Class went pretty well on Monday — so far as I can tell — especially since it was a ninety-minute rapid-fire monologue covering the history of Israel from David to the Mishnah, with twenty minutes or so reserved for varieties of Judaic identity in the first century. No one vomited (in the classroom; a couple of people slipped out to the rest room toilet). Tomorrow I meet the Honours seminar for the first time, and Friday I see how many survivors I have for Bibs 2b (the “level 2” course, in which we’ll read from the Mishnah and the Didache preparatory to reading James and Matthew). Tomorrow we’re discussing the Pirkê Avoth; how can anyone not enjoy that?
Still no connectivity at home. Someday Margaret and I’ll look back at this and marvel at how we got by for two weeks without the capacity to chat during her afternoons/my evenings, but for now we’re counting it a victory that we haven’t assaulted someone in the effort to get across the urgency of our interest in getting online.
I read David Weinberger’s notes on Clay Shirky’s lecture and thought about the extent to which newspapers provide a distant mirror to the situation of institutional education. Things for which we used to hold a cultural monopoly (instruction, accreditation, access to information) will soon be readily available online, in ways that undermine our hegemonic hold on defining these. We can hold tight to accreditation if we have strong enough brand identity (otherwise our degrees will sound no more convincing than those of diploma mills), but we’ve already lost the status of go-to sites for access to transcribed information, we’re losing our status as a unique venue for recorded instruction (branding can help, if it’s upheld vigorously), and our standing as a place in which to encounter living scholars is at some risk (if only because it will become increasingly difficult to pay for the scholars if learners begin turning in increasing numbers away from our cumbersome superstructure for learning). The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is tapping me to lead our planning for digital resources, where I will bear the unwelcome tidings that the axe is already laid to the root of the tree, and the stifling legal and institutional constraints on our department may render moot the sentiments of our members — but even if everyone jumps on board to make ours a shining example of online theo-religious academic presence, we may have to fight a losing battle. Maybe they should have picked someone else.
I’ll blog more when it can happen first thing in the morning, when I’m waking up, or later in the evening, when I’m winding down (watching American TV reruns). For now, I’ll leave an occasional marker here so you don’t forget me.

1 thought on “Headlines

  1. Forget you?!? We’re thinking of you every day. Glad to hear you’re in front of the classroom and in the thick of things with your people. Do they have trouble understanding you as you do them?
    lots of love,

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