Thursday, April 19, 2012

University of the People

I read this article back in February when it appeared, found it intriguing, but it looked like the University of the People was mostly for foreign students without much money who were willing to try a new idea.  However, with the rash of articles now appearing about alternatives to the traditional four year liberal arts education, it seemed a good idea to revisit this article.

Here is today's article from Inside Higher Ed which characterizes the challenge to liberal arts colleges in this way: 
a changing college-going demographic that will result in fewer upper-class students, the traditional pool for a residential liberal arts colleges; increasing skepticism among the public about the value of a liberal arts degree with no direct ties to a profession; the rising costs of educating a student, which will likely result in even higher tuition; and a changing understanding of technology that might require greater inclusion of technology in the curriculum, both as a tool for learning and a subject.

And yesterday's article discusses Coursera, the Ivy League version of the people's university (an oxymoron I suppose).   This article explains that MOOCs stands for 'massively open on-line courses.'

The Brooklyn Institute is another option in the changing landscape.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty

This is the title of the USCCB's statement of this past week on the matter of threats to religious liberty in the United States.   One highlight from the statement is this:  It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.

Just this past week someone asked me to specify exactly how the Catholic Church is being targeted in ways that threaten the free exercise of faith.  While I knew a few of the particular cases to look up, the bishops'  statement helpfully lists and explains seven specific incidents which constitute a threat to religious liberty. 

For a summary of the statement see Catholic News Agency's article.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

U.S. National Guardsman Saves Afghani Girl

The date on this is March 29th, but it seems fitting to post this sort of sacrifice now in the octave of Easter. 

Liberal Arts Colleges

Perhaps it's finally happening that parents, students and maybe the public in general are acknowledging that the cost of a four-year college education doesn't measure up to its value.  A recent conference at Lafayette College examined some of the problems plaguing liberal arts colleges, and, not surprisingly, college presidents and administrators decided that the problems do not lie with the colleges but with the public that doesn't understand what colleges do!  It's the 'narrative' that's the problem and colleges need to create a new one.  What hubris.  

For example, "A common refrain from the conference was that it’s not the liberal arts colleges that are broken, but rather the conversation that they have been caught up in."  and "We must continue to stay the course, not make concessions to a population that does not understand what we do, and make the case that what we do is valuable,” Daniel H. Weiss, Lafayette's president, said."  

Administrators also touted the on-campus residential experience as necessary to developing "well-rounded students."  Well-rounded?  It would have been more accurate had they said that the residential on-campus experience is essential to one of academe's less openly touted goals,  that of re-creating students in its own image.  Campus life, away from parents and almost any kind of responsible adult supervision, helps to break down whatever values and beliefs students bring with them when they enter college, thus making students more easily influenced by the 'enlightened, nuanced' air they breathe on their college campus.

And, here is a related article.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Crucifixion: A Medical Perspective

This Palm Sunday homily sent to me by a friend offers another perspective on the crucifixion. 

Constitution Course

You may be interested in Hillsdale College's free on-line course on the U.S. Constitution.   Go here.  There will be a total of  10 lectures, each about 40 minutes in length, which you can access at any time.  Each lecture has accompanying readings (posted for our convenience), a Q&A session and a quiz.  I'm particularly fond of the quizzes which you can take until you get an A.  

Lecture 6 treats the matter of religious freedom and every reading addresses the current controversy over the HHS mandate, Obama's calculated strikes at the Church and religious liberty as well as the frequent cry by those who mis-understand what is meant by the separation of church and state.  The Virginia Declaration of Rights, section 16 says:
That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.
Notice the words 'according to the dictates of conscience.'

In Madison's On Property, read first his definition of property and then what he has to say about freedom of religion: 

Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man’s house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man’s conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.
  Madison goes on in a kind of humorous vein to protest heavy-handed government seizing property:
What must be the spirit of legislation where a manufacturer of linen cloth is forbidden to bury his own child in a linen shroud, in order to favor his neighbour who manufactures woolen cloth; where the manufacturer and wearer of woolen cloth are again forbidden the economical use of buttons of that material, in favor of the manufacturer of buttons of other materials!