Monday, March 29, 2004

Plumbing and Teaching Jeremiah
This morning, as I was getting ready to come to school to teach Jeremiah for my 8:00 AM section, Therese noticed that the sink in the bathroom downstairs was leaking water all over the floor and cabinet. Anyway, I took off the drainage unit and it was full of holes and needs to be replaced. So, today after my office hours are over at 12 I will be going to the hardware store to replace the pipes. I should be writing sections of BibleDudes but will be doing this instead. This all somehow relates to Jeremiah in a very profound way, it's just that I can't think of it right now. Probably something to do with wearing an ox yoke.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Allergies, Drugs, and Teaching
The last two days I’ve been warn out. This started a few days ago when my allergies kicked into high gear. New Orleans is amazingly bad for allergies. This time of year all the oak trees shed this yellow pollen, and it covers everything. We have to sweep our porch everyday, as it is covered in yellow pollen, and it gets all over the cars, everywhere. Anyway, this means I often have a hard time sleeping, and sneeze quite a bit in the day. Most of my students also suffer in similar ways. So yesterday morning I took an allergy pill and while it stifled the allergies, the medicine made me feel terrible. I was groggy, and lost my mental edge. While I still feel my classes went well, I think the medicine made me less effective as a teacher. So today I didn’t take a pill, but because of the allergies I feel bad, and still have not been sleeping so well. My classes today went well, but this has made me think about all the factors that go into teaching and scholarship, many of which we have little or no control. Like now for example, I should be writing another section of BibleDudes but feel too wiped out to be inspired. And in class, with most of my students sneezing and suffering from allergies, this has to reduce the level of learning to a degree. I would like very much to just go home and sleep (it’s 1:30 in the afternoon) but because I teach a graduate level course tonight at Loyola, I have to prepare my lecture instead. On a more positive note, I’ve contacted via email the professor at Tulane who does work similar to mine, and we should have lunch soon. Thus far I’ve met the Bible scholars at Loyola, and UNO, so it will be nice to meet with him. I wonder if he can recommend any good allergy medicine.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

3rd Year Review Over, Blog Discretion
The third year review went well. It lasted about half an hour. The members all were nice, though it was sort of weird in that they knew a great deal about me. One of the quesions was about discipline in the classroom. It came from a computer savey person, and it got me to thinking about whether the question came from student reviews (which the committee looks at) or if he saw some previous blogs. The link to this blog is on my home page and several of my other pages, so if he were inclined to do a bit of surfing he could have come across this site easily. So it got me to thinking about how being honest with this journal could have professional drawbacks. So blogging about my thoughts teaching I believe is mostly positive, there are some potential drawbacks. In any case, I'm glad the third year review is over. I'm sure I will do fine in regards to my progress towards tenure. What I will be curious about is if the committee will recommend that I be promoted to Associate Professor rank, as I requested. To accomplish this task, you need 6 years of ranked teaching experience. I have three after this year, but I asked that other things be substituted for the other three years, such as anthropological, research, archaeological, and other teaching experiences. I should find out at the end of the semester.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

St. Patrick's Day and 3rd Year Review
Today at 3:30 I will meet with the Rank and Tenure Committee here at Xavier for what is called "Third Year Review." This means that I have been in a tenure track position for three years, and at this point they want to examine my scholarship, teaching, service, and collegiality to make sure I am on the right track. If there are things that they think I need to improve on before my tenure review after 6th year, it's nice to find out about it at this stage. I'm not sure what sort of questions they will ask. I've heard the committee reads everything in my folder, such as faculty update sheets, looks at letters of evaluation from my colleagues in the theology department, and looks at student evaluations. Members of my department have been very helpful in preparing me for this over the years. I'm pretty confident it will go well. I also applied for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. This usually happens later, but I felt I was so strong in the scholarship portion that I might go ahead and ask. Actually, this had more to do with listening to the recommendations of other tenured members in my department, especially after my scholarship was recognized with the Frank Cross Award about which I've previously spoken. Anyway, big day for me, and I'll blog about what happens at the meeting later. It's March 17th, and I'm feelin' lucky. Erin Go Braugh!

