so, rick santorum, what you’re saying is “be conservative: don’t go to college”

Don't wanna be conservative anymore so I went to college

Rick Santorum’s real beliefs on education are finally frothing up and boiling over. Unfortunately, he’s saying them aloud in public.

Kyle Munzenrieder wrote a brilliant response for the Miami New Times to Santorum’s most recent comments, as did The Hill‘s Daniel Strauss. Allow me to offer my own.

Rick Santorum finally said aloud what many fundamentalist Christians have felt for a long time: “be conservative: don’t go to college. And if you do go to college, make sure it’s a Republican party-approved private conservative Christian college. (I’m looking at you Liberty University, Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, Regent University, BYU, and Pepperdine.)

Listen to what Santorum told a Florida audience:

“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go college..the indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination.”

Evangelicals would prefer that students either attend schools with the words “evangelical,” “theological,” and “seminary” in the title (preferably all three) or not at all. Because according to Santorum’s and other evangelicals’ line of thought, when the nation’s top colleges and state universities educate students, it’s liberal indoctrination. But, when private conservative evangelical schools educate students, it’s not indoctrination; it’s a simple dissemination of facts (and by facts, I mean faith claims that are often contrary to scientific facts).

It’s almost comical: Evangelicals don’t want kids to go to America’s top colleges because they might actually learn something besides a fundamentalist, conservative, literalist, theologically-laced worldview, which often leads to a biblically defended suppression of the civil rights of groups that don’t look and/or think like they do. So, from a very early age, they encourage like-minded people to isolate and insulate their kids from any point of view other than their own by placing kids in home schools, private (approved conservative) Christian schools, conservative Christian colleges, and if they do attend graduate school, they often receive some fantastic degree in education, physics, and applied scripture from Southern Evangelical Theological Seminary (I made this title up. If it does exist, my point has only been further underscored.)

So just to clarify:

Public school: Liberal indoctrination
Home school: NOT indoctrination

Public High School: Liberal indoctrination
Christian High School: NOT indoctrination

Public or Ivy League university: Liberal indoctrination
Christian College: NOT indoctrination

R1 Research Graduate School: Liberal indoctrination
Evangelical Theological Seminary: NOT indoctrination

I shake my head.

HT: Jim West

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in defense of the digital humanities, open courseware, and online publishing

This is one of the best cases I’ve seen for the Digital Humanities, open courseware, and online publishing. It demonstrates the need for universities, and especially tenure-granting committees to consider digital media as equally worthy of consideration during tenure reviews as scholarly articles printed on paper in peer-review journals and monographs published by traditional academic publishers. This transition should be hastened by the present scampering of traditional print publishers to establish digital publishing presences online (as I’ve mentioned here). It is also a clever demonstration of the legitimacy that advances in online education, improvements in Wikipedia contributor rules, blogging, Google scholar projects, harnessing social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, course management systems like Moodle, and new forms of 3D and hypermedia publishing have brought not only to the Digital Humanities, but to scholarship in general. Give it a view and leave comments below.

HT: Amanda Waldo

how not to talk about the importance of the dead sea scrolls

i came across this video today from randall niles, a finance and securities lawyer in colorado who now heads up multiple christian companies, including a llc called thinkworks™, whose mission is ‘to get real and encourage others in their life journeys.’ (see for yourself.)

in the video, mr. niles was attempting to explain why the dead sea scrolls are important.

here’s the video:

i’m not going to comment on the video because it’s just not fair and i don’t want to dump on anyone who is not trying to pass himself off as a scholar. mr. niles is not a scholar and not claiming to be one. i shall just dispute his claim that the only difference between the two isaiah scrolls (there are actually 2 from cave 1 and portions of at least 20 other copies of isaiah from qumran) and our modern masoretic texts of isaiah is a single word and some punctuation (3:30). in fact, the fact that the two isaiah scrolls from cave 1 at qumran differ, often significantly, tends to undermine his argument. the point is that there are far more interesting features about the isaiah scroll than the fact that it was written before the time of christ (3:00). but as i said, i’ll refrain from a critique.

and while i’m not a big fan of dilettantes and archaeological and scholarly pretenders, i can’t fault mr. niles, or anyone else for that matter, for attempting to reach out to kids to get them involved in both history and in issues of faith.

however, it is important to get your facts straight. and i shall fault those who sell christianity and judaism for a price. were this a preacher, i’d let it go. but because this is a business with lawyers and marketers and websites and money being made by preying on the ignorance of young kids, whose parents and pastors want to try and reach out to them with hip new media (that happens to be dilettantish and false), then i have a problem. of course, those who sell religion and peddle faith have every right to do so; indeed, it’s a billion dollar business in this country and one of the most profitable (and often tax exempt) business models in the country. but that doesn’t mean that what they’re selling is any good, and certainly doesn’t make the country any smarter or better, whether you are a person of faith or not. because whether you are an atheist, agnostic, or person of faith, bad information and poor apologetic arguments don’t help either side; they make people of faith look dumb and atheists cringe.

