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Follow-up on Fate of our Teachers

Sorry for the light blogging today. I wrote the two pieces that appeared here this morning last night before bed. I woke up today really sick with some sort of stomach virus. Been sleeping all day. Ugh. I just approved comments, and saw a couple on the Fate of College Teachers post that I wanted to highlight.

Carlo, a university math prof, writes:

Berlinerbrau’s diagnosis is acute, but as usual he pays insufficient attention to the philosophical assumptions people make.

First of all, today “scientific progress” (not “wisdom” or even “knowldge”) is the paradigm of education. Education is viewed as instrumental. If it cannot be instrumental TECHNICALLY (STEM disciplines) it must be intrumental POLITICALLY (in the humanities)

Second, the loss of the idea of authority has completely emptied the figure of the “teacher.”

Third, a general loss of the sense of the human person as the focus of education makes it impossible to develop a “taste” for teaching, which is after all 100% about “forming” human beings.

Fourth, a loss of the sense of beauty (as opposed, say, to “political liberation”) as the engine that moves education in the humanities removes the greatest psychological incentive to teaching.

Sorry, I could go on and on…

Edward writes:

I’m a faculty member at a small evangelical college, and we’re currently conducting two faculty hires in political science and criminal justice. As part of the hiring committee, I’ve been sifting through a pile of application packets for the last two weeks to prioritize our interviews. We routinely ask all candidates a set of basic questions intended to suss out their compatibility with the religious priorities of our college (spiritual formation, faith integration, and understanding the workplace as a context for engagement with culture). We routinely ask all candidates why they would want to move to East Texas (of all places!) and attend a little college that won’t pay them very much. Some applicants tend to simply apply everywhere around the country and hope to sort out the options later, and we don’t want to abandon a time investment by the committee when they suddenly realize that we’re a distinctive Christian subculture that won’t be appealing to anyone without a certain level of harmony with our objectives and priorities.

We always ask whether candidates are currently attending a church. One response last night from an out-of-state applicant took me by surprise; I’m still not quite sure I even believe it, since I’m trying to maintain a healthy skepticism that isn’t susceptible to confirmation bias. Here’s the answer (edited a bit for confidentiality reasons):

“I’m not currently attending a local church. I work in a department that associates evangelical worship with political partisanship, and is only accepting of two choices for worship — [a denomination] that is essentially a non-evangelical social club and [another denomination]. It is a very sensitive situation, and one of the reasons why I am seeking employment elsewhere.”

The college where she’s currently teaching is a large state university in the South. It seems hard to fathom that the university would somehow be able to monitor church attendance by its faculty and enforce (even by informal policy or social pressure) a limited range of options for employees to attend. And yet, here’s an application from a person will to move to a fairly uncelebrated part of the country at an institution with no permanent tenure — and take a salary cut — in exchange for getting away from where she is now. It is what it is.

The rest of her application suggests she’s a pretty “normal” evangelical. She’s taught adjunct at two Christian institutions that are more “Wheaton” in reputation than “Bob Jones”. (One of them is my alma mater.) She’s presented a dozen or more conference papers at APSA and regional affiliate conferences on relatively technical subjects. Her transcript GPA was better than mine. Her references look solid, and we’ll probably interview her.

We’re looking for new faculty who want to make durable commitments to our program, and someone looking for high ground in a rising flood isn’t likely to cast back off into the same waters. If her comment is accurate and representative, I would imagine similar stories are playing out across the country.

That is chilling. Have any of you readers who teach in colleges and universities experienced this?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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