The ideal Mormon university

December 10, 2004 | 77 comments
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I want to thank you all for your very generous and interesting comments over the last two weeks during my time in the guest blogger’s chair. Everyone has been most congenial and welcoming. I hope to come back for the guest blogger’s reunion. For my last post, I’d like to

ask T&S readers to imagine the ideal Mormon university. Not a university already on the ground, not, in other words, BYU Provo, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Idaho–or Harvard or Columbia, for those of you who feel sure the Mormons have taken over the business and law schools–but a university that exists only in your own mind. Take me on a journey to that place.

What would that university look like? That is to say, how would it be structured? Who would govern it? What would be studied? How would admissions be decided? How would it be funded? What would be its relationship to other American or European universities? What about its relationship to its host town? What would this university prepare students to do or to be?

We can have fun with this, but admittedly I am not as interested in propositions that cannot work in reality (“I would want open admission for all church members� is a little like “Can god make a stone so large even he can’t lift it?�). On the other hand, don’t dream small either. At present, BYU enrolls more people in on-line classes than any college or university in the country. Many of these are continuing education classes. Something like open admissions for all church members already exists and might also find place in your ideal Mormon university.

If you don’t feel you have time to be comprehensive, pick one element, the idea you feel most passionate about. For Kaimi and Gordon, that may be cheese-tasting at freshman orientation; for Kristine and Rosalynde, Christmas music piped into the library. Etc. etc.

Best wishes this Holiday Season!

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77 Responses to The ideal Mormon university

  1. J. Stapley on December 10, 2004 at 4:07 pm

    I don’t care as long as it is not in Utah (or Idaho for that matter) ;)

  2. Jed Woodworth on December 10, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    J. Stapley: Explain.

  3. J. Stapley on December 10, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    Dang. Can’t a guy be obnoxious in peace?

    For real, however, I only half meant it. I enjoyed the years I spent as undergraduate at BYU. I will say that it would have been much less of an experience were it not for the 2 years I interned (in France and MI) during my studies.

    I can see the value of the Microcosms that are church schools. I can see how the church has a great opportunity to invest in a common culture that is circumscribed by a 2 mile radius of campus. And I believe that there is a conception that you go to BYU for the microcosm and then go the best Grad school you can for everything else.

    And while I don’t have bona fide antipathy towards Wasatch culture (okay…maybe just a little), I can’t help but think that students would be served by the cosmopolitan. They should be challenged as well as nurtured. I think it would be great to have a decentralized campus in the downtown of a predominantly non-Mormon metropolis.

  4. Last_lemming on December 10, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    You can talk about the ideal Mormon Institute of Religion, but not the ideal Mormon university (unless you consider Southern Virginia a Mormon university). I think the church should get out of the higher education business (except for Institutes), divert the savings to the Perpetual Education Fund, and make every returned missionary eligible.

    Yes, that implies a lot more women going on missions.

  5. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    Back at BYU we talked about the ideal university and we all decided that a really exclusive liberal arts college modelled on the old United Orders would fit. There was a college like that in Nevada we’d heard about. Not only did you do intensive readings of the classics, along with science and mathematics, but you focused on practical matters of growing ones food and so forth. One also investigated all aspects of ones religious heritage in a fashion modeled after the School of the Prophets. A temple recommend would be required and it would be much more of a religious school. Sort of like a Kibbutz (sp?) in Israel.

    Who knows how successful that would be. I think its very exclusiveness would be a huge problem, to be honest. (i.e. raise pride, cause division among members not allowed in) Still, it’s nice to dream.

  6. Michael on December 10, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    I don’t know if I would change anything from the way the current Church School’s (Plus Southern Virginia University). In fact with SVU I would make more of an emphasis on Math and Science than on the Liberal Arts. In my opinion, America is severely lacking in its aptitude for the Math and Sciences. In fact I would love to apply to SVU, but there lack of majors with in Science and Technology (specifically Computer Science) has kept me from doing so.

    I would also like to implant an LDS university in the Midwest, preferably Chicago. Chicago is the third largest city in the US, and is quite near the center of the US, and is in the center of the US as far as being a major transportation hub. Along with its location, there is already a good deal of LDS with in the Chicago metropolitan area ( 7 Stakes in and around Chicago ).

    With the west coast pretty much taken care of with BYU – Provo, Idaho and Hawaii, and the east coast with SVU. A school in the Midwest would be the next logical step.

  7. Charles on December 10, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    I would require a solid curriculum requiring extensive courses in philosophy, religion, and ethics. Specifically, I would focus on the history and comparison of various frameworks with a focus on Christian application across all other fields at the university, science, business, politics etc.

    I would provide open enrolment to all denominations and require a heterogeneous population, hopefully as close to 50/50 as possible. Grants and scholarships for LDS and non-LDS should be easily available. No specific push on ordinances or proselytizing should be made against any student. Hopefully, this would allow LDS and non-LDS to learn about each other’s cultures and break down the isolation thought of in the SLC valley and other heavily LDS populated areas.

    The University would have a minimal involvement with sports and would not accept more than 10 percent federal aid outside of grants etc to students directly. It would located near medium size cities and provide very practical internships with various companies in its host city.

    Just a few ideas.

  8. David King Landrith on December 10, 2004 at 6:12 pm

    I don’t have time to answer all of your questions, Jed. But if I designed my own university, it would be like this:

    What would that university look like?

    I’d make my university pale, red brick with large, white windows and black shutters. I’d put a simple, black asphalt shingle roof on it. I’d make the grass plush and bright green. I’d make sure that it was punctuated with nicely manicured shrubbery. I’d connect the buildings with sidewalks to make it easier to for students to walk between them. Behind each nicely manicured shrubbery, I’d place a policeman wearing riot gear. I’d instruct each policeman to run out from behind their bush and brutalize students who stepped on the grass.

    How would it be structured?

    Space would be primarily divided into separate buildings. Within each building, I’d further subdivide the space into floors. On each floor, I’d allocate space by dividing into rooms. I’d make rooms for every essential University purpose, with quantities appropriate to allocate space according to the resource needs of each purpose. I’d place hidden cameras in every room so that I could see what types of things the students like to do when they think they are alone.

    Who would govern it?

    I would appoint Samuel Beckett to be posthumous gay chancellor. I would welcome all other gay people to become posthumous gay chancellors.

    How would admissions be decided?

    I’d base admissions on a score. I’d determine the score by calculating qualifications. I determine qualifications by combining credentials and experiences, resorting to references as a tie breaker.

    What about its relationship to its host town?

    My students would look down upon the townies as blue-collar lowlifes. Townies would use students for target practice, and eventually the game warden would issue licenses to hunt them.

  9. Shannon Keeley on December 10, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    J. Stapley writes:

    “I think it would be great to have a decentralized campus in the downtown of a predominantly non-Mormon metropolis.”

    Yes, I totally agree. And it’s not that I’m anti-BYU or anti-Wasatch culture either. I did my undergrad at BYU and I don’t regret it. However after attending grad school in LA and spending several years serving in the USC branch, I found my experience there much more rewarding. I had a lot of fun at BYU and feel like I got a top notch education, but it was for the most part a very spiritually dead time for me, and I found the wards I lived really failed to reach me. So, my ideal university would somehow have to be more successful in that arena, but I’m not sure how. I think that placing it somewhere other than the Wasatch front would be a start, however.

  10. J. Stapley on December 10, 2004 at 8:15 pm

    Shannon: Did you know Chad Fuller (USC – Law)?

  11. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    Cool thread. Personally I’d be happy if the Mormon universities we already have would just chill out a little.

