant praise on their awesome, dedicated workforce.  And they deftly avoid talking about the big problems, for which they have no solutions, by talking about strategic areas for potential growth (“green jobs”), and going over a laundry list of new initiatives that do nothing to solve any of the core problems.  When they are forced to talk about the core problems–and if the company is big enough to attract analyst coverage, they will rudely draw his attention to the problematic areas on the financial statements during the Q&A–he responds in vague generalities that restate the problem as if doing so constituted a solution…The absolute favorite tactic, however, is the management reorganization.  You may be in a saturated market where your second-rate franchisees are slowly destroying your brand, making it impossible to attract higher-quality franchisees . . . but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by creating a new Chief Strategy Officer under the CEO, and giving that officer oversight of marketing, research, and HR.  Perhaps a much larger competitor whose cost structure allows them to undercut your prices by 32% has entered your niche, but can they really withstand the fearsome might of your ISO 9000 certification and your new cross-functional product teams?  The government regulators who just outlawed your three top-selling products and made two-thirds of your capital plant obsolete may be powerful–but not as powerful as your revolutionary sales force compensation scheme!

Warning signs for any institution.

In Defense of Pursuing the Ph.D.

January 26, 2011

In the face of all the articles critical of the value of the Ph.D., this essay argues the other way. With some force.  Near the end, the author observes:

But what do we do with our doctorates? We feed on them, even as we frame them and place them on the wall (or, false-modest, put them in a drawer to be peeked at when spirits are low). We wrap our hearts in their warmth. The doctorate means that for one moment you knew all there was to know about some tiny slice of the universe. You won that knowledge in defiance of the conventional wisdom, you Faust, you! The New York Times, the Economist, heck, even even many of the advice columnists on this website — they said you were crazy, that the numbers don’t add up.

Who said a doctorate wasn’t worth it?