Tag Archives: Philippians

Retrospective: Humility and higher education (5.22.2007)

This is the final article in the weeklong retrospective series. We’ve seen twelve posts, all on different subjects but also all about the same thing — the stuff I think about regarding teaching, education, math, and technology. It’s been a fun week for me, and I feel re-energized having reminded myself of just what it is this blog is for. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it too, and thanks for your indulgence.

This last article is a more recent one. I don’t blog about my religious beliefs very often, although I probably would be justified in doing so since my Christian faith is at the core of who I am and why I am doing what I am doing. On this occasion, though, I was moved by my then-pastor’s sermon on Philippians chapter 2 to consider how humility plays itself out in my daily life. Sadly, it doesn’t play out nearly as much as it should. But when you think about it, how often do you hear the word “humility” used in conjunction with “higher education”? That’s even sadder, and it should really not be this way. 

So this last article is both an observation and a challenge for me — for all of us in this business — to approach the call to teach, learn, and serve with selfless enthusiasm. And for me, to blog accordingly. 

Humility and higher education

Originally posted: May 22, 2007

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A couple of weeks ago, our pastor preached a sermon on Philippians 2, the main idea of which is humility. The link gives you the text for the whole chapter (read it!) but verses 3 and 4 give a strong command:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

As a Christian whose vocation is to higher education, I find these twin commands to be deeply countercultural, not only to the culture at large but especially to the culture of higher ed. After all, I work in the “ivory tower” — a parallel universe to the rest of the world where the rules of common sense and human behavior seem to take on Bizarro-world-like properties at times.

What would real humility look like, as practiced by a professor actively working in higher education? Taking the verses above at face value, it would seem pretty simple: treat people with a sense of their worth, and value their worth more than you value your own, and look to their interests in addition to your own. This in turn requires that professors think about two big questions. Continue reading

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