This is one of the coolest projects that I’ve been a part of. We launch on Tuesday. Get ready.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Marginalia Review of Books

http://themarginaliareview.com

Contact: Timothy Michael Law (Publisher and Editor-in-Chief)
Phone: +49-151-504-70298 (Germany)
Email: tmlaw@themarginaliareview.com
Twitter: @MarginaliaROB
Facebook ID: themarginaliareview

The Marginalia Review of Books (http://themarginaliareview.com), a new international publication in the disciplines along the nexus of history, theology and religion, launches Tuesday, January 29.

Marginalia aims to correct what its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief believes to be a downward spiral. “We want to rehabilitate the ailing book review,” said Timothy Michael Law, currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Georg-August Universität, Göttingen (Germany). “We are hoping to create a new standard that puts a premium on quality in both style and substance. Penetrating analysis and engaging prose should be held together.”

Law says the review is often the genre of academic writing that suffers the most neglect, but that it should receive more attention. “The review is functional as a service to each discipline of the academic community by separating the wheat from the chaff. But it is also an art worth recovering, since it can be the only vehicle that communicates our research to those outside of our specialized societies.”

Managing Editors Charles Halton and Anthony Apodaca are also hoping to test the limits of what is possible in academic publishing. Halton said, “Our creativity as scholars should not be limited to the construction of our ideas but should also include the forms of their expression. The web presents us with an opportunity to re-conceptualize the ways in which we package, mediate, and analyze our thoughts.” Marginalia will provide space for readers and authors to interact, create digital panel discussions on the most pivotal publications, and publish long form and peer-reviewed essays.

As important as quality and creativity are to Marginalia, General Editor David Lincicum, University Lecturer in New Testament in Oxford, insists that the editors are just as committed to making reviews more discoverable than those in traditional print journals. Joining the open-access movement, Marginalia will publish all content without charging the reader, directly challenging traditional publications that require readers to login from a university network or pay a hefty subscription.

Marginalia’s Advisory Board consists of more than thirty of the world’s leading scholars in the fields of history, theology and religion, and nearly forty early career scholars serve as Review Editors for the publication.

Editorial Board

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief: Timothy Michael Law (Göttingen)

General Editor: David Lincicum (Oxford)

Managing Editor: Charles Halton (Houston)

Managing Editor: Anthony Apodaca (New York)

Secretary: Daniel Picus (Brown)

Advisory Board

Marc Van De Mieroop (Professor of History, Columbia University)

Gebhard J. Selz (Chair of Old Semitic Languages and Oriental Archaeology, Vienna)

Anthony Sagona (Professor of Classics and Archaeology, Melbourne)

James Rives (Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics, Chapel Hill)

Jan Joosten (Professeur d’Ancien Testament, Strasbourg)

John Barton (Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford)

Athalya Brenner (Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Amsterdam)

Reinhard Kratz (Professor of Old Testament, Göttingen)

Anna Passoni dell’Acqua (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan)

Maren Niehoff (Associate Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Charlotte Hempel (Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, Birmingham)

Markus Bockmuehl (Professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies, Oxford)

Mark Goodacre (Associate Professor in New Testament, Duke)

Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (Directeur d’Études, École Pratique des Hautes Études Paris)

Willem Smelik (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, London)

Joanna Weinberg (James Mew Lecturer in Rabbinical Hebrew, Oxford)

Andrew Louth (Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham)

Sarah Foot (Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Oxford)

Susan Boynton (Professor of Music, Columbia)

David J. Wasserstein (Professor of History, Jewish Studies, and Classics, Vanderbilt)

Adam Silverstein (Reader in Jewish Studies and the Abrahamic Religions, King’s College, London)

Anthony Grafton (Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton)

Diarmaid MacCulloch (Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford)

Mona Siddiqui (Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Edinburgh)

Sholeh Quinn (Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, California Merced)

Ellen T. Charry (Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology,Princeton)

Joel Rasmussen (University Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Christian Thought, Oxford)

Aaron Rosen (Lecturer in Sacred Traditions and the Arts, King’s College London)

Nathan Abrams (Director of Graduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Bangor)

Jeremy Begbie (Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke)

Alan J. Torrance (Professor of Systematic Theology, St. Andrews)