    Seriously, I had a lovely time at BYU and learned a tremendous amount, but left with one major criticism, which was that I did not find the university to be particularly supportive of individual, outside-of-class learning. I wanted to learn things that weren’t offered in classes there — mainly robotics — and was strongly discouraged from doing so by several different professors. The people here who know me know the story; Russell was there for a lot of it, and Clark and I once had a knock-down-drag-out over it. He had a very different experience.

    So my $0.02 is that any university, church or non, should provide strong official support for students with the ability and motivation to teach themselves. How best to do that I don’t know, I admit.

  12. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 9:28 pm

    Glen, I think that really depends upon the department. In the physics department almost everyone took classes they just wanted to take. That might be the famous Dante class in the religion department, the philosophy classes I took, or so forth. Also if you asked for a custom class on some subject and could get enough people who would be willing to take it, they’d offer it. I remember they taught a class in tensor analysis just for us geeks.

    I must confess though to not recalling the knock down drag down about it. I must be getting old! My memory’s going. (grin)

  13. danithew on December 10, 2004 at 9:44 pm

    Free and plenteous on-campus parking.

  14. Jed Woodworth on December 10, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    Clark: Can you tell me about “the famous Dante class in the religion department”?

  15. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 9:56 pm

    Whoops – that was supposed to be Italian department. There was a rather intensive class on Dante’s Divine Comedy that I had several friends take. It was rather famous when I was at BYU. Same with the Shakespeare class. Funny aside, you had to memorize a bunch of quotes from the plays they were studying so my friend memorized a whole slew of rather bawdy sayings by Shakespeare. I always cracked up when he recited them.

  16. Kevin Winters on December 10, 2004 at 9:57 pm

    My biggest gripe, as I’m still going through the ‘University experience,’ is how schools do their GEs. Instead of having classes where people would learn along with those who are actually interested in the program that the class is an introduction for, I would change the focus to ‘fundamentals’ of that school of thought. For example, the school would not require that one take one or two lower level math courses, but it would require a class on how math came to be–on how Euclid came to his ideas, on how mathematics itself works (rather than how the equations that mathematics has pumped out work), on mathematical discovery itself using very fundamental examples, etc. In doing this, the hope would be to show students how to think, how it is that we got to where we are, not simply giving them a lot of facts and asking them to regurgitate them. In this vein, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that every student should take a philosophy class (logic?), but I can see the benefit of a ‘fundamentals’ class like that in math–as philosophy really is the father (or perhaps birthing mother) of all the ‘hard sciences’ (and the ‘soft sciences’) that are needed for GEs, perhaps it would provide a good ground on which to build ‘thinking’ itself. In short, the school’s goal would not be to stuff the students’ heads with facts that they can regurgitate on tests (though I can see some benefit of that), but primarily in helping students learn to be creative in their education so that it doesn’t become stale (as testing regurgitation abilities tends to do such).

    This goal would also require that the students be well-rounded and not so narrowly focused. Every philosopher that I enjoy and respect actively read literature and were ‘cultured’ people. They didn’t live life in philosophy itself, but branched out to other ways of thinking about and expressing the world around them. In this way, business people would be required to take some sort of basic humanities or music class; literature majors would be required to take some sort of basic science or philosophy class (in line with the above goal, not as things are done now); CES people would be required to take a class in logic (I think I’d be adamant about this); etc.

    Now, the biggest problem with any of the above is working with people who have different talents. I would like to think that the ‘fundamentals’ approach to areas of study that are not in a person’s strong points would help to 1) make it generally understandable and 2) give them sufficient breadth in their learning to add to their process of learning to think. This really is the biggest problem with education–not reducing education to the lowest common denominator so that everyone can pass the ‘standardized’ tests that supposedly test whether the student has learned ‘what he/she is supposed to’ in school. The attempt to be sensitive in this area would probably be the most expensive and time-consuming aspect of the creation, development, and implementation of my ‘ideal school.’

  17. Ben Huff on December 10, 2004 at 11:36 pm

    Kevin, I like your idea on GEs. At least, I would like to see more philosophical intro. courses to a lot of those renegade subfields of philosophy (math, physics, sociology, etc.) offered! On the other hand, though, I think philosophy majors should be required to do a minor in each of one humanities or social sciences field and one “hard” science field. The integrity of the field of philosophy has been seriously compromised by its ghettoization in the modern university.

  18. Kevin Winters on December 11, 2004 at 12:28 am

    Ben,

    Very true. A friend of mine who is double majoring in philosophy and physics has lamented, on a few occasions, on the sad state of philosophers trying to discuss the metaphysical ramifications of quantum mechanics. For myself, my math skills are sub-par (if not non-existent), so I rely on secondary sources on quantum mechanics (but I always make sure they are good secondary sources) and have become ever more warry of making any pronouncements on physics as I continue to learn that I really don’t know much. Given that my next project will include insights from physics, that’s something I’ll have to get over quite quickly…

    On the idea of the addition of two minors to philosophy, I don’t know. The biggest issue is whether such would really add enough to the major to be of any use. Minors are, well, minor in their scope and depth. What I would more openly consider, though, is including the necessity of doing a few interdisciplinary courses relevant to one or two other areas of study. One thing that BYU has been improving on vastly is the development of interdisciplinary courses where a teacher from one field team-teaches with a teacher from another (or more; I did a class that was engineering, computer science, philosophy, and psychology). I guess I would wish to include such work for all majors, but as we are speaking of philosophy in particular, I think interdisciplinary work would be most beneficial. Again, the philosophers that I admire most (and whom I think got the most right) were all versed in non-philosophical fields of study, or in the least had an intense interest in those fields. Though in philosophy the most common side-interest I’ve seen is literature, which I think has a very humanizing influence on philosophical thought (something that I feel is often missing).

  19. Kevin Winters on December 11, 2004 at 12:38 am

    Then again, perhaps in my ‘ideal university’ the minor programs would be different such that requiring a philosophy major to have two minors would work… For example, if the minor is a more intensive introduction to the ‘foundational’ approach that the GEs would attempt to take, then it would prove quite useful for a philosophy major–it would give them a good grounding on the basis of the field whereby they can then, if desired, do more reading in that field to get more of the specifics. That could work…

  20. Ben Huff on December 11, 2004 at 12:56 am

    This has got me thinking. I’ll be a little wild here, but here are some thoughts . . .

    I think the ideal Mormon university if we’re interested in the students’ experience would be a chain of small, serious, partly boarding high schools, plus a chain of residence halls affiliated with beefed-up Institutes near regular universities (we might call them Maeser House Cambridge, Maeser House Austin, Maeser House Manhattan . . . in pairs, for men and women). Adam and I have talked about the high school idea on T&S as I recall (where was that?). Many of the goals of BYU could be achieved earlier, during the high school years, if the right environment were created. And some goals might be more easily achieved first in one small institution, on which others could be patterned once the rhythm is worked out. I think BYU’s size, and the range of subjects that must be taught at a contemporary university, makes it hard for a serious vision of integrating faith with the rest of learning to be implemented. We might consider making these five-year high schools, if we needed the extra year to fully prepare the students in the basics of disciple-scholarship. If religion courses were taught the way my (private) high school taught history, students would be prepared to do serious critical thinking that is engaged with their religious life when they came out.

