What the Best College Teachers Do

Many of us have vivid memories of teachers who changed our lives. Whether or not we can say exactly what they did to nurture us, we recognize the hallmarks of transformative learning. One of the turning points in my own development was the result of a course for which one of the texts was Van Harvey’s The Historian and the Believer. Professor Dennis MacDonald created a safe place for our class of mostly pious freshmen to consider “the problem of faith and history.”

I fought the new approach vigorously, defending the integrity of the faith in which I had been nurtured by family and church from what I perceived to be an assault. A record of my struggle with Harvey (and Professor MacDonald) is preserved in the furiously scribbled margins of the tattered volume that still sits on my shelf.


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