Murray Rae (Head of Department of Theology, Otago)

David Rechter (University Research Lecturer in Modern Jewish History, Oxford)

Shmuel Feiner (Professor of Modern Jewish History, Bar-Ilan)

Charles Jones (Head Librarian, ISAW, New York)

Review Editors

History

Ancient Near East & Semitics

Jonathan Stökl, Leiden;
Ola Wikander, Lund

Graeco-Roman Religions

Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Columbia;
Ivana Petrovic, Durham

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Angela Roskop Erisman, Xavier;
Ingrid Lilly, W. Kentucky;
Jonathan Stökl, Leiden

New Testament

Jane Heath, Durham;
Michael Thate, Yale

Theological Interpretation and Reception of the Bible

Brennan Breed, Columbia, Atlanta

Qur’anic Studies

Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley

Early Jewish History

Alison Schofield, Denver;
Sharon Weisser, Jerusalem

Rabbinic and Late Antique Jewish History

Holger Zellentin, Nottingham;
Shai Secunda, Jerusalem

Medieval Jewish History

vacant

Modern Jewish History

Simon Rabinovitch, Boston;
Adam Mendelsohn, Charleston

Early Christianity

Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, Loyola Chicago;
Mark DelCogliano, St. Thomas

Late Antique Christianity

Julia Konstantinovsky, Oxford;
Emilio Bonfiglio, Geneva

Medieval Christianity

Patrick Hornbeck, Fordham;
Helen Foxhall Forbes, Exeter

Modern Christianity

Joseph Williams, Rutgers

Early Islamic History

Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley

Medieval Islamic History

Blain Auer, Lausanne;
Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Oxford

Modern Islamic History

vacant

Theology

Historical Theology

Darren Sarisky, Cambridge

Constructive Theology

Benjamin Myers, Queensland;
Brandon Gallaher, Oxford

Philosophical Theology

Chris Barnett, Villanova

Religion

Religious Studies

Kerry San Chirico, Hawaii;
Phillip Francis, Harvard

Abrahamic Religions

lisha Russ-Fishbane, Wesleyan;
David Shyovitz, Northwestern;
Stephen Burge, Ismaili Institute, London

Dharma Traditions

Philosophy of Religion
Matthew A. Benton, Oxford

Religious Ethics

Religion, Culture, and the Arts
Ayla Lepine, Courtauld London

Language

French and German

Carolyn Rosen, Royal Holloway London; Felix Albrecht, Göttingen


The Atlantic has a brief piece that charts the default rates of student loans across the categories of public and private universities, for-profit schools, and community colleges. It is no surprise to anyone familiar with for-profit educational practices that while students at for-profit schools make up only 13% of undergrads they comprise 47% of all defaulters. I agree with the author that we need to invest more in community colleges and high school vocational training; the for-profit model is taking advantage of the most vulnerable part of the student population.


Gesine Robinson was kind enough to provide detailed comments regarding her thoughts on why this fragment is likely a modern forgery. Her comments appear under this post but I have also reposted them here in order to provide more convenient access to them:

Rebuttal of the presentation of a Gospel of Jesus’ wife
Gesine Robinson
My objections to the claim of an ancient manuscript fragment and my reasons for regarding it a modern forgery are manifold:
1. Claiming to possess an ancient fragment without knowing its provenance is unfortunate enough, but without giving the current owner is highly suspicious.
2. Even the square format of the papyrus piece with its neat edges suggests that this, at best, is scrap-material, not a preserved manuscript fragment.
3. The papyrus itself may actually be ancient (though this cannot be determined by simply “carefully examining” it, as was maintained), since at least the vertical side gives a rather genuine impression, but the handwriting on the horizontal side is very different, especially with regard to the space between letters and between the lines.
4. On paleographical grounds, the handwriting cannot come from the 4th century; especially judging from the way the T is written, for instance; there is no resemblance to the other known 4th century texts.
5. Miraculously, there are always full phrases preserved, something that hardly happens on a small single fragment.
6. And amazingly, on this small piece there are, according to the editors, allusions not only to one but even to two of the more well-known non-biblical gospels, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas.
7. In terms of the language, only the simplest vocabulary is used and only simple constructions are employed, as if the writer were afraid to make a grammatical mistake.
8. Therefore, the rather rare phrase peje i±±±s+ (though frequently used in the Gospel of Thomas since we have to do there with a collection of Jesus’ sayings) is used even in both instances of speaking, instead of the form pejaF (+ pronominal/nominal object) + NCi + subject that is more common in dialogues or other literary texts. Here in the first instance one would expect something like pejau NIs+ NCi Nmaqhths, and in the second instance pejaF nau NCi i±±s+, or since Jesus answers the disciples, even aFouwvb= NCi Is+ pejaF nau je. It seems a cautious and perhaps unsure modern Coptologist was at work here.
9. In addition, even though in Coptic dictionaries sHime is used for “woman” and Hime for “wife,” Hime is almost never used in comparable literary texts, not for the wife of Adam, Jacob, or any other male figures.
10. In the 2nd century, a time for which the Greek original is presupposed, an author would never have let Jesus simply say, “my wife,” existent or not. Women were relegated to the household as soon as Christian communities ventured out into the public sphere. In case of a disciple married to Jesus, the author would perhaps have explained in a dependent sentence the married status, like “Mary Magdalene, my wife, . . .”. The plain phrase “my wife” betrays modern thinking.