    Then the students would go to regular universities, where the majority is not Mormon, and while living near other Mormons for fellowship and such, engage with the issues the rest of the world is engaged with, and socialize with their classmates, but with a strong tie maintained to their faith. The Maeser halls would have grown-up disciple-scholars in residence either in the hall or next-door, with their families. These would be a bit like the CES folks we have today, but most of them would be working scholars in this or that academic field, and there would ideally be at least a couple of them at each location, typically from different fields. They would be available for academic counseling, teach religion courses, and do their regular scholarship/teaching roughly half-time. Because the Maeser students would have already received a fairly advanced religion education in high school, they would be ready to participate in much more ambitious religion courses during college, courses comparable to upper-division college humanities courses. I had some great religion courses at BYU, but my sense was that most of them were not comparable to my upper-division humanities courses in terms of requiring developed synthetic thought. Some of these courses would be more like social science courses, treating particular problems of interest to spiritual life, such as the way changes in marriage law have affected the family, or on the pros and cons of separation of church and state. To have time for these courses, basic courses on “Book of Mormon”, “Doctrine and Covenants”, etc. would have to be taken care of before college started.

    Of course, it is also very important for the church to have a community of scholars who work near each other, like at BYU. The Wasatch Front BYU experience is great, but not the ultimate for students. BYU would continue to be an important node of church intellectual life, and perhaps would provide many of the Maeser Fellows (the ones that live in the residence halls and provide counseling) on a rotating basis, though it would also be desirable to have some of the Maeser Fellows stay in that capacity for many years at a time.

    What I’m describing has important similarities with what the church is doing already with Institutes. But it seems to me we need people involved in a role like the CES folks, but who are professionally competent in fields like those the students are studying, so that they can help the students to integrate their secular learning with their spiritual life. This is what is supposed to happen at BYU, of course, but we need to export that to the students of other universities, not just export basic religion classes. And the college religion courses need to be stepped up. As it stands, I’m afraid most religious education can’t keep pace with the rest of the intellectual development of our college students. Then for too many students, the intellectual branches overpower the spiritual roots, and they either compartmentalize, so that their spiritual life is not richly integrated with their professional life, or they leave the church.

    Or maybe T&S should just host the courses on-line, via videoconference, and save a lot of trouble and expense with bricks and mortar : )

  21. Ben Huff on December 11, 2004 at 1:12 am

    A guy can dream, can’t he?

    Do Institute courses normally earn college credit at secular schools?

  22. Sarah on December 11, 2004 at 11:45 am

    No, they don’t. My institute classes don’t even get me BYU credit. If one of sisters goes to Ohio State or Columbus State for a year (as my next youngest sister has done) and takes institute classes, and THEN transfers to BYU, she has to take all her religion classes over, even if she’s completed, say, the entire Book of Mormon requirement for Institute graduation.

  23. Weston C on December 11, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    “There was a college like that in Nevada we’d heard about. Not only did you do intensive readings of the classics, along with science and mathematics, but you focused on practical matters of growing ones food and so forth.”

    Deep Springs, I believe.

  24. a random John on December 11, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Weston is right, it is Deep Springs. I would have considered it but I am sure that my allegeries would have killed me working on an alfalfa farm, plus it is men only. They sent me an application, and it was by far the most intimidating undergrad application I have ever seen. It included two pages for you to list books that you had read in your free time for the previous year.

    In any case I already think that Stanford is the ideal university for both members and non-members (in fact being majority non-member would be a requirement of my ideal university in this non-ideal world) so the rest of this discussion is merely academic. :)

  25. Ben S. on December 11, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Institute credit can transfer, but if a student is going to get transfer credit, they have to let the teacher know ahead of time, they have to take a test, and receive a grade.

  26. LorenzoInLogan on December 11, 2004 at 9:55 pm

    I don’t see a purpose for a Church sponsored University. What is offered at BYU that I don’t get at Utah State through the Institute program?

    Church universities have always perplexed me. For example, if we beleive in free agency, why do the Church schools have such restrictive compelling rules? In this late stage of development, isn’t it time for individuals to stretch their wings and develop a strong autonomy? After all, we are not speaking of pubescent children, but grown adults. How can a person know how to choose the right independently when they have never made an independent decision?

    Furthermore, Church universities lack diversity. I got in a little argument about this a few weeks ago with my fiances brother in law. He hates homosexuals. Says he will send his kids to BYU so that they don’t have to go to a school with a gay club. That got me to thinking. I am grateful that USU has a gay club. It would be nice if we could go to the Lord’s School and work for the Lord’s Company and live in the Lord’s Town, but we can’t.

    At some point we have to enter the real world and face people that are different than we are. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending they don’t exist doesn’t solve any of the problems of societies ills, yet that’s what Church U’s do. Someday I will have a gay coworker, and I will be able to deal with it appropriately because it’s nothing new.

    But it’s not just gays. It’s political philosophies. It’s cultures. It’s backgrounds. BYU just doesn’t offer the experience to gain empathy for those who are different because there is no difference in individuals at BYU.

    In addition, BYU has been consistently producing embarrassing headlines for the Church. Rape allegations, pornography, sex parties, alcohol have all become regular occurances at BYU, shaming the Church. BYU does not represent me. I don’t beleive in the values of BYU, namely homegenity and elitism. I don’t think they reflect what the Savior taught.

    Anyway, I know that a lot of BYU grads will be offended by this. Don’t take it personally, I am sure you’re a great individual and the exception to the rule.

    Have a good one.

  27. Jeremiah J. on December 11, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Michael: “In fact with SVU I would make more of an emphasis on Math and Science than on the Liberal Arts. In my opinion, America is severely lacking in its aptitude for the Math and Sciences. In fact I would love to apply to SVU, but there lack of majors with in Science and Technology (specifically Computer Science) has kept me from doing so.”

    SVU in the beginnning had quite a strong science program–though its aim was not to fill in a gap in American education, but Mormon education. There were no science “majors” (there weren’t majors in anything), but a strong science component to the core curriculum. It’s also perhaps a stereotype that the liberal arts (short for the older term: “liberal arts and sciences”) focus on the humanities at the expense of math and the sciences. I understand St. John’s College in Annapolis sends a good number of graduates to PhD programs in mathematics and physics. Even my alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College, probably sends a greater proportion of graduates to PhD programs in the natural sciences than the place I’m at now–Notre Dame (a top 20 national university). At a place like Notre Dame you major in biology in order to become a doctor.

  28. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 12:01 am

    LorenzoInLogan, I think that many of your criticisms of BYU are correct. I’ve tried to specifically address several of these in my outline for an ideal University above.

  29. Ben Huff on December 12, 2004 at 12:10 am

    Wow, there’s been a lot of dismissive comments about majority LDS schools! It makes me want to take back what I said before. I think majority LDS schools are a great idea, and that we aren’t doing enough of that sort of thing. I think one serious drag on BYU’s effectiveness is the fact that so many faculty have gotten their PhDs from schools where religious traditions are not taken seriously, so they don’t know how to take advantage of the distinctive possibilities of BYU. I would like to see BYU be much more distinctive. I just think it would be ideal to accomplish a lot of what we accomplish there, earlier, during high school years. Since we probably won’t manage that anytime soon, a lot of the best education available for Mormons will continue to be done at BYU for the forseeable future.

    I really don’t think the “challenge” presented by cosmopolitan campuses is all that edifying. What’s so great about the opportunity of saying “no” to a bunch of drunken frat parties? I spent a year at MIT. My classes were great, but the students were pretty lost. There’s not much edifying about going off and getting lost and bumping around with no guidance for years and years, which is what most undergraduates seem to do nowadays.

    The reason I would be interested in sending our students to other universities is a matter of maintaining solidarity and friendship with the rest of the world.

    I think students need to be challenged more than they are at BYU, but I think that can be done very well at BYU. The problem isn’t that BYU is too restrictive and narrow; I think the reason the rules get annoying is the tendency for the people enforcing them to be officious about it, and more fundamentally that there isn’t enough positive, leaderly guidance to breathe life into the rules. The wards tend to be impersonal, largely because students move in and out of them so quickly. Home teaching assignments change every three months, and so you can never accomplish anything. I would like to see wards at BYU cease to be geographically defined. If people pretty much went to the same ward for four years, it would be an utterly different experience, spiritually. Plus, BYU is just so big!

