Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Teaching Company: Some Good, Some Not-So-Good

Years ago when had a brutally long commute, I used to continually exhaust the selection at the local library (and their inter-library lending system) with checking out "The Great Courses" from the Learning Company and, for the most part, I was impressed with a lot of their titles. I don't want to listen to music when driving: I want to be learning something, so they served a good purpose.

Granted, these aren't perfect, and occasionally they'd start spouting leftist nonsense from time to time, but what I really got hooked on were the music theory courses taught by Robert Greenberg, which were all entertaining, engaging and worth listening to. There are few teachers who can do history well, and Greenberg is one of them. I'm certain I've listened to dozens of his courses: the 'How to listen to music' title, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky (that guy was bizarre!), Haydn, etc. Heck, now that I think about it, I've probably earned the equivalent of a minor in music history thanks to these courses. Of everything from this company, his material is worth checking out the most.

I did listen to some of their other stuff, such as the history of the Roman Empire, one on philosophy, but those reminded me a little too much of some of my more boring college courses, and didn't help the drive much.

What does bug me about these "great" courses, though, is that their religion section includes a title of a supposed overview of Christianity by Bart Ehrman. At least in terms of being objective, this series certainly is NOT, and agnostic Ehrman doesn't tread very fairly or faithfully through his presentation of things such as the formation of the Biblical canon, the non-validity of the gnostic books, etc. You know, people like N.T. Wright would be fascinating to hear included in this Great Courses collection by way of balance. Or ever one of the more awesome apologists like James White of Alpha Omega ministries, who's sparred with Ehrman in debate (and, in my opinion, mopped the floor with Ehrman and his poor scholarship.) What bothers me is that the Teaching Company packages these courses on Christianity as if, from the cover, you'd think this was an objective survey of Christianity, which it ISN'T. Call it was it is, Great Courses: an agnostic scholars dissection of Christianity from a secular worldview. If you want to carry titles like this, fine, but play fair and label your products correctly. If the speaker was of a slightly more objective flavor, that would be fine, but Ehrman, from his books that I've flipped through, definitely is not. Label your courses honestly.

But if you look into the Great Courses, DO check out the Robert Greenberg series. Even outside of the course material, the guy is a phenomenal speaker, and when I teach courses at work there is a lot I try to pick up from people like this, who are both informative and entertaining at the same time. Either audio only or video, he's a one of a kind professor.

No comments:

Post a Comment