Finally let me express how deeply saddened and troubled I am by the latest trend in manuscript research. There seems to be a new integrity problem, starting with Marv Meyer’s “no comment” (regarding the Gospel of Judas) to Jim Robinson who had worked tirelessly for openness in textual research, up to the newest and most blatant example in Rome. Again secrecy was used as a means to maximize the sensational effect. For this reason, everything was intentionally orchestrated in a way that assured this outcome. It appears that the opening up of the Harvard website and the arrival of the press at the same moment the introduction in Rome was given were coordinated to that end. I am concerned that henceforth new manuscript discoveries will be widely assessed by experts in the field as something that individual scholars can exploit for their own profit.
Scholarship always benefitted from letting colleagues know about current works, from having open discussions of individual research projects at conventions, or from peer reviews prior to publications – something that would have been very beneficial especially in this current instance. Instead it was chosen to hide information from peers and introduce something with so much fanfare and speculation that it surely has to be backtracked one day, just like the evaluation of the Gospel of Judas had to be reversed by the first editors.


If the rumors are true that Harvard Theological Review has declined to publish Karen King’s article concerning the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” fragment, it will be a major blow to the credibility of both the text and King’s reputation. I don’t know if this shadowy collector played King like a fiddle in his hopes of selling his collection to Harvard or if the various news outlets took the story and ran with it without bothering to fact check or if King tried to get ahead of the story in order to control the narrative or if King’s own exuberance and quest for notoriety carried her away. Likely it was a mixture of all of these things and perhaps several more as well. There are several things that we can learn from this saga that has had more sordid drama than a TLC reality show.

  • In the age of multi-billion dollar university endowments scholarship should be carefully separated from commercial interests. In this particular case, the New York Times asserted that the collector who presented the Coptic fragment to King was interested in selling his collection to Harvard. So, let’s do the math, shall we? Collector wants to sell to Harvard + professor he lets publish the sensational text has an endowed professorship at Harvard + said professor wants to publish text in the Harvard Theological Review = too many Harvards in that equation. Seriously, even if there is not an inherent conflict of interest in all this it doesn’t pass the smell test. For the sake of propriety and for safeguarding scholarship, the professors who first publish texts should not be associated with institutions that are potentially going to purchase them.
  • Do all relevant tests of authenticity before posing for pictures, calling the New York Times, and inviting documentary film-makers to film you. I was gobsmacked to read this sentence after scholars started to question the authenticity of the fragment and the wisdom of HTR publishing King’s article: “King said further testing would be done on the fragment, including ink tests to determine if the chemical components match those used in antiquity.” You do this kind of testing before you start promoting yourself the text in question. Period. There is no reason for the Smithsonian Channel to film a documentary before this happens. King shouldn’t have participated until this was finished and the filmmakers should be ashamed of themselves for putting sensationalism in front of true learning.
  • When you hear of unprovenanced texts that are “too good to be true” they probably are. And when I say “probably” I mean, like, 85% of the time when unprovenaced texts include biblical figures, or seem to support conspiracy theories, or reflect the plot lines of best selling novels, they turn out to be forgeries.
  • Single scholars cannot control the story of the texts that they publish. There once was a time when you could publish the first edition of a text and thereby control the conversation on this text for the next decade or so. Those days are dead and gone. The media is hungry for a new, sensational story that will grab eyeballs and as soon it is released they will take it and run with it. Furthermore, other scholars will instantaneously tear the situation apart, analyze every element of it, and make their reflections known in real time. But, this is how it should be. Ancient texts do not belong to one person, they are the common heritage of humankind and should be open and accessible for a consensus to form around them.
  • When you mess up be quick to apologize. King’s reputation is spiraling down the drain and if she wants to salvage much of it she should come clean on who presented this text to her and also apologize about the way she has handled this situation.
There is probably more that we can say about this and we can be sure that this story will take a few more twists and turns before all is said and done. Just one final piece of advice to King: If TLC comes knocking on your door wanting to make you the new Honey Boo Boo of the scholarly world, just say no.

