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Choi Misinterprets University's Mission



In his editorial "