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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sights Have Been Removed From The Barrel

It takes three things to hit a target: 1) a front sight, 2) a rear sight, and 3) a trained mind to keep 1 and 2 aligned. What soldier removes the sights from the barrel?

For Comenius and Webster, education was a pursuit of truth. But not the kind of "truth-pursuit" I found on the streets of Seattle. The Comenius-Webster pursuit of truth involved using God's Word and God's works like two sights on a rifle. Those two sights, aligned by the reasoned eye of a person supporting the barrel, provided an intelligent way to hit targets. But this is an old-fashioned view of truth, and an outmoded view of education.

No doubt the motto Truth for Christ and the Church was put on Harvard's crest to keep the aim of education in sight. To say Harvard got disoriented along the way is an understatement. Not only has the target been changed, but the sights have been removed from the barrel. Yet not only at Harvard.  

The University of Chicago has a tradition of giving freshmen a lecture called, "Aims of Education." When Professor John Mearsheimer gave the Aims of Education Address to the Class of 2001, he stated: "Not only is there a powerful imperative at Chicago to stay away from teaching the truth [that is, the truth], but the University also makes little effort to provide you with moral guidance. Indeed, it is a remarkably amoral institution. I would say the same thing, by the way, about all other major colleges and universities in this country."

Mearsheimer told the freshmen, gathered in a chapel built in the nineteenth century, that the building's benefactor "cared so much about his chapel because he was deeply interested in promoting Christian values at Chicago." A statement declaring that a building which represents religion "ought to be the central and dominant feature of the university" is etched in stone on the back wall. [Etching in stone is a good idea.]

Professor Mearsheimer informed the students that the first president of the University, William Harper, required undergraduates to attend chapel services once a week. But went on to say, "The importance of religion at elite educational institutions like Chicago diminished greatly in the first decades of the twentieth century," and added:  "Moreover, I would bet that you will take few classes here at Chicago where you discuss ethics or morality in any detail, mainly because those kind of courses do not exist."

For the full speech, click here. Read the section called, "The Non-aims of Education at Chicago." For Mearsheimer's response to criticism of his speech, click here.

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