What do Americans think about the humanities?

Elizabeth Redden reports at Inside Higher Ed on a new survey from the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Here is a taste:

Just over half (56 percent) of Americans agree strongly with the statement that “the humanities should be an important part of every American’s education,” while 38 percent “somewhat agreed” with the statement, according to a new survey of 5,015 American adults from the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

The survey found differences in attitudes across educational levels, political ideologies and gender. While 68 percent of college graduates strongly agree that the humanities should be an important part of every American’s education, just 47 percent of people without a college degree do. Liberals (70 percent) are more likely than conservatives (48 percent) to strongly agree the humanities are important. Women (60 percent) are also more likely than men (52 percent) to see the humanities as being an important part of every American’s education.

The survey also found that 78 percent of Americans wish they had taken more courses in at least one humanities-related subject in school. Nearly half (49 percent) wish they’d taken more classes in languages other than English.

Read the rest here.

Can we “reopen the American mind?”

Jon Baskin and Anastasia Berg are humanists and co-editors of The Point. Today at The New York Times they join the chorus of thinkers and intellectuals concerned about the fate of the humanities in American life. They are optimistic:

…the current crisis [in the humanities] might present an opportunity as well as a threat. No one should minimize the impact of the closing and contracting of humanities departments and liberal arts colleges on students, professors and staffs. And, to be sure, there remains scholarly work that requires the resources and support that today only a university can provide. But the case for humanistic education should never rest solely on the survival of these institutions. This means the “crisis” cannot be adequately described either by the number of openings on the academic job market, or the number of Great Books on university syllabuses. The health of the humanities should be measured instead by whether our society provides ample opportunities for its citizens to ask the fundamental questions about the good life and the just society.

By that yardstick, it seems, the humanities are healthier than the doomsayers might lead us to believe.

In recent months, in the midst of a pandemic, a protest movement and a presidential election season, millions of Americans have gravitated to online reading groups and book clubs, attended Zoom panels on the burdens of history and the meaning of open discourse, watched philosophy lectures on YouTube and flocked to longform, humanistic magazines (as editors of one of them, The Point, we can attest that our readership has nearly doubled since March). Those who truly care about the future of the humanities, as opposed to the viability of certain career paths, might begin by seeing such public-facing pursuits as central, rather than ancillary, to their mission.

Read the entire piece here.

Did you or your child benefit from a liberal arts or humanities education? Write a letter!

The liberal arts and humanities are in jeopardy right now at colleges and universities. Schools are cutting programs and firing professors in these fields. Spring Arbor University in Michigan just canned one of its best professors. Liberty University and Southwest Baptist University closed their philosophy departments. Gordon College cut its history major and then brought it back. The University of Tulsa dropped degree programs in philosophy, religion, and Russian and Chinese studies. The University of Providence ended programs in art, English, history, sociology, and theology. Missouri Western State University is phasing out programs in history, philosophy, and religion.

In Australia, fees for history courses will rise by 113 % to encourage students to enroll in STEM fields.

Meanwhile, we know that those who study the liberal arts and humanities are less likely to support authoritarian attitudes. I recently made the case that we need the liberal arts more than ever in our current pandemic moment. Earlier this year the president of the University of British Columbia said that education without liberal arts is a “threat to humanity.” The president of Bates College made a compelling case for the liberal arts in her 2017 commencement address. Historian Johann Neem argues that we cannot “think critically” without knowledge.

I know that there are a lot of Americans who have benefited from a liberal arts education. If you are one of these Americans, or if you are a parent with a child who benefited from such an education, I encourage you to write a letter to your college or university president.

What should you put in such a letter?

Tell your story (or the story of your child). Write about how the study of the liberal arts transformed your life and made you a better citizen, community member, or person of faith. If you are parent, write about how your money was well spent.

College administrators are still making tough decisions about the future of the liberal arts and humanities at their institutions and your input is needed. I encourage you to do this even if there are no immediate plans to make cuts in these areas. Presidents and provosts need to know that programs in these areas are making a difference in the lives of their graduates.

Consider Adrian College, a liberal arts college in Michigan. When the college started cutting humanities and liberal arts programs, students and alumni took action and the president reversed the cuts.

Write that letter today! (And please share this post on your blogs and social media pages).

Spring Arbor University and the “scandal of the evangelical college”

Last month we asked: “What is happening at Spring Arbor University?” The post centered on Spring Arbor University‘s decision to dump their most promising young Christian scholar, English professor Jeff Bilbro.

In that post I wrote, “Seldom does one find such a productive and thoughtful Christian scholar. If I was an administrator facing tough faculty cuts, Jeff Bilbro would be on my untouchable list. He would be the kind of professor I would want to rebuild around.”

Now Eric Miller, professor of history and humanities at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, has taken-up Bilbro’s cause and placed Spring Arbor’s treatment of him in the larger context of evangelical liberal arts education.

Here is a taste of Miller’s piece, “The Market Made Me Do It: The Scandal of the Evangelical College“:

Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind turned twenty-five last year. If we know a classic by its ability to speak across eras, one single event from this past summer is enough to assure everyone of the continuing tragic relevance of Noll’s book.

In late July, Spring Arbor University, a Free Methodist institution affiliated with the evangelical Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), gave Jeffrey Bilbro his one-year notice. A tenured English professor in his mid-thirties, Bilbro had just completed his eighth year at Spring Arbor. He had also just completed his sixth book: three written solo, one co-authored, and two co-edited. Three of these are published by mainstream presses and three by Christian houses. The journals for which Bilbro has written—essays, scholarly articles, poems—range from The South Atlantic Review to Early American Literature to Radix.

To boot, less than three years ago Bilbro stepped forward to become the editor of a once-thriving website, The Front Porch Republic; under his direction weekly traffic has leapt sixty percent. To top this strange tale off, just before he was blindsided by Spring Arbor’s decision Bilbro had received word that a team of scholars of which he is a part has been awarded a $30,000 grant by the CCCU. Their project? “Between Pandemic and Protest: The Future of the Liberal Arts in Higher Education.”

Bilbro is the project director.

You may at this point have Bilbro pegged as an absentee professor. Not the case. He is the president of Spring Arbor’s Faculty Forum, elected by his colleagues. He directs the university’s Writing Center and teaches English and Writing classes. He is a two-time winner of the Faculty Merit Award. He and his department chair have launched the Oak Tree Almanac podcast. And he has been instrumental in bringing an array of guest lectures to campus.

Bilbro, only nine when Noll’s book was published, is a child of the renaissance in Christian thinking of which Noll’s book counterintuitively bears witness. It takes a live and nourished mind to identify intellectual scandal, and the heady reception of Noll’s book within the evangelical academy was a sign that something like an evangelical mind was actually coming to life—as Bilbro’s own trajectory shows.

