22 May 2012

What Constitutes a "Real University?"

Diploma mills seem to be all the rage today.  There are numerous "colleges" and "universities" that will send out a degree for $500 and your personal information.  There are ads all over the internet that will hook students up with these people who are more than willing to send a piece of paper for any ol' Joe (or Jane) who will pony up the money.  These universities are not really universities, but rather unelaborate money-making schemes meant to milk money out of people who have big egos and want letters after their name without work or people who need a degree for a promotion.  Some people have learned the hard way that even their payment doesn't pay off in the long run.

This topic brings up the discussion of what constitutes a real university.  I watched Bill Maher a few times many years ago, so I did not actually watch the show under discussion.  Maher, an evangelical atheist, complained about Mitt Romney giving a talk at Liberty University because "a) he's a liar and b) Liberty University isn't really a university."  Maher is at some level a comedian, but on another level his speech is often hate-filled toward those he disagrees with.  He complains about people of faith who want to spread their ideas and beliefs, yet he does not shy away from sharing his ideas and beliefs.  His discourse is frequently condescending toward those who disagree with him.  This atheist evangelism is interesting coming from a liberal.

Liberals are supposed to be tolerant of all views.  Tea Partiers would possibly consider me a commie liberal, even though I'm more of a 1950s kind of conservative sans the racism.  Liberals would definitely consider me too conservative on a few issues.  I refuse to drink the Kool-aid coming from either side without doing some digging of my own.  On one point, Maher's probably right--Romney (as well as most other politicians) has been less-than-truthful at times.  That being said, however, I defend people's right to their opinions and beliefs, even if I disagree with them.  In that regard, I'm much more liberal than most of the self-proclaimed "liberal" talking heads on TV.  Maher's evangelical atheism and the anger that seems to go with it is nothing more than another case of the infamous pot and the kettle.

That brings us to the other point, obvious from a cursory overview of American church history.  Is a university only a university if an evangelical atheist thinks it is?  A school started for religious purposes obviously doesn't count?  Apparently, Maher has forgotten that some of the most prestigious schools in America began, not as the massive world-renowned universities they are today, but rather as schools set up to train ministers.  Harvard began in 1636, just six years after the foundation of Massachusetts Bay.  Its purpose was to train ministers.  Yale began in 1701, largely because some people thought Harvard was getting a bit too liberal.  It, too, was a ministerial training school at first.  Same for Princeton, William & Mary, and Dartmouth.  In fact, of all the colleges started before the American Revolution, only Penn had no official religious affiliation.  Princeton even remained a bastion of evangelical orthodoxy into the twentieth century.

That brings us to the question of Liberty University.  In a reply given by the school's chancellor, Jerry Falwell, Jr. to Maher's claims, Liberty qualifies as a legitimate university on several levels.  Falwell pointed out correctly that the university is a regionally accredited school.  This is considered the gold standard by the US Department of Education.  An independent study by outsiders verified that Liberty achieves its educational goals.  Furthermore, the Liberty Law School is fully accredited by the ABA, which to some level testifies to its quality.  Will a degree from Liberty's Law School look as good to most people as one from Harvard?  Probably not.  But it will allow its bearer to sit for the bar exam and will allow the practice of law.  In this instance, Maher, the evangelical atheist, has no clue what he's talking about on multiple levels.  Not to mention, he's kinda hypocritical with his intolerance of views he finds intolerant.

13 May 2012

The Old Church on Walnut Street Is Now Officially Published!

This week, in addition to wrapping up a survey of the US to 1877, I got word that my book is officially out and ready for purchase.  I've posted a couple of paragraphs here on a previous occasion, but a longer excerpt is available at the site where you can purchase The Old  Church on Walnut Street  for the low, low price of only $4.00.    

Below is an image of the book's cover.  I began work on the book around September 1, so the turnaround was fairly quick, as the editors decided to use a print-on-demand service.  The next installment of this community history series should come out within a year and, as mentioned elsewhere, will deal with the section of Grand Forks known as "Churchville."  My book comes out just in time, because the building itself is scheduled for demolition this Wednesday, according to the blog of one of my editors, Bill Caraher.

 In the fall, I'm scheduled to teach a course on Religion in American Society and Culture, which will deal with the history of ideas, political history, social history, and in some ways, even military history. 

My ultimate research for my Doctor of Arts is going to combine my previous work on local religious history (dealing with First Baptist of Grand Forks--noted in previous posts on my presentations at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in Mankato, MN, from September 2011 and the Red River Valley History Conference in Grand Forks from March 2011--and the Norwegian Lutherans and Church of God congregations that make up my book) up to either around 1920 or WWII. 

I've not decided the exact scope of the study.  There are several sets of church records in the UND library that I intend to utilize in my work as case studies in looking at how national trends impact the attitudes of religious organizations on the local level.  Until I get into this, at least I can enjoy having a published book.

Church on Walnut Street Cover
My Book's Cover

08 May 2012

Another Semester Under My Belt, Another Writing Project in the Works

It's currently one week into May.  I've completed two years of my doctoral studies and successfully completed comprehensive exams.  One would think that it'd be time to breathe.  Alas, I'm in Bismarck doing some archival research this week for another little writing project that I've taken on.  With all of these small projects, I'm hoping that my CV will become more marketable.

My book should come out shortly, as a proof copy has been approved.  The Old Church on Walnut Street: A Story of Immigrants and Evangelicals is just scheduled to be the first of a series of books on the story of Grand Forks.  The next installment is scheduled for release within the next year.  While my book focused upon one church that had relations to the Norwegian immigrant and evangelical Church of God communities in Grand Forks history, this second book will look into the broader neighborhood in which my church building sat.

Long-time residents speak of a part of Grand Forks known as "Churchville."  That area of the Near Southside neighborhood will be the topic of the next volume in the Community Land Trust Neighborhood History Series.  Some more information on the project, along with a map of the general landscape under consideration is available here.  I will not be the author of this second volume, as the editors want to provide others the opportunity of producing a short book.  With a new class to create (on the topic of American religious history) as wells as the writing project (not related to American Church History), I can't say I'm terribly disappointed.  I will provide more info on the new book as soon as I get it.