Tuesday, January 18, 2011

quick hit: musings on Christian education

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald @ Killing the Buddha describes his experience as an adjunct professor at The King's College (New York, N.Y.) and considers more broadly the fragile balance sought in many Christian colleges between the freedom to learn and the desire to turn out a certain kind of student.
Every Christian college is part school and part Bible camp; its purpose falls somewhere between education and indoctrination. Even the most well-intentioned ones exist, to some extent, to impart certain religious values to their students. Ideally, there is no conflict between good scholarship and the doctrines professed by Christians, but in practice that isn’t always the case. Of course, this tension is seen to a certain degree in all institutions of higher learning—education is never completely free of bias.

There are some Christian schools that do reach toward impartiality, allowing students “freedom within a framework of faith”—as a popular tagline of Gordon College, my alma mater, has it. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are those that aspire to turn out a certain kind of student, with certain political leanings and a mission to remake the world according to a certain conception of Christianity. The King’s College is among the most flagrant among them. I know because I taught there, at its “campus” spread across a few floors—mainly in the basement—of the Empire State Building.
I discuss the history of Christian higher education during the latter half of the twentieth century in my thesis as part of the context out of which the Oregon Extension grew. I thought this article might interest those in the OE diaspora.

Monday, January 3, 2011

revisions: an update

After a semester's hiatus, during which I completed the course work for my M.S. in Library Science, accepted a job as the Assistant Reference Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society and joined the group of authors at The Pursuit of Harpyness, I am now ready to dive back into revising my thesis.

Just before Christmas, I met with my primary thesis advisor, Dr. Laura Prieto, and went over my draft -- submitted in September -- with both her notes and the notes of my secondary reader, Dr. Sarah Leonard. The consensus among the three of us seems to be the following.
  1. The draft is a solid foundation for the final thesis (hooray!).
  2. The introduction, first and second chapters are solid while the third chapter and conclusion need the most work; I am also going to re-order the chapters so they are in 1-3-2 order rather than 1-2-3 order (this will put the "religion" chapter, which explores some of the larger theoretical issues, before the "in actual practice" chapter that explores how the program was actually implemented). 
  3. I do need to beef up the references to secondary sources, the historical context and methodologies in addition to drawing on primary source materials. I knew this was going to be an issue since in draft 1.2 I was working through my primary sources so closely. Now I can back up and provide the framework a bit more. It's always so hard to remember how much secondary reading on topic X you've actually done over the course of, say, 15 years ...
  4. I need to find a more consistent voice as a scholar, particularly when it comes to situating myself as an insider-outsider in the story that I'm telling (friend of, and former participant in the program at the same time I am studying it from my perspective as an historian). I'm committed to articulating both perspectives openly within the text, but need to clarify my role(s) in respect to particular sections.
That's probably more than you needed to know about my self-imposed project for the spring! By my count, I'll be working my way through roughly eight pages of draft per week in an effort to complete a final version by early April so my ever-patient partner Hanna can have time to copy-edit the final manuscript prior to submission around the first week in May.

A presentation at the spring History Colloquium will mark the end of this phase of the project. Final details about the online availability of the interviews will be forthcoming here at this blog as soon as I get my ducks in a row vis a vis submission to the Internet Archive (likely over the summer, just to give fair warning).