Miller concludes:

We need another direction. And we need those who will use what power they have to take us there.

“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,” declared Martin Luther King, Jr. on the last Sunday before his assassination. He stood within a church speaking to the world, a higher authority beneath his feet, and it propelled him in a different direction. A new consensus needed to be formed, he knew. He gave his life trying to mold it. We need a new consensus, too, and it begins like this: Our minds matter. The Christian mind matters. It’s time we—parents, pastors, presidents, philanthropists—take the sacrificial action required to show it. A silenced Christ, after all, is no Christ at all.

Read the entire piece at Mere Orthodoxy.

What is happening at Adrian College?

Adrian

The Michigan college plans to eliminate its history, theater and religion, philosophy, and leadership department. According to a piece at MLive, “personnel in those departments would not be retained.”

Here is a taste:

ADRIAN, MI — Adrian College has laid off several faculty members over the summer and is planning to eliminate three departments, as well as their faculty, in the 2021-22 academic year.

According to a news release from the Adrian College Association of Professors (ACAP), Jerry Wright, vice president for business affairs at Adrian College, sent a letter to ACAP saying the college intended to eliminate 10 faculty members over the summer followed by another 12 layoffs in the fall of 2021.

There were seven layoffs over the summer, according to the release, including all full-time faculty in the freshman speech and writing department, the only art history professor at the college and professors in teacher education, business and math.

Wright wrote ACAP earlier this month, saying the college planned to eliminate the history, theater and religion, philosophy and leadership departments beginning in the 2021-22 academic year. Personnel in those departments would not be retained, the news release said.

The academic cuts were announced before there were budgetary concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the release said.

Read the rest here. Many colleges are making cuts to faculty right now, but the total elimination of a history department speaks volumes about the current state of humanities and liberal arts education in America. According to this website, there are four members of the Adrian history department.

UPDATE (September 1 at 9:08pm): After “passionate feedback,” the president of Adrian College has reversed his decision to end these humanities programs.

In Australia, fees for history courses will rise by 113% to encourage students to enroll in STEM

50_Marcus_Clarke_Street_Feb_2016 (1)

 The national office of the Department of Education (Canberra, Australia)

What is going on in Australia? The government plans to increase university tuition for humanities, social sciences, and law because they apparently do not make students “job-ready.” Here is a taste of Anisa Purbarsari Horton’s piece at the BBC:

Australia’s government recently announced some bad news for prospective university students planning to take subjects in the humanities, social sciences or law. To enrol in courses like history and philosophy, they’d have to pay more than their peers studying the sciences, maths or healthcare. In the case of history, for example, the government proposed that course fees would rise by 113%. The cost of many science-related courses would fall by 20%, with the biggest drop visible in mathematics and agriculture – where fees would drop by 62%. 

The announcement came as part of a higher education reform package entitled “Job-Ready Graduates”, which contains complex changes to funding structures and still needs to be passed by parliament. The element that has stirred debate is the plan to reduce student tuition costs in fields expected to produce the most job growth and increase them for courses seen as less vital to the economy.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government wanted to “incentivise students to make more job-relevant choices”.  The next wave of graduates would have to power the post-Covid economic recovery, he stressed. “A cheaper degree in an area where there’s a job is a win-win for students.” 

Tehan’s plans, with a proposed start in 2021, generated a wave of headlines. Many in the higher education sector wondered whether the change would really lead to more places in “job-ready” courses, whether it was the latest battle in a continuing attack against the humanities and whether it would exacerbate existing inequalities within higher education

I understand why this is happening, but it is not based on any solid evidence. The skills taught in humanities courses are absolutely essential to a thriving economy and robust democratic society. And it seems that we need these skills now more than ever.

The National Endowment for the Humanities announces new awards and grants

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

Here are a few of the recent grants that caught our eye:

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Outright: $10,000

[Preservation Assistance Grants]
Project Director: Elizabeth Burgess
Project Title: Updating Manuscript Collection Housing Part II
Project Description: The purchase of preservation supplies as the second phase of rehousing the Stowe Center’s manuscript collections. The Center’s collection of 195,000 items dating from c. 1500 to the present include the Foote Collection of Stowe’s maternal family manuscripts; the Katharine Seymour Day Collection of the historic preservationist’s personal correspondence, notes, financial papers, family materials, and other documents; the Saturday Morning Club Collection, with meeting agendas, invitations, programs, minutes, and membership lists of the Hartford Women’s Literary Club; and the papers of architect George Keller. Together, these collections illuminate such topics as the material culture and history of antislavery, the history of slavery in the United States, women’s roles, the history of stage and screen, and historic preservation in Hartford.

Reinhardt College Outright: $189,004
[Landmarks of American History]
Project Director: William Bishop
Project Title: The Trail of Tears: Context and Perspectives
Project Description: Two one-week workshops for 72 school teachers about the history and culture of the Cherokee people.

University of Maryland, College Park Outright: $350,000
[Scholarly Editions and Translations]
Project Director: Leslie Rowland
Project Title: Freedmen and Southern Society Project
Project Description: Preparation for publication of volumes 8 and 9 of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867.

Massachusetts Historical Society Outright: $350,000
[Scholarly Editions and Translations]
Project Director: Sara Martin
Project Title: Adams Papers Editorial Project
Project Description: Preparation for publication of volumes 20, 21, and 22 of the papers of John Adams (1735–1826) and volumes 15, 16, and 17 of the Adams Family’s correspondence.

Vincent Cannato Outright: $60,000
[Public Scholars]
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Project Title: Powerhouse: Francis Cardinal Spellman (1889–1967) and America’s Catholic Cold War
Project Description: Research and writing leading to a biography of Archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman (1889–1967) and his influence on religion, politics, and American life

University of Massachusetts, Lowell Outright: $180,008
[Landmarks of American History]
Project Director: Sheila Kirschbaum
Project Title: Social Movements and Reform in Industrializing America: The Lowell Experience
Project Description: Two one-week workshops for 72 school teachers on the history of reform movements in Lowell, MA.

University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Outright: $189,702
[Landmarks of American History]
Project Director: Anthony Arrigo
Project Title: Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad
Project Description: Two one-week workshops for 72 school teachers to explore abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in the port city of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Outright: $251,536
[National Digital Newspaper Program]
Project Director: Caryn Radick
Project Title: New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project
Project Description: Digitization of 100,000 pages of New Jersey newspapers, published between 1800 and 1926, as part of the state’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Christopher Bellitto Outright: $35,000
[Public Scholars]
Kean University
Project Title: Humility: A History of a Lost Virtue
Project Description: Research and writing of a book on the idea of humility in world literature, religion, philosophy, mythology, and theater.

