Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Culture: Objectivism and the University

We all know how much of a trial higher education can be if you are an Objectivist working in the humanities. Leonard Peikoff wrote the following in The Voice of Reason:

If you are a philosophically pro-American student, you have to expect every kind of smear from many of your professors. If you uphold the power of reason, you will be called a fanatic or a dogmatist. If you uphold the right to happiness, you will be called anti-social or even a fascist. If you admire Ayn Rand, you will be called a cultist. You will experience every kind of injustice, and even hatred, and you will be unbelievably bored most of the time, and often you will be alone and lonely.
I’ve experienced all those things and worse as a student myself, but as I return to the university to complete my formal education, I’m seeing that a lot has changed for the better in the past ten years. For example, a little over a year ago, I participated in a debate sponsored by the George Mason University campus Objectivist club on whether the United States should invade Iraq. Almost 100 people attended, including GMU President Alan Merten. After the debate, President Merten wrote the club, saying events like the Iraq debate "are the reason we have universities."

Now that I am a student at George Mason, I happened across President Merten yesterday and approached him to thank him for his complement. He immediately recognized me, repeated his statement about the debate, and went on to say to me how proud he was that George Mason would be host to such a thoughtful and rationally argued event on the eve of such a grave decision on the part of the nation. President Merten said that he has told "a hundred people" about what such an event means to an institution like George Mason.

Consider the facts: An event, hosted by Objectivists and argued by an Objectivist, respectful in tone, yet unrelenting in argument, is held to be the reason we have universities.

Sometimes Objectivism’s advancement in the culture seems slow—sometimes even too slow to bear—but I say this: we are winning.

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