Transcendence

I place before you two quotes: one from a Columbia scholar who has studied American higher education, the other from Pope Francis. 1. First, Andrew Delbanco, from his book The Real American Dream, a collection of essays given originally as the 1999 William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University. Delbanco is interested in the ways that American society has been organized around three key foci of declining expansiveness: God (as in Puritan society), nation… Read more

Pluralism or catholicity?

Nicholas Kristof reflects intelligently on the problems faced by campuses like the University of Missouri and Yale, highlighting the balance between free speech and the embrace of pluralism. Of these problems, he writes: One is a concern for minority or marginalized students and faculty members, who are often left feeling as outsiders in ways that damage everyone’s education. (…) But moral voices can also become sanctimonious bullies. This second observation points to what Nietzsche called ressentiment: a feeling of moral outrage toward… Read more

The long view

 I am reading a fine collection of essays entitled Christianity and the Disciplines, which invites scholars from many fields to address two questions: Methodologically, what shifts might occur in your subject and the study of your subject if Christianity were taken as true? Substantively, what transformations might be seen in your subject area if the truth of Christianity were to penetrate those like yourselves who study and engage with the subject? (3-4) I’ll post a review of the book later…. Read more

In loco parentis

Xavier University of Louisiana produces more black medical school students than any other institution in the United States. More than big state schools, prestigious private schools, more than anyone. The reason is simple: they have taken care of their students like parents. Nikole Hannah-Jones tells the story at the New York Times: Marybeth Gasman, an education professor and the head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions, which does research on and assists colleges that serve large numbers… Read more

Theologians as prophets

In his address to theologians in Argentina, Pope Francis said this: The theologian is a prophet. One of the great challenges posed in the contemporary world is not only the ease with which one can do without God, but, socially, a further step has been taken. The present crisis is centered on the inability of persons to believe in anything beyond themselves. The individual conscience has become the measure of all things. This generates a fissure in personal and social… Read more

Peer review and the sin of pride

  There’s a recent fascinating story of a rising high-school freshman whose work exposed a professor’s myth. Ben Collins explains [link added]: In 2002, University of Illinois-Chicago history professor Richard J. Jensen printed “No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization,” a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Social History. His abstract begins: “Irish Catholics in America have a vibrant memory of humiliating job discrimination, which featured omnipresent signs proclaiming ‘Help Wanted—No Irish Need Apply!’ No one has ever seen one of… Read more

Pope Francis address at Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador

  Yesterday Pope Francis gave an address to representatives of schools and universities at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. Following is an excerpt which draws from his recent encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. Faced with the globalization of a technocratic paradigm which tends to believe “that every increase in power means an increase of progress itself, an advance in security, usefulness, welfare and vigor; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture, as if reality, goodness… Read more

College and vocation

Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed recently interviewed Tim Clydesdale, professor of sociology at the College of New Jersey and author of the 2007 book The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School (University of Chicago Press). His newest book is The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students About Vocation (University of Chicago Press). Clydesdale studied programs at various religiously-affiliated colleges and universities which received grants from the Lilly Endownment to help students explore questions of vocation and meaning. Full disclosure: I… Read more

Guest post: two concepts of rationality, Francis M. McLaughlin

In the 1970s, while browsing in a Harvard Square bookstore, I found a thin volume with the intriguing title Guide for the Perplexed, a title similar to the title of the famous text of the medieval Jewish Philosopher Moses Maimonides.  The volume was selling for one dollar. Its author, E. Fritz Schumacher, was familiar to me.  I first heard of him a decade earlier, a middle aged economist, Austrian born and educated, a member of the British Coal Board, and… Read more

Review Essay: Paul Shrimpton, The Making of Men

In 1848 an Oxford don named Charles Daman, a close friend of John Henry Newman in their Oriel College days, penned a guide to aspiring students at Oxford. Titled Ten letters introductory to college residence, Daman’s book aimed to do what he and Newman had striven to do as tutors, even in the face of a collegiate structure that did not support their efforts: to guide adolescents (“inchoate and promissory men”) toward those exercises and pursuits that would help them achieve the… Read more


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