Teagle Foundation Outright: $3,000,000
[Cooperative Agreements and Special Projects (Education)]
Project Director: Andrew Delbanco
Project Title: The “Cornerstone” Approach to Reinvigorating General Education
Project Description: A five-year cooperative agreement to develop and implement new humanities pathways in undergraduate education.

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Outright: $111,947
[Institutes for School Teachers]
Project Director: Denver Brunsman
Project Title: The Making of America: Colonial Era to Reconstruction
Project Description: A one-week institute for 30 K–8 teachers on United States history from the colonial era through Reconstruction, to be held in Washington, D.C.

New-York Historical Society Outright: $161,860
[Institutes for School Teachers]
Project Director: Mia Nagawiecki
Project Title: Early Encounters in the American Colonies
Project Description: A two-week institute for 30 K–12 teachers on the history of women in colonial America.

Historic Hudson Valley Outright: $189,384
[Landmarks of American History]
Project Director: Elizabeth Bradley
Project Title: Slavery in the Colonial North
Project Description: Two one-week workshops for 72 K–12 educators on the history of slavery in the colonial north.

Fort Ticonderoga Association Outright: $92,257
[Institutes for School Teachers]
Project Director: Richard Strum
Project Title: For the Common Defense: Subjects, Citizens, and America’s Military Origins, 1609–1815
Project Description: A two-week institute for 25 middle and high school teachers on the origins and development of American military institutions.

University of Oregon Outright: $99,985
[Digital Humanities Advancement Grants]
Project Director: Daniel Rosenberg; Anthony Grafton (co-project director)
Project Title: Time Online II: The Time Charts of Joseph Priestley
NEH Grant Offers and Awards, July 2020

David Pettegrew Outright: $60,000
[Public Scholars]
Messiah College
Project Title: The Archaeology of the Early Christian World: History, Methods, Evidence
Project Description: Research and writing for a book on the archaeological history of Early Christianity.

University of South Carolina, Columbia Outright: $200,000
[Scholarly Editions and Translations]
Project Director: Constance Schulz
Project Title: The Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen of South Carolina: A Digital Documentary Edition
Project Description: Preparation for digital publication of volume 4 of the papers of three South Carolina statesmen: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746–1825), Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828), and Charles Pinckney (1757–1824).

University of Virginia Outright: $256,000
[Scholarly Editions and Translations] Match: $78,000
Project Director: Jennifer Stertzer
Project Title: The Papers of U.S. President George Washington (1732–1799)
Project Description: Preparation for publication of volumes 30 through 38 of the Revolutionary War series of the papers of George Washington (1732–1799).

University of Mary Washington Outright: $180,000
[Scholarly Editions and Translations] Match: $20,000
Project Director: Daniel Preston; Robert Karachuk (co-project director)
Project Title: The Papers of James Monroe
Project Description: Preparation for publication of volumes 8 and 9 of the papers of James Monroe (1758–1831), fifth president of the United States.

Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Outright: $146,125
[Institutes for School Teachers]
Project Director: Karin Wulf
Project Title: Teaching the History and Culture of Vast Early America
Project Description: A two-week institute for 25 K–12 teachers on the broad history of colonial America.

Congratulations to all the grant winners!

What is going on at Canisius College?

Canisius

The Board of Trustees at Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo, is cutting $2.5 million from faculty lines in order to close a $20 million budget deficit.

Here is WKBW television:

In a statement the AAUP said these are the proposed cuts to the best of their knowledge:

Proposed cuts ordered by the Board of Trustees include:

Chemistry: 2 faculty members must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured)

Classics: major and department to be eliminated, 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenured)

Communications: 1 program to be eliminated, 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenured)

Counseling: 1 faculty member must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured) • English: 1 faculty member to be terminated (tenure-track)

Fine Arts: major and department to be eliminated, 2 faculty members to be terminated (one tenured and one clinical)

History: 3 faculty must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (all are tenured)

Management: 2 programs to be eliminated, 3 faculty members to be terminated (one with tenure, two tenure-track).

Philosophy: 3 faculty members must “voluntarily” separate or terminations will happen starting with most recent hire (a 4th faculty member moved into administration so Philosophy will lose 4 total) (all are tenured)

Religious Studies and Theology: major to be eliminated, 2 faculty members to be terminated (both are tenured)

Teacher Education: 3 faculty members to be terminated (all are tenured).

As you can see, if three tenured history faculty do not “voluntarily” separate from the college, the three most recently hired members will be fired. All the members of the seven person department have tenure.

Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, has responded with this letter:

July 23, 2020

John J. Hurley
President, Canisius College

Sara R. Morris
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Canisius College

Nancy Ware
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, Canisius College

Lee C. Wortham
Chair, Board of Trustees, Canisius College

Dear President Hurley, Dr. Morris, Ms. Ware, and Mr. Wortham,

The American Historical Association expresses grave concern about the dramatic restructuring of academic departments and program prioritization officially announced by Canisius College on July 20, 2020, including drastic reduction of the curriculum in history. As a Jesuit institution with a strong tradition of liberal arts education, Canisius has a strong record of high-quality history education provided by an accomplished faculty committed to undergraduate education. The AHA urges the administration to consider the educational impact of this short-sighted plan and reorganization, which will serve to weaken the preparation of your students for the global citizenship imperative to economic and civic accomplishment, as well as the lifelong learning essential to occupational and professional success.

This ill-considered plan not only diminishes the quality of a Canisius degree; it also identifies the college with employment practices that have no place in American higher education. The college will terminate three tenured members of the faculty without adhering to its own contractual Faculty Handbook, not to mention generally accepted ethical guidelines-an especially striking embarrassment for an institution committed to Jesuit values.

The AHA has seen this approach to prioritization and restructuring before, and the results have not been impressive. Cutting a core liberal arts degree like history is short-sighted. There is overwhelming evidence that shows employers seek the kind of skills a history degree can provide. This is an especially odd move at a time when civic leaders from all corners of the political landscape have lamented the historical knowledge of American citizens. The elimination of these faculty positions will seriously compromise essential geographic and chronological coverage necessary to foster basic historical literacy in liberally educated citizens.

The AHA is America’s largest and most prominent organization of professional historians, with over 11,500 members engaged in the teaching and practice of history at colleges and universities, secondary schools, historical institutes, museums, and other institutions. Our role as an advocate for the study of history in all aspects of American intellectual life extends also to the roles of the department leadership. The AHA offers particular resources to our department chairs because of their central role in promoting and nourishing teaching, learning, and research in history. Canisius’s history chair has had access to the AHA’s online community of department chairs, a particularly active group that enables sharing of data, problem-solving, and conversation about issues ranging from logistics to curriculum.