Monday, March 08, 2004

Ostriches, Theology, and the Passion
I spoke with a student from Prophets and Propecy at length today about something that really bothers me. First let me say a few words about this student. She is intelligent, carries herself well, and I think pretty highly of her. She is doing great in my class, and is obviously motivated. So anyway she is in my office today, we were talking about her grade, but we got to talking. It turns out she is quite angry about the course and the way I teach it as of late. She claimed I was disrespectful, which shocked me as respecting other people's beliefs and backgrounds is something I take very seriously, especially given the nature of my discipline. To make a long story short, much of this stems from my critiquing Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of Christ. I posted on Blackboard a link by a Boston College Theologian that is a great article/critique/analysis of the film, and it can be read here:
http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/reviews/gibson_cunningham.htm
Do yourself a favor and read this article. It does a great job analyzing the film in my opinion.

This upset student is a religious Christian, as most of my students are, but she claimed that the movie was great and meant so much to her as a CHristian, that when I said bad things about the movie, I was saying bad things about Christianity. For example, in the movie as in the Gospels, Jesus forgives the guy being crucified next to him, but I said Mel Gibson didn't forgive, because he had a crow fly down and peck out the poor guy's eye. We talked about how Mel Gibson's theology was close to the Deuteronomistic Historian's, so the film was a great discussion tool. But suddenly this film is much more than a film to her, and not only are we as Christians not allowed to critically examine the Bible in her opinion, but we should not be allowed to critically examine this film. I was shocked. I felt like we were back in the Middle Ages. I spent the entire first week talking about how this class was not pastoral, how it wasn't Sunday school, how it was an academic study of prophets (in the Bible and out), and how we would apply critical methods to the text.

I asked her about Biology (her major I think), and if because there were students that did not believe in evolution, should a Biology teacher not talk about evolution because it was disrespectful to Creationist Christians? She seemed to imply that was accurate, and as evidence said most of her biology teachers when they get to that section skip over it quickly because they know it is offensive to most students. I find this hard to believe, and if it is true it is very disturbing to me. It's a good example about how this film is so divisive.
TEXAS and some thoughts about presenting papers with undergrad students
I arrived in Irving Texas last Friday and left Sunday to give a paper at a conference. I was very happy to see the Bienvenue en Louisiana sign at the border. Turns out I can only handle a maximum of 24 hours in cowboy land. Who knew? While driving back, on the radio we were listening to a guy talk about Umberto Ecko and wax museums, about how fake America is. I think Texas is fake America supersized. First of all, there is this whole idea about dressing up like a mythological character the cowboy. People that live in cities do not need to where boots, giant hats, chaps, and giant belt buckles with an outline of their state on it. They also don't need giant moustaches and gun racks on the back of their trucks. Historians say there was about a 10 year period at most where there were ranchers doing the think that the cowboys emulate, but it has nothing to do with the way these guys act and dress. Friday night we went to eat at a sort of living wax museum where there were steaks, country music live, and line dancing. There were cowboy guns and other cowboy things everywhere, even in the bathroom. I ordered the Rattlesnake steak. What a joke! But they did have 31 cent beers. That was cool I have to admit. Halfway through the meal some large group of workers came out ringing cowbells and then cut off the tie of some girl. They asked her first. It was weird. The workers obviously did not want to be doing that ridiculous skit, and the girl with the tie put it on as sort of joke. She was embarassed. The whole thing was just so bizarre.

Even more disturbing than the cowboy tie cutting thing was what was going on at our hotel during the conference. There were little Joan Bennett Ramseys all over the freakin place. There was some kid beauty pageant there at the hotel for the title Queen of USA. There were five year old girls with hair the size of Tammi Faye Baker, and moms that smoked and worked to get the kids to pose better and have longer lasting fake smiles. Several kids were just kids doing their stuff, distracted, etc. But the scariest things were the five year old pros, the kids who would shake their toddler chests as if they had giant breasts and were strippers or something. What kind of parent would put their kids through something like that? It was very disturbing, especially later when the swimsuit competition came up and there were five year olds wearing swim suits and high heels. I wanted to come home and throw all the Barbies away that are in our house. It made me wonder whether this is a Texas thing or a nationwide problem. I decided that I can only take Texas in tiny doses.
Oh yeah, and while at the conference I presented a paper on the historical context of the Tabernacle. I'm blogging about it because one of the Theology majors, Roy DuBose III presented the paper with me, and he did a great job. I got lots of great feedback about how in the future more people at this conference ought to present with students. Many people thought Roy was a graduate student. Anyway, he was very nervous before, but in the end I was very proud of the job he did. It was also nice to spend some time out of the classroom to get to know him better.