We were boys at Smith and Young together

July 30, 2004 | 22 comments
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We wish Rod Smith and Southern Virginia the best of luck in finding their niche. He will say more about it but Southern Virginia’s original niche just didn’t work out. They wanted to be the elite LDS little liberal arts college. They failed. The reasons for the failure are numerous. A few of them are that BYU itself is moving into the elite niche, at least as far as the LDS market is concerned, especially with its Honors Program. That program may well become the sort of elite school within a school that has developed at a few other institutions. In any case, Mormon kids who want to go to elite universities can just go to them, and they do.
Southern Virginia also had marketing problems. The founders should have gone for a New England location if possible (Message: we want to be elite) or else Kirtland or Nauvoo or Missouri Zion (Message: we’re good Mormons) though I understand that the difficulties of creating a new college are magnitudes more than the difficulties of taking over one. And they should have given the school an LDS-sounding name—Restoration College, Smith and Young, Adam Michael, Zion University, something. (Ooh, great idea: name the college after a prominent polygamist and then name each school after a wife. Man! Why didn’t they talk to me?).

The real puzzle—I mean this seriously and not just as a sufferer of Anglo-Catholic Fiction Disorder—the real puzzle is why LDS investors and educators haven’t looked more seriously at creating a prep school. Prep schools have a long history of religious ties. The need for intellectual and religious formation are also acute at that age, more even then at college.

The school would be in Utah, of course, or perhaps Southern Idaho. Deseret, you know, the Heimat (if that’s the word I mean), though Nauvoo or Missouri or Kirtland would also be possible. These latter locations would add cachet but limit the number of day students, some number of which are usually financially necessary. We’d call it an Academy, after our tradition, something appropriately saintish like Smith and Young Academy or Restoration Academy. We might even want to start by purchasing or renting an old academy building to give the place the veneer of age. Age is important for marketing and because one wants one’s students conscious of their past.

The benefits are that the best and the brightest would be able to go to elite colleges without going in grave danger to their faith. Currently we send our kids to BYU to keep them safe there during the dangerous years and then send them out to graduate schools and law schools once they can hold their own. An LDS prep school advances the process a step. And since high schools aren’t all they could be, even the best of them, some parents will send their children to prep schools. I imagine that the challenge to their faith and faithful living can be acute. An LDS prep school gives these children a chance.

Those are the sedate and sober reasons for an LDS prep school. High school education stinks, parents want to give their children a good shot at very good schools, so why not send them to an LDS prep school where their faith will, if challenged, be challenged faithfully and which will prepare these youth for the aweful spectacle most colleges present of brazen modernity, flushed and arrogant, thinking itself the victor in every intellectual field. Why not indeed? These are sensible and sedate reasons for an LDS prep school.

The more sweeping reasons are also two. First, one hopes that at an academy the students could learn not to keep their faith apart from their studies. Here on this site are many who are trying to understand law and politics and philosophy and, gosh, economics and art and music and psychology through the lens of the faith. Its difficult. You learn to apply the faith to your personal life at mother’s knee, but then off to school where you’re inducted into a field of learning that seems massive and complete and intimidating and by the time you’ve begun to master it you can’t hardly disentangle yourself from its assumptions and questions except by the crudest hacking. I suggest that a prep school that attracted some of the best young minds and good teachers could go a long way towards, first, providing the desire and the experience of integrating faith and secular learning and, second, giving the students enough of an integration already that when they go off to college they don’t have to put off thinking about LDS questions until they’ve already been indoctrinated into their chosen field.
Or, if they go off to BYU, say, they’re already advanced enough in the discussion that professors don’t have to keep any gospel-and-xxx discussions at the most basic levels, which in turn challenges the professors to advance their own thinking along those lines. And finally the Academy would produce networks. Everybody hates ‘em but I love ‘em. Learning rolls forth like a stone the fastest when the rollers are aware of each other and can draw on each other’s work and experience. A big burst of, not Mormon studies but Gentile studies, of Athens surveyed through the Jerusalem telescope, that’s the first pipe dream for an academy.