As experienced administrators we certainly understand the pressure of budgets, and do not underestimate the financial necessities you confront at this particular moment. This reorganization, however, may have serious and deleterious consequences for the practice of historical work and hence the quality of undergraduate education at Canisius College. Once programs are eliminated or truncated, they are often exceedingly difficult and expensive to reconstitute. What might be suggested as a temporary solution to an immediate crisis often becomes a long-term problem. I urge you to reconsider.

Sincerely,
James Grossman
Executive Director

Yesterday the faculty issued a formal vote of “no confidence” to President John Hurley.

I am afraid we are going to see more and more of this. Over the years it has not surprised me to see this kind of thing happen at evangelical colleges with boards and constituency that do not value the humanities and liberal arts because of a long history of anti-intellectualism, but when this happens at a school with a Catholic mission it is especially disheartening. Here is part of the mission of Canisius College:

Canisius is an open, welcoming university where our Catholic, Jesuit mission and
identity are vitally present and operative. It is rooted in the Catholic intellectual
tradition’s unity of knowledge and the dialogue of faith and reason. Founded by
the Society of Jesus as a manifestation of its charism, Canisius espouses the Jesuit
principles of human excellence, care for the whole person, social justice, and
interreligious dialogue. Jesuit spirituality calls us to seek God in all things and Jesuit
education aims to form students who become men and women for and with others.

Evangelical quit lit

QuitQuit Lit: “…a genre of literature about the experience of resigning from one’s job (usually in academia).

Read more about quit lit here. We also did a podcast about it here.

As a professor at a Christian college, I am always interested in reading quit lit from evangelical humanities professors. Over at Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative, he quotes from a letter he received from a professor at a Christian university:

Over the last 10 years, our university’s traditional undergraduate enrollment shrunk by more than a third. Administrators attempted to remedy the crisis in ways that were entirely predictable. They brought in consultants; they marketed the university as an ideal destination for any career-minded person; they highlighted professional programs and portrayed their Christian identity in anodyne terms. Trustees—most of whom have no skin in the game when making university-related decisions—responded to budget shortfalls by calling for program eliminations. During this time, the university relied on athletic programs to drive enrollment.

At the end of the day, the university became a less compelling option for prospective students. The teaching environment also changed. The theological literacy of students deteriorated as the university marketed themselves to a wider demographic. While we managed to attract some good students, many (especially male athletes) were unprepared for college-level work. Retention became a responsibility for every professor. Yet enrollments still lagged, and more academic programs were eliminated, including my own.

The prospect of redefining my professional life is frightening, but staying in academia has no appeal for me. I’ve spent too much emotional energy defending the humanities only to see them subsumed by the servile arts. In cash poor colleges especially, humanities programs have only a nominal role in the curriculum. Administrators may acknowledge the inherent worth of the humanities; yet their survival requires demonstrating their value in economic terms.

For many years, I thought the Christian university could serve as a bulwark against secular drift. But its failure is assured by academia’s de facto objective. Frank Donaghue, a professor of literature at Ohio State, is precisely right: “Higher education is job training, however academics like to think otherwise” (The Last Professors, 85). In this regard, Christian universities are no different than their secular counterparts. Despite their professed mission, they are almost entirely utilitarian in their perspective and bourgeois in their aims. In some cases they can’t afford not to discard the disciplines that would help the Church think carefully and responsibly about the world and its place within it. There are exceptions to this trend, of course. But on the whole, Christian education is increasingly incapable of addressing present day cultural challenges in bold and effective ways.This became especially clear to me in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. I watched several Christian college presidents attempt to establish their anti-racist credentials through feckless moral posturing. As far as I know, none will admit to using academically underprepared young men (many of whom are racial minorities) to pad their enrollments.

Yes, administrators will continue reminding constituents about their institutions’ “enduring Christian mission” and “transformative” educational experience. Such language is an adornment masking the smell of polluted air. Scroll through the list of member colleges and universities of the CCCU. Many of them are bullshit centers of cultural assimilation and vocational training. As crushing student debt increases, these universities will have a harder time explaining why someone should pay more tuition at an institution which may not exist in five years.

Worries about my own career aside, there is something liberating about being untethered from an institution whose future is less than promising.

Anyone who teaches the humanities at a Christian college can relate to this person’s story. We are all experiencing enrollment drops and budget cuts, especially in the humanities. I agree with this writer’s assessment about the “theological literacy” of our students. The humanities are being “subsumed” by professional programs and graduate programs. Sometimes I also wonder whether or not our Christian colleges have become little more than vocational schools.

In sum, I fully understand this writer and I sympathize with him. I respect his decision to leave.

I have long wondered whether the humanities need to be cultivated in places apart from academic institutions. (Johann Neem makes a similar suggestions in his book What’s the Point of College? Listen to our interview with him in Episode 54 of the podcast).

A Liberty University Divinity School Professor Responds to the Closing of the Philosophy Department

Liberty_University_Flames_stadium,_Lynchburg,_VA_IMG_4118

David Baggett taught philosophy and theology at Liberty University for fourteen years. In Fall 2020, he will join the faculty at Houston Baptist University. In a recent piece at “The Worldview Bulletin Newsletter,” Baggett responds to Liberty’s recent decision to eliminate its philosophy department.

Here is a taste:

So let’s get back to eliminating the philosophy department. Business lingo was used in Liberty’s decision—specters of efficiency, adding value, and negative enrollment trends—but it all raises prior questions that ought to be asked. If a program isn’t a money-maker for the university, how relevant is that to its value? Is its value reducible to monetary terms? If the university overall wants to be financially solvent—and what university doesn’t?—does that rightly suggest that each department has to pull its own weight financially? What if history and English eventually suffer the same fate? Can a school legitimately claim to be a university at all without a philosophy program? Or an English or history department? This is no unprincipled slippery slope concern; the parity in reasoning seems inescapable. At what point does the intrinsic value of studying poetry or history, philosophy or literature, simply demand that a university privilege something other than the bottom line?

Liberty’s rationale also includes mention of other Christian colleges streamlining their humanities programs, and it is probably true that this was a financial necessity for some or many of those colleges. But what about Liberty? It has an endowment of over 1.5 billion dollars. Wouldn’t this have been an ideal time to be countercultural and lead the way, rather than capitulating and following the lead of institutions far less financially blessed? The argument that this was a financial duty bears critical scrutiny only by revealing some troubling value commitments on which the decision was based. It was apparently deemed more valuable to safeguard and keep growing those hefty resources than use them to preserve a philosophy department. Actions reveal character and values.   

Read the entire piece here.