    So if we aren’t going to dramatically rework the way we handle high schools, the ideal university for Mormons would be the Honors Program at BYU, with a few tweaks, including a residential complex where Honors students are encouraged to live throughout their time at BYU. That means a hall for men, a hall for women, and a hall for married students, ideally with some real, live Honors faculty in residence as well. The Language Housing at BYU was a little utopia. We need one of those for Honors. I’m kind of sad that the BY Academy building was turned into a library because it would have been so perfect to renovate it and make it a school within a school. The honors program at ND is a lot like what I have in mind, actually, just Catholic.

  30. Mickey on December 12, 2004 at 12:21 am

    My ideal (Mormon) university would not be a true university but rather a college. This college would send its LDS graduates off to graduate school elsewhere. It would not have abundant centralized parking because everyone would live on campus. There would be parking on the far edge of campus for people to store their cars. The campus would be a community so that one would not need to commute to and from. The size would be modest, say 5000 students. It would be a small school in a non-LDS dominated community of about the size of Provo-Orem.

    One of the things BYU offers more of than other schools is having more professors that are LDS scholars in all the subject areas taught on campus. I think this is an important thing for someone that wants to be a scholar and a Latter-day Saint. So while membership would not be a requirement for being a professor, it would be preferred. The professors would be scholars with several years of postgraduate professional work experience outside of academia. The professors would be allowed to conduct research and other such scholarly activity but they would not be allowed to pursue outside grants and publishing would be completely optional. They will have already proven themselves and teaching will be their #1 focus. Staying current will be necessary to support excellence in teaching but these professors will do it because it is like air to them.

    A student’s curriculum would be determined by the student and their assigned professor /mentor subject to review by a larger panel. The guidelines would require that all the major academic disciplines be included in the class work.. All students would graduate playing at least one musical instrument and being conversant in at least two languages. No college credit would be given for classes taken anywhere before a student received their High School diploma or GED. A “capstone� type internship would be a requirement as well. These could either be of the more common “job� type or they could be service oriented (i.e. Peace Corps like).

    All students would have to work at assigned, rotating, on-campus jobs. Tuition would be based on ability to pay. The kid from an impoverished family would have to pay a token sum. The child of a multimillionaire would pay full cost. Travel scholarships would be given to foreign students. I would bring back academic robes in class so that in the class room all would be alike (besides they look quite sharp in the Harry Potter movies).

    The standards for admission would be high but once one qualified with the minimum GPS and SAT/ACT then other factors would be the basis for admission. Interviews with faculty would be part of the application process. This would be accomplished on recruiting trips to major metropolitan areas. Real diversity, not outward categories, would be one objective in the decision process. Interviewing would qualify unselected students for a handful of scholarships to be used at other universities.

    There would be intramural athletics with professional coaches but no inter-mural athletics.

    The campus would be in a discrete contiguous area surrounded by the community. The boundaries between the two would be clear but the campus wouldn’t be closed in. The buildings would all be of a human scale. They would be diverse but with unifying traditional elements. The professors would have to walk all over campus to get to their classrooms from their offices. The professor’s housing would be on campus as would all student housing. This is intended to create a sense of community within the academy.

    There would be an honor code. Modest dress, civil speech, and moral behavior would be required as part of the cost of the education. The academic standards would also be kept high. The coursework would be very demanding. Demanding high standards is something we need more of in this world. It is a sign of maturity to be able to live up to high standards. Failure to do so is a legitimate indicator that an individual needs more maturing or other preparation before continuing in an endeavor.

    Textbooks would be covered by tuition. Attendance at graduation exercises would be required of all graduating seniors and rewarded with credit for other students. Working an outside job during the school year would be prohibited (Since tuition is based on ability to pay and all students must work on campus). Every student would have one class of 300 students each quarter, but these classes would be lectures (with readings and discussion sections) that have had a great deal of polish put into them by the professor. Each student would have one class of no more than 6 students each quarter as well. All other classes would be 5 to 30 students in size.

    Well that about covers it for tonight.

  31. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 1:13 am

    Ben, allow me to be critical of BYU without being dismissive (in my first comment #8, I tried to say what the ideal university is. Let me now say some things about what it isn’t.):

    I went to BYU, got kicked out because I never went to church (the continuing ecclesiastical endorsement was introduced when I was a sophomore), and transfered to a small, all male liberal arts college in the midwest (Wabash College).

    Even though I was in many ways out of place, I enjoyed BYU and was sad to leave (but I certainly wasn’t angry—though several of my friends were).

    That said, Wabash was an eye opening experience. It adopted the attitude (and demonstrated in practice) that effective education based on classically liberal values gave students direction in life. And I generally found that the average Wabash student had more direction than the average BYU student of my acquaintance. And yes, for fun (and sometimes sport) they drank profuse amounts of alcohol on the weekends; it’s too bad for us that we’ve got the word of wisdom.

    In retrospect, I realize that attending BYU was a tremendously numbing experience. I was an honors student, but I found that I could (and in practice did) get straight A’s without attending classes. I found teachers to be often indifferent towards my education and occasionally hostile. My friends and I would reserve rooms (usually under names of fictitious clubs like “the hispanic society”) to hold debates on the existence of God, but this was (of course) strictly against the rules. Among the administration, equivocation was rampant, and they lazily excused their actions with an odd mixture of religious, business, and academic reasons without regard for consistency. For example, when I was preparing to graduate from Wabash, I had to withdraw my candidacy for a Marshall Scholarship after qualifying for an interview because BYU’s registrar refused to send out my transcript when I would not talk to my Bishop about some things he’d found upsetting. I know more than a few students who were denied need-based assistance from BYU on the grounds that it was reserved for attracting students, and not keeping the ones that were there. At least one of my very close friends had his academic career jeopardized by a BYU professor who cheerfully agreed to give him a recommendation for graduate school and then glibly proceeded to write a negative letter (ask a professor at another university what they think of such a practice). None of these were exceptional experiences; they were the norm. And I could go on and on.

    In sum, I am not merely dismissing BYU when I say that I do not think that it’s a worthwhile usage of the Church’s resources. And I do not see how the church can square its mission with that of a twenty-first century academic institution. Nor do I believe that it has shown that it can. (At any rate, the church only ended up owning BYU because it was a financial disaster.)

    I think that the church would be better served to simply offer prestigious scholarships to qualifying students to make sure that qualified mormons were able to attend major universities.

  32. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 11:08 am

    LorenzolnLogan says: “In this late stage of development, isn’t it time for individuals to stretch their wings and develop a strong autonomy? After all, we are not speaking of pubescent children, but grown adults. How can a person know how to choose the right independently when they have never made an independent decision?”

    LL, there is a growing literature, which I call “critical-modern,” that sees BYU as an antiquated, parochial, isolated, repressive institution. Martha Nussbaum’s _Cultivating Humanity_ and Kagel and Waterman’s _The Lord’s University_ fit into this camp. The attitude in this literature is far from charitible; it can rightly be described as scornful. I’ve wondered why that is, why a second-tier institution like BYU would draw anyone’s ire. My conclusion is that the literature sees BYU as a great imitator, an institution false to the classical Greek and Western Enlightenment traditions that imbue our modern universities. The literature wants to expose a fraud and takes great pleasure in doing so.

