Letter to the editor: Responding to ‘Combatting academia’s epidemic of uniform thought’

Posted on Feb 26 2018 - 7:55am by Ernesto Anaya

I disagree with the latest opinion piece written by Will Hall attacking academia and will like to add the following rebuttal concerning the goal of a college education.

A college education should not be made into political dogma for closed-minded individuals who only want to consume one world view, theirs. This is a mistake, a “think tank” approach that leads one away from becoming a free thinker and a contributing member of society. I haven’t seen, until recently, the unprecedented attack on academia. If Hall wants one world view, why attend our great university, Ole Miss?

What is the goal of a college education?

Let’s start by defining the term Hall tried to marginalize. “Liberal” comes from “liberty,” which means freedom. Liberty is a liberal term conservatives misuse often by naming institutions after it, like “Liberty University,” where there is no freedom for all, just their kind.

Historically, our universities evolved from the Classical Greeks, with philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle evolving into what we know today as the “liberal arts” – a curriculum designed to teach one to think, lead, which was considered essential for a free person to know in order to take an active part in civic life, participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries and, most importantly, military service.

The core “trivium” was comprised of grammar, logic and rhetoric, while the “quadrivium” included arithmetic, geometry, the theory of music and astronomy.

The “Socratic Method” evolved from liberal arts and is used to develop the mind and discover truth. Imagine if Socrates had only allowed one view and not sought to discover truth. Unfortunately, it was this narrow-mindedness that stamped Socrates as dangerous to society and led to his end.

The scientific method also evolved from the liberal arts, where a hypothesis is formulated and facts gather to be tested through observation and measurement.

Let’s examine the term conservative; it is defined as one adverse to change or innovation. Probably, the reason there is no such thing as a “conservative curriculum” in colleges and universities is because conservatism does not teach one to think for oneself or innovate; it only teaches dogma.

From an American historical perspective, our Founding Fathers adopted the “liberal” concepts, developed during the Age of Enlightenment, from the “father of liberalism,” John Locke, and his “Two Treatises of Government” in writing both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

John Locke opposed the conservative Tory belief in the absolute power of kings and instead supported the natural rights of man – right to life, liberty and property. Had the conservative Tories, who supported the king prevailed, our founders would have been hanged and our nation would not exist today.

It seems that today’s conservatives support what our patriots fought against during the War of Independence (e.g., lower taxes for the very rich) and often vote against their own self interests. A college education matters.

Ernesto Anaya is a 1983 alumnus of the University of Mississippi from Lawrenceville, Georgia.