 

What is Going on at Missouri Western State University?

Missour Western

More sad news.  Here is Inside Higher Ed:

Of all the faculty cuts made during COVID-19 pandemic so far, those at Missouri Western State University may be the deepest. The institution is laying off 31 nontenured instructors, including some on the tenure track, at the end of this year. Twenty remaining professors will receive terminal, one-year contracts, meaning that about one-quarter of the full-time faculty will be gone by 2021. Others will take early retirement. Dozens of majors, minors and concentrations are being cut, too, including English, history, philosophy, political science, economics, sociology, Spanish, French and the arts.

Read the rest here.

According to this document, the university is adding programs in Performing Arts, Recreation and Sport Management, Law, Earth Science, and Esports Management.

Liberty University’s Statement on the Elimination of Its Philosophy Department

Liberty

Get up to speed here.

Here is the official press release from Liberty University:

Liberty University is pleased that it is very efficient and effective in the delivery of education in a God-honoring way and in a way that adds value to our students. In 2012, Liberty made a deliberate decision to appropriately align our B.A. in Philosophy program, moving it from our School of Divinity to our College of Arts & Sciences. Upon moving the program, we began to evaluate declining trends in degree-seeking philosophy students across the United States. We also evaluated trends of other Christian colleges that were streamlining their humanities programs and others that completely dissolved philosophy programs due to these negative enrollment trends. 

As a result, in 2015, we dissolved our M.A. in Philosophy program due to waning enrollment. At that time, we began evaluating our B.A. in Philosophy Program and working hard to achieve increased enrollments. This effort did not bear fruit.  Due to the lack of interest, over several years, in a B.A. in Philosophy, we began in the fall of 2019 to collapse the program and to stop accepting new students as we had less than 20 students enrolled and five faculty to service them. 

Despite the anxieties associated with the tough decision to collapse the B.A. in Philosophy program, we work hard at Liberty to take care of our people. As such, the professors impacted by the collapse of the program have been offered generous severance packages and are immediately eligible for rehire in any area that they are qualified for at the university, as well. And those teaching in online modalities maintain the opportunity to continue their service in good faith. 

In parallel to this academic decision, President Jerry Falwell wisely decided to solidify the tenets of basic Christian life and thought within Liberty’s general education curriculum to ensure Liberty in no way moved from its sound focus on theology, apologetics, and philosophy. To that end, a team of some of Liberty’s best theologians, apologists and philosophers convened to ensure that Liberty continued to integrate and expound upon its curriculum with a deeper focus on theology, apologetics and philosophy. It is vitally important that our students clearly understand the deity of Christ. The end result, according to Dr. Gary Habermas, renowned philosopher and apologist, was “one of the most exciting developments he has been involved in during his time at Liberty.”

This decision should lead to greater interest in theology, apologetics, and philosophy, thereby creating the potential for the launch of a future B.S. in Philosophy. 

National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Grants

22c73-neh2blogo

The National Endowment of the Humanities has announced its recent round of grant winners.  Here are the ones that caught my eye, including a $64,593 grant for a program on women in the military directed by my Messiah College History Department colleague Sarah Myers!

Jonathan Den Hartog Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Samford University
Project Title: John Jay’s Statesmanship: Diplomacy, the Law, and Education
Project Description: Writing three chapters of a political and intellectual biography of
John Jay (1745–1829), secretary of state and first chief justice of the United States.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Outright: $50,000
[Humanities Collections and Reference Resources]
Project Director: Briann Greenfield
Project Title: Planning to Digitize the Collections
Project Description: A planning and pilot project to establish priorities for digitizing the
Stowe Center’s archival holdings and artifact collections related to Harriet Beecher
Stowe, her family, and the Nook Farm neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut. The
project would seek advice from focus groups of scholars, teachers, and students; digitize
and create metadata for 100 objects; develop and test workflows; and collaborate with
state-wide digital platforms to ensure the collections reach a wide audience.

Kacy Tillman Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
University of Tampa
Project Title: The Liberty of Loyalty during the American Revolution: Black Loyalism in
the Book of Negroes
Project Description: Research and writing of an article on “The Book of Negroes,” a
Revolutionary War manuscript that documents black loyalists to the British cause, held
at the British National Archives as part of the British Headquarters Papers, 1774–1783.

Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Inc. Outright: $50,000
[Short Documentaries]
Project Director: Sonny Seals
Project Title: Historic Rural Churches of Georgia’s Saving Grace Documentary Series
Project Description: Production of short films about rural churches of the South.

Helen Kim Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Emory University
Project Title: Transpacific Piety and Politics: Cold War South Korea and the Rise of
American Evangelicalism
Project Description: Research for a book on evangelical Christianity and politics in South
Korea and the United States after the Korean War.

Concord Museum Outright: $400,000
[Exhibitions: Implementation]
Project Director: Thomas J. Putnam
Project Title: Concord: At the Center of Revolution
Project Description: Implementation of a new permanent, 6,000-square-foot exhibition,
education materials, and public programs exploring the history of Concord in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Amanda Kleintop Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Project Title: The Balance of Freedom: Abolishing Property Rights in Slaves During and
After the Civil War
Project Description: Research and writing one chapter of a book interrogating the
significance of policies governing property rights in slaves before and after
Emancipation.

Hannah Muller Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Brandeis University
Project Title: The Aliens Acts, the 1790s, and the Changing Contours of Citizenship
Project Description: Research for a book on British, Canadian, Caribbean, and American
immigration legislation during the 1790s in response to the French Revolution.

Kimberlee Moran Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Rutgers University, Camden
Project Title: The Arch Street Project: Visualizing the Historical, Archaeological, and
Bioanthropological Evidence from the First Baptist Church
Project Description: Development of a digital map to present the results of salvage
excavations of a historic cemetery in Old City, Philadelphia.

Kevin Kenny Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
New York University
Project Title: Slavery and Immigration, an American History (1789–1889)
Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the interrelationship of
immigration standards and slavery in federal policy, constitutional reform, and political
action after the Civil War.

Douglas Egerton Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Le Moyne College
Project Title: The Ally: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Boston Brahmin, Radical
Minister, Labor Agitator, Vigilance Committee Activist
Project Description: Research for a biography of Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823–
1911), artist and public intellectual of the nineteenth century.

