The New York Times reports that BMW has given a donation to Clemson University which is the largest donation in the history of the school. In return BMW is getting an uprecidented amount influence in designing the automotive studies portion of the institution:
In return for the largest cash donation ever received by the school, Clemson gave the company some unusual privileges, including a hand in developing a course of study.
At Clemsonâ€™s urging, BMW in large part created the curriculum for an automotive graduate engineering school. The company also drew up profiles of its ideal students; it gave Clemson, a state-supported university, a list of professors and specialists to interview, and even had approval rights over the schoolâ€™s architectural look.
Some people are pretty upset about the level of influence that BMW now has. But, here are a couple of my observations:
- BMW donated the money to Clemson. It’s BMW’s money and Clemson didn’t have to accept it if they didn’t want BMW’s input.
- Who knows better how to prepare automotive engineers than probably the most cutting edge car company around?
- My favorite quote of the entire article says it all: “Robert M. Hitt, manager of public relations at BMWâ€™s plant in Greer, S.C., says that ‘BMW has not captured Clemson.’ But he later added, ‘Where are we going to get our future managers from, our future department heads?’” Let’s see, if you’re wanting a job in the auto industry do you think your job prospects are better graduating from BMW’s handcrafted program or some other program crafted by professional academics?
Now for the controversial part of this post. We need deep involvement from the people people who hire biblical studies and ANE people and also practitioners of the field in the formation of curriculum, professor positions, etc. Who are these people (besides McDonald’s–and Fortune 500 companies and investment banks, look at the resumes of CEOs and many of them will have various liberal arts degrees, expect a post on this in the near future…) who employ biblical studies and ANE grads? Local religious congregations and denominational institutions. Right now they are shut out of most non-denominationally affiliated schools. I think they should be brought back into the fold. If BMW is doing it with autos, churches should do it with biblical studies.
What do you think?
One of the most foundational things writers must do to produce engaging writing is to make sure that their writing is accessible. With respect to biblical studies and to a lesser degree ancient Near Eastern studies, keep in mind that there are probably several different audiences for most works in these fields. Not only are other scholars (hopefully) reading your writing, but so are clergy and interested lay persons. A great number of non-professional scholars have a very active interest in biblical studies and ANE, so make your works accessible to them.
The point of writing is not just to show off in front of other scholars, but to educate and inspire your readers. I just finished reading an essay in which the author inserted German quotations into the body of his text and occassionally gave an English translation in the footnotes. Why do this? This collected volume is a perfect intro book to the topic addressed but most lay people do not know German. Why not put your English translation in the body of the text and the German in the footnote? Futhermore, this writer also kept using Greek and Latin terms where English terms would work just as well.Â Anyway, you get the point. Try to make your writing as accessible as possible to ALL interested people, not just other professional scholars.
Why do some bloggers feel the need to constantly post about their webstats? Every time I see someone say that they have reached XXX amount of visitors or page views or they have a big contest about it and give crap away to celebrate
bribe visitors because their content apparently can’t get them the views, it makes me think of junior high boys trying to one-up each other on how many chin-ups they can do or high-schoolers showing off at how many levels they can beat in a video game. If you want blogging to gain a more legitimate status in society leave the sophomoric showboating offline.
My wife and I are big contemporary art fans (as well as impressionist and surrealist fans also, but Monet and Dali are a bit out of our price range) and a new piece of art just arrived this morning. This is an untitled 2005 work from Heather Patterson, a San Fransicso based artist. My wife particularly liked this piece because of its similarity to the pattern of blood vessels (she is a Radiologist and spends a lot of time looking at the insides of people). I have uploaded a few more pieces in our burgeoning art collection (including a photo that I took at the Buchenwald concentration camp) onto Flickr which is on the sidebar of the site.
Why is it that academic writing is largely so boring? Of course there are a few standout examples of academic writers that sustain a reader’s attention and provide an enjoyable and even fun reading experience, but by and large most academic writing isn’t exactly engaging. So, we’ll spend a few posts together discussing how to write engaging academic works.
Before we jump into the how-tos, Athalya Brenner provides a keen insight into the problem of boring academic writing:
Scholarly discourse, especially written scholarly discourse, has a certain format. It is supposed to be factual and dry, “objective,” or at least relatively clean of personal influence. It is supposed to contain extensive references to previous and current chains of learning. It is supposed to ignore political (in the wider sense of the term) realities. It is supposed to display the writer’s knowledge to advantage. Notes are expected, and the more the better, so that a text and a subtext run concurrently. A certain degree of originality is demanded, even when it is the result of hair-splitting, but it should not come at the expense of “depth.” Literary style, when too personal, is frowned upon. A clear distinction is made between “literary” discourse and academic or scholarly discourse. And thus, and increasingly so, academic/scholarly so-called research, in its written forms, is becoming more and more boring and less and less aesthetically pleasing.
I would also apply this tendency to most presentations at the scholarly conferences as well. It seems to me that most of the problem stems from the fact that people write not necessarily to teach or inform others as to show off one’s knowledge so the writer ends up looking impressive in the eyes of the reader.
It seems that we scholars show our immaturity and self-consciousness in different ways. While we may scoff at someone’s attempt to overcome low self-esteem by driving a Porsche when a Honda will get you from point A to point B, instead of providing enough footnotes to help our readers follow our thoughts and check our work, we start dropping footnotes everywhere to excess just so we overwhelm others with our erudition.
Well, what do you think? Is Athalya right? Am I right?
Are you looking for English translations of major religious texts whether they be the Bible, Qur’an, or Aztec writings?Â The Religious Text Index is the place for you, just follow the link.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece by Robert Alter on his top 5 books on the Bible. While I am tempted to cut and paste the entire article since WSJ is paid subscription only, I will respect copyrights and give you the list of books and the link–in the article Alter provides explainations of why the books made his list:
By Erich Auerbach
2. The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative
By Hans W. Frei
3. The Book of God
By Gabriel Josipovici
4. Leviticus as Literature
By Mary Douglas
5. The Biography of Ancient Israel
By Ilana Pardes
University of California, 2000
A friend of mine, Adam McCollum, sent me a link to a BBC story concerning the environmental and economic damage sustained by Byblos, an ancient Pheonician city.Â Another sad reminder of the results of war.