On Suits, Shoes, and Professionalization

Last fall I was at a workshop—at Princeton, to flash some “professional” credentials at the start.  My colleague and fellow blogger Lauren Osborne was there, too—even more “professional” than me, because she had submitted a paper for the group to discuss.  She and I were standing outside a room waiting for a key-note to begin, and we were talking about this gig, the blog, and the Craft of Teaching program more broadly, which we understood as an initiative in response to a long-standing lack of emphasis, on behalf of the Divinity School, to issues of “professionalization.”  We said something, one of us, to the effect that this was a good thing, getting grad students to think about academia as a profession, helping folks prepare for and land jobs. Continue reading

Employment is the New Citizenship: The Liberal Arts in the Global Economy

I would like to circle this discussion of Peter Kaufman’s article back to the academic discipline of religious studies. In general terms, Kaufman encourages humanities teachers to work together with our colleagues in pre-professional programs to find ways to make sense of humanistic study as contributing to the professional development of students. This is insofar as those students will become professionals, and even leaders in their professions, for whom the challenge of responding to the unfolding exigencies of their work lives will require skills beyond those learned in their pre-professional classes. They will require, Kaufman writes, the skills we teach in the humanities. Continue reading

Laboral Arts

I am pleased to follow Rick Elgendy and Lauren Osborne in contributing to the Craft of Teaching blog’s quarter-long discussion of the relationships between liberal education and professionalization in academe, with reference to Peter Kaufman’s article “Education for Professional Leadership in the Humanities: Exhortations and Demonstrations.”

It seems clear from reading these thoughts by my colleagues that the conversation about the “crisis of the humanities” is a conversation about many other things, as well. Starting out from a consideration of the purpose of a liberal arts education, it moves quickly to such grand themes as the nature of the human being, the structure of society, and the struggle against injustice. A grand (if not grandiose) list of concerns, to which I cannot resist adding one more: the alienation of spirit and body. Continue reading

Academe as Labor

As Rick Elgendy mentioned in his recent post, “Pedagogy in the Humanities and Professional Leadership,” the Craft of Teaching Religion blog is hosting a quarter-long conversation on the relationship between liberal education and the increasing calls for increased professionalization in higher education. As the second contributor to that series of posts, I continue the conversation here. Continue reading

Pedagogy in the Humanities and Professional Leadership

This quarter, the Craft of Teaching blog is hosting a sustained conversation on the uneasy coexistence of liberal education in the humanities and professional training in contemporary higher education.  The tension between faculties, the shifting administrative focus of energy and resources to the professions, the apparent impatience of many students with the “impractical” arts and humanities – all of these are well-documented (and frequently bemoaned).  But need this relationship be tense?  How can each play a role in majors and programs traditionally constituted by the other?

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The Balancing Act of Major Design

Prior to undertaking a department-wide redesign of our major, I never would have realized how complex the conversation can be between the opportunities and constraints of institutional context and parameters. Although it sounds obvious in retrospect, one’s ideals about how best to instill in undergraduates robust and critical understandings of our discipline must be balanced with institutional concerns that may arise on a variety of levels. In this post, I take a pragmatic approach in considering the nuts and bolts of a religion major. While this approach does raise the issue of theoretical concerns of defining the discipline in conversation with learning goals that we decide we ought to instill in students, I approach these matters from the bottom up, so to speak. Continue reading

Teaching from Both Head and Heart

Once, at a senior ministry project presentation, I turned to Prof. Richard Rosengarten and said, “What’s the difference between a seminary and a divinity school?”  “I don’t know,” he replied with a grin, “what is the difference between a seminary and a divinity school?”  I was a little embarrassed to tell him that this wasn’t the setup to a great joke, but a sincere question. Continue reading

Interdisciplinarity and the Classroom

Interdisciplinary! It’s not just a buzzword—it’s a way of life! Or maybe it’s just a buzzword? I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which interdisciplinarity, which seems relatively easily saleable in the context of job applications and administrative newsletters, relates to teaching, and especially to teaching upper-level courses. Continue reading