this does demonstrate, however, the immediate importance and need for trained scholars to reach out directly to the public, not just to criticize and combat pseudoscience, fake archaeology, and misinformation, but to offer a vetted alternative – real and regular solutions in the form of direct-to-the-public lectures and discourse. we scholars must seek to raise the level of public discussion about matters of faith in an academic manner. doing so will raise the level of critical thinking for both athiests and people of faith.

the problem is we’re missing the boat! the rise of technology and social media now allows scholars to compete with traditional, for-profit media companies that prey on the beliefs of the uneducated public and who peddle sensationalistic ideas to make a buck. we have the same abilities to reach the public directly and educate them, but the academy is by and large not using them. scholars have an opportunity to educate the public directly via the internet, youtube, blogs, podcasts, itunes u, and other free media outlets where the public spends much of their day, and whence they now obtain much of their information. additionally, by communicating to the public from their positions at accredited and reputable universities, scholars can trump these amateur ministries and professional faith peddlers because scholars are still held with somewhat high esteem across the nation. (although, this is changing. look what passes for an ‘expert’ on some documentaries these days. scholars, while still considered esoteric and therefore smart, are losing ground in both terms of credibility and indispensability. don’t believe me? how’s your department’s budget doing?)

thus, as easy as it is to rebuke those who peddle faith online and on tv, the true rebuke is to scholars, who aren’t doing enough to offer better alternatives. the title of this blog, ‘how not to talk about the importance of the dead sea scrolls,’ is a play on the fact that scholars are doing the same thing these amateurs are doing: not talking about scholarly issues to the public effectively. the academy is just as guilty as bible and archaeology pimps in that neither is talking about issues of faith and science effectively to the public.

and we wonder why universities have no money. people are looking elsewhere for information. and unless we want people getting bad information from uninformed or misleading sources, scholars must get involved with social and public media outlets to get their ideas out to the public.

lessons on ‘loving’ oneself from spain

any psychologist or counselor will tell you it is important to learn to love yourself. apparently, this is more difficult in spain than in other places, so a region in spain is offering to help their citizens:

The government of Extremadura launched a campaign based around the slogan “pleasure is in your own hands”, which gives advice on masturbation.

that’s right, gone is the famed self-love advice like:

  • “you must love yourself before you love another. by accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”
  • “the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely”
  • “love yourself, for if you don’t, how can you expect anybody else to love you?”

but, these time tested aphorisms are only the beginning. one must truly practice in order to be perfect. so now there’s a class.

read the article to learn how.

i always figured people learn how to do this on their own…

(with thanx to jim west.)

why online universities will never take the place of real ones

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from by Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on life and career experience.

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on 'life and career experience.'

according to a recent chronicle of higher education report by marc parry entitled, ‘unmuzzling diploma mills: dog earns m.b.a. online,’ a dog successfully received an m.b.a. degree from an online university.

GetEducated.com, an online-learning consumer group, managed to purchase an online M.B.A. for its mascot, a dog named Chester Ludlow.

The Vermont pug earned his tassles by pawing over $499 to Rochville University, which offers “distance learning degrees based on life and career experience,” according to a news release from GetEducated. He got back a package from a post-office box in Dubai that contained a diploma and transcripts, plus a certificate of distinction in finance and another purporting to show membership in the student council.

there are several issues here worthy of comment. for one, there is the problem of simply being able to purchase a degree from an online ‘university.’ while these ‘institutions of higher education’ have no credibility, prestige, or even accreditation, it does not stop someone with little-to-no integrity from paying $499 to obtain an m.b.a., bachelor’s degree, ph.d., or in some cases, a seminary degree and ordination from an online paper mill (‘paper mill’ defined as a so-called ‘educational institution’ that issues little more than a piece of paper). people who pay this money and enroll in these ‘courses’ are doing the same thing that more than likely caused them to avoid or drop out of regular colleges in the first place: they seek the easy way out and purchase a degree from an online paper mill. while these ‘degrees’ are utterly worthless to any and all members of the academy and most employers, it does not stop those who have purchased their degrees online from a bogus institution from listing ‘ph.d.’ or ‘m.b.a.’ after their names.

