A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 11: Research Assistants

researchassistantThis is an installment in an ongoing series on the American Academy of Religion’s recently released draft statement on research responsibilities.
An index of the
complete series (updated as each
article is posted) can be found here.

The second to the last item on the draft document is the only one that concerns our work with students — odd, if you think about it, since much of teaching concerns preparing them to be researchers themselves, so you’d think that a statement on research responsibilities would give some attention to our role mentoring the next generation of scholars. But, instead, the only attention to students reads as follows:

researchassistantsIf there’s been little to no explicit awareness of the loaded nature of terminology so far in the document, then there’s surely no reason to expect it to start now, given that we’ve reached its penultimate section. So we have little choice but to accept that the slippery term “collegiality” is used here as if it is self-evidently meaningful, making it yet another example of how the document fails to live up to the standards that (I would hope) many of us work to attain in our own research (e.g., clearly define your terms, recognize which are contested, identify your assumptions and mount a persuasive case for why you use the term as you do, etc.). Continue reading

A Response to “Responsible Research Practices,” Part 9: Broader Public

lecturehallThis is an installment in an ongoing series on the American Academy of Religion’s recently released draft statement on research responsibilities.
An index of the
complete series (updated as each
article is posted) can be found here.

Much like the earlier post on doing human subjects research, we find a truism enshrined in the draft document’s eighth bullet point (at least in the opening clause; I include the ninth also since it too is related):

publicunderstandingI’m not sure if there are many scholars out there who decline to provide an account of what they’re up to — it would not be difficult to understand conference presentations, publications, and even the teaching that we do to be doing just that. So I’m unsure why this needs to be included as one of the thirteen obligations the AAR’s committee sees fit to put into their document. Even paying attention to the threefold grouping into which they divide this reporting — our research questions, methods, and findings — isn’t innovative and therefore doesn’t help to clarify why this item was included; for this reads as if it was offering instructions to a lower level undergraduate students on how to write a research paper.

In fact, given that this is pretty much what we, as scholars, all already do, without being told to, it’s somewhat surprising that we also weren’t advised to have a thesis when we write a paper. Continue reading

Congratulations Are in Order

CIMG4334REL loves to recognize award winners (have you seen our recent Honors Day post?), and so congratulations are in order for our own Prof. Theodore Trost, who was recently named as a College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Teaching Fellow. Ted is only the second REL professor to be given this honor since the award was established in 1986. Continue reading

How Not to Be a Senior Scholar

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I remember almost two years ago when American historian Edmund Morgan died. I had read Morgan’s Visible Saints as part of my doctoral exams but, not being a historian by training or researching the colonial period, I hadn’t read much else of his work. But after his death I read a lot about Morgan. I read stories from his graduate students, from his colleagues, and from scholars who had come into contact with the man one way or another. It seemed like every historian of a certain generation had some story about him.

Continue reading

Scholars or Colleagues?

craftI had the good fortune the other day to go up to the University of Chicago to lead a workshop in their Divinity School’s The Craft of Teaching series. While there I met with some old friends, schemed on a project tor two, and presented a paper and participated in a discussion with about 25 people on teaching the introductory course (almost all of whom were current MA or PhD students). Of course I had to eat too and so I went out to some nice dinners with a couple different groups of people and it was there that some of the really interesting conversations took place.

Among the questions that I was asked one evening was one concerning whether early career scholars, who are about the go onto the job market, should have an active social media presence, whether that means being on Twitter or blogging…?

I’ve been a Department chair for 10 years now and have been in on the hiring of many people, so I’ve seen lots of C.V.s over the years, and — like a lot of topics — I’ve got an opinion on that one. Continue reading

Golden Age Thinking

midnightinparisI’m using Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (2011) as one of two movies to help set the tone for one of my courses this semester — an upper-level course that also uses a forthcoming book I’ve edited, all of which is devoted to examining the social, even political, role played by origins tales.

Have you seen the film? Continue reading

Who’s Teaching Whom?

syllabusAn undergrad student is helping out in my large enrollment Introduction to the Study of Religion this semester, getting some experience in the classroom and doing some extra readings on teaching and designing courses. Because comparison is the basis for making any sort of novel claim about the world (“Oh look, that’s higher than this”), one of his first assignments was to hit the web and find several sample syllabi, from other schools, as examples of how other people structure their intro courses. Continue reading

Self-Help Jesus in America

Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

By Allie Rash
Allie Rash is a rising senior double majoring in Mathematics and Religious Studies. She hails from Franklin, TN, but calls North Carolina and Kansas home as well.  This Spring Allie completed an independent study with Prof. Mike Altman on ideas of self-help in American Protestantism. In this post she reviews the final book they read together, Kate Bowler’s Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. This post originally appeared on Allie’s independent study blog, Self-Help Jesus.

The final book we read for this semester is called Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel by Kate Bowler. And, as the title assures, it made for a beautiful finish to my quest. In my first post I laid out three questions I would try to keep in mind during this semester and they were: Continue reading

“I Shouldn’t Have to Say It!”

Picture 1Over the years I’ve found that the best way to illustrate what seems to be either complex or nuanced notions is to start with an easy example, maybe something students can identify with, perhaps a seemingly mundane or common instance, and then to build from there. The bonus of this method is that you also make evident that no item of culture is ever as simple as it may seem. Continue reading