Saturday, August 21, 2010
Maybe it's just because I'm in the middle of law-school orientation, but I seem to be thinking a lot (see my last post) about universities. In any event, this essay, by R.J. Snell at Public Discourse, struck me as thoughtful and inspiring. A bit:
It would be thought slightly quaint to suggest that universities exist to form scholars who are also good citizens, and perhaps ludicrous or offensive to add that they should form gentlemen at the same time. This reaction has some justification. Certainly some of the past formation of ladies and gentlemen was genteel and exclusive nonsense. Still, the new university seems to lack civility. Perhaps most glaringly obvious in the sexual norms on campus, incivility extends also to architecture, faculty culture, the lack of genuine intellectual and political diversity, the corporatization of the college (including naming rights for buildings and athletic facilities), cheating as common and accepted, politicization of the curriculum, grade inflation, careerism, and sadly the list goes on. Some of these phenomena reveal a failure of civility in the first sense, the lack of courtesy, while others link more closely to incivility in the second sense, an illiberality in the pursuit of the common good, but all these forms of incivility have at root incivility in the third sense, the stripping away of the very graciousness of being. For without confidence in the worth of things, very little mandates we act in modesty and grace in the face of that worth. . . .