(excursus: here is a quick note to all of you complaining about the sbl affiliation with bibliobloggers. this is perhaps the most appropriate comparison to the straw man argument made by those who believe this affiliation to be a bad thing. it is true that even nutballs can theoretically claim to be a ‘biblioblogger’ by typing the word ‘biblioblog’ on their blog or creating a badge and affixing it to their site, just as it is possible for someone to ‘achieve’ a ph.d from an unaccredited paper mill (online or otherwise). but, possession of an online degree doesn’t make the degree worthwhile, the recipient legitimate, or one’s subsequent claims respectable. all it means is that one is claiming to be something, even if they are actually not what they claim to be. it is not the job of the government to tell people that their ‘degree’ is worthless (they have a right to buy a piece of paper with the words ‘ph.d.’ on it), just as it is not the job of the sbl or any biblioblogger steering committee to regulate, control, or otherwise sanction who is and who is not claiming to be a biblioblogger. this is the job of accrediting agencies. universities are governed by accrediting agencies. the government list of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs lists national, regional, and state accrediting agencies like the western association for schools and colleges, the new england association of schools and colleges, the north central association of colleges and schools, etc.  likewise, within the academy, ‘accreditation’ (i.e., worthiness) of individual scholars is usually based upon their academic affiliation (where they work/teach), their role within the academy (committees, contributions to higher education, etc.), or their record of publication (contribution of original research to society). at the intersection of blogging and academic biblical studies, this ‘accreditation’ may include one’s affiliation (with a university, church, or an organization of professionals like sbl, aar, asor, etc.), one’s role within the biblioblogging community (reputation, commitment to online resources and research, etc.) and one’s record and consistency of publication online (contribution to the online community). the same factors that weigh into decisions of accreditation or legitimacy of a university should weigh into the ‘accreditation’ or legitimacy of a biblioblogger, no more, no less. so, while anyone may claim to be a degree-granting university or a thought-dispensing biblioblogger, those that do so are judged by their peers on credible measures of reputation, publication, and contribution to the field, regardless of whether they have the word ‘university’ or ‘biblioblogger’ on their websites. but i digress…)

the MBA degree from Rochville University for Chester Ludlow, a pug dog.

The online MBA degree from Rochville University for 'Chester Ludlow,' a pug dog.

there is another serious issue for institutions of higher education that deserves comment. the fact is, many legitimate universities are now using various new technologies to offer more classes online, especially through extension programs. these courses are taught by vetted university faculty and are offered by fully accredited, brand name institutions. many of these online courses are being offered in response to the ever changing worlds of students. as more and more students use the internet for more and more aspects of their daily lives, and as more teachers are utilizing technology within the classroom, it is only natural for these very lectures to be recorded and uploaded to the web along with required readings, assignments, and assessments. with recent advances in technology, even interactive discussions can be facilitated online using message boards, forums, instant messaging, wimba, elluminate, second life, and live video conferencing.

these online courses are most effective at the undergraduate level for foundational courses that provide the bulk of raw data and facts upon which advanced ideas are developed via critical thinking and writing exercises. likewise, some courses like art history, religion, archaeology, and mathematics, which traditionally disseminate raw data via printed text books are more predisposed to being successfully conveyed digitally than other abstract disciplines such as philosophy, and rhetoric. however, advances in technology are allowing even these courses to be digitized so that exercises in logic, mathematics, and composition can be practiced online.

that is to say, there is a legitimate way to present online courses that maintain the integrity, responsibility, and accountability that is worthy of the tuition paid to an accredited institution. but established brick-and-mortar universities have been slow to adopt the technology used for online course offerings. just as many brick-and-mortar businesses reacted slowly and suspiciously to the rise of online retailers, many universities rejected online learning, maintaining that distance learning was the realm of smaller, less prestigious colleges. but with the rise of technology within brick-and-mortar university courses, distance learning has become a more acceptable means of disseminating information to students.

new, online universities now compete with smaller, lower-tier universities for courses in general education and vocational training. this is the market where students can pay less for an equivalent amount of online training and still receive good value. and this is where online educational firms will have the most success. however, while many online universities offer upper division courses and even graduate courses, online universities will most likely never capture any significant market share of these students because these online graduate degrees simply do not provide the desired gravitas for the tuition paid by students. that is, it is a better value to pay a little more to a name-brand institution and put in the hard work for a m.b.a. from a reputable institution than it is to pay a discount, online institution for a worthless piece of paper degree that no employer will respect.

online colleges will never replace traditional, brick-and-mortar, four-year universities. there is simply far too much experience to be gained by packing up the car, moving into a dorm, meeting new people from around the world, experiencing new thoughts, ideas, and cultures in person, meeting (and missing) real deadlines, making excuses, crying over lost girlfriends and boyfriends, protesting, cheering, staying up too late, drinking too much (root beer for those of you at dry campuses), and experiencing the real-life preparation for the real world. however, where they are done properly, with credibility and with accreditation, online courses can be an effective way to take in vast quantities of foundational information on a student’s own schedule. the critical thinking, writing, and public interaction is still better suited for a real classroom environment with a real instructor. but as real instructors at accredited universities begin to implement online tools for use in their real classes, the online universities will fade, their brief bubble will burst, and the hard work, preparation, blood, sweat, tears, and all-nighters of a real, technologically-infused university will triumph in the end.

