As finals approach

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle has many positive things to say about the life of the mind.   When I’ve taught this work, or any other philosophical work that that gives an argument for the virtues of study and contemplation, there is often some resistance to the idea that the flourishing human life is deeply connected to the life of the mind.  I suspect that this is because we have habitually trained ourselves to view education only as a means to success.  We have lost a sense of the intrinsic joys that are associated with learning and the ways in which learning helps us understand and worship God.

It is not surprising that we have developed this habit.  Many of my academic memories are ones regarding accomplishments or failures with regards to acceptances, money and prestige.  For example, I clearly remember the phone calls that brought the good news of both acceptance and funding to both my undergraduate institution and then later to various PhD programs in philosophy.  I also remember, perhaps more vividly, the rejection letters and the academic prizes not won.  Later, like many philosophers, the number of jobs that I didn’t get in philosophy vastly outnumbered the jobs that I was offered.  Even today, happy and thriving at HBU, seeing a school name run across the ticker on ESPN can stir up emotions of familiarity, friendship and disappointment as I recall the on campus interview that was great but where I didn’t get the job.  For my students, they haven’t had the experiences I’ve had in either graduate school or professional academia but their high school experience is enough to encourage this way of looking at education.  Enough is at stake in the process of applying for college in terms of money and their hopes (and their parents hopes) that education quickly becomes tied up with something else—a future career, lifetime happiness, a positive view of oneself, whatever.

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Why Have Academic Conferences?

One of the common experiences in academic life is attending conferences.  Setting aside conferences attended for the purpose of getting a job (a subject for another post), most conference attendees are there to give a paper and listen to papers.  The critiques against this model are many.  I want to look at some of them and then respond about why, ultimately, I think academic conferences are a good thing.

First, even if conferences do good, the cost is often extraordinary.  Flights (with their baggage fees), hotels, ground transport, expensive lunches (not because of faculty running up the bill but often just a function of limited food options), etc. all add up.  With universities looking to be especially conservative with their limited resources, it is hard to justify to administrators the cost of flying across America to present on your most recent findings in your specialty.

Second, all have heard of the story of a faculty member who didn’t really attend much of the conference at all except for their own paper and perhaps a friend’s.  One peril of having the Pacific APA, for example, in downtown San Francisco is that the city is often more interesting than what’s happening inside the hotel conference rooms.  It is hard to say that the cost is worth the benefit if what the university is really paying for is a faculty weekend vacation.  Even if the city isn’t interesting other duties such as grading and email compel one to spend more time in one’s hotel room than in the conference rooms.

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Merry Christmas!

The School of Christian Thought wishes you a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

As we spend this break with our family and friends, reflecting on the years past, let us also reflect on our hope for the future and consider that, as T.S. Eliot wrote in The Cultivation of Christmas Trees, “the beginning shall remind us of the end/ And the first coming of the second coming.”

Dawgs Up!

One of the more exciting developments since I arrived at HBU has been our move to Division I NCAA athletics and the recent founding of the HBU football program.  This is a great step for HBU because football is one of the humanities.

HBU is a Christian Liberal Arts University.  As such we seek to be a national comprehensive university under the Lordship of Christ.  Football, in particular, has a long tradition of being central to the American university experience.  In beginning Division I football at HBU we create an opportunity to serve God in an area and at a level that Christian universities have often ceded to secular institutions.  For many of the same reasons we are taking on the challenge of Christian graduate education (Pillar Three) we should take on the challenge of having among the best athletic teams in the nation.

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