Humility (via Duke Divinity’s News and Ideas)

The value of humility in academe (No kidding)
Humility isn’t a very fashionable topic in academe. As James Garland writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education, preaching humility is the sort of moralizing done by, well, preachers, and not by college professors. But here the preachers have got it right, and the academy should listen, says Garland, president emeritus of Miami University, in Ohio. “Humility is an important educational goal because it is the bedrock of a liberal education. It is the quality that keeps us from overvaluing our own opinions and discounting the opinions of those who know more than we do.”

See “The Spark” from Duke Divinity’s Call and Response Blog.

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2 thoughts on “Humility (via Duke Divinity’s News and Ideas)

  1. Thanks for this, Michael! I just stepped out of a self-psychology didactic on Heinz Kohut (the major takeaway for me is the notion that a healthy self avoids becoming “stuck” near the poles of either grandiose self-importance or grandiose vulnerability). One of the points the facilitator made was that post-modernity is, in part, an acknowledgment that the “expert” doesn’t really exist. During the session, I was thinking of how some of my favorite professors were those who showed an unapologetic awareness of the limits of their own knowledge, cheerfully chipping away at ancient texts and ideas for a little more insight, rather than claiming a comprehensive system that could withstand any critique.

    How nice, then, to leave and find your post! I suspect we can fall too much into our humility too (the “grandiose vulnerability” of self-victimization, etc., where we do nobody any favors by pretending we have NOTHING to offer), but I’m happy to acknowledge that some higher academics would do well to swing a bit more in that direction.

    I’m also reminded of a favorite bit of guidance that a good friend once received: “Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

    • Ben, thanks for your quick and thoughtful response. I’m particularly interested in thinking theologically about humility. Kathryn Tanner has a great way of imagining humility in terms of joy and gratitude, rather than solemn self-rejection. She suggests that humility about oneself is grounded in a sense that all that we are and achieve is first and foremost rooted in God. Celebrating who we are and what we achieve is not antithetical to humility–rather it is in-line with a humble spirit that properly recognizes the source of all good things.

      *Rev. Michael R. Swartzentruber* Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) MDiv, University of Chicago Divinity School Disciples Divinity House Scholar

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