Mark Goodacre’s post alleging that John Drane’s New Testament textbook included “unacknowledged use” of Goodacre’s website has produced a few reactions, even from Drane himself. Yet, I am quite disappointed with many of them for several reasons. Most fundamentally, the conversation that resulted shows that we need to have a renewed conversation within the academy on what plagiarism is and how it factors into various genres of writing.

First, it is astonishing to me that many academics don’t even know what plagiarism really is. For instance, in his comment on Goodacre’s post Peter Head states:

A couple of points: a) I wouldn’t see this as plagiarism, since the wording is not directly copied [I would regard it as inadequate attribution, perhaps exacerbated by early problems in using and referencing web pages]…

This is quite a disconcerting statement because it reveals that Head doesn’t understand plagiarism at all. He seems to link plagiarism with “directly cop[ying]” words. However, Head’s own institution contains this statement in a list of examples illustrating what plagiarism constitutes:

paraphrasing another person’s work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source; [emphasis original]

But Head isn’t alone in this kind of thinking. Several other academics indicated this type of misunderstanding in their discussions with me about Goodacre’s post.

Second, Drane’s own comments on Goodacre’s post were even more disappointing. As Drane was trying to explain this situation he said:

In the nature of things, this sort of introductory text is going to be like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all sorts of stuff in the effort to give a general overview of diverse opinions on things, with the emphasis on the diversity rather than on who says what. Right back to the first edition, this book (and its companions) has never had footnotes because it was never intended to be that sort of book, nor apart from historic trendsetters are any individuals generally mentioned by name in the text. Within the space and budget constraints the best that I could persuade the publishers to include was the booklist at the end – which is also far from comprehensive, even random.

I think this is quite ridiculous. I don’t know of any academic publisher that would go to an author and tell them, “Sorry, but we’re not going to let you properly document your sources.” Almost every publisher will, however, tell an author how many pages they have to work with and then it is up to the author to decide how to fill them. Now, a publisher may control the format of the book which might exclude footnotes but in that case I don’t know of any academic publisher who would refuse to do what every reputable commercial non-fiction publisher does and that is to have a list of notes at the back of the book one of which could have stated something like: “Pages 177-78 were summarized and adapted from …” It is not “in the nature of things” to plagiarize, there are established procedures for avoiding it that every author is expected to abide by and every publisher is willing to go along with.

However, the most troubling thing to me about this whole mess is that Drane, along with many other scholars I’ve read or spoken with, seem to think it is okay to not properly document where ideas came from–and therefore plagiarize (if you disagree with this definition, see Cambridge University’s examples of plagiarism)–when it comes to introductory textbooks because, well, it’s just “in the nature of things” to be sloppy and plagiarize in an intro textbook. Yet, I would imagine that if a student submitted a paper in which they employed practices like this that Drane would fail them. In fact, according to the University of Durham’s own guidelines (Drane has taught there) undocumented “close paraphrasing” is grounds for possible expulsion.

So, why should scholars tolerate a textbook that is intended for introductory students which fails to live up to the standards that we set for the students themselves? Furthermore, why should this be tolerated when the author digs in his heels when confronted with this issue and sloughs it off as no big deal? This situation now models for intro students the fact that properly documenting sources and ideas doesn’t matter. So, how can instructors then reprimand students–and thereby act in accordance with their institutional policies–when they have modeled a completely different set of ethics and standards through adopting a textbook that plays by a different set of rules?

