American Liberal Arts Blog

Teaching the Liberal Arts in the American Context

Outside the Classroom

The American Historical Association's Teaching Moment
By John Hardin on June 04, 2009

A few months ago, the American Historical Association Executive Director Arnita Jones stated that at the 2010 annual meeting, the association "would seize the opportunity to create a significant teaching moment." This made sense to me and seemed agreeable, after all, the AHA is committed to teaching, why pass up a "significant teaching moment." Yet, then I read what that moment will be, and what they intend to teach.

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Leon Kass's Jefferson Lecture
By David C. Innes on May 28, 2009

On May 21 in Washington DC, Leon Kass delivered the 38th Annual Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Looking for an Honest Man: Reflections of an Unlicensed Humanist."

The lecture is about the lifelong pursuit of answers to the great human questions, the questions which Socrates began to address after his famous "turn" from natural philosophy to the deepest moral and political questions.

He summarizes his quest this way:

"I have sought wisdom about the meaning of our humanity, largely through teaching and studying the great works of wiser and nobler human beings, who have bequeathed to us their profound accounts of the human condition."

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Quality Time With The Venerable Dead
By David C. Innes on May 11, 2009

Samuel Davies (1723-1761) was one of America's greatest preachers. He was a Virginian and the fourth president of the College of New Jersey, known today as Princeton University, succeeding Jonathan Edwards. As a pastor in Virginia, he had the privilege of discipling young Patrick Henry from the pulpit each Lord's Day.

On a friend's Facebook page today, I found these words from Pastor Davies which everyone who is serious about the truth, wisdom, and the life of the mind will take to heart.

I have a peaceful study as a refuge from the hurries and noise of the world around me, the venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.

C. S. Lewis and Niccolo Machiavelli share some related thoughts.

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Preparing for the Job Market From Day One
By Steven McGuire on March 31, 2009

In academia, simply having the necessary credentials isn't enough. I think that's true for everyone, no matter where they obtain their Ph.D., but it's especially true for those of us who aren't graduating from a top research institution. While it may not be possible to make up for not attending a top school, it's certainly possible to make oneself stand out from the rest of the crowd. What are the sorts of things that graduate students can do to get an advantage?

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Samuel P. Huntington 1927-2008
By David C. Innes on March 16, 2009

It has been about ten weeks now since Professor Huntington died, but as no one else has posted on this, and since there may be some who need a brief introduction to the work of this great scholar, I offer this reflection and survey of reflections.

The great Harvard political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, died Christmas Eve. My first exposure to Huntington was as an undergraduate when I read American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (1981). In that book, he presented America as a uniquely principled nation that, because it was founded on moral-political principles rather than on blood or soil, we are always living with an "I v I gap," an ideals versus institutions gap. ...

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Higher Education's Dirty Little Word: Assessment
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on March 13, 2009

For weeks I have debated whether or not to write on the topic of assessment. My hesitation stems from the fact that in all of my discussions with colleagues, whenever I mention the word "assessment" I receive stares of disdain. The faces of my colleagues become red and distorted as blood rushes either to the brain or the heart at such a rapid pace as to leave NASCAR's Jeff Gordon in the dust. One could almost hear the rapid palpitations of my colleagues' hearts as their levels of indignation rise. And then the words just come out: "What did you say? Assessment?" "Is there something wrong with you?" Apparently, I have just uttered a word that is tantamount to a curse among scholars. So, I ask myself (then and now), why this hatred and animosity toward a practice that is more and more prevalent within higher education in the United States?

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Could Liberal Education Have Helped Avert the Economic Crisis?
By John von Heyking on March 09, 2009

Yes, according to this writer, referring to a recent speech by Paul Volcker to a Toronto audience. The author also cites several business leader on the importance of how liberal education supports the moral ecology that sustains a free economy. http://www.calgaryherald.com/Technology/Arts+education+might+have+aver…

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Job Interviews: A View from the Trenches
By Anonymous on February 18, 2009

Finding the right academic job is one of the most important events in the life of any faculty member. And an essential first step in this process is the job interview. The LASC Blog has now listed a number of postings regarding the job interview- a sort of master list of do's and don't's. I have been deep in the trenches of interviewing candidates and attending candidate presentations during the last few months and would like to offer the following recommendations.

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The Job Search and Interview Process
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on December 30, 2008

In a number of posts, Phil Hamilton has provided invaluable advice for advanced graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s regarding the job search process. In this post, I want to continue this blog theme. Currently, I am involved in two search committees and am involved in evaluating a number of different candidates. And, as always, such activities allow one to learn much about the current state of the profession as well as the types of candidates in the field. Now, I confess. The following observations are not "rocket science." They are quite common sensical. But you would be surprised to know the number of candidates that do not abide by them or appear to have never thought about them. With this in mind, consider the following:

  1. Submit ALL requirements that potential employers require in the manner required. Many candidates do not fulfill this basic requirement. Somehow some job candidates expect search committees to be flexible and to accommodate the applicant's schedules, preferences, idiosyncratic behaviors, or plain and simply lack of professionalism. This is a major error that a job seeker cannot afford to make.
  2. Do not pester the search committee or related personnel. In some of the search committees in which I have participated, some candidates have bombarded the committee or its staff with 3-5 emails per week and sometime per day! This not only frustrates the committee but demonstrates a great sense of insecurity and immaturity on the part of the candidate. This is another error to be avoided.
  3. Know the institutions to which you are applying. Phil has emphasized this already. I would like to re-emphasize it! If you are applying to a religious institution, ensure that you are aware of its religious heritage and requirements. And, ensure that you can articulate your own sophisticated position on the relationship between religion (faith) and your discipline. Many religious institutions want their professors to be able to articulate this relationship (this is often called the integration of faith and learning) during the application process as well as in teaching and perhaps scholarship. Non-religious schools want the same thing. They may not say it or use the integration jargon. But every institution wants candidates that can articulate how their research, teaching, and understanding of their discipline impinges on what they believe about politics and history and what is relevant. This raises another important issue-breadth and depth of knowledge.
  4. Specialization. Ph.D.'s push one to specialize- to know a lot about a small area. This is all well and good. But the most effective scholars and teachers are those that can specialize and yet still have a broad understanding of the human experience. Some search committees look for this. They don't just want a super specialized candidate that can talk about the particularities of state elections in the Virginia governor's race of 1851 (was there a race in 1851?). They also want a candidate that can articulate a broader understanding of politics, history, and life for their students and community. Job candidates must always keep this in mind and prepare to articulate both broad and in-depth knowledge.
  5. Meekness and collegiality. An important rule of thumb in all searches and interviews is not to appear as if you know everything and have done everything- as if you are perfect and untouchable. Remember, you will be part of a team and departments, as Phil has reminded us, want a good fit- someone who can contribute in a mature fashion. This means that you must be collegial, meek, and never wear your ideological badge (if you have one) on your shirt sleeve.
  6. Be who you say you are and appear to be. This is an issue of integrity. Don't ever make a search committee regret hiring you or recommending you for an interview. Remember, people trust your words (both oral and on paper) and a candidate owes it to the committee to be professional, collegial, and a great contribution both during the interview process and, if hired, during the actual appointment.
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