More reasons not to do a PhD

The Big Lie about the “Life of the Mind” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

…The ranks of new Ph.D.’s and adjuncts these days are mainly composed of people from below the upper-middle class: people who believe from infancy that more education equals more opportunity. They see the professions as a path to security and status…

…The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimumwage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.)…

William Pannapacker (“Thomas Benton”), associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich.

The Big Lie about the “Life of the Mind” (Chronicle of Higher Education).

See also: “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” and the follow-up essay. HT: Storied Theology

BTW, I came very close to pursuing my own HVAC certificate the year after I graduated with my Masters of Divinity.

How to write a good dissertation – the Atlantic (humor)

This is the same interview linked to in the post below—repackaged for those of you looking for a little dissertation writing help (and not caring much about story-telling). Jack Hitt (as if you know or care) in an Atlantic interview:

I have spent a long time looking for short cuts to the answer to this very question. But I haven’t found any. So, begin by over-reporting and over-researching everything. . . Begin the process of re-reading all of your research. Bail out of re-reading all of your research by convincing yourself that what you really need is a long walk to think about “structure.” Walk toward your shoes and look at them. Blow off the walk altogether. Descend into a shame spiral. Now, catch up on your HBO tivo’d backlog. After several hours, take another ride on the shame spiral. Lumber over to the desk. . . Write down the big ideas that form the superstructure of the piece. Realize you are a pompous git for thinking that ideas have anything to do with it and go back to that list of details. Set it aside. Read some blogs. . . Fiddle with writing a few more paragraphs. Microwave your cold cup of coffee for the third time. Go over your notes again. Yell irrationally at your spouse/child/dog/a bare wall. Now, kick the wall. Limp. Review. . . Paste a large sheet of paper to a wall and, standing up with a fresh cup of coffee in your hand, outline the piece in really big letters. Realize that you’ve misunderstood the point of the entire story all this time. Scream . . . Read the latest draft-like substance and think that, with a little work, maybe this won’t be too embarrassing. Feel mildly excited that there could actually be something here worth reading eventually. . .

[I could have done without the last line of his description, but some of what he says could put a smile on your face. We are not alone.]

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Farewell Tyndale House

Today we leave Cambridge for home. Most of us said good-bye to everyone at Tyndale House yesterday; a couple of us are still trying to eke out a few more hours in the library. Needles to say, we are all eager to see our families again. The paradox of this trip is that it has been far too long to be away from our families but way too short to finish what wanted to get done here. Some of us were only warming up.

I’ll try to post some reflections on our experiences here in the next few days. In the meantime, I will say this: Now I know why Tyndale House gets mentioned in the acknowledgement of so many dissertations. The Tyndale House staff was not only professional, but they went out of their way to show us the love of Christ. They have been generous to us at so many different ways – not the least of which is with their time and expertise. Tea breaks with the community here has been engaging, and . . . (more later; I’ve got to quick look at a couple more books and pack.)

Left to right: Nathan Joshua (Kenya, Pastoral epistles, patronage, leadership), yours truly, Daniel Hankore (Ethiopia, translation, Gen. 34), Andy Alo (Congo, translation, metaphor), Nelson Makanda (Kenya, Paul, patronage, and the Galatians), Karita Mbagara (Kenya; Acts, the Holy Spirit, liminality, ethnicity), Peter Yuh (Cameroon, translation, Nehemia, honor and shame), Ramadan Chan (Sudan, translation; justice, Amos), Richard Mutura (Kenya; Paul, Galatians; exemplar), Phoebe Muthami (Kenya; Ephesians). See also NEGST PhD students at Tyndale.

NEGST students on BBC Network Africa this morning: updated

This morning my NEGST colleagues Andy Alo (Congo), Daniel Hankore (Ethiopia), Nelson Makanda (Kenya), Peter Yuh (Cameroon), and Ramadan Chan (Southern Sudan) were interviewed on BBC radio – Network Africa. They talked about ethnicity, a subject we have worked on for over a year. 

We were in London yesterday to visit the British Museum. Afterwards, these five stopped by the BBC studios to visit a friend of Peter’s when they were called into the studios for an interview.

We heard it on-line this morning, but the interview was replaced in the later editions (Network Africa is repeated hourly for several hours) by something on human rights. It was fun to know that their voices were being broadcast all over Africa.

A weekend away (NEGST PhD in England)

For those friends and family who are following our time at Tyndale House, we got a much needed break this weekend when a special couple invited all ten of us out to their large country home near Worcester. It was great time to be together in a beautiful and relaxed setting, to enjoy some sunshine, and to do things like take a walk in the woods. We spent a lot of time talking about challenges facing the church in Africa and the multi-faceted ways leadership can begin to address these challenges. We capped the weekend off with a panel discussion at Woodgreen Church in Worcester on some of these subjects.

Today (Tuesday), we are taking another break from the Tyndale House library to explore the ancient artifacts at the British Museum.

Here are a few photos from our weekend together.


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BNTC Arrival

This morning, Phoebe, Nelson, Nathan, Karita, Andy, Richard, and I crammed into a Vauxhall Zafira and made the four hour trip to Durham (The OT translation guys Ramadan, Peter, and Daniel stayed at Tyndale House). The Zafira has two two seats that fold out of the trunk, which means we can all fit, but there’s very little room for luggage. We’ll be holding any books we buy on our laps for the trip home. It was my first time driving in the UK, and we forgot left the map at home, but we managed to make here it in one piece. The hardest part was finding the college after we got to Durham.

In the opening reception speeches, they gave a special welcome to “six or seven” students from Nairobi. It was a really nice touch for us. (That seventh one is a problem; how do you categorize him?  A few people have assumed that I am faculty there. Why in the world would an American study in Nairobi? ;-).

There are a lot of American here. Nijay Gupta tells me that almost all the New Testament students in the UK are Americans.

It’s a lot of fun and pretty intimidating to be a first-timer here. As Nelson put it on the drive up, “we can now put faces with all those names we have only seen on the covers of books.” It was also great to our old professors Ronnie and Margaret Sim who came down from Scotland.

At dinner, I got to meet and sit with Michael Bird (profile), Nijay Gupta, and Jonathan Moo. It can only go downhill from here. I’ll say this much, Bird ought to start his own comedy show.

John Barclay gave his evening presentation ‘Two Versions of Grace: Romans 9-11 and the Wisdom of Solomon’ to a packed audience – at least least ten people had to sit on the floor.  That the questioning finally had to be cut off should tell you something of the quality of it. He stirred a lot of interest.

James Davila notes that Firefox hasn’t been working here; neither does the new Chrome which I have taken a liking to. So I’m back to old IE. 

I’d better get some sleep. (I’m only still up because I’m thinking of Christi’s six hour flight delay with the kids. They were scheduled to arrive at 9pm. They are now saying that it will arrive in in the next few minutes – 3 am.  :-(.

[Check out some interesting articles in the “Links of the Day” on the right.]

Daily routine at Tyndale House

[For friends and family] There’s not a whole lot to say here: Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, get on the bike, and ride down to the library (10 mins); Peter has been walking (45 mins). Sit at the desk, read, and write. All ten of us are in the “hexagon” part of the library – see the bottom right hand corner of this library map (pictures for each section in the upper left hand corner.)

Being here has given some of us Continue reading