Tag Archives: Higher Academics

Apparently, Movie Bad Guys Traded Black Hats for Caps and Gowns

1 Feb

I am a big fan of movie previews. In fact, I consider it to be one of the best parts of the picture show experience. They are entertaining and provide an idea of what is coming next. Some people do not understand it, but I like to get to the movie early to see them. When I see people arrive after they have started, I wonder how they could do that. They might as well not even bought a ticket.

I write all of that to write this. Recently, there was a movie preview that ruined the whole thing. I could not enjoy the movie because the preview stayed on my mind. It was infuriating.

The preview started with a voice that I recognized but could not quite place. Turns out, it was the guy who played the judge on Night Court. When he appeared on the screen, I knew what was coming next.

In A Matter of Faith, he plays a Biology professor who is explaining the theory of evolution. A coed becomes enamored with his teaching ability and his ideas. Her father is not amused because she is hearing something other than the Biblical creation. A struggle between the father and the university follows.

This follows a movie called God’s Not Dead where a college professor tells a class that God does not exist. Then, a student fights for God’s existence.

This is not a post about religion and religious beliefs. I do not care what people think about God, evolution, creation or anything else. However, I care about another central aspect of both films. I am tired of college professors being shown as the bad guys. It is an attack on education, knowledge, critical thinking and my profession.

This stuff should have gone out with the 1920s.Scientist

I have taken a ton of college courses. This has included histories of different religions, philosophy and  biology. At no time has a professor stood up and announced that God does not exist.

On top of that, I have worked with many professors, and I have not heard about any of them saying that God does not exist.

Are students exposed to different ideas in college? Yes. That is the whole point of college. While most people may think that it is a training school to get a job, it is actually a place to get a wider view of the world. It is a place designed to broaden the minds and horizons of young adults and prepare them to be well-rounded. For that to happen, they are introduced to concepts that mommy and daddy may not have told them.

This whole notion that college professors are godless intellectuals who are trying to drive religion from the minds of youth is getting old.

When I talk to my students about the Scopes Trial, I explain to them that education prepares them to think for themselves. It provides them with the ability to make up their minds about all sorts of issues. They can believe what they want, but they cannot fully comprehend or defend their beliefs if they do not know and understand the other side.

It is ignorant to continue the line that college professors are evil. However, it is more ignorant to believe something at face value without exploring it and other ways of thinking.

Annual Activities Report, or There is a Lot to this Higher Education Stuff

1 Jun

Teaching in higher education is a great job. I get to talk about history and, hopefully, fill the minds of students with information that they need to know. It is great to have a student come up after class and ask a question. It is great when they show interest in what we are talking about. There is great satisfaction in being a teacher.History Teacher

However, higher education is about more than teaching. We are expected to serve the university as members of various committees. We are expected to take part in scholarly activities outside of the classroom. We are expected to serve the surrounding community.

At the end of each academic year, we turn in an Annual Activities Report to our dean. It is a way for the administration to know that we are doing our jobs. I just finished my report and realized that it has been a very busy year.

In the Fall of 2013, I taught four classes and one directed study. Three of the classes were surveys over the first part of American history, and one was the history of Latin America. Enrolled in those courses, were 132 students. I also taught four classes in the Spring of 2014. Three were surveys over the second part of American history, and one was the Expansion of the United States, my specialty. Those classes had 118 students. In addition, I was an advisor to 18 students in the Fall and 12 students in the Spring.

In October of 2013, I attended the conference of the Western History Association in Tucson, Arizona. It was an awesome experience. I was also able to raise $15,000 for faculty development.

Did I mention committees? During this academic year, I have served on the Faculty Senate, the GEC (General Education Core) Committee, the Athletic Committee and the Athletic Compliance Committee. Those last two are part of my duties as Faculty Athletic Representative.

As Faculty Athletic Representative, I have also attended meetings of G-MAC, the conference that we are moving into. That is part of our move to Division II of the NCAA. There are several sports on campus, and I have been to games of  baseball, soccer, softball and football.

Oh yeah, I am also the Pi Gamma Mu sponsor, which is the national honor society for the Social Sciences. We also have Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for History.

It seems as if there is always something to do on campus, but there are also plenty of things going on around town. I have spoken to the members of the First Presbyterian Church and been interviewed by three of Nashville’s television stations. Also, I have been interviewed by The Nashville Business Journal, The Tennessean, The Lebanon Democrat and The Wilson Post. I also wrote an article for Lebanon Living magazine.

Community service? There is a lot there, as well. I am a member of the board of directors for the James E. Ward Agriculture and Community Center, Fiddler’s Grove Historic Village and the Buchanan Historic Home. I am also on the Lebanon Regional Planning Commission and am a member of the Rotary Club.

