contention

The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Universities and multiple working hypotheses

If our LDS intellectuals would embrace the ideas set out by Ben Sasse in this excerpt, we wouldn't have a dogmatic citation cartel that insists on compliance with their M2C, SITH, and other dogmas. 

If only...

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From Sen. Ben Sasse’s testimony Tuesday before the University of Florida board of trustees, which was considering his nomination as university president:

I’m a romantic when it comes to the importance of education and the mission of a university. Students aren’t machines and a university isn’t an assembly line. Education, properly understood, isn’t exclusively—or even primarily—about transmitting information. Education is about learning how to humbly and meaningfully engage ideas.

A library card and internet access will get you far in the simpler business of acquiring information. But it takes a community of learners—and that’s what a university is—to engage ideas. . . .

A healthy university must challenge young men and women with new and even uncomfortable ideas. A healthy university must embrace debate. A healthy university will welcome complicated truths and explore eye-opening perspectives. A healthy university will challenge assumptions and consider alternatives. A healthy university stays humble by understanding that the quest for knowledge and truth is a life-long endeavor. No wise person ever concludes they know it all. A healthy university affirms the dignity of every human being and builds a community of inclusion.

Life is short. How are we, who are all destined for dust, going to redeem our time? Deep down we know we need things bigger than consumerism and power politics. None of us is the center of the universe—that’s something that all of us, from freshmen students and new presidents to tenured faculty and hall-of-fame coaches, need to remind ourselves. This is a community of ideas and communities of ideas are built on trust and respect. You can have communities of power or you can have communities of respect. A university is supposed to be a partnership built on that trust and respect.

A healthy university works to expose students to a wide range of opinions, to challenge their assumptions, and to help them refine their arguments. Not because we want to indoctrinate them on what they must think, but because we want to teach them how to think for themselves, how to wrestle with competing truth claims. Agree to disagree and then disagree profoundly and passionately. Argue with sharp minds and open hearts. See the best in the other side. As we say in our family: argue hard and hug anyway.

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