like everything else in life, institutions of higher education are about credibility and reputation. respect must be earned and cannot be bought. and ultimately, one’s true education will manifest itself through one’s words and deeds, not simply through the letters at the end of one’s name.

thoughts on wikipedia and its place as a repository of knowledge

todd presner wrote an excellent piece on his blog entitled, ‘the future of learning institutions in a digital age, or why this professor loves wikipedia,’ that everyone should read. as many of you know, i have been a limited advocate of wikipedia for some time now. of course, the full endorsement debate hinges on the balance between authority and open participation. credibility requires verifiable fact objectively tested by trusted authorities, which is certainly not the case with some of the claims on wikipedia. many users use wikipedia to foist minority opinions, conspiracy theories, or political, religious, or ideological points of view (p.o.v.) upon the public. (others just use it for vandalism.) often times, these povs are given undue weight, which skews the perceived or verified consensus among the public, scholars, or both.

authority is, therefore, the result of a consistent record of claims that have been tested and verified by other credible authorities. despite measures against skewed points of view, unverifiable claims, and original (unverified) research (wikipedia’s three core content policies), most users lack either the skill, time, or patience to persist in this at times grueling search for and vigilant defense of factual data leading to what most would call ‘truth,’ which i minimally define as a consensual, verifiable, and factually supported theory, or, in the case where no consensus exists, a survey of the leading supported theories coupled with the caveat that no consensus of ‘truth’ yet exists.

wikipedia’s strength lies in its ability to gather knowledge from a large pool of willing participants. it is the equivalent of allowing an unlimited number of researchers run the same experiments and pool and compare their results. as long as the researchers are credible, this is a powerful way to compile data and debate theories. thus, wikipedia’s ability to unleash the power of the common populace frightens the traditional and established knowledge brokers like universities and print media publishers. knowledge is indeed power, and few like to share power unless forced to do so. thus, traditional institutions of higher learning criticize the newer, ‘common’ manner of pooling crowd-powered knowledge by pointing to the fringe theories, sensationalist claims, unverifiable beliefs, political ideologies, and sheer nonsense that often pervades wikipedia’s pages (as if such claims did not also exist within universities). by highlighting the poor content (as opposed to the grand medium), traditional institutions of higher learning can cling to knowledge power and parry away the threats posed by common dilettantes.

that is, until now.

as institutions of higher learning begin to embrace formally new technologies like blogs and wiki-powered data collection vehicles, they lend credibility to them. thus, fears of new media are beginning to be allayed; universities are beginning to see the power of the new digital media available to them, and are embracing them to gather, process, and disseminate knowledge more efficiently. likewise, traditional purveyors of print media are learning to incorporate new digital technologies into their transformed business models, which are beginning to result in new marketing strategies for their core business: conveying stories and ideas.

thus, scholars should not shun wikipedia, for while the information conveyed may still be sub-par for intellectual elites, the vehicle for conveying this information is far superior to anything we’ve ever seen. and just as large brick and mortar corporations first downplayed the impact that the internet would have on the free market, and then gradually bought up warmed to waited out the groundbreaking companies that first employed the new technologies until the technologies were perfected, so too will universities begin to adopt these new digital vehicles and in doing so, bestow credibility upon them.

it is true that truth and fact are not determined by a popular vote. however, an informed and tested consensus is certainly still the best way to verify truth claims. as society and technology evolve together in an ever symbiotic relationship, the consensus-driven and tested approach that wikis offer will not only change the way we do research, but as google wave is about to prove, will change the way we communicate by incorporating email, instant messaging, blogging, picture, music, and file sharing, and collaboration into a single and very powerful communication tool. indeed, it is a good time to be in the digital humanities (that is, if we can keep the government from cutting educational technology budgets). -bc

university of california employees to take pay cut

UCLA Royce Hall

UCLA Royce Hall

california is suffering. california needs to cut spending. california spends a lot on education. thus, california is cutting funding to education. i work for ucla. the result is this spending cut proposal.

the bad news: i lose $400-500 a month

the good news: i don’t have to go to work 1-2 days a month

the bad news is: i work more than i should anyways, and i’ll work from home, so this is no real help, because stuff still needs to get done.

the more bad news is: i’ll be making less, therefore paying less tax, therefore the state loses tax revenue. that is, unless they raise taxes….. and let’s not kid ourselves – this is california. they are going to raise taxes (even if they call them fees). good thing my federal taxes aren’t going up. oh, wait…

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