We have recently seen a case in which journalist Jonah Lehrer made up quotes from at least one subject that he wrote about. In response his publisher has recalled the book and is issuing refunds for anyone who bought it. I think Fortress Press might want to get a handle on this issue because for the academic world stealing other scholars’ ideas–even in introductory textbooks–is an equivalent offense as making up quotes within the world of journalism.

And yet, for all his mistakes Lehrer did come clean and, through his publisher, categorically apologized. He didn’t dig in his heels and act like it was no big deal because his quotes sounded like something Bob Dylan would have said and that his book was published by a commercial press and everyone expects some creative license and embellishment for popular books. If only we could hear this kind response from Drane and Fortress.


A few days ago I mentioned Duane Smith’s reflections on the beneficial nature of the inherent inefficiencies of education and it struck me that those advocating a radical pogrom of the universities of “unnecessary” subjects, which is almost inevitably a cipher for the humanities, and pushing an agenda of “useful” and “practical” education, which sounds very much like turning universities into very expensive technical colleges, are suggesting a complete revision of what–at its root–education has always been about since the beginning of schooling itself. For instance, take Niek Velduis‘s description of the curriculum of the 4,000 year old schools in Mesopotamia:

The teaching of Sumerian in the Nippur eduba was not guided by the list of skills a future scribe had to master. The lack of attention to Akkadian and the overdose of high-brow Sumerian point in another direction. It seems that handing down the Sumerian language and tradition as completely as possible was considered to be all important. A pupil of the scribal school was introduced to the techniques of writing, but more importantly he was introduced to the heritage of Sumerian writing and Sumerian poetics.1

Now, I am all for revisiting ideas and systems and adapting, changing, and even completely reworking them when we have good reasons for doing so and it is clear that the changes will be for the better. However, when we do this we should be cognizant and upfront with what we are doing. Those advocating a radical repositioning of the educational system seen within the structure of traditional universities–which centers upon teaching people how to think, how to analyze the world and the ideas in it, how to form their own opinions and conclusions, how to generate new ideas, gain a greater appreciation for the previously unknown and different, develop a sense of beauty, form their own identity and ethical vision, and to acquire skills to help them flourish as participants in the world economy and as individual human beings in the global community–and focusing merely upon commoditizing education and reducing its focus to merely utilitarian ends, are casting aside an approach to education that is four millennia old.

Ever since scribal schools sprang up teachers have thought that a vital part of their roles was imparting an ethical vision to their students and helping to form an identity for them that would lead them to serve other humans for the common good. For thousands of years people have known that knowledge is power and educated people have to use their power with circumspection, mercy, justice, competency, and compassion. Over the past few years we have seen what happens when we hand extremely talented but myopic and seemingly ethically numb people the keys to our economy. To take a razor to our universities and slice off “unproductive” departments that, by the way, focus upon the bedrock of western civilization as we know it (Classics) and the country that holds the fate of the Euro and concomitantly the world financial system in its hands (German), is not only foolish but historically blind. Yet, this should come as no surprise because the fields of vision of the people who were until recently guiding the direction of UVa’s board center upon three month increments.

While the UVa scandal is presently in a temporary lull, the overall debate of what a university is and how it should look in the near future is far from over and many of the same trajectories that regents at UVa were pushing are quietly being threatened at other universities.

All this is not to say that universities should not listen to the business community, and even hedge fund moguls, as they adapt to the ever changing demographic, technological, and sociological landscapes of the current future age. They do and they should. However, at the same time, those that hold positions of trust on the boards of these institutions should also be listening to the “inefficient” thinkers and teachers that populate them. Because if they did I’m sure that the history department, or even that completely obscure ancient Near Eastern studies professor, would be very delighted to have a mutually beneficial conversation about how people of the past viewed education so that those in positions of influence might have a more thoughtful and informed ability to formulate a vision for the future.


  1.  Nicolaas Veldhuis, “Elementary Education at Nippur: The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects” (PhD diss., Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1997), 82-83. [back]

According to a team of researchers led by the Wharton management professor Adam Grant, introverted leaders typically deliver better outcomes than extroverts, because they’re more likely to let proactive employees run with their ideas.