Leigh Fought Outright: $6,000
[Summer Stipends]
Le Moyne College
Project Title: A Biography of Sally Hemings (1773–1835)
Project Description: Onsite research at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a short
biography of Sally Hemings

Messiah College Outright: $64,593
[Dialogues on the Experience of War]
Project Director: Sarah Myers
Project Title: Women’s Experiences in the U.S. Military
Project Description: A two-day workshop to prepare facilitators to lead discussion
programs for veterans in five host communities in the United States.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania Outright: $124,266
[Humanities Collections and Reference Resources]
Project Director: Cary Hutto
Project Title: Improving Access to Women’s History Collections at the Historical Society
of Pennsylvania
Project Description: The arrangement and description of four manuscript collections,
totaling 149 linear feet, that document women’s history in the greater Philadelphia region from the 1860s to the present. Portions of each collection would also receive
conservation treatment and be rehoused for long-term preservation.

Museum of the American Revolution Outright: $100,000
[Exhibitions: Implementation]
Project Director: Philip Mead
Project Title: When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776–1807
Project Description: Implementation of a temporary exhibition, educational materials, a
website, and related public programs exploring women’s citizenship and voting rights in
the early Republic.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Outright: $75,000
[Historic Places: Planning]
Project Director: Linnea Grim
Project Title: New Interpretative Plan for Monticello
Project Description: Planning a new exhibition and three new tours exploring the lasting
impact of the Declaration of Independence and its founding principles of freedom and
equality.

All the winners are listed here.

So What CAN You Do With a History Major?–Part 58

Fauci

You can lead the country through the coronavirus pandemic just like Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  (OK–he was technically a classics major at the College of the Holy Cross–close enough!).

Here is a taste of a piece on Fauci at the Holy Cross Magazine:

Anthony Stephen Fauci was born in New York City on Christmas Eve 1940, the second of Stephen and Eugenia Fauci’s two children. His parents, both the children of immigrants, met as students at Brooklyn’s New Utrecht High School and married when they were just 18. He grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where his father, a Columbia University educated pharmacist, owned a neighborhood drugstore, at 13th Ave. and 83rd St. The family lived in an apartment above the store, and all pitched in when needed—his father in the back, his mother and older sister, Denise, at the register.

“I was delivering prescriptions from the time I was old enough to ride a bike,” Fauci recalls.

Routinely cited in recent decades for the length of his work day and the peripatetic nature of his job, Fauci took on these habits early and came to them naturally. He was that kind of kid, too.

He grew up surrounded by disparate influences that he seems to have enjoyed and that seem to have benefited him: There was his pharmacist father, known as “Doc” in the neighborhood—whom he describes as “laid back”—and his mother, also college educated, whom he describes as “goal oriented.” There was an attraction to medicine and science fostered from an early age, and a commitment to the humanities nourished by premedical studies at Holy Cross that also encompassed the study of Latin, Greek and philosophy.

And there is early evidence, as well, that Fauci had a streak in him that was something between puckish and perverse—a stubborn adherence to his own values and interests in the face of local prejudice that had to have been fierce. Growing up in post-war Brooklyn, playing baseball in Dyker Heights Park, on Gravesend Bay, in the era of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, Fauci was a Yankees fan. Among his heroes were Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, which, he says, made him something of a sports outcast among his friends, Brooklyn Dodgers fans all.

If he had been a sports outcast, he was an athletic one. In a 1989 interview with the NIH Historical Office, he remembers, “We used to play basketball from the beginning of basketball season to the end, baseball through the spring and summer, and then basketball and football again in the winter.” When he was younger, he played CYO basketball in the neighborhood; in high school, he captained the basketball team. Today, he’s a daily runner who has completed the New York and Marine Corps marathons.

He attended Regis High School, a Jesuit school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And the distance he had to travel to get there is difficult to explain, for reasons of time or geography and also for reasons of culture. Time and geography matter, of course, in multiple ways: the trip took 75 to 80 minutes each way, a bus and three subways during rush hour in both directions. By rough calculation, all the time he spent commuting during his four years at Regis, it cost him more than 70 days. And he didn’t just let the time go: then, as now, he was focused and organized. He was the kid on the subway—packed up against the other passengers, elbows against his body, wrists and forearms folded inward, a book almost on top his face, reading—in his case, probably Ignatius Loyola, at some point or other, and likely in Latin.

Time and geography also matter because Brooklyn was further away from Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s than it is today, and Bensonhurst is deep Brooklyn, just a short three or four miles—a few stops on what was then the BMT Seabeach local line—from Coney Island and the beach. New York is New York, but it’s also five boroughs and a million neighborhoods. And working class, Italian and Jewish Bensonhurst, might as well have been 15 light years away from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, then, as now, one of the country’s most affluent zip codes.

In his commencement address this past May, U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins ’63—whose time at Holy Cross overlapped with Fauci’s, although they didn’t know each other—spoke with some nostalgia of the 10 o’clock dorm curfew of that era, and how students learned to “black out” their rooms with towels, newspapers and tin foil.

“It was behind these drawn shades,” Collins said, “that we indulged in the nefarious act of reading.”

Fauci came to Holy Cross in the fall of 1958. He played intramural sports when he had the time, but his days of more organized competition were over. He had entertained the vague idea that he might make the basketball team as a walk on, but the competition was fierce, and he didn’t quite have the height. Always a fully engaged student, moreover, he took to his premedical studies with gusto; “the nefarious act of reading” didn’t leave him a lot of spare time.

“There was a certain spirit of scholarship up there,” he remembers, “that was not matched in anything that I’d experienced. The idea of seriousness of purpose—I don’t mean nerdish seriousness of purpose—I mean the importance of personal development, scholarly development and the high standard of integrity and principles that became a part of everyday life at Holy Cross. And that, I think, was passed down from the Jesuits and from the lay faculty to the students.”

The premed program covered enough science to get the students into medical school, but also stressed the humanities—a continuation, in some ways, of what he had been taught in high school. Fauci often credits part of his professional success to the inculcation of Jesuit intellectual rigor that was a core part of his education: an emphasis on organization and logic, on succinctness and clarity of expression. Arguably, the twinning of science and the humanities has proved useful in his dual roles as physician and researcher as well.

 Read the entire piece here.

HT: John Schmalzbauer on Facebook.

Don’t Vilify Educated People

Have you seen memes like this?:

Meme Philosophy job

Jonathan Couser, a history professor at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, has some good thoughts about this meme.  Here is what he recently wrote on his Facebook page (used with permission):

Bash the meme time, children. This was recently shared by a friend who, appropriately, took it down. But it’s the kind of thing that circulates a lot so I’m going to share it myself – with some analysis.

At first glance, the meme appears to be pointing out the value of trade jobs, which provide solid employment with little or no college debt. That’s true enough, and valid. These careers are good options that young people should consider.

But that’s not all it’s doing.

It’s misleading on a number of points. While “Adam’s” $100K in college debt is not unheard of, it’s nowhere near typical. Actual average college debt is around $30K. Meanwhile, “Chris'” income figure is inflated – it’s possible to make $80K a year as an electrician, but the average figure is around half that, maybe three-quarters, depending on where you live.