The second is like unto it. Mormons don’t know how to be elites and they need to learn. This is all impressionistic but I think we Saints are all too likely to find ourselves rich or powerful or wise and try to pretend that we’re just regular folks still. Not so. God gives us great gifts to do great things. Or else we’re businessmen or educators or generals and we’ve worked so hard to get where we are that we haven’t had time to do anything more than imitate the businessmen or educators or generals we’re with. That’s not a bad place to start but it’s a bad place to end. Far better if we Saints go into those arenas with some idea already of what we hope to be, with networks of likeminded strivers that can mutually model, and with ties to older pioneers in these fields. An academy is peculiarly situated to creating and maintaining an elite ideology suitable for Mormons, so the efforts of one generation aren’t lost to the next.

The biggest objection I see is that prep schools are boarding schools and boarders are youths who don’t live at home. If home and family is the end and the beginning of Saintishness, can a school that breaks up the home really make Saints? This is a weighty objection, one I am by no means easy about in my mind. If it’s true that adolescents are done with their parents for a while and need to learn from peers and other adults, then that helps make the case for an academy, but I’m not convinced its true. Ideally, much of what I want the academy to do would be done by parents. They would give their children important responsibilities and help induct them into adult tasks. But very few careers allow that these days. Small business is about it. The academy is a second best, but perhaps the best that can be had. Likewise, some parents are just too busy to be involved parents and aren’t going to change. For them, too, an academy might be the best second-best that can be found.

And now for the details. Two parallel institutions that hold dances and things would be preferable, I think, to a coed school. The schoolmasters and mistresses would ideally be young married people, their families resident to the school, so the students have accessible model of marriage and parenting. Idealistic grad students frustrated with grad school would make ideal candidates, or young professionals really more interested in teaching than in researching. I’ve met several disillusioned CES teachers who were going back to law school who would have been perfect for this kind of role. As magnet schools and voucher programs become more widespread, we’ll have a wider pool of entrepreneurial and energetic groundbreakers suitable for the sort of institution we’re envisioning. A summer program could also identify good prospective teachers.

A summer program would also be a good way to advertise the school. I’m envisioning something like a six-week program of intense discussion and study, an EFY for kids who don’t like EFY. We could benefit a wider pool that way and perhaps even attract some teachers who would not want to teach full time because they already have jobs, academics and professionals and what not. Starting out something like some summer programs would also be a good way to test the waters for an academy instead of creating it full-blown.

Another way of easing into it would be to piggyback onto an already existing institution. Since private prep schools stand in loco parentis, their values and aims are not likely to be so disparate that an LDS school-within-a-school couldn’t be created.

I’ve done the hard part, I’ve thought of the idea. Go and make it so.

Postscript
Does BYU’s Honors Program already do some kind of summer program for high schoolers? If not, why not?

Credit where Credit is Due
Most of this post came out of a long discussion with Mike DeGruccio and Ben Huff. One can separate their contributions from mine by separating the wheat from the chaff, respectively.

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22 Responses to We were boys at Smith and Young together

  1. Davis Bell on July 30, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    Very interesting. I don’t suffer from Anglo-Catholic Fiction Disorder. I suffer from WASP-East Coast-Blue Blood Envy disorder, although my Utah public high school experience was great in many ways, I’ve often daydreamed about attending Groton and Andover and their ilk.

    Do you think an LDS prep school, especially one in Utah, could ever achieve elite status?

  2. BDemosthenes on July 30, 2004 at 9:38 pm

    “Does BYU’s Honors Program already do some kind of summer program for high schoolers? If not, why not?”

    This appeared in the Daily Disappointment a bit ago.

    http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/51260

  3. John on July 30, 2004 at 10:19 pm

    An LDS prep school in Utah would not fly for cultural reasons. My high school was 90% Mormon with a gigantic seminary in the parking lot. LDS “elites” that wanted to boost their chances of getting into a good college had the option of the IB program at West (overrated, I know, but admissions people don’t) or to Waterford, Judge, or St. Marks. Anybody know the LDS percentage at Judge?

