Monday, May 18, 2009

A School AND a President with Class - How 'Bout That?!

I certainly couldn't mention Arizona State's snub of President Barack Obama, without giving attention to Notre Dame's invitation to the president to give their commencement address AND to award him an honorary doctorate.

It was the subject of more than a little controversy.

The president's position on abortion rights was seen as a violation of the sacred teachings and values of the Catholic Church. And one can certainly respect the position of those who have honest disagreement with Mr. Obama and their venerated institution's selection of him as their speaker. There were some indeed who vehemently protested and dissented, as was their right.

But views upon the President's role in this commencement were apparently not unanimous...

"One Catholic leader, Archbishop Raymond Burke, accused Obama of pushing an anti-life, anti-family agenda. Burke, the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court, said Friday it was "a scandal" that Notre Dame had invited Obama to speak..."

"Yet polling and other evidence shows that Catholic voters have a largely positive view of the president, closely tracking other national polling. Obama's standing is more evidence that U.S. Catholics don't always follow the Church hierarchy, whether on issues such as abortion and contraception or political preferences. Also, the president's community service background and his opposition to the Iraq war appeal to some Catholics."

But this post isn't meant to deal with either the pro-choice or anti-abortion agenda.

Colleges and universities truly educate their students by exposing them to a broad range of issues across ideological spectra, and, while in all but the most egregious cases, do so without demonizing those who hold differing points of view. It is the intellectual 'safe haven' in which it is safe to learn something other than what you have always thought or known. To be introduced to, here about, or even hear from those who believe differently, is not to adopt their views or even sanction their perspective.

Real education happens when you learn more about what you believe because through exposure to thoughts different from your own - and from that informed vantage point decide whether your beliefs are worth holding on to.

Notre Dame, in my opinion, violated no standard, theological, ideological or otherwise. They upheld their highest standard as an academic institution of higher learning: to cherish informed debate as a tool of education thereby showing that no one is truly developed intellectually if all they ever hear are confirmations of what they are already predisposed to believe.

12 comments:

Chris said...

Most universities are only a "safe haven" if you are a political liberal!

Gerald Britt said...

Chris,

I was pretty sure I'd ferret you put with this one!

Chris said...

Why don't you just admit Im right?

Chris said...

Better yet, to restore your credibility, just rewrite your third from the bottom paragraph!

Gerald Britt said...

Chris,

Sorry I can't admit you're right on this one, because I don't believe you are. And while the paragraph to which you object may be characterized as a generaliztion, I don't believe that is inaccurate. It certainly wasn't true when I was in college, nor do I believe it to be true among the best of those who teach in colleges and universities.

As for the politically conservative/liberal bent - to the degree that it may be true - I think it may be true in both ideological camps.

Chris said...

Well, think Ward Churchill. But here are a few stats.

UCLA 141 liberals (faculty)
9 conservatives

UC Santa Barbara

1 conservative
77 liberals

UC Berkeley

59 liberals
7 conservatives

Cornell

159 liberals
6 conservatives

Brown

18 LIBERALS TO 1 CONSERVATIVE

Anonymous said...

"Notre Dame, in my opinion, violated no standard, theological, ideological or otherwise."
How convenient that you would think this!

Chris said...

I didn't mention ND but since you brought it up, Obama is a radical liberal and abortion is against Catholic teaching.

Gerald L Britt said...

Chris,

OH PLEASE! By pointing out a few 'liberal' instructors in a few universities, you are trying to prove 'what'?

What's the course load of these professors? How many of the students in their classes come out thinking just like them (liberal or conservative)? What do they teach? How many years does a student have them? Does the influence of these teachers extend beyond graduation? Are they even good teachers. Or is your 'research' to prove that the very existence of these instructors on campus 'infects' the college atmosphere with 'liberal germs', so that students who are 'pro-life' are transformed into abortion hawking automotons simply because they've breathed the same air?!

Or, again, is the purpose of education to simply give the student 'facts' about what he or she already knows, so that they only are exposed to their previously held convictions?

Maybe you heard something in Obama's speech that I didn't hear: the part where he told the Catholic Church that its abortion stance was wrong!

If one takes your reasoning to its logical extension, there can be no students who believe in the right to abortion among the student body. But not just abortion - which is, you're right, against Catholic teaching - but also fornication, adultery, materialism, racism and the list goes on except being a 'radical liberal' which, I don't think violates any tenet of Catholic faith and doctrine.

Anon 5:40:

Uh...OK

Chris said...

Mr. Britt,

I am trying to point out that there are no conservative professors to speak of in public universities in spite of what you say that they are "safe havens" and try to expose students to a broad range of issues across ideological spectra.

The University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, is 96% liberal. They decided to support diversity by establishing an endowed chair for a professor with a conservative viewpoint. There was such an outcry that it was explained that the professor would not be a conservative, just someone who was capable of explaining the conservative view.

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Gerald Britt said...
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