The meme says that “Adam” can’t find “a philosophy job,” which is no-brainer because, outside of academia, where you’d need a PhD rather than a BA, there’s no such thing as “a philosophy job.” That makes a cheap shot easy for the meme-creator, but disingenuously hides the realities.

Philosophy majors (and majors in other supposedly “worthless” degrees like History or English) actually do very well on the job market. The major is not designed as job training. Instead, they go into all kinds of careers where skills in writing, communicating, or analytical thinking are beneficial. They are also much better prepared than most to go on to graduate programs like an MBA or JD and become lawyers or business executives.

In fact, according to Five-Thirty-Eight in 2015, the average income of a philosophy major was – guess what? – $80K – the amount that was the inflated claim for “Chris'” income.

After being dishonest, the meme gets ugly.

Supposedly, “Adam” thinks that “Chris” is stupid. Meanwhile, “Chris” gleefully disconnects “Adam’s” electricity.

This is the rhetoric of grievance. It vilifies the educated people of the world, the philosophers, as a bunch of snobs who carry an unjustified contempt for working people. And it relishes the sense of vengeance, of getting even, that “we” (since we’re clearly supposed to be cheering for “Chris” by the time we read this far down the meme) are going to stick it to “them.” There’s no sense of empathy for “Adam” losing his electricity or blame that “Chris” does this to him. We’re supposed to think it’s just deserts.

To be sure, there are some educated snobs in the world. But I spend my life in academia, and I can honestly say that I can’t think of any of my colleagues, nor students, ever expressing contempt for working people. It’s a myth.

What’s really going on here is not a positive promotion of the value of a good trade career. What’s really going on is a toxic attack on higher education. The meme is designed to promote a sense of grievance, of resentment, and of contempt for education and the educated. By encouraging the “Chris'” of the world to despise the foolish “Adams”, the meme tells people they don’t need to listen to reasoning, they don’t need to respect expertise, and thus makes them pliable to misinformation, fake news and propaganda.

I agree with every word of Couser’s analysis.

“…the more I learned about the liberal arts, the more my passion to participate in the missionary effort of converting students from the humanities and social sciences to STEM declined”

humanities

Lior Shamir, a computer scientist at Kansas State University, is having second thoughts about his efforts to get students to pursue STEM fields.  Here is a taste of his recent piece at Inside Higher Ed:

For several years, I have been an active participant in the efforts to increase the participation in STEM. I’ve taken part in scholarly activities aimed at identifying the most effective ways to attract students to STEM, often at the expense of other disciplines, mainly the humanities and the social sciences. Obviously, I’ve not been doing it all by myself but as a part of a large, passionate crowd of STEM educators, researchers and administrators, getting together at academic meetings to exchange our best practices and proven interventions to attract more students to STEM. The theme of those academic meetings has been rather consistent: we must reach out to those lost souls who chose to study the humanities or social sciences and show them the light of STEM.

But as time has passed, and the deeper and more sophisticated the interventions have become, I’ve also begun to realize that I might be on the wrong side. During my attempts to understand the disciplines I was expected to encourage students to avoid, I was exposed to the many sides of the social sciences and the liberal arts that I was not aware of. I learned that scholarly questions can also be approached in ways that do not necessarily have to come down to a number and a P value, a formal proof and a protocol that can be replicated. I also learned that these paradigms can be effective in many cases where the hard sciences do not always have answers — questions related to social justice or inclusion of underrepresented minorities. The lab mind-set comfort zone that I believed to be the only way in which the universe could be understood was replaced with awareness that we can approach questions in other ways and through other methods that aren’t necessarily part of the STEM toolbox.

In fact, the more I learned about the liberal arts, the more my passion to participate in the missionary effort of converting students from the humanities and social sciences to STEM declined. As a scientist and engineer, I became concerned about the deterioration of the liberal arts and started to fear a world dominated solely by scientists and engineers. We must keep in mind that the strength of society depends not merely on its wealth and technological competitive edge but also on its ability to serve all its citizens equitably and help them become contributing members. The hard sciences alone cannot accomplish that mission.

Read the entire piece here.

Created and Called for Community: “Making Meaning” on the First Day of Class

College-classroom

I am pretty old school when it comes to the first day of class.  As some of you remember from my post last week, this semester I am teaching Messiah College’s first-year course Created and Called for Community (CCC).  Yesterday I met with all three of my sections  and introduced them to the course.  CCC has a common syllabus.  This means that every first-year student taking this course reads the same texts.  It is the only course of this nature at Messiah College.

The first day is always about logistics–required textbooks, assignments, grading scale, office hours, etc…  But sometimes the syllabus offers opportunities to talk about the importance of such a course.  I tried to do that today.

The syllabus begins this way:

The Created and Called for Community (CCC) course comprises the second half of Messiah College’s curriculum for first-year students, as well as transfer students. Together, First Year Seminar and CCC are designed to equip you with the intellectual skills needed to succeed during the rest of your education at Messiah College. In particular, both “W” courses focus on the ability to write accurately, clearly, and convincingly that will serve you well in your college career (whatever your major), as well as the vocation and profession you enter following your college career.

This is a writing course.  I will be spending a lot of time this semester reading drafts and commenting on papers.  Today, I tried to convince these students–who represent every major at Messiah College, from Engineering and Nursing to History and Sociology–that one does not always fully understand what they believe about a particular issue until they start to write.

The syllabus continues:

CCC also introduces you to the particular kind of community and institution that is Messiah College. Messiah’s history and identity are rooted in three strands of the Christian church known as Anabaptism, Pietism and Wesleyanism. We hope that this course helps you become familiar with basic elements of Messiah’s identity, mission, and foundation. The course will encourage you to cultivate a climate in which there can be better, deeper, and richer conversations about important issues precisely because they’re informed by some common understandings and curriculum. Some of the common readings assigned are classic texts which have been read by generations of college students. Others are more recent and speak to various contemporary issues and concerns.

In tell the students that it is important to understand the identity of the college where they have chosen to study.  They do not have to agree with the mission of Messiah College, but they must understand that when the college administration makes decisions about campus life they do so out of a particular understanding of Christian higher education.  If students are unhappy with the way the administration handles a controversial issue on campus, their criticism of the administration should be based on whether or not the leadership is consistently applying the religious principles that inform the identity of the college.

Finally, CCC is an introduction to liberal arts learning at Messiah College:

CCC, then, is an inter-disciplinary and common-learning course, a course in “meaning-making.” It’s hoped that over the course of this semester, you’ll receive helpful resources to address the experiences, questions, and challenges that you’ll face in the future in an informed and thoughtful fashion. And it’s also a discussion-oriented course. One way to become equipped for this task is to meet and engage with people and ideas worthy of shaping you and your thinking. This semester, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your thoughts alongside other people–the authors whose works we read, your instructor, and your classmates.