    Now a Catholic school in Utah has a reason for being, since Catholics are in the minority, and want to congregate together. They also have a long national tradition of church run schools. This is something the LDS church abandoned in the USA for high school and below a long time ago. In many areas of Utah the public schools are LDS schools.

    Commence rant about BYU:
    I also reject the notion that we need BYU to protect fragile testimonies from the harsh realities of college life. BYU is the right place for lots of people, but I would guess that it isn’t the best place for many that go there. I’m glad I went to a place where I could learn that my testimony is valid even if I am the only Mormon in a dorm of 80. I’m glad I lived in co-ed dorms and had the opportunity to have relationships with members of the opposite sex that were completely platonic, with no subtext of searching for an eternal companion. I would guess that a higher percentage of LDS students go inactive at BYU than where I went to school.

  4. Ben Huff on July 30, 2004 at 11:07 pm

    Adam, what a vision! Beautifully articulated. All the responsibility I will accept is to have provoked and prodded you to work this idea out more fully.

    What about putting a school like this in Arizona, or someplace else just a little less Mormon than Utah, so that parents there will not feel the public school plus co-located Institute building is good enough?

    Or what about just plain leavening the loaf and improving someplace like Waterford? The summer program, now, that might work better back East, where kids don’t hang out with Mormons every day as much. Hm.

    Or starting off as essentially just another Waterford- type place but better (as far as overt programs will indicate), as voucher programs etc. expand, and then working in your more ambitious plans. Tough, though, I know, because for it to feel worthwhile you want to start off doing the whole thing!

    I’m afraid a lot of your potential clientele will worry that a Mormon school will be provincial, exactly the opposite of what you want from a prep school. You may have to prove in some other forum that it’s possible to be very Mormon and completely not provincial. I wonder how long that will take! Another reason to consider working into your niche somewhat indirectly.

    While the challenges of building a Mormon clientele for a prep school are substantial, I think the greater challenge is to do organized gospel teaching outside of CES. Could you work out a relationship with CES, so that it’s all friendly, rather than looking like a challenge? CES knows, I think, that they are having a hard time really meeting the needs of LDS students at some of the more elite universities. My uncle, who was in CES at Cornell, seemed to think so.

    Where did you go to school, John? Don’t be shy : ) The question of where all our youth are going is intriguing to me, and why they either do or do not stay active.

  5. Chris Grant on July 31, 2004 at 12:01 am

    Adam Greenwood wrote: “Southern Virginia’s original niche just didn’t work out. They wanted to be the elite LDS little liberal arts college. They failed. The reasons for the failure are numerous. A few of them are that BYU itself is moving into the elite niche, at least as far as the LDS market is concerned, especially with its Honors Program.”

    Could someone enlighten me as to how much closer to the elite niche BYU (esp. its Honors Program) is now than when SVC was founded?

  6. Chris Grant on July 31, 2004 at 12:28 am

    John wrote: “I’m glad I went to a place where I could learn that my testimony is valid even if I am the only Mormon in a dorm of 80.”

    Before attending college, did you have reason to believe that being in the minority would make your testimony invalid? If so, why?

    John wrote: “I’m glad I lived in co-ed dorms and had the opportunity to have relationships with members of the opposite sex that were completely platonic, with no subtext of searching for an eternal companion.”

    Is it that difficult to have platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex if you don’t live in the same building as them?

    John wrote: “I would guess that a higher percentage of LDS students go inactive at BYU than where I went to school.”

    I seem to recall a study that would suggest that either (a) your guess is wrong, or (b) your alma mater was atypical of colleges not sponsored by the Church.

  7. gst on July 31, 2004 at 1:25 am

    I taught at Judge for a semester before I went to law school. I didn’t meet any students that I knew were LDS. I know they almost never send grads to BYU.

    Judge is a great school and more LDS families ought to consider sending their kids there. It is much like the Catholic high school I attended in Wisconsin (as the only LDS student), so perhaps that’s why I felt so comfortable there.

