Josh Brown directs the program in neuroscience at Indiana University Bloomington. He has published dozens of articles on topics like the neural basis of decision making in the brain. He has wire-rimmed glasses and a calm, methodical way of speaking. And after almost two decades of keeping relatively quiet, he is now speaking openly about his most surprising research finding: He believes that God miraculously healed him of a brain tumor.
Christmas is a time when miracles happen, according to the Hallmark cards and cartoon specials. But Dr. Brown and his wife, Candy Gunther Brown, who did her doctorate in religious studies at Harvard and is also a professor at Indiana, believe that God does intervene to cause miraculous healing, all the time. Partly to understand the healing that shocked their family, they have traveled as far afield as Brazil and Mozambique to collect documentation purporting to link Christian prayers and revivals to sudden, inexplicable medical recoveries. But is it possible to prove that a miracle happened? Is it dangerous to even try?
Read more here.
Image credit: Zak Tebbal
This is the season for final exams, but maybe we should drop the pencils, paper and keyboards and start talking instead.
The thought is scary at first. If Chidera Onyeoziri had known that her introductory sociology course required oral exams, “I’m not sure I would have taken the class,” she told me. She was a sophomore at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.; she had never taken an oral exam before.
“I remember putting in a lot of work, spending a lot more time on the course than I otherwise would have,” she said. During the first exam of the semester, she coped with her nerves by getting out of her chair and pacing. Her professor, normally so friendly, stared impassively and interrupted her with questions.
Looking back on the class after a few years, “I can definitely say that’s the course that I remember the most of, and that may be a function of the oral exams,” said Ms. Onyeoziri, today a student at Harvard Law School. Now that she’s planning to be a lawyer, she added, “public speaking is something I really can’t do without, so the oral exams were probably, in the long run, more helpful to me than written exams.”
As finals loom for most college students across America, it’s worth revisiting oral exams. The phrase brings to mind stone-faced interrogation intended to expose a trembling student’s “skull full of mush,” in the words of Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase.” But if done right, oral exams can be more humane than written assessments. They are a useful tool in grappling with many problems in higher education: the difficulties of teaching critical thinking; students’ struggles with anxiety; everyone’s Covid-era rustiness at screen-free interaction — even the problem of student self-censorship in class discussion.
Read more here.
Image credit: Matt Chase
According to some critics of higher education, as college students around the country head back to class, they will search in vain for classroom debate where all opinions are welcome.
Conservative watchdog groups paint a dark, repressive picture. “The Evil Empire on Campus,” an online resource published by the organization Campus Reform, urges students to be on guard against socialist professors and administrators committed to “leftist indoctrination,” who “weed out applicants who appear to be conservative” and “prohibit the expression of conservative thought by students in class.”
“The Evil Empire” offers no footnotes or examples. Its allegations are laughably overblown. But reasonable people should think about the issues these groups raise — because they are based, however tenuously, on a grain of truth and because hysterical caricatures have power. For too long, they have set the terms of public debate about ideological diversity and free speech in higher education. Their claims have inspired aggressive interventions by politicians and donors, who sometimes run roughshod over academic freedom and university self-governance. There are better ways to promote diversity of thought on campus, but they require a more accurate diagnosis of the problem — and a willingness to experiment.
Image credit: Jennifer Daniel; Getty