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Dr--Jarvis-Williams-book-pix1We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. – G.K. Chesterton

The sea in the Baptist world continues to be in tumult.

The trustees at Campbellsville University, following the direction and advice of the administrators, recommended and approved the following. Dr. Jarvis Williams was told not to apply for tenure and that his contract would not be renewed beyond one year.

All of this because of his convictions on theology.

Dr. Williams is a New Testament and Greek professor in the School of Theology at this Christian University which is part of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

He is a Christian conservative who is committed to biblical authority and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

We have heard from a reliable source that they retain several faculty members who are not part of Baptist traditions, professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and biblical inerrancy. They also maintain professors who affirm and teach evolution.

This is troubling because Campbellsville University is a Kentucky Baptist school that receives Kentucky Baptist dollars from conservative baptist churches to help support the mission of the University.

Dr. Williams is the only African-American male teaching full time in the School of Theology. It is especially baffling since the school does not require its faculty to sign a doctrinal statement or to assent in writing to a confession of faith that defines and limits the theological boundaries within which professors can teach or that expresses what professors can and cannot believe.

In addition, he never received any official marks against his record at the school. The student reviews were positive, and he was promoted just a year ago to Associate Professor. He has published three books, several articles, and is currently contracted for three other books. This makes him one of the most published faculty members even at his young age. The University neither privately nor publicly told Dr. Williams that he no longer has academic freedom to teach his discipline or to discuss controversial issues related to it. Instead, the University, a professing Christian school, has emphasized on numerous occasions that all professors at the school have academic freedom.

An administrator at the school told him privately it was because of his theology.

Dr. Williams is a friend of mine who has a fire lit under him about Biblical truth.

If you talk with him for five minutes you can feel his passion for teaching, preaching, and his love for people and the Scriptures. Not only that, but he has the ability to attract racial minorities in a way that other professors cannot.

It is a troubling time when someone like this is not seen fit to teach at a Christian school anymore.

It is Campbellsville which seems to have jettisoned their convictions, not Dr. Williams.

Changing Education

March 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

Another article interacting with the new face of education is at the NYTimes opinion page. Thomas Friedman writes about the MOOC revolution and how it is changing the game.

Institutions of higher learning must move, as the historian Walter Russell Mead puts it, from a model of “time served” to a model of “stuff learned.” Because increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google.

Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor. There seemed to be a strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal.

Bottom line: There is still huge value in the residential college experience and the teacher-student and student-student interactions it facilitates. But to thrive, universities will have to nurture even more of those unique experiences while blending in technology to improve education outcomes in measurable ways at lower costs. We still need more research on what works, but standing still is not an option.

I agree with much of what he says, however, there is a danger of trashing all of the old and losing something we can’t even see yet.


JMM_15.2_Web-198x300There are two interesting articles in the newest Journal of Markets & Morality (a journal you should keep your eye on).

William Pannapacker, Associate Professor of English at Hope College, argues that it is not wise, while Mark Baer responds and says that Pannapacker misunderstands the nature of the degree.

Both articles are worth your time.

Pannapacker recounts some disheartening statistics dealing with topics such as

  • the oversupply of PhD’s
  • the growing use of adjunct professors and shrinking use of tenure professors
  • the rapid increase of PhD recipients outpacing the number of jobs since the 1970’s
  • that 49% of humanities doctoral students will not have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrollment

Despite these grim prospects, most universities have not reduced the size of their graduate programs, on the contrary, they have enlarged them because their institutional prestige depends on it. These programs rate their success on the number of students they place in graduate school without giving attention to where these graduates are going or how successful they are after school.

Mark Baer disagrees with Pannapacker, arguing that getting a degree is not just for the marketplace, but that humans were created by the Creator to create. The question then becomes “Where might I create?” and, “What might I create?”

He does not bypass the dismal statistics saying that they should be taken into consideration. Rather he urges professors and administrators to be honest, even brutally honest, with mediocre students who dream of themselves as a professor but rarely ever exhibit the quality of work and self-discipline necessary to make it.