    The critical-modern literature assumes, de facto, that this Western model coming down to us is, in some sense, the “realâ€? university and that other claimants are “false.â€? In this configuration, the unfettered mind is god, and that mind should be allowed to run wherever it likes (within the bounds of modern “civility,â€? which is defined collectively not by fiat). I think, to be fair, we must question whether this notion of university is the only legitimate notion. BYU is trying to do something not easily done: meld open, free inquiry, the child of Enligtenment-rational thinking, with a more closed allegiance to the church found in Medieval universities. So what’s the big deal? We know that Mormonism has largely ignored the classical tradition in its doctrine and practice; why make its university conform to that tradition? I think we do better to judge BYU for what it is and aspires to be than for what it is not and does not aspire to be.

  33. Ben Huff on December 12, 2004 at 4:20 pm

    Well, DKL, it’s hard to see yours as the best perspective from which to judge BYU because it seems pretty clear from what you’ve said that you were not in a position to benefit much from the distinctive possibilities at BYU. You were not really interested in the Mormon way of life, so it really was not a good place for you. But BYU is designed to make a lot of distinctive and great things possible for people who are interested in that way of life, and I think it does so, though it could do better. No one’s going to pretend that BYU professors are all perfect, or that they are the best there are, for the usual purposes of education. Is even one of your complaints something that anyone would defend as part of the idea of BYU? I think not. I’m sure there are lots of very talented professors at Wabash. Maybe Wabash does what it means to do, better than BYU does what Wabash means to do. What if the professors at BYU had the talents and virtues of the ones you liked at Wabash, except they’re Mormon? Presumably this a realistic possibility, since they have them at Wabash. Then what would BYU be like? I think they could accomplish a lot of things that are not possible at Wabash, things that Wabash doesn’t even try to do, because Wabash doesn’t have the same spiritual foundation or spiritual goals. Fundamentally BYU is a great idea. Though it really needs some tweaking to improve the sense of community in the face of its enormous size. But it’s not surprising if you don’t see anything of interest, since you apparently aren’t interested in those spiritual foundation and goals.

  34. Ben Huff on December 12, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Jed, you are right that BYU is not trying to be what people like Nussbaum and Waterman think a university should be. I think you are too quick to hand over the classical aspirations, however! Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas on how education should work were drastically different from the Enlightenment notions behind contemporaries like Nussbaum.

  35. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    David says: “For example, when I was preparing to graduate from Wabash, I had to withdraw my candidacy for a Marshall Scholarship after qualifying for an interview because BYU’s registrar refused to send out my transcript when I would not talk to my Bishop about some things he’d found upsetting.”

    I am very sorry to hear this, David. Losing a chance for the Marshall over such pettiness must be terribly upsetting for you to comptemplate even today.

    David says: “And I generally found that the average Wabash student had more direction than the average BYU student of my acquaintance.”

    The key phrase is “of my acquaintance.” National reporters who descend on BYU’s campus are amazed to find students with so much balance and direction. Visiting professors report the same thing. Recruiters in engineering and business flock to BYU for students who stand in front of their peers and talk confidently, a function of the mission experience. BYU’s low transfer rate compared to other institutions suggests students who are, by and large, happy and satisfied. Faculty members the same. In a poll of BYU faculty members taken about five years ago, 88% reported moderate to high job satisfaction, an exceptionally high figure among universities generally. In short, there is another side to the bleak pictures you paint. We will always find bleak stories in a population of 30,000+. As Ben says, no one is perfect.

    FYI, there is a fascinating collection of essays called _Finding God at BYU_, published in 2001 by BYU’s religious studies center. The title is an obvious rip-off of the famous Finding God at Harvard, but the BYU stories are no less compelling. Interestingly, they are not all Mormon conversion experiences. ONe essay is written by my friend Karandeep Singh, who attended BYU in the 1990s as a practicing–and to this day–committed Sikh. A man of your keen intellect would, I think, enjoy such a collection.

    Of course, all these people were happy with their BYU experience. Perhaps one day you can put together your own collection entitled _Finding the Devil at BYU_. You would have a reader in me!

    Anyhow, I’m glad your Wabash education served you well. You are not as Job yet.

  36. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    Ben says: “I think you are too quick to hand over the classical aspirations, however! Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas on how education should work were drastically different from the Enlightenment notions behind contemporaries like Nussbaum.”

    Ben, I am TERRIBLY sorry for taking a pot shot at the classical tradition. As soon as I read your post, I said to myself, Oh, Jed, you fool, Ben is a philosopher writing about Plato and friendship. You caught me on my false conflation of classicism with Enlightenment thinnking. My rash move.

    If you get a moment, and feel so inclined, I would be interested in hearing more about some of the more fruitful educational ideas you see in Plato and Aristotle.

  37. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    Let me throw out an example of where I think BYU is making an interesting contribution historically. The honor and dress/grooming codes are through critical eyes seen to be repressive measures far beneath the dignity of adults. The critics say in loco parentis is dead; BYU should get with the modern age and stop treating its students like children.

    But anyone who studies the history of universities knows that it is not BYU, but modern universities, who have departed from “tradition.” In loco parentis has a very long history, and not merely because university students were once much younger than they are today. One of hte oldest academic traditions, going back to Plato (Ben might tell us more about this), says a complete education has claim on mind, body, and soul, in other words, the complete person. Modern universities have abandoned the idea that they have anything to say about educating body and soul. They have sold out to mind. By encouraging students to live by a code governing body, BYU has affirmed a much older tradition.

    I think this is one of the ways, following Ben’s suggestion, that the classical tradition is compatible with BYU. (And I might add that the honor code is not entirely incompatible with genteel notions of “honor” and the Christian gentleman coming out of the Enlightenment collegiate ideal. )

  38. Jonathan Green on December 12, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    There’s an assumption underpinning this discussion that the ideal Mormon university would be an educational institution. Are you sure that’s the case?

    Fine, fine. Enough with the protests. I’ll admit that education should play a role in there somewhere. But consider how many of BYU’s roles are not primarily about educating undergraduates:

    It’s the church’s representative in the world of scholarship and academia.
    It embodies and preserves the tradition of LDS scholarship that has existed since Kirtland.
    It provides a way for young LDS from outside Utah to experience their cultural heritage, somewhat like traditionally black schools do for some African-Americans.
    It provides a reliably LDS dating pool.
    It is a source for safely orthodox and apparently authoritative statements on any number of subjects and mediates prevailing scholarly notions to the LDS community.
    It enables the church to build contacts around the world outside of the context of proselytizing.
    It provides an opportunity to sponsor athletic teams, for those who need sports as a vicarious outlet for the conflict of justice, or provides sports fans a way to identify with the church.
    It puts an arms-length stamp of approval on disciplines that might otherwise be considered heretical or pridefully elitist, like art or classical music or biology or philosophy or many others. I’m not kidding here; one long-ago quorum instructor declared that all philosophers he knew were atheists and opined that the field as such was irreconcilable with the gospel.

    These are only the things I could think of off the top of my head; I’m sure there are more of them. I don’t think you can ignore them in thinking about what a Mormon university should be. (But preach on, DKL; as much as I enjoyed BYU, I feel your pain. And post #8 may be the best thing yet on this thread.)

  39. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    Ben Huff: You were not really interested in the Mormon way of life.

    Doesn’t this statement violate one of the terms of posting here on T&S?

    Ben Huff: Is even one of your complaints something that anyone would defend as part of the idea of BYU? I think not.

    This is exactly my point. I do not wish to simply deride BYU as a university, but to point out that what regularly goes on there stands athwart its the goals as a university and as an instrument of the church. Presumably, BYU helps to fulfill the “perfecting the saints” part of the church’s mission. My point is that this mission would be better served if the church considered a college education as such (and not the modified version manifest in BYU) to be part of this mission and spent its funds accordingly. (It’s this point that makes my earlier post relevant to the topic at hand.)

