Tag Archives: education

Paul Krause has a heartier take on the humanities than Stanley Fish

In my last post, I found several thoughtful, salient points in Stanley Fish’s recent article, “Stop Trying to Sell the Humanities,” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

But Paul Krause, writing at ImaginativeConservative.com, makes a new defense of the humanities anyway, and I loved it. Fish lit up parts of my mind, but Krause lit up my heart.

His definition is useful because I think many people just don’t understand what the humanities are and do:

The name humanities has “human” as its basis. The humanities are about us. In a way, the humanities are the study of what it means to be human along with the fruits of human genius and the creative spirit. The humanities ranges from philosophy—that most sublime and supreme queen—to literature, art, music, religion, language, and all the disciplines and topics that inform, build, and constitute what people have long called “culture.” Humanist studies is not, however, an outright celebration of every aspect of the human spirit and endeavor. It can be just as critical as it is appraising. Its study can inform and instruct—pointing out errors, as much as pointing out goodness, virtue, beauty, and other such things to strive for.

And later, Krause gives an example of what the humanities accomplish by demonstrating how key texts are integrated with each other—in ways that both form our intellectual understandings and our experiences as creatures with historical antecedents:

In the first book of Politics Aristotle makes a direct reference to the ninth book of Homer’s Iliad. When Augustine penned City of God he assumed his readers to be familiar with the works of the Platonists, Virgil, Cicero, Sallust, Varro, the Bible, and the great stories of Rome’s founding mythology: Romulus and Remus, Lucretia, and Aeneas. Dante’s Divine Comedy is not simply allegory of his own tumultuous experiences in Florence; it is also journey through the very soul of Western literature, philosophy, and theology from start to finish. Shakespeare is riddled with Biblical and literary references that lessen the greatness of Shakespeare when missed by the reader. Jonathan Swift, that great satirist, was engaged in his own cultural criticism in satirizing the philosophies of Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke when Gulliver meets the Laputans.

Building on the past, referencing and critiquing influential texts, understanding the origins of the cultural and intellectual flooring (however mismatched some of the boards) on which we stand—these are good reasons for the humanities. You don’t have to believe or accept everything you read in the great books (that’s the “critical” part of the humanities). Sometimes the point is simply to learn why other people saw things the way they did (why they currently see things the way they do) to better understand the excellencies and errors of today. To do so, one must understand other metaphors and stories, and see how they inform nuances of moral principles. To understand another culture’s metaphor or story is to be able to understand motivating forces and forms of thinking in other people. As John Stuart Mill once said, if you don’t know another point of view, you really don’t know your own.

Plumbers are smarter than I am, and so are pastors

Plumbers make more money than university lecturers. So do pastors.

Americans have some tendencies to equate income with intelligence.

There are outliers who make money by going for the sensational and the glandular, like Miley Cyrus.

As a university lecturer, I might as well have the belief system of a pastor.

Worthwhile knowledge, its retention, and its real-world impacts are nebulous things, terribly hard to quantify. Outcomes are easily attributable to other factors.

Which is why people don’t ultimately accept “knowledge is power,” and why they remain skeptical of the value of education. The monkey with the shiniest toys didn’t necessarily excel in school, and that common observation places a little wrinkle somewhere in the brain.

In the U.S., the annual mean wage paid to clergy is $47,730.

At large churches, however, where they have “executive” positions, which help establish egos and golf club memberships, compensation is at least $110,000.

At other churches, senior pastors (first among equals, some being more equal than others) earn between $265,000 and $1.1 million.

The average U.S. income for individuals is $40,563, and the average family income is $82,843.

The annual mean wage for plumbers is $53,240.

As a university lecturer, I often deal with material similar to what plumbers have to deal with: clogs, stagnation, rust, and excrement.

Only the material I’m exposed to is metaphorically clogged up, stagnated, rusted, or just plain shit.

One thing is for certain. Pastors have a unique position. If your job involves prodding and provoking vulnerable hearts, your income has a shot at being slightly above average.

Move hearts and you’ll change wallets, whether you’re Miley Cyrus or an Executive Pastor.

By the way, everyone should be disgusted by the title Executive Pastor, except no one is, because churches are marketed and operated precisely like organizations designed to make money: corporations.

