Back to college: Dream come true or nightmare


D.G. Martin - Contributing Columnist



At your age, could you go back to college and get some of the experiences that you missed?

It would be a dream come true for some of us. Or a nightmare, like dreams I still have of being in college unprepared for an upcoming final exam.

Putting aside the exams, experiencing some of the best teachers give their careful, interesting, and entertaining classes is an idea that excites me.

Such experiences are increasingly available. On Saturday, Sept. 23, in Raleigh, The News & Observer is sponsoring a “One Day University” that features lectures by four nationally known university professors at a cost of about $150.

Several North Carolina universities sponsor weekend or daylong programs that feature their best performing teachers. For instance, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Public Humanities offers a range of programs including weekend events. The topic for this weekend (Sept. 15, 16) is “The Triumph of Christianity in the Ancient World.” The featured speaker is UNC-CH Professor Bart Ehrman, best-selling author of numerous books on the New Testament, including his latest, “The Triumph of Christianity: How a Small Band of Outcasts Conquered an Empire.”

The cost would be about $125 if the program were not already sold out. It is costly until you compare it with the tens of thousands of dollars undergraduates pay to have a chance to get into one of his classes.

Ehrman is worth the money. But if that cost is still too high for you, many of Dr. Ehrman’s speeches and lectures, as well as those of other professors, are available without charge on the web through services such as YouTube.

Ehrman is also a prolific producer of courses on New Testament topics for a commercial business, The Great Courses. Each of his eight courses is a complete semester, usually with 24 lectures with topics such as “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity.” The courses are available on DVD and other formats. When on sale, they cost about as much as his Carolina Public Humanities program.

Other popular UNC-Chapel Hill professors have produced Great Courses packages. Internationally known archaeologist Jodi Magness has two courses. “Holy Land Revealed” follows the land’s and its people’s history from the time of Exodus. Her inspiring lectures, informed by archeological research, was the basis for an enlightening adult Sunday school class at my church. Her latest course, “Jesus and His Jewish Influences,” shows how ancient Judaism provided the roots for Jesus’s ministry.

Lloyd Kramer, who directs Carolina Public Humanities, has two courses, “European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century” and “European Thought and Culture in the 20th Century.” Kramer explains how great thinkers and their ideas and debates shaped Western culture and helped define the world. I recommend both courses, now available only on download-audio.

Daniel Cobb’s new course is “History of Native North Americans.”

Michael K. Salemi’s “Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know” explores our monetary and financial systems.

Other North Carolina professors also offer Great Courses, including N.C. State’s Kenneth P. Vickery’s “African Experience: From ‘Lucy’ to Mandela” and David W. Martin’s “Psychology of Human Behavior;” Duke’s Connel Fullenkamp’s several courses including “The Economics of Uncertainty;” and Davidson’s Tim Chartier’s “Big Data: How Data Analytics Is Transforming the World.”

These North Carolina professors are academic rock stars. But we do not have to stand in line to enjoy their stirring lectures. Just remember, hearing a lecture does not an education make. The college classroom discussions, extra reading and study, problem solving, mentoring, and those nightmare exams are critical extras that make many real university classes so transformative.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

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D.G. Martin

Contributing Columnist

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