The Atlantic

I take studies like this with a healthy bit of skepticism but at least one helpful thing that it highlights is that you don’t have to be a high energy type A person to be a good leader which is what you hear from many quarters. Yet, I tend to think that good leaders are good leaders. It doesn’t matter if you are extroverted or introverted as long as you take your own personal strengths and approach and use them well while recognizing and compensating for your weaknesses. This applies not only to business environments but also to the way classes are taught and students are mentored.




A piece by Nathan Schneider, “Why the World Needs Religious Studies,” is making the rounds in various forums like Facebook and Twitter. And with good reason. Schneider highlights some some helpful benefits to studying world religions and points out how foundational religion is to much of the goings on in the world even though religion is often pushed to the background within public discourse in North American and Western Europe. However, as helpful as the reflection is I think there is an unhelpful temptation that it may help to reinforce.

In an age of decreasing public funding allocated toward higher education as well as a student loan debt problem most institutions are finding themselves in budgetary squeezes. Naturally, departments and their professors find themselves, either explicitly nor not, needing to justify their continued existence not only to administrators and elected officials but also to parents of prospective students. The natural tendency, which Schneider’s piece appropriates, is to explain how the liberal arts (which is invariably one of the prominent soft targets) or religious studies (whether it is a subdivision of liberal arts/humanities or is its own school or department) can have a practical benefit in landing and succeeding in a career. There is nothing wrong, per se, with this response. I think all of the benefits that Schneider mentions are exactly on point. Yet, if this is where we stop, or even, if this is where we start when we attempt to justify religious studies/humanities/liberal arts then I think we may subtly undermine two other–and more important–facets of these disciplines.

Mark Roche outlines three reasons why someone would choose to study liberal arts in his book length treatment of the question, Why Choose the Liberal Arts (Roche’s words in bold, my thoughts added after):

  1. The intrinsic value of learning for its own sake, including exploration of the profound questions that give meaning to life. This, I think, is where we should start. When someone asks, “What value does religious studies/humanities/liberal arts have?” I think our first and default answer should be that this kind of study is inherently valuable–the questions and topics that it explores are those that humans naturally gravitate to. Those of us who engage in these fields have a prophetic duty to remind our institutions and our culture that a flourishing and satisfying life does not arise out of mere service to economics and utility.
  2. The formative influence of the liberal arts (and/or religious studies) on character and on the development of a sense of higher purpose and vocation. Roche puts this last but I think it should be second so I’ve taken the liberty to switch up his list. After all of the various economic implosions that the world has been through is there anyone left who thinks that all colleges need to do is to churn out really efficient and highly tuned financial and economic technicians? In other words, should we bracket out things like ethics, philosophy, religious studies, literature, etc. from finance or engineering degrees so that we can save more room in the curriculum for additional classes in derivatives trading or maybe even just shorten a finance degree to three years? Of course, no one can force an ethical vision upon someone–not even the threat of law and disgorgment was enough to prevent a Bernie Madoff, yet, I think it would be wise for schools to present finance as something more than facilitating transactions or making deals. How does finance fit into the service of humanity, how can one navigate its ethical challenges, what are the religious dimensions to finance? And even in this last question I think we need to approach it with more depth than merely, say, understanding sharia law so that we can make a killing off Islamic banking.
  3. The cultivation of intellectual virtues necessary for success beyond the academy. Of course we want students to be able to find satisfying and gainful employment once they graduate and schools should try to give them the tools they need to do this. But, this is still, in my mind, a third tier goal. Otherwise, if we prize employment skills over and above and to the detriment of the previous two goals we essentially transform the “university” into a technical school. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a technical school–I think we need to make them more prominent parts of our society and raise the social perception of them–yet, if we see colleges and universities as stepping stones that merely give our kids the skills and resume fodder to get them a job then we have changed the very nature of what colleges and universities have been for greater than half a millennium. Traditionally, they were places that prepared people for a vocation but also institutions in which students contemplated the world and their place within it and responsibilities to it.
Again, I don’t think that we should justify the existence of religious studies and liberal arts by merely reciting of list of how they are useful. Rather, I think we should–each and every time–reiterate their intrinsic value and connection with the core of what it means to be human, then move to character and identity formation, and then to utility.
What do you think?