  8. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 31, 2004 at 1:47 am

    Well what has happened to SVH?

    I checked the “12 questions” and it didn’t really talk about SVH in terms of being a failure, or answer many questions ….

    Has it closed or something I missed?

  9. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 31, 2004 at 9:18 am

    BTW, speaking of learning to be an elite, creating a place where the natural aristocracy of the church can meet, mingle and marry each other, a sort of LDS USC, avoiding BYU becoming such a place is one reason that Church (and yes, the difference between the upper case and lower case “Church” is intentional, though I do tend to typo more than I would like without spell checkers) decided not to push BYU to become self-funding through higher tuition.

    The honors program at BYU used to be modeled after a specific college, and was supportive of hard sciences majors. The originators were forced out and the soft science/liberal arts people took over, deciding that everyone wasn’t complete without a class or two in the fad of the day or each individual libera arts/soft science advisor’s major, taking a program originally designed to allow people to focus without the burden of unnecessary general education (since much of that is already common knowledge from a good high school program) to one that overwhelmed students.

    Little things, like tossing in five hour block english courses (five hours of english + 2 Book of Mormon and some P.E. and you’ve put many engineering students back a complete year, as they have a number of interactive classes they have to take together and seven credits on top of fifteen sequence hard science credits …).

    They sprang that change on students entering the program in a little bit of “bait and switch” under the justification that it would be good for them to spread out a little. I’ve never had much respect for the BYU honors program since, though it did manage to teach the Book of Mormon like it should be taught if the Church really believes in it.

    Seriously, *if* the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, then incoming freshmen should have it taught to them in small classes by the best people we have, with loving attention to detail, as a privilege.

    Anyway, back to “Southern Virginia’s original niche just didn’t work out. They wanted to be the elite LDS little liberal arts college. They failed. The reasons for the failure are numerous” I’d like to hear more about why they failed, what they are doing now, what their current niche is, etc.

    And the social/family groups in Utah are doing just fine creating elites in the way that elites get created, on the basis of money, large spacious buildings, and a little authority, as they suppose.

  10. marta on July 31, 2004 at 10:50 am

    Ethesis, you are a genious. Money, large spacious buildings, and a little authority. I was sitting here in shock trying to decide how to respond to a mormon elite as a desirable thing.

  11. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 31, 2004 at 10:59 am

    Marta, at 48 I’m kind of old, and since I was young I’ve known people trying to build Mormon elites. Doesn’t help that one grandfather was an archeologist and the other a cultural attache.

    How should a *real* elite act? Other than seperating itself to a place where it can worship in its own way, once a week, thanking God it is elite and not given to the drivil and superstition that move the masses?

    How about with love and charity?

    Not, at the “Children of Ephriam” attempted, by petitioning Salt Lake for their own ward (I used to mock them, I’m blonder and smarter than the ones I knew, and used to gently illustrate that).

    Well, I’ve got a child who wants to play with me, so I’m cutting this one short.

    Cheers.

  12. Yeechang Lee on July 31, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    Bah! All of this talk about deserts and Utah schools makes me laugh. If you want your kids to be part of the *real* LDS elite, move to NYC.

    * * *

    Although I grew up technically a member of the no-longer-existing Korean Branch, New York NY Stake, my brothers and I attended Primary, Young Men, and Sunday School in the Manhattan 2nd Ward. Over the past 15 years or so the ward’s youth have attended the top specialized public high schools (Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, LaGuardia) or, failing that, private school (Spence, Collegiate). Including those who moved elsewhere before graduation, they have in turn attended the top colleges:

    * Harvard (2)
    * Yale
    * Princeton
    * Stanford
    * MIT (2)
    * Carnegie-Mellon (2)
    * Columbia
    * Barnard
    * Indiana music
    * BYU (having turned down Yale and Stanford)
    * Air Force Academy (having turned down Columbia and Annapolis)

    Not bad for a single ward that’s never had more than a small handful of Young Men and Young Women in any given year, eh?

  13. John on July 31, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Chris Grant,
    I never thought that being in the minority would be a problem for me, though several people from my ward came over to the house to warn me prior to leaving. Adam’s story certainly implies that I was in peril, which I think is an overblown concert:
    Currently we send our kids to BYU to keep them safe there during the dangerous years and then send them out to graduate schools and law schools once they can hold their own.

  14. Jim F. on August 1, 2004 at 1:22 am

    Ethesis: The honors program at BYU used to be modeled after a specific college, and was supportive of hard sciences majors.

    I have been associated with the Honors Program since 1965, when the program was very young, to the present, with a break for graduate school. I was a student in it and have been an administrator of it. I have taught many Honors courses, been associate dean of Honors and associate dean of GE, and I served as dean of what is now called Undergraduate Education (the area in which Honors is housed). I don’t recognize this claim.

    The originators were forced out

    Another claim that I don’t recognize and that I would know the truth of, having been acquainted with the originator (namely Robert K. Thomas, an English professor–also, by the way, the VP of the university who negotiated with the faculty to decide what E. L. Wilkinson would say in admitting his role in the “spy ring” scandal).

    and the soft science/liberal arts people took over, deciding that everyone wasn’t complete without a class or two in the fad of the day or each individual libera arts/soft science advisor’s major,

    This is another statement that is simply false as well as unfair. The Honors Program at BYU, like every other honors program I know of, has always been a liberal arts program. A liberal arts program is not a humanities or “soft science program” (ignoring the derision implicit in the latter term). A liberal arts program includes the sciences, as the curriculum of the Honors Program always has.

    taking a program originally designed to allow people to focus without the burden of unnecessary general education

    Another claim that is not only not true, but 180 degrees from the truth. I came to BYU as an undergrad when the Honors Program was in its infancy. It is true that we had no specific GE requirements. But we had to make up a GE program, justify it, and have it approved by Program administrators.

    (since much of that is already common knowledge from a good high school program) to one that overwhelmed students.

    I can’t say anything about who was overwhelmed and who wasn’t, but I can say from 30 years of experience that few students come to any university with general education as “common knowledge.”

    Little things, like tossing in five hour block english courses (five hours of english + 2 Book of Mormon and some P.E. and you’ve put many engineering students back a complete year, as they have a number of interactive classes they have to take together and seven credits on top of fifteen sequence hard science credits …)..

    Five hours of English (the requirement is now 6 for all students) is on the low side rather than the high side of English requirements at American universities. Book of Mormon has been a university requirement rather than an Honors requirement since before the creation of the Honors Program. You blame the Honors Program for something that was the fault of engineering, namely pretending that a five-year program was really a four-year program.

    In the U.S., a university education has seldom meant merely technical training in a field. It has included general education. The Honors Program was a general education program from its beginning and continues to be. It supplements major education by providing means for students to write undergraduate thesis (many in the sciences and engineering, by the way, perhaps as many as in the social sciences, humanities, and arts). Nevertheless, it remains a liberal arts program.

    For today’s program requirements, see here

  15. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 1, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Your quote:

    Ethesis: The honors program at BYU used to be modeled after a specific college, and was supportive of hard sciences majors.

    I have been associated with the Honors Program since 1965, when the program was very young, to the present, with a break for graduate school. I was a student in it and have been an administrator of it. I have taught many Honors courses, been associate dean of Honors and associate dean of GE, and I served as dean of what is now called Undergraduate Education (the area in which Honors is housed). I don’t recognize this claim.

    Tells me that the recruiter I met and the materials I was given in 1972-73 (I started in 73) were false. Thank you for that clarification, I had no idea that I had been lied to back then.

    The advisor I had, from the math department, told me that he was feeling forced out and was portrayed as one of the people who had started the program.

    Matt Hilton, who is still lawyering about in Utah, was very proud about what he perceived to be a makeover and his participation in it, though I now understand that to be a misunderstanding on his part as well.

    Thought I was being clear that I don’t object to the Book of Mormon requirement (and, in fact, feel it is something in the *way* it is taught that should be expanded across the campus).

    I’ve no problem with six hours of English, and many Engineering programs actually require more in order to make Engineering functional, it was just the concept of putting it together in one block rather than in the more traditional break up of two three hour classes.

    Appreciate the clarificaion. One can come away from experiences having been told things that turn out to be lies and then conclude things that appear not to be true.

    I’m sorry I believed the lies I was told by recruiters and the advisor I had, your version makes a good deal of sense.

    Well, no time like the present for finding out the truth.

    As for recruiters, well, you know what they can be like. I should have known better than to believe one.

  16. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 1, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    James E. Faulconer, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    Hmm, you would have known a guy we nicknamed Professor Riddle from the philosophy department who eventually moved over to the Honors Program for a while. I enjoyed taking a class from him, and hope he did well.

    hmm. You don’t have permission to access /Philosophy/department.html on this server.

    http://humanities.byu.edu/Philosophy/department.html

    Sorry I offended you that much :) You may want to let them know that the server is acting up on permissions, unless it really is intended to block access.

    Anyway, you look young for your age, good picture.

    B. A., English, Brigham Young University, 1972, Honors thesis: “Abraham and Isaac: The Akedah” — a one-act play.

    One of those graduates they used to talk about who took a while (what with missions and all) to graduate … though seven years isn’t that bad.

    Anyway, appreciate the clarifications. Leaving BYU was a good move for me, I enjoyed CSULA (Cal State Los Angeles, where the institute has its own two story parking garage close to campus and where they made it tone down what it was doing in order to bring the young adult programs back to life in the surrounding area — the institute had taken over) where I was able to be elected in the student government, made the dean’s list three years in a row and with a final gpa of 3.28 received the departmental honor at graduation.

    I’d have never had that experience, or switched out of applied physics if not for the BYU Honors program and my experiences with it.

    I’m saddened that the university/college I was told that the Honors program was modeled after, complete with thesis requirements and all, was another misrepresentation. I always found that inspirational.

    Well, only two hours until Sacrament meeting begins.

  17. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 1, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Last comment, editing isn’t working as I expected, but what the heck:

    [excerpt from response]
    and the soft science/liberal arts people took over, deciding that everyone wasn’t complete without a class or two in the fad of the day or each individual libera arts/soft science advisor’s major,

    This is another statement that is simply false as well as unfair. The Honors Program at BYU, like every other honors program I know of, has always been a liberal arts program. A liberal arts program is not a humanities or “soft science program” (ignoring the derision implicit in the latter term). A liberal arts program includes the sciences, as the curriculum of the Honors Program always has.
    [end excerpt]

    I have to admit my experience with the various student advisors (vs. my faculty advisor who I had to track down and nag in order to meet with, and who was the source of much of what I believed, outside of the guy on the recruiting visit) was that they would “strongly advise” based on the perspective that I had.

    As for the “derison” on the soft sciences and the humanities, where did you think I was deriding either my archeologist grandfather or the cultural attache one? I was an applied economics major at graduation. But I’ve never meant any disrespect to either the Mylonas or the Marsh ends of the families.

    Though I don’t remember too many people other than hard sciences majors in my honors physics lab section. I’ll take your word for the strong sciences component in the program as applied to everyone in it, I never did any statistical surveys or analysis, just observational from small sample groups and got lectured to by those with alleged more experience in the program.

    As to not recognizing the claim that the program was supportive of hard sciences majors, I believe that.

    As for what I was told and seemed to observe happened in ’73, I’m willing to believe that my observations were incorrect and the people who claimed to be a part of it were mistaken. People often are mistaken.

    Anyway, by now you’ve caught that I was talking a five hour block, you are talking six hours total and that our discussion did not necessarily mesh in other places as well.

    I’m sure you have much to be proud of and to be congratulated about with the program, and that your feelings are well justified.

    I think this summary from your vitae speaks (well) for itself. You’ve done a lot and obviously have closer knowledge of many things than a freshman would have had.

    [quoting]

    Administrative

    1998-2000 Dean, General Education & Honors (now titled “Undergraduate Studies”), Brigham Young University

    1997-1998 Acting Dean, General Education & Honors, Brigham Young University

    1994-1997 Associate Dean, General Education & Honors, Brigham Young University

    1989-1994 Chair, Department of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    Teaching

    1993-present Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    1986-1993 Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    1984-1986 Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    1997-1984 Assistant Professor of Philosophy (three-quarter time), Brigham Young University

    1975-1997 Instructor (three-quarter time), Department of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

    Other

    1995-1996 Visiting Professor, Institute of Philosophy, Catholic University of Leuven (“Louvain”), Belgium

  18. Jim F on August 2, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Ethesis, I doubt that you were lied to by anyone. The recruiters may not have explained things well or you may not have understood as well as you thought you did. And it is possible that you don’t remember something from thirty years ago as well as you think you do. Your recollection of the philosophy professor whom you remember nicknaming “Professor Riddle” is a case in point. His name was Chauncy Riddle, so that wasn’t his nickname. He has retired, but he is doing quite well. I don’t know how many missions he and his wife have served since retirement, but they have served several.

    I don’t know why you had problems getting to the Philosophy Department’s web page, but it looks like you were trying to go to the wrong page. The page address is: http://philosophy.byu.edu/department.html.

    You don’t have to take my word for the science and math part of the curriculum. Just look at the university’s GE requirements (now called the “university core”–scroll down to page 12 to see the core requirements). All students, Honors or otherwise, must have a minimum of 3 courses in the sciences. And they must have one in the arts and one in letters. Until this Fall the science requirement was a minimum of four courses. Earlier–probably when you were here–the GE science requirement was heavier, though I don’t have easy access to the documenation so I can’t check. In any case, it wasn’t less.

    You are right that we now teach the English course in two three-hour blocks rather than one 5-hour block and a second 3-hour block. Nevertheless, the earlier requirement was not out of line with what universities expect of entering students. Many continue to have a requirement like that. In ’73, I’m fairly sure that most universities required entering freshman to take two semesters of English, i.e., six hours.

  19. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 2, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Indeed, it was Chauncy Riddle, who had a career in the honors program and who had interesting thoughts on predestination, et al. Professor Riddle seemed a good nickname, given his actual name, and I’m glad to hear that he is doing well as I enjoyed his class. He was too friendly and accessible to be called “Professor Riddle” as anything but a nickname, though with another professor that name would only have been his title and name.

    On the other hand, my advisor’s department may not have been math. I only visited with him once.

    On the url I just hit “open in new tab” from the link on your home page at BYU and then used cut and paste on the url, in case you were wondering where I got that url.

    To the extent that it is appropriate to say that what I said was “simply false as well as unfair” I think my characterization of what I was told is probably appropriate.

    What it really illustrates, though, is the weakness of ancidotal evidence (which, when I tutored advanced statistics, I used to state was a synonym for “wrong”), and the perils of taking a faculty advisor’s tired rants as the gospel truth, unfiltered. Or anyone else who is disaffected or irritated’s take on things.

    For me the issue was a significant issue, one I spent a fair amount of time talking to J. Reuben Clark (the son, obviously, not the one the Law School is named after — I loved his Latin class that I took) about and implemented when I decided not to return to BYU post mission to finish up my bachelors — though I did return for the law school and enjoyed it.

    And, it wasn’t the number of hours of English, but the configuration that caused the problem I had with what was a fairly circumscribed program, and the way that which semester a student took it in was assigned, without any attention to majors or schedules. I remember sitting down with the scheduling people and going over the issue and being told that my name put me in a particular group and that the program wouldn’t bend, I’d be taking the class when I took it and no other time.

    Anyway, the net result was that I abandoned applied physics (except for recreational dips), eventually moved on to applied economics, took a fair number of philosophy classes and went on to law school, after switching my undergraduate institution.

    That worked out well. I doubt I’d have been on the deans list three years in a row or graduated with the departmental honor from BYU, and I’m really not the kind who would have been elected to student government at BYU as it was. At CSULA, I fit into the niches better and even got to grow a beard.

    Not that there weren’t teachers I missed, Flammer for one, who taught my second semester Book of Mormon class.

    And my wife has BYU professors she still visits, we were at the funeral of one this summer.

    BTW, speaking of Professor Clark, that leads me to the true story of how the main library got renamed. He had been looking for a way to get it renamed and was the first person to suggest the new name that it had.

    Got to love that man.

  20. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 3, 2004 at 9:00 am

    BTW, for those who like philosophy, Chauncy Riddle had an interesting take on free will and a well expressed thesis that Plato and Aristotle expressed two seductive worldviews that tended to overwhelm other paradigms for viewing the world. Fascinating, and I’ve often thought about it.

    When my brother was in grad school for philosophy, I hoped to get him to find more on Professor Riddle’s pet thesis, but he was distracted.

    With Jim F. as a fan, maybe I can get lucky with some links or citations (I can still use interlibrary loan). No time like the present for following up.

  21. Adam Greenwood on August 3, 2004 at 10:54 am

    Re: elites–we hate them.

    Don’t we all. My position is simply that elites are inevitable with a capital IN. Elites in the church respond either by pretending they’re not or by following the mold of worldly elites or–this is a complicated world– both. The pretense is useful and I don’t mean to knock it. Pretending something helps to make it so, so that sort of pretense should be encouraged in Church settings. The pretense is harmful in that it discourages people from seeing that they have a station in life (at least temporarily), and that this station is a calling–God expects things from those people that are unique to those people.
    Nor do I mean to say that all imitation of worldly elites is bad. The 13th article of faith tells us to humble our pride and find good everywhere. I do say that much imitation of wordly elites is bad.

    Therefore, I am suggesting that given the inEVitable existence of Mormon elites, we should use them. We should encourage the evolution of an understanding of what it means to be elite. The sort of school I’m thinking of helps. It creates a place for reflection/indoctrination on one’s status and can institutionalize the wisdom of those who’ve successfully navigated being a power in the world and a Saint in the heart.

    Also, I wonder if, in contrast to the Book of Mormon, living in a pluralistic society where there are elites and the faith is just one element of the society makes having one’s own elites more of a necessary evil, just to hold one’s own and to be able to speak to the outside elites in their own language. I’m still thinking this through.

  22. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 3, 2004 at 9:36 pm

    Part of the question is what is a proper elite? For example, Marcella, when she applied to the graduate program at BYU and Chauncy Riddle made the comment that he wasn’t sure if she qualified to be a student, but she surely qualified to teach in it.

    There was a recognition there that she was a part of an elite.

    Or the school of the prophets at the time of Elijah, vs the school of the prophets at the time of Jerimiah. Both thought of themselves as an elite.

    Are we talking an elite as in elite atheletics transported over to very smart people? Or are we talking elite breeding and family connections? Or are we looking for the Church of the Firstborn and the heirs of Zion?

    What does our elite do? Serve, in the way that the true elite must be the servent of all, washing their feet? Teach each other useful things, such as how to decompress after intense spiritual experiences so that the following fatigue is no where near as intense? Give each other advantage and status in the eyes of others?

    The problem is that we have a “Mormon” social setting that equivicates wealth with spiritual worthiness and eliteness. The wealthy have little problem finding each other. I suspect that no one means “elite” as a collection of the wealthy.

    I’m not sure “elite” means just a collection of the smart. Being learned doesn’t make us wise. As for self-annointing ourselves as wise, that seems a vain endeavor.

    Or am I mistaken?

    But teaching people service and duty, that seems a good goal, as does teaching people some other things. But Alma was probably correct when he intimated that many spiritual things are to be learned by each of us, and only shared upon direction from God.

    Anyway, we do need guidance for those who are likely to succeed.

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