Then and Now
academic

Evaluating University Teaching

At most colleges and universities, the granting of tenure and promotion is based on achievement in three key areas: scholarship, teaching, and service.  Measuring scholarship and service is not exactly straight-forward, but is still a relatively clear process that usually involves some combination of tallying things up and soliciting input from both external reviewers and...

Paying for College in 1803

When I pay our son’s college tuition I am given a variety of options, from full payment up-front to installment plans, but no matter how I pay I must use U.S. currency.  Which raises the question, before there was a standard U.S. currency, how did students pay their college tuition? I have been reviewing the...

Digital Preservation

Over the past few years, institutional digital repositories and more broad-based digital “commons” have proliferated.  Many are found at universities (Brown now has one) and sites such as Zenodo and Humanities Commons.  Such platforms serve two purposes.  First, they provide a (relatively) stable environment that can preserve digital data.  Second, they serve as a digital...

Create, Process, Link: Some Final Thoughts on The Big Ancient Mediterranean Conference

Now back home it will take me a while to process what I’ve learned at The Big Ancient Mediterranean Conference, and even longer to work through my new, vastly expanded, to-do list.  Here I want only to sketch out a few thoughts.  I don’t think that any of them are particularly original but having the...

The Big Ancient Mediterranean: Middle Thoughts

As The Big Ancient Mediterranean Conference begins to wind down, my head is swirling.  People are working on amazing things and it is hard not to keep thinking of all the different ways to learn from them in order to better enhance my own project.  We will wrap up today and I imagine that I...

The Big Ancient Mediterranean: A Preliminary Thought

I had the good fortune of participating today in a conference called The Big Ancient Mediterranean at the University of Iowa. The purpose of the conference is to discuss ways in which digital projects (including my own Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine) might better use linked open data to facilitate research.  There is a nice cross-representation of...

How to Evaluate University Teaching

How should we evaluate teaching in institutions of higher education?  Despite the deep relevance of this question today, the truth is that we are only beginning to have that discussion and in many places, fitfully at best.  A couple of years ago I was charged to lead a committee to think about this question.  We...

Toward a New Model for Academic Publishing

I had a letter published in the New York Times the other day – it can be found on the Times website here and a I reproduce it below.  While this letter was in response to an article that dealt specifically with the high cost of academic journals, I have long been troubled by a...

On Jewish Betrothal

I recently wrote an essay for thegemara.com on the origins of Jewish betrothal.  The primary but not only context for this essay is to provide a new, historical lens for those who, working through the “daf yomi” cycle of reading a page of Talmud each day through to its completion, have just started tractate Kiddushin. ...

Who Read the Bible in Antiquity?

A video of the lecture that I gave at Trinity University on “Who Read the Bible in Antiquity” to kick off their Lennox Seminar.  Meeting faculty colleagues there and interacting with the students in the seminar were both a lot of fun for me, although I wish that someone told me that my collar was...

Ezra: Role Play Exercise

Each time I teach “How the Bible Became Holy” I spend a day role-playing the response to Ezra’s return to Jerusalem in 458 BCE.  We focus on the aftermath of Nehemiah 8 but students have read all of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This year we had to break the class into three groups, each simultaneously conducting...

Gary Anderson Lecture on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty

In early November I convened a workshop on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty.  We spent most of our time at the workshop discussing translations of Jewish texts and we are in the process of assembling those (and other) texts to publish together as a kind of source book. One of the highlights of the...