One of the pieces of advice he gives is to ask the prospective student to read a scholarly monograph in their field and then discuss it. Many times it will reveal that the student is not really interested in scholarship.

Baer concludes that we should not decide another persons calling but that we should give honest, realistic advice. However to abandon higher education in the humanities altogether would produce a generation of Christians who have a narrow worldview with no one to help student see past the fog and gloom around them.

Both Pannapacker and Baer have surresponses which can be found here.


14618466_BG1Ken Fryer has a post about the unfortunate things happening at Louisiana College.

First Dr. Jason Hiles was let go, now I heard today that Dr. Ryan Lister and Dr. Kevin McFadden were also treated similarly.

Let us unite in the name of Christ.



Is the Lecture Dead?

January 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

WiersmaEngagingLecture1The other day I was listening to NPR and they were talking about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course).

The commentator noted that in addition to all online courses starting, many on campus courses are “flipping” the classroom so that the lectures are online. I am not entirely opposed to this idea but the next statement is what stood out to me.

The speaker noted that the lecture is slowly dying and that it is remarkable that it has even persisted this long.

Historically he said the lecture was employed because before the printing press took off because it was the easiest way to communicate information. The lecture persisted even after we could now access this information in books.

Now the lecture is threatened by cyberspace. The fiber optic cables are slowly squeezing the neck of the lectures life.

Well historically I am not sure if this is all correct, even though it is an interesting perspective.

Most importantly though, the premise is wrong in the argument. Namely that the lecture is solely for the transmitting of information.

A new Atlantic article praising and defending the lecture exposes the weakness of such a view and points towards the value of lectures.

To begin with, we lecturers must ask ourselves a basic question: why am I lecturing? What will I be able to get across to learners through a lecture that they could not get just as well and with less inconvenience by reading a book or working through an online learning module? The answer, in part, must be that the physical presence of the lecturer and the unfolding of the lecture in real time will make a difference for learners. Great lecturers not only inform learners, they also engage their imaginations and inspire them.

The core purpose of a great lecturer is not primarily to transmit information. To this end, other techniques, such as assigning a reading in a textbook or distributing an electronic copy of the notes, can be equally effective. The real purpose of a lecture is to show the mind and heart of the lecturer at work, and to engage the minds and hearts of learners. Is the lecturer enthusiastic about the topic? Why? Could I get enthused about this, too? How could I use this to take better care of my patients? Is this the kind of doctor or nurse I aspire to be some day?

A great lecturer’s benefit to learners extends far beyond preparing for an exam, earning a good grade, or attaining some form of professional certification. The great lecture opens learners’ eyes to new questions, connections, and perspectives that they have not considered before, illuminating new possibilities for how to work and live. Without question, it also helps learners who pay attention earn a better grade, but it manages to make the topic take on a life of its own and seem worth knowing for its own sake, beyond such narrow, utilitarian advantage.

From a Christian perspective there must be some truth to this in relation to preaching as well.

God did not just give us The Word, but ministers of the Word.

Although a few years dated (2009), the book Creating An Opportunity Society looks like a great resource. Here is a description:

Americans believe economic opportunity is as fundamental a right as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. More concerned about a level playing field for all, they worry less about the growing income and wealth disparity in our country. Creating an Opportunity Society examines economic opportunity in the United States and explores how to create more of it, particularly for those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill propose a concrete agenda for increasing opportunity that is cost effective, consistent with American values, and focuses on improving the lives of the young and the disadvantaged.

It also has a helpful PowerPoint presentation about the book.

One of the most interesting slides in slide 15 which shows what accounts for success.

What Accounts for Success

The three factors that cause 74% of people to be “successful” are the following:

  • Graduate from High School
  • Work Full Time
  • Wait until age 21 and marry before kids

Take away one of these factors and your chance at success goes way down.


So what should be done? The authors conclude:

  • Improve Education
  • Expand Work
  • Strengthen Families

I do not know if they rate these according to importance, but it seems to me that if you focus on the last one, the other two will most likely follow.

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