When I entered higher education, I knew that I would be teaching history. This other stuff came as a surprise. The other surprise? I like doing all of this stuff.

Commencement Shall Commence – Rain or Shine

10 May

The 142nd commencement of Cumberland University is upon us, and there is a question of where it will be held. If the weather is nice, then the ceremony will be held on the lawn in front of Memorial Hall.Memorial Hall

However, it may rain. If that happens, then the ceremony will be held in the gym. It will be a lot less complicated if the sun is shining.

I have been involved with 15 of those 142 commencements. The first was in 1989 when I graduated with an Associate degree. The university stopped offering those degrees several years ago. I guess that means I am a dying breed. That graduation was held in the cafeteria. The university was small enough that everyone could fit into that room. Through the hard work of a lot of people, the university has grown through the years.

It was almost ten years later that Cumberland University had gotten to the point where it was offering Masters degrees. I got one of those, too. That commencement was held in the gymnasium. I do not remember much about it, but I know it was not a disaster.

That is one of the things that I would like to pass on to this year’s graduates. Having a ceremony in the gymnasium is not the worst thing that ever happened. I understand that everyone wants the beautiful outdoors where an unlimited number of people can attend. I know that it sucks to be told that only six people can get into the gym when a truck load of family members have shown up. However, I have graduated from Cumberland University twice, and neither time was outside. I promise that it ended up fine. I still got a couple of diplomas.

Tonight, there are a lot of people sitting around wondering if it is going to rain. I am wondering what I will be thinking about as the commencement takes place before my eyes. Actually, I am not wondering. I know exactly what I will be thinking about.

Sitting on the front row means that the faculty get a great view of graduates going across the stage. Wait, we get a great view of their shoes going across the stage. Every year, I think about the variety of shoes. Tennis shoes. Flip flops. High heels. Higher heels. Even higher heels. And, they all reach the bounds of the color spectrum. Yep, watching shoes is one of the more entertaining parts of the program.

I also think about what people are wearing. Graduates dress up to the max, then they cover all of that up with a gown. I have often wondered why people dress up to cover up. I guess they want to look nice for the post-graduation gathering of family.

Last year, there was a girl who dressed as a half-human, half-goat forest creature. She had the ears and everything. After she crossed the stage, she skipped off into the distance. It was a tremendous exit. I wonder if we will be getting any alumni donations from her.

Truthfully, I am also sitting around wondering if it is going to rain. I hope it does not because everyone should be able to watch their loved ones walk across the stage. Graduating from college is a great accomplishment. It involves hard work of sacrifice by the graduate and everyone else in their lives. It takes drive and commitment. Sometimes, it takes a little imagination. Just ask the half-human, half-goat forest creature.

 

What the GEC? A Liberal Arts Education

4 Apr

Last night, I spent some extra hours on campus proctoring the GEC Exit Exam. It is a test that we give to our graduating seniors to see if they learned what we taught them in the General Education Core (GEC). As I read from a canned speech, we have taught them “a particular set of skills.” I really wanted to say that in a Liam Neeson voice.Liam Neeson

After reading the canned script, I told them what I really wanted to say. We are a Liberal Arts university and want them to leave with a well-rounded education. While being trained for a job is important, we believe that being exposed to different theories and ideas is what higher education is all about.

That is why the GEC is filled with History classes that cover Benjamin Harrison’s presidency and the Ming Dynasty. That is why it is filled with English classes where they read Shakespeare and Twain. Students often wonder why they have to take those classes and end their careers taking this GEC test. It is because we want them to know more than how to do their jobs. We want them to know about the world.

Sometimes, I fear that universities are becoming trade schools rather than bastions of higher education. Think about those words for a second. Higher education. It is great to get training to be successful in a profession. However, it is greater to be taught to think on a higher plane. That is what higher education and Liberal Arts is all about. It is about helping people to be open-minded toward ideas that are different from their own.

Open-mindedness is something that we are missing in the modern world. Heck, it may have always been missing. This makes me think about the politics of the realm in which we live. People are not willing to understand the arguments of the other side. I am not just talking about people who are conservative. I think people who have a liberal mindset are just as close-minded. Neither side is willing to concede that the other side may have some valid arguments and concerns. Let us just shut them off and yell at them.

Truly open-minded people listen to the other side. They may not agree, but, at least, they make an attempt to understand it. To me, that is what a Liberal Arts education is all about. It exposes people to different ideas and helps them understand that there things out there other than what their parents, their preachers and their teachers have told them.

It is a big world, and we need to do everything we can to understand it.

Today, I taught History to a room full of freshmen. Many of them did not seem very interested. By the time they get to the GEC Exit Exam, I hope they have realized that History, English, Philosophy, Sociology and all the other stuff were not wastes of time. They were essential to help them become something more than a job-holder. They made them an educated person.