  40. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    Jed Woodworth: I am very sorry to hear this, David. Losing a chance for the Marshall over such pettiness must be terribly upsetting for you to contemplate even today.

    People on this list who know me personally will find it characteristic that I was much less bothered by this (to the extant that I was even bothered) than my professors (though in fairness to them, they’d chosen me as a candidate to the exclusion of others, and spent quite a lot of time grooming me). The non-academic world has treated me well enough in the meantime; one might even argue that BYU did me a huge favor by refusing to release my transcripts and thwart my intent to go to graduate school.

    At any rate, it really is nothing that I’ve taken ever personally. Indeed, the comment I made in this very thread is the first time I’ve mentioned it to anyone since it occurred. Just the same, I appreciate your kind words.

    Jed Woodworth: National reporters who descend on BYU’s campus are amazed to find students with so much balance and direction.

    I think that your assessment is a bit naïve. Mormons have a whole lot of prepared, stock answers. Those answers notwithstanding, much of the directed-ness is just an illusion (I remember it being characterized humorously as “an ounce of appearance is worth a pound of performance”). It is common for grownup Mormons to express the fact that they’ve fallen for this kind of illusion by saying things like, “Everyone in the ward has a perfect family, but mine has so many problems. Where is my perfect family?”

    Also, national reporters often say a lot of bad things about BYU. I don’t bother to quote them, because you’d probably find them off-base. In fact, most of the positive things that I read are in the context of trying provide balance to a generally negative review. If you’re going to appeal to them as an authority, you’re obliged (in some sense) to take the bad with the good.

    Jed Woodworth: A man of your keen intellect….

    Again, I think that your assessment is a bit naïve.

    To be perfectly clear: I did not intend to derail this thread by bringing up the registrar, which was just one example of many and was made in the spirit outlined in my second response to Ben above.

  41. Benjamin Huff on December 12, 2004 at 10:13 pm

    David, I am ready to be corrected as to your interest in the Mormon way of life. If I jumped to an unwarranted conclusion based on your comments (about WoW, church attendance . . .), I’m sorry.

  42. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    I only mentioned it tongue in cheek. Don’t give it another thought.

  43. Benjamin Huff on December 12, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    It does appear from your comments, though, David, that you see no serious value to a university’s working to “perfect the saints”. Why is that? If I’m misreading you again, I hope you’ll clarify. You’ve been very brief in what you’ve said about how BYU has the wrong goals.

    The idea of “a college education as such” is hardly a settled idea. As Jed says, it is a rather recent thing for universities to cease trying to educate the whole person. Why should “a college education as such” not be partly a matter of spiritual development, under the university’s guidance? It seems clear to me that a college education “as such”, so far as there is such a thing, is part of what BYU understands to be its mission, along with the goal of spiritual formation (whether one is already included in the other or not). What are you suggesting instead?

  44. Benjamin Huff on December 12, 2004 at 10:30 pm

    Jed, you did a good job of summarizing the difference I see between the contemporary and classical views of education. I don’t really blame you for letting Nussbaum have it initially, since she is well-published on classical philosophy; but I think the notion of Socrates involved in her views of education insufficiently reflects some very important, recurring themes in Plato (and similar themes show up in Aristotle).

    Mickey, your college sounds fantastic; why so big, though? Can’t it be done even smaller? : )

    Jonathan, of course you are right.

  45. Kevin Winters on December 12, 2004 at 10:58 pm

    In defense of BYU, I’m currently attending ‘the Lord’s University’ and, while not finding it perfect, see more of what David says is missing than not. Most people that I know take their education quite seriously, have high aspirations, work their tails off to achieve it, have very ‘directional’ lives (educational, spiritual, and social), etc. I think BYU’s Mentor program and ORCA research grants, to name a few, are great helps to the ambitious student (though I will say that I wish people would be more passionate about their proposals rather than merely doing it to get money [a sentiment I heard a few times in the line to submit proposals last year, and which I do not doubt was repeated this semester]). The library services are immensely helpful in research, as are the professors that I’ve found to be more than willing to offer help, even to students they have never met before (I’ve done it on a few occasions). At least in the philosophy department, the only ‘discrimination’ and ‘silencing’ I find is in when I find some philosophers interesting when the whole of the department have no interest in them (a continual ‘problem’ with my interest in Whitehead), but that’s not repression, just ignorance (in the best possible sense).

    Now, the above is not to mean that I have not found some of what David has discussed, but perhaps this can be reduced to the company I keep (and the company he kept) and the dominant ‘ethos’ in that group. In the least, the University that David has described is quite foreign to what I have experienced and am experiencing right now.

  46. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 11:13 pm

    Ben Huff: David, that you see no serious value to a university’s working to “perfect the saints”. Why is that? If I’m misreading you again, I hope you’ll clarify.

    I find this a little puzzling. I actually intended to mean exactly the opposite.

    Ben Huff: The idea of “a college education as such” is hardly a settled idea.

    This strikes me as a mildly obscurantist attempt to introduce an unnecessary degree of precision in order to redirect the rhetorical focus of the discussion.

    First, it is beside the point. However else other people define “college education,” my point is simply that there’s no need for a uniquely LDS definition.

    Second, in practice it is a pretty settled idea. Whether one gets his degree from Wabash, Hillsdale, Brown, or Duke, he does indeed get a college degree. Even BYU’s Mormon variant is recognized as a college education. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that BYU succeeds as a university to the extant that it functions as in the more generic (and non-Morman specific) type of university.

    At any rate, for the purposes of this discussion, we can dispense with the question of how to define the notion of a university education.

  47. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 11:15 pm

    Jonathan: I think the list you compiled goes in the direction of my point about BYU’s attempt to educate more than minds. The older, much broader tradition of education involves the transmission of, for example, “cultural heritage,” your term.

    David says: “I think that your assessment is a bit naïve. Mormons have a whole lot of prepared, stock answers. Those answers notwithstanding, much of the directed-ness is just an illusion.”

    You may be on to something here. Mormons do have stock answers. But any more than other people? You seem to be saying that BYU students who report satisfaction with their education are deluded, under the spell of “illusion,” while those who report disatisfaction are firmly grounded in reality. I don’t buy that.

    David, re. your idea of granting scholarships for Mormons to use outside Mormon universities. An interesting idea, but tell me about the checks and balances on the funds. What keeps someone who hears about this Mormon pot of gold from getting baptized just to cash in? How are people accountable in your system? Do they have to give something in return like the armed services requires of their scholarship applicants? If not, how is this serving a “Mormon education”?

  48. Clark on December 12, 2004 at 11:19 pm

    Ben, regarding your idea of a classic education, I hope it isn’t based too much on The Symposium. (grin)

    David, while I agree bad things can happen at BYU, I think that bad things happen at many colleges. But certainly there are certain things some might call “conformity” that BYU basically demands. To exactly what degree that is counter-productive to education I can’t say. I do think that the whole “be exposed to everything” is a bit overstated. For one I think a lot of the ideas one is exposed to at other colleges (and I attended Dalhousie before coming to BYU) are a bit facile in terms of being this big eye opening experience. But, I can see that if someone grew up in a predominate Mormon area that being exposed to non-Mormons would be a good idea. I grew up the only Mormon in my school, so perhaps I simply see such matters differently. Further, both I and most of my friends did internships in the summers at places with students from all sorts of colleges. I didn’t see that big a difference.

    Certainly some colleges are better. I think Yale, Berkeley, Cal Tech, Harvard and so forth are better colleges. I’m sure for some disciplines there are small liberal arts colleges that might match your interests more. What impressed me about BYU was being able to actually discuss my religious ideas serious in an academic way. (By serious, I mean actually taking spiritual experiences seriously and not something that one must “bracket” or pretend are ambiguous) There simply aren’t other places where one can do that.