Some ancient fool said you cannot serve both God and money. Good thing we have plenty of Executive Pastors to straighten Him out.

American Christianity: Older and less educated

Click here to access a larger view of the following graphic from the Religion News Service, based on figures from the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey.
American Christianity is aging and uneducated, according to this Religion News Service graphic and the Pew 2007 Religious Landscape Survey

A few thoughts spurred by the above graphic:

  • To expand your church, look for younger, uneducated people (see the “nothing in particular” circle).
  • Anglicans are smarter but older.
  • Ecstatic experience seems less likely among the educated.
  • Protestant evangelicals want to reach many people who are both better-educated and younger than they are.
  • On balance, Anglicans are better educated than atheists and agnostics.

‘Dear Lord, I know the right positions, and I don’t listen to the wrong ones…’

“…so why won’t You let me pass these classes?”

A quick note on digital humanities

Maybe Mark Driscoll is a product of his time: 2013 poll on plagiarism, fair use, & copyright

As Warren Throckmorton’s examinations of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s “citation problems” continue, I’ve been researching “intentional plagiarism” and “unintentional plagiarism,” as well as what common academic and publishing style guides say about fair use, copyright, and paraphrasing.

More on those matters in upcoming posts. First, I wanted to share some relevant information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Back in July, NBC News reported the following based on a Pew report that had just been released:

Most writing teachers believe that digital tools — from wikis to whiteboards — make it easier to teach writing, but say they worry about plagiarism and informality in their students’ work, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

More than 2,400 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) middle- and high-school teachers were asked about the use of digital tools including interactive whiteboards, wikis, websites, blogs, and collaborative Web-based tools (such as Google Docs) as sources of help for writing.

“In addition to giving students low ratings on their understanding of fair use and copyright, a majority of AP and NWP teachers also say students are not performing well when it comes to ‘appropriately citing and/or referencing content’ in their work,” the study found.

“This is fairly common concern among the teachers in the study, who note how easy it is for students today to copy and paste others’ work into their own and how difficult it often is to determine the actual source of much of the content they find online.”

Those issues have become so important that 88 percent of the teachers said they spend class time talking to students about the concepts of “citation and plagiarism,” while 75 percent make sure they talk about the notions of fair use and copyright with their students. [boldface added]

Apparently, few really understand the academic, ethical, and legal implications of an inappropriate use of another person’s ideas and (or) creative work.

While the websites of some acclaimed universities (e.g., see here and here) note that students might not always be aware of when they are plagiarizing, those same sites name such unawareness “unintentional plagiarism.” In other words, it’s still plagiarism.

This would be a different take than that held by the folks at Driscoll’s publisher Tyndale House, who defensively have suggested that plagiarism requires an intentional act.

“While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source,” Tyndale House said in part of a statement released back in December.

“Nuanced definitions of plagiarism”? Cut the nonsense. Tyndale House might as well had told us the definition at hand depended on what our definition of “is” is.

Driscoll announced a new college and seminary after being accused of plagiarism

It’s often said timing is everything in humor, and that’s just as true for unintended humor.

Shortly after the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy began, Driscoll announced two new academic institutions, as Sam Tsang reports:

“After this whole thing broke, here’s MD’s [Mark Driscoll’s] initial non-response response by announcing … get this … Western Seminary will open a campus on Mars Hill.  MD peppered his video with all sorts of churchy vocabulary about loving God, and secular vocabulary about bringing ‘accredited’ seminary education to Seattle, never mind that Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University both have accredited divinity programs and never mind that many can love God without going to Western Seminary located at Mars Hill.  The highlight for me in this video is MD calling himself one of the professors for this program. I thought professors have to contribute to the wider academic world and to the institution in order to get the title.  Perhaps, MD is the exception.”

If the paradox has not yet occurred to you, click here to read the academic integrity page at the university where I teach. Pay close attention to the “Honor Pledge” and “Prohibited Conduct” sections. Then watch Driscoll’s announcement about the two academic institutions that will be affiliated with his church, Mars Hill Church.

Mark, HOW DARE YOU? That’s old. I know. Couldn’t resist.

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