Though scholars are united in their lack of confidence in Scripture and supremely confident in their own theories, they are higly critical of each other’s views.
Forbes has a very interesting essay seeking to answer the question, “Why do wealthy people still work like crazy?”Â While this essay focuses mainly on investment bankers and corporate executives, you and I can learn a lot from it as well.
The essay states that some of the reasons why wealthy people still workaholics are: some really enjoy their work, some are trying to prove something to themselves or an influential figure in their lives, some are insecure and think working to the bone will make them secure, others try to escape bad marriages and family life.
Unfortunately, I have seen all of these reasons in the lives of various scholars.Â Being an academic on one hand is very easy–you only teach a few classes a semester, the work doesn’t break your back like slinging asphalt on a hot Texas summer day, and you get holidays and summers off.Â But, in order to be great, one must spend a lot of time preparing for classes, honing pedagogical skills, constantly sharpening one’s knowledge by staying current with research, and one should be generating new ideas and publishing them.Â Furthermore, there are various pressures that one can put on themselves in order to meet tenure reviews, get a position at a prestigious institution, gain a stellar reputation…
To be sure, to be a great academic, pastor, student, or informed lay person, it takes work.Â But, we all have to take steps to ensure that no matter what work we are engaged in, that it doesn’t eat us up.Â In this sense, academics face the same snare of workaholism that the corporate world does.
So, what’s the solution to this problem?Â Know that there is more to life that what other people think of you.Â As advanced as we think we might be, we never get beyond the kindergarten playground.Â Academics are still the scared new kid on the playground just hoping not to get beat up, the insecure person trying to make it into the “cool clique,” the son or daughter trying to get mom and dad’s acceptance and approval.Â Don’t let the siren call of peer acceptance drive you to forsake a well rounded and healthy life for the sake of a “great position” or a “grand reputation.”Â Peer acceptance is nice, but it’s not everything.Â In the grand scheme of life, it’s really not all that much of anything.
I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.
A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a monthâ€™s study of books.
Slate.com has begun a new series entitled “Blogging the Bible” in which a self-confessed “ignoramous” reads the Bible and provides his comments.Â David Plotz has just begun this quest (as far as I can tell he is just working through the Pentateuch) and from his observations on merely the first few chapters of Genesis, I think we can see the continued need for Bible educators.
David Plotz is an intelligent person, but he admits that he has recieved his biblical education from TV and other tangential sources.Â I’m not saying someone has to have a PhD in Bible or languages to understand the Bible, but one does need some basic skills and interpretive framework in order to make proper sense of it.Â Anyway, I don’t think you will gain too many incredible insights from Slate’s new biblioblogging adventure other than reassurance that your work of good quality Bible study and teaching is needed now more than ever.
NPR has had two recent segments that are of interest to Bible and ancient Near East devotees:
- Today Talk of the Nation entered the unprovenance artifact debate by interviewing the director of the Art Institute in Chicago and Peter Watson who is author of a recent book on looting and museums.
- On Monday Fresh Air interviewed Neil Asher Silberman who authored a recent book with Israel Finkelstein concerning the historical quest for the real (if even at all) David and Solomon. Apart from a few uninsightful comments, such as stating that finding David’s palace balcony (if there was a David) won’t really prove the Bathsheba encounter, this interview is a good introduction to their views on this subject as well as their approach to history and the Bible in general.
The New York Times Magazine has a really great essay on the future of books–you really should check this out. Kevin Kelly states that as books are digitally scanned, a universal library will be created that is open for all to use (well, at least non-copyrighted material will hopefully be free, alongside the assumed “contextual ads”)–not just the well-heeled people in developed nations (welcome news also for graduate students eating ramen noodles and beans out of a can saving up the little scraps of extra cash for the next SBL conference so he or she can purchase books at significant discount).
This is by itself is not that radical. What is radical is that Kelly states that instead of having a compilation of all individually published material into a universal library, we will actually have one book. Books will be indexed by search engines, tagged by readers, contain hyperlinked references and bibliographies, etc. Furthermore, people will be able to cut and paste snipets from multiple books together to create book mashups similar to what is now seen with video, music, and Google maps. This will lead to a sort of “liquid knowledge” whereby one can completely exhaust all publishable material on specific topics through search engines. So, if this interests you, check out the essay.
What do you think about all this?
This is the first in a series of three posts concerning the future of liberal arts academics. The Wall Street Journal reports today (paid subscription required) that private backers are increasingly important to ongoing archaeological digs. Since public funding is rapidly decreasing for these kinds of endeavors1 private backers are becoming ever more important. According to the Archaeological Institute of America, half of the funding for American led expeditions comes through private chanels–individuals or their foundations.
So, what does this mean for you and me? I think this is just one piece in a rapidly developing puzzle. Private donors are becoming more and more important in all areas of academics. In order to grow departments, start new digs, and add more faculty to liberal arts programs, schools are going to have to find avenues of private financing to do this (as well as simultaneously streamline their back office). Tuitition prices cannot rise too much more than they are and public funds are dwindling. Therefore, departments that want to expand or even sustain themselves have to get serious about fundraising. This means getting the professors excited about this as well. They have a vital role to play in fundraising, this is not just the administration’s job.
Profs should meet with donors along with fundraising professionals. They should communicate their vision and goals for their classes and the program directly to do donors–not just hole themselves up in a study and expect the admin people do all the leg work. Also, this is a message to department heads and deans–The one place you can’t scrimp on is your fundraising department. In order to raise money, you have to have really good fundraising professionals and really good ones are in very short supply. Therefore, you have to pay up and get good ones, they will pay for themselves over and over again.
Furthermore, professors, if you are really committed to your field, try to create a situation in which you can support yourself financially. In many areas, such as biblical studies, archaeology, assyriology, etc. it looks like the field is moving more and more to a situation similar to the founding of these disciplines–wealthy people with time on their hands engaged in these archane and niche areas. I expect this trend will continue as more and more executives and investment bankers retire early and want something to do (I have heard reports of more and more biblical studies profs teaching for free because they have plenty of money and don’t need the paycheck) and as departments and institutions that don’t have excellent fundraising departments become increasingly strapped for cash (and business and engineering schools tire of supporting the humanities and force them to become more independent).
If you are a liberal arts prof, how do you survive this? That’s the focus of the next two posts, but let me address the financial aspect of this now. I see two attractive routes that one can take (there are certainly more than two, but here’s a sampling): 1) Be incredibly good at what you do–excellent, compelling, passionate teaching and ground-breaking, constructive and amazing research. This will help you compete more adeptly at the available openings and advancements. 2) Create a situation in which you are financially independent and can teach out of pure joy. I know not all of us can accomplish option 2 but if you can, what a wonderful blessing. Financial markets have never been more open than they are today–anyone with good ideas, seed money, and a high speed internet connection can participate and hopefully be successful. Other ways of making money are available also. Again, you just need seed money (which you can borrow if your idea is good enough) and a good idea. Hey, instead of having to beg an ever declining NEH for money, why don’t you become the backer yourself?
What do you think?
- According to the WSJ grants given by the National Endowment for the Humanities for archaeology fell to 2.2 million in 2005 from 2.5 million in 1995. If we adjust for inflation, the amount given in 1995 would total over 3.1 million in 2005 dollars. Therfore, we have actually seen a 29% drop in funding in real dollars. [back]