Closing Museums and University Departments

A good teacher

Today, I was invited to sign a petition (this one) against the closing of the Canterbury Roman Museum. I’ve not been there yet – perhaps I will go there in April – but because the man who wrote the recommendation is someone I have come to appreciate, I signed the document. In other words, what mattered was the person who recommended this cause.

I was reminded of a similar invitation, which I received in October 2009. The University of Sheffield was about to close its Biblical Studies Department. I read all kinds of reasonable arguments why the department ought to remain, but I never read why the university had decided to cut the financing in the first place. This surprised me. Scholars ought to act like scholars always. They cannot try to be unbiased in the library while accepting bias when their institution’s under attack.

The fact that counterattack is more difficult, makes an institute vulnerable. (Everything of value is almost by definition vulnerable.) Scholars may regret that, but only if they live according to their vocation, they can inspire people. Because of the Sheffield theologicians’ disingenuity, I could not support their cause. What mattered was, again, the person who recommended the cause. If scholarship is, these days, not sufficiently funded, it may have something to do with the scholars’ inconsistency, which has caused a lack of credibility.

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