    Further, while some departments are better than others, I had an amazing experience in the BYU physics department and enjoyed the classes I took in the philosophy department. (Although I’m still a little surprised at the small number of credits needed to graduate in philosophy)

  49. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 11:20 pm

    Kevin Winters: Did you mean to say “David” instead of “Jed”?

    I don’t recall discussing BYU in the terms you describe.

  50. David King Landrith on December 12, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    Jonathan Green: I don’t think you can ignore [the enumerated non-University goels] in thinking about what a Mormon university should be.

    What I find problematitic is exactly this notion that an ideal Mormon university must serve some other primary purpose aside from the needs of its students, alumni, staff, and learning in general. If this is true, then it seems to me to be a good argument against having a Mormon university at all.

    Jonathan Green: But preach on, DKL; as much as I enjoyed BYU, I feel your pain. And post #8 may be the best thing yet on this thread.

    Thanks for the kind words. I wrote #8 in the spirit that Jed mentioned when he encouraged us to have some fun with this, but I was beginning to think that either nobody read it or that it was expressive of the “inaccessible” nature (to put it politely) of my sense of humor.

  51. Kevin Winters on December 12, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Jed,

    Sorry, I stand corrected; I guess I confounded the two of you without noticing. :o(

  52. Jed Woodworth on December 12, 2004 at 11:49 pm

    Clark says: “Certainly some colleges are better. I think Yale, Berkeley, Cal Tech, Harvard and so forth are better colleges.”

    Money and time are the common denominators in the schools you mention. These make all the difference. Who knows what BYU will look like in fifty years? I would like to see the endowment grow so large that a medical school would result. BYU actually owns a lot of land between Zion’s bank and the Utah County Hospital. I can envision a campus extension of interconnecting medical facilities. But Provo High and a bunch of other stuff would have to be moved. Not entirely practical.

  53. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 12:06 am

    David says: “Also, national reporters often say a lot of bad things about BYU. I don’t bother to quote them, because you’d probably find them off-base. In fact, most of the positive things that I read are in the context of trying provide balance to a generally negative review.”

    David, I would be interested in the negative statements. I have a few such articles but perhaps you have seen others I have not. Will you send the most persuasive references to jedwoodworth@hotmail.com?

  54. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 12:17 am

    I’m not sure getting bigger would make BYU better, although I must confess the lack of real grad school emphasis makes it tough. I just don’t want BYU to become all things to all people. The fact is, not everyone will be happy at BYU. So what? It offers things other colleges don’t. The fact that some just won’t enjoy it or can’t abide the requirements doesn’t entail it being bad.

  55. David King Landrith on December 13, 2004 at 12:26 am

    Sorry, Jed. I’m not invested enough to maintain clippings of the articles. I remember stories depicting BYU in a negative light going back as far as the eighties, when the BYU Bookstore stopped selling Boy George (apparently he’s more offensive than Fawn Brodie, whose book on Joseph Smith I purchased there in 1989).

    In the business world, I have been quite surprised by how often I run into very negative impressions of BYU. In fact, a common reaction to my having I attended BYU is I am quite lucky that I don’t have that on my resume (not that my resume matters–I’ve never had great luck obtaining jobs, and as a consequence I’ve only ever had one real job where I worked for someone else). Apparently, such sentiments are not uncommon. This is not to say that it is a common sentiment (or at least not a commonly acted upon sentiment), since it is obviously not; I have not observed that BYU graduates generally have a harder time getting jobs than graduates from other respectable second, tier universities.

  56. Ben Huff on December 13, 2004 at 12:27 am

    At any rate, for the purposes of this discussion, we can dispense with the question of how to define the notion of a university education.

    No, we can’t! That is a rather large part of what is in question here. Mormons (tho not only Mormons; Catholics are in a similar position in many ways) are in a position to hold, and have reasons to hold, a very different view of what a university education should be like from what has (rather recently) become the “settled” view at the places you mention.

    What I find problematitic is exactly this notion that an ideal Mormon university must serve some other primary purpose aside from the needs of its students, alumni, staff, and learning in general. If this is true, then it seems to me to be a good argument against having a Mormon university at all.

    And why should these be the only purposes? I’d be interested in hearing some reasons why purposes of spiritual formation, and others Jonathan mentioned, seem to you illegitimate.

  57. Weston C on December 13, 2004 at 12:31 am

    I don’t see a purpose for a Church sponsored University. What is offered at BYU that I don’t get at Utah State through the Institute program?

    For one thing, you probably wouldn’t get periodic sessions from LDS mathematics professors on logic, truth, and the gospel. None of my math profs did this often, but Kirk Tolman did occasionally, and when he did the class was riveted. Some of the things he said and some of the things James Cannon said in a colloquium have stuck with me over nearly a decade now. Likewise, I had a few other professors who were simply serious about weaving gospel principles with astute scholarship. I think this is what BYU is *trying* to offer. In fact it’s actually rare enough within the University itself; I’ve wondered if I’d ever see it at all outside of that context.

    I recognize BYU has its troubles, and I probably disliked as much of my time there as I liked, and I ran across officious and authoritarian folks, self-righteous and hypocritical students, and even had a clash with a Bishop over ecclesiastical renewal. I’ve realized since that for some of the career choices I’m interested, BYU may not have been the best fit. Despite all this, some of my BYU experiences were so positive that I doubt, given the choice, I would change my choice to attend.

    If nothing else, oh, the Choral Music department. I get weepy thinking about it.

  58. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 12:31 am

    I want to go back to a point made by Kevin Winters in an earlier post. He mentioned the issue of GEs, and he recommended remaking GEs to include the “fundamentals” of disciplines, moving beyond disciplines to the “how tos” of disciplines, and in this sense getting to the deeper philosophical issues shared by disciplines. I think the problem Kevin points to is a very real problem, and that is the problem of unity in university curricula.

    What unifies education at our modern universities? GE’s were invented to answer that question, and before GEs the moral philosophy class, the crowning course of the nineteenth-century collegiate curriculum, answered the same question. Today’s university curriculum has no real center, no unifying thread of thought. BYU’s religion courses do not now serve that function. They do not attempt to synthesize knowledge across disciplines into any coherent whole. There has been a recent move at BYU to make American Heritage serve a synthetic function, and that may be a start. But I think Kevin’s plan would entail something much more interdisciplinary.

    There are some honors colloquia at BYU that move in the direction, putting science and philosophy and art in the same room. I would like to see classes like those made required. We need a Western Civilization class that probes deeper than the “what happened.” A “philosophy of Mormonism” class would be an outstanding addition. Could it ever be pulled off, I wonder? Would our emphasis on continuing revelation constantly undercut our ability to pin Mormon philosophy down? I sometimes wonder why McMurrin junked his larger philosophy of Mormonism project, and whether his abandonement suggests some intractable philosophical problem(s).

  59. David King Landrith on December 13, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Jed Woodworth: What keeps someone who hears about this Mormon pot of gold from getting baptized just to cash in? How are people accountable in your system? Do they have to give something in return like the armed services requires of their scholarship applicants? If not, how is this serving a “Mormon education”?

    I think you ask a very good question about how such scholarships should function. My answer?

    One word: Tithing rebates.

  60. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 12:49 am

    Clark says: “I’m not sure getting bigger would make BYU better, although I must confess the lack of real grad school emphasis makes it tough.”

    Don’t you think a medical school would round out the Mormon mission–saving the living on the Provo flats while saving the dead on Temple Hill?