Again, you can see the reading list here.  Today I told the students that there are 27 voices that show up to class every day.  25 of those voices are the Messiah College undergraduates who are asked to come to class prepared to discuss the daily reading.  As the instructor, I am an additional voice (#26).  My goal is to facilitate conversation and to raise important questions about the texts.  And one of the voices (#27) in the room is the author of the text we are reading on that day.  Those voices include John Henry Newman, Ernest Boyer, James Weldon Johnson, J.R.R Tolkien, Alice Walker, Martin Luther King, Augustine, Plato, and Dorothy Sayers.  I urged the students to show hospitality to these voices.  I want the students to listen to these voices before critiquing them.  I want my students to approach these texts with humility, assuming that these authors are smarter than them and thus have something to teach them about the world.

The readings for this course fit into three units. They are: Creation, Community, and Calling (Vocation)

Here is how the syllabus describes each unit:

Creation: The first words of Scripture in some translations say that “in the beginning God created…” And so it seems fitting that you’ll begin exploring the theme of creation and creativity by studying the account of God’s creation in Genesis 1 and 2. You’ll examine both the natural and human creation, including the moral and ethical implications that flow from the understanding that every person is made in God’s image (or, in Latin, the imago Dei) and so possesses dignity and status. You’ll also consider how to be faithful stewards of creation and ways in which you can express the creative impulse God has implanted in you.

Community: All human beings throughout history, each of them made in God’s image, have lived within various types of groups or communities: families, groups of friends, churches, college campuses, neighborhoods, nations, and the worldwide or global community. The process of community-building brings with it both great rewards as well as challenges. Communities are inescapable, yet they place demands on us. In exploring this theme, you’ll examine the factors that strengthen and weaken community, and the challenges of community-building in a variety of settings. Along the way, you’ll consider both inspiring exemplars of community-building, as well as times and places where communities have fallen short and succumbed to the practices of segregation or racism or isolation or violence.

Calling or Vocation: Christian vocation requires us to consider not only what we do but also who we are. We’re called to personal transformation by practicing spiritual disciplines and called to social transformation by addressing injustice in the world. Exploring this theme in CCC, you’ll view some of the ways in which various people have served, look at where and how they’ve found their place in the world, look at vocation in various settings, continue the process of discerning your own vocation and place in the world, and look at some of the characteristics of Christian vocation—especially service, work, leadership, and reconciliation.

Stay tuned.  We are discussing Stanley Hauerwas’s “God With God” on Wednesday.

Follow along here.

Education Without Liberal Arts is a “Threat to Humanity”

UBC

Santa J. Ono is the president of the University of British Columbia.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) recently interviewed him about the role of the liberal arts in the 21st century.  Listen here.

Here is a taste of CBC’s introduction to the interview:

From engineering to medicine, we have more elaborate and specialized professions than ever.

But the academic programs that prepare people for them will have little impact on the health of society unless we develop a sense of the human condition. That’s ‘job one’ for the classic liberal arts education: philosophy, history, the great books, art, music and the sciences, too — at least according to Santa J. Ono.

The president and vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia argues that these disciplines are often underfunded and under-promoted, a refrain he’s made repeatedly over the years because he feels he has to. The reason: he’s seen a steady decline in the study of, and support for, the liberal arts over the past 10-15 years. 

Prof. Ono is himself a medical biologist, and has made breakthroughs in his own specialized field. While he appreciates the value of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), his own thoughts never stray far from the liberal arts courses he took as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, which have still left their mark on him. 

“I believe I’m a better scientist. I believe I am a better administrator. I believe I’m a better teacher. I believe I’m a better father and husband,” Ono said in his 2019 Carr Lecture, Liberal Arts in the 21st Century: More Important then Ever.

“And I believe that I am a better scholar because of my liberal arts education, because it was intentionally diverse and heterogeneous, because it made me move outside of my comfort zone into areas of thought and discussion that were uncomfortable to me…  it broadened my mind, it exercised my mind.”

Ono says a liberal arts education is critical if we are to arrive at a moral foundation that will lead to sustainable peace and progress. 

Read the rest here.

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Grant Awards

924d6-logo-national-endowment-humanities-500x335

Read the press release here.  A few awards that caught my eye:

  • Azusa Pacific University: A residential bridge program for first generation students that incorporates an introductory humanities course and complementary labs and field trips focused on the ideas, arguments, and points of view contained in the Declaration of Independence.
  • Amanda Baugh (University of California–Northridge): Research and writing leading to a book about the environmental values of Latinx Catholics in Los Angeles and the history of American environmentalism.
  • Santa Clara University: Development of an augmented reality and virtual reality experience to explore the history of the Santa Clara de Asís mission.
  • Flordia Atlantic University: Development of a multiformat project on the history of Mitchelville, South Carolina, the first Freedman’s town in the United States during the Civil War.
  • Anne Arundel Community College: A three-year partnership to incorporate the study of primary sources into community college courses and establish transfer pathways for students.
  • Anne Rubin (University of Maryland): Research leading to a book about the impact of food shortages on food culture in the Civil War South.
  • Timothy Shenk (Johns Hopkins): Research and writing leading to a book on the history of the concept of the modern economy in the United States.
  • National History Day: A three-year cooperative agreement that would extend and expand NEH’s partnership with National History Day, in response to NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative.
  • Eric Gardner (Saginaw Valley University): Research and writing of a book on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911), African American author, orator, abolitionist, suffragist, and civil rights leader.
  • Katherine Gerbner (University of Minnesota): Research and writing leading to a book on the development of  ideas about religion and religious freedom in colonial America as they were shaped by slavery and the criminalization of black religious practices.
  • Peter Mercer-Taylor (University of Minnesota): Preparation of an open-access digital anthology of almost 300 hymn melodies published in the United States before 1861 derived from European classical music.
  • Historic Hudson Valley: Prototyping of an interactive digital history on the New York Conspiracy trials (1741), in which both enslaved people and poor white New Yorkers stood accused of plotting to burn the city and murder its white inhabitants.
  • Jonathan Schroeder (University of Warwick): Research and writing leading to a biography of John S. Jacobs (1815–1875) and a critical edition of Jacobs’s 1855 autobiographical slave narrative.
  • Sharon Murphy (Providence College): Completion of a book on the relationship between banking and slavery in the antebellum South.
  • ETV Endowment of South Carolina Inc.: Production of an immersive website and mobile application exploring the impact and legacy of Reconstruction.

Click here for a list of all the winners.