That Was The Week That Was


Medieval wisdom that could have saved some moderns.

• I closed my series on the recent history of college closures.

• Then three brief follow-ups on earlier posts about higher education: what professors do with their time, the role of competitive sports in colleges, and questioning the applicability of “return on investment” to this sector of the economy.

…There and Everywhere

Rachel Held Evans• Rachel Held Evans wrote perhaps the best piece about abortion that I’ve read, exploring the conflicted response that many progressive evangelicals have to that issue. It’s impossible to summarize with one quotation, but here’s one that she put in bold: “I think a lot of progressive Christians like myself, eager to distance ourselves from some of the rhetoric and policies of the Republican brand of the pro-life movement, shy away from talking about abortion, when our call to do justice and love mercy demand that we speak and act to address this issue, even though it may be more complicated than we originally thought.”

• Speaking of fearless blogging… Roger Olson asked, What is the doctrine of the Trinity, and is it necessary?

• The Trinity is one of the favorite topics of gospel-rappers like Shae Linn (who also writes the best rhymes about hypostatic union since Chalcedon).

• I’m not as big a fan of John Piper as Scott Jamison (or as most of the aforementioned, largely Calvinist rappers), but I can appreciate a pastor with these six qualities.

• Jana Riess on why she thinks of herself as a heretic (but not apostate): “A heretic is someone who challenges cultural or religious assumptions and codes. The word comes from the Greek root for ‘choice,’ and acknowledges that human beings make choices to better themselves and their world. Heretics care, often too much, about truth and justice and all that muckety muck.”

(I can buy the first sentence of that definition, but historically, the rest of it would lead to an overly generous reading of Marcion, the Donatists, or the Gnostics, to name a few Christian heretics who perpetuated injustice in their quest for truth.)

• I teach a fair amount about Franklin D. Roosevelt, but rarely give much thought to religion in his presidency — so I appreciated Rachel Gordan’s survey of recent research on that subject, which emphasizes his attempts to make civil religion more inclusive of Jews.

• Hymnwriting is not a lost art; just ask the authors of “In Christ Alone.”

• The survival of monarchy in European countries like The Netherlands.

Hanagarne, World's Strongest Librarian• One of my colleagues at Bethel recently received an NEH grant to develop a course on leisure — he and the new pope seem be on the same wavelength.

• Meet a librarian who explodes every stereotype about that profession — except the love of books and reading.

• The backlash against MOOCs continued with an open letter from the philosophy department at a campus in the California State University system: “It is time to stop masking the real issue of MOOCs and blended courses behind empty rhetoric about a new generation and a new world…. Let’s not kid ourselves; administrators at the CSU are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education.”

• See also Peter Sacks, concerned that such cost-saving technologies will produce not just standardization, but stratification: “Well-off students will attend the few colleges and universities that are wealthy enough to eschew standardization and automation. They alone will have real relationships with great faculty. A second, less wealthy group of students will use online courses for their general education and attend ‘authentic’ institutions for a short while. For poorer students, online learning could well become the main course. They will attend institutions that, strictly speaking, grant post-high school credentials to the coach class.”

And Jonathan Rees, while you’re at it.

• And hey, while my actual job is being threatened, why not my hobby as well?

• Well, I have been looking for an excuse not to grade…: “Grading students, from A to F, has become synonymous with education itself. Report-card day is an American rite of passage. Yet, there’s reason to believe the structure of grading students is the biggest culprit in America’s long, steady decline in education…”

• Eve Tushnet wondered if we teach one kind of thinking too much and another too little (or not at all): “Critical thinking has so thoroughly colonized our idea of education that we tend to think it’s the only kind of thinking…. What we don’t teach, and don’t even consider as something worth teaching, is the art of acceptance. The art of accepting somebody else’s thoughts, words, insights, and dwelling in them until they become your own as well. We don’t teach how to tell when you’re sure enough, when you really should take the leap of faith, when you should say, ‘”Yes, my understanding is totally inadequate, but I believe.'” (I’d be especially eager to hear fellow Christian college professors respond to this observation…)

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