    Clark says: ” I just don’t want BYU to become all things to all people. The fact is, not everyone will be happy at BYU.”

    Agreed. BYU faces very difficult decisions if ever their accrediting bodies turn on them, e.g. if gay rights become civil rights.

  61. Keith on December 13, 2004 at 1:42 am

    “Today’s university curriculum has no real center, no unifying thread of thought. BYU’s religion courses do not now serve that function. They do not attempt to synthesize knowledge across disciplines into any coherent whole.”

    This isn’t so much to comment of the religion courses, but rather on the idea of synthesizing across disciplines. (It would, by the way, be hard to throw the weight of synthesizing across disciplines on the religion department. Few in that department–or any department–would be able to reach competently across the various disciplines and synthesize without being superficial. Hopefully, students would find professors who do some of this with their own disciplines. Also it could be helpful to have folks read _Learning in the Light of Faith_, a collection of addresses by Eldrs. Maxwell, Oaks, Eyring, Samuelson and others about integrating scholarship and discipleship.

    At BYU-Hawaii, they have instituted Inter-Disciplinary Courses (IDS). A student must take one before graduating (some take more of course) and must be a senior or junior before taking it. The jr/sr standing helps assure that students have more familiarity with university life, have had a variety of courses and are doing work in their majors (all of this ideally, of course). The courses require at least two different approaches or disciplines for what the subject is. These are sometimes team-taught by folks from a wide range of departments. These courses may not synthesize everything across the university, but they do a pretty good job of bringing at least two fields of study together–and the potential for more. On the whole, these may be some of the most interesting courses both for students and for teachers. I think something resembling this or at least the ideals behind it, would be a good part of an ideal Mormon university.

  62. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 3:16 am

    Just to add to Keith, some of the most interesting religion classes I had was the special religion for science and engineering majors. It was a colloquium with a guest teacher every week. The topics ranged from cosmology, to ethics, to evolution (taught by the very McConkie inspired Dean of Religion at the time who did a surprisingly fair and balanced presentation), to environmental issues.

    Also, if you look around, many religion classes are taught by people from outside the religion department. Not just honors classes either.

  63. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 9:10 am

    Keith says: “This isn’t so much to comment of the religion courses, but rather on the idea of synthesizing across disciplines.”

    The idea of synthesis has fallen out of favor as knowledge has exploded, as disciplines have multiplied, and as space in the undergraduate course has become more and more coveted. These are the practical reasons. But there are also idealogical reasons, the most significant of which is that academics have lost faith in unifying principles. God, natural rights, and reason do not hold that function anymore. LDS theology, however, DOES, I think, contain within it the possibility of a unified theory,.and for this reason we may rightly look for synthetic courses to bring together disparate strands of knowledge.

  64. a random John on December 13, 2004 at 10:47 am

    Jed,
    BYU decided to have a law school rather than a medical school. I know this board is full of lawyers (and even BYU educated lawyers) but I think that reflects on priorities.

  65. Ben Huff on December 13, 2004 at 11:23 am

    Considering the political/legal challenges the church has been facing and will probably face increasingly, it doesn’t seem a bad choice for BYU to have chosen a law school first. I don’t see why they couldn’t have a medical school eventually, though.

    Keith, that IDS program sounds great!

  66. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    I have wondered about the relationship, if any, between BYU’s decision not to found a medical school and Roe v Wade. The church divested itself of hospitals in 1974, the year after the High Court came down with the word. Cost was a big factor in divestiture. Health care costs were escalating, and the church’s new international focus made maintaining intermountain hospitals impractical when so many Saints now had health insurance under LBJ’s liberalism. Still, I wonder if the church forsaw legal or conflict-of-interest challenges if it refused to perform abortions. Hence the axe laid at the root of LDS-run hospitals.

    I wonder, in other words, if a hospital at BYU or some Mormon university is forever an impossibility given Mormonism’s anti-abortion stance?

  67. Ben Huff on December 13, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    Well, apparently there is legislation in the works right now to make life easier for physicians and hospitals that refuse to perform abortions. If this sort of thing sticks (we might have to wait a few years to see), it might change the calculations on a BYU med. school.

  68. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    How does the Catholic church deal with that? THey’re much more stridently anti-abortion than we are…

  69. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks for the URL, Ben. Very interesting.

    Here is a relevant line from the article. “…at the moment health care providers do have a legal obligation, if they receive state funding, to provide abortion services, including counselling and referrals.”

    This helps answer Glen’s question. I would think you would have to be a very rich church to run a hospital without state funds. Mormonism isn’t there yet.

  70. Adam Greenwood on December 13, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    Notre Dame has had a law school for many years, but they are only now starting a medical school. And it isn’t a fully Notre Dame medical school, it’s a partnership with the Indiana University system.

    Perhaps some of the abortion rules explain the difference.
    I also wonder if there might be another explanation: the need for a legal environment hospitable to Christian values may have been clearer for much longer than the need for hospitable medical environment. I warrant that 20 years ago the med schools mainly taught the Hippocratian Respect for Life. Now with the normalization of abortion and de fact euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning, and so forth, the need for one’s own medical school becomes more apparent.

    This is more true for Catholics, however, since they have a much clearer idea of how doctors should respond to these issues than we do.

  71. clark on December 13, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    I think a medical school would be tremendously expensive. I’m not sure the Church could finance it. It would require a lot of donors and I just don’t see them appearing. I think there are other graduate programs that could be put in place cheaper and with more influence. (i.e. most of the humanities and sciences) The downside to that is that it would make hiring even more problematic. There are plenty of excellent professors, especially in the engineering department and biology. But moving to having a grad school might accentuate the problem of a primarily Mormon faculty even more than it is now. On the other hand it would also encourage more hires to come (due to research and having grad students as assistants) On the other hand (lots of hands) the grad school’s recognition might be limited by the primarily Mormon affiliation. That’s less an issue for accountants, MBA’s or lawyers. For other fields though I think it would be problematic. Thus the limited fields where there are graduate programs.

  72. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    I don’t want to dredge up the stem cell debate again, but what better place for the church to develop its own research agenda (leading to a firm stance?) on the divisive medical issues Adam mentions than within its own medical school. BYU is becoming a leader in family research at a time when the definition of family is under debate. They could do the same with genetic engineering. But, as Clark suggests, money is a huge issue. I do think BYU could get the students. If you build it they will come.

  73. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Adam: It seems freedom has overwhelmed alll other moral concerns in recent years. Now the Hippocratic Oath is constrained by a doctor’s freedom not to get sued. Right to life takes a back seat.

  74. Adam Greenwood on December 13, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    The difference, Sr. Woolworth, is that the Church knows very well where it stands on family issues and is very happy to finance research that supports and elaborates that stance.

  75. Jed Woodworth on December 13, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Do you think the church fears what it might discover in open-ended research? I think there should be no fears.

  76. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 12:40 am

    It might end up that UVSC experiments more than BYU and takes up some of what many of us wish BYU would risk embracing. How long, for example, before UVSC has serious grad programs? Just look at the progress it has made the past few years. Quite a change from when many of us here in Provo derisively called it just an other vo-tec college.

  77. Kingsley on December 15, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    David King Landrith: Let me just say, as a bona fide wild child Mormon, that my experience with the Y has been utterly different from yours. Many of my professors, while knowing full well my penchant for sleeping way, way in on Sunday mornings, etc., have bent over backwards to assist me, to smooth out bumps in the road, open doors, slice through red tape, vouch for me, get me jobs, and so on; I credit a few of them, in fact, with saving my life, or at least with saving me from a lifetime of 5 a.m. temp work. Far from being indifferent toward my education (or outright hostile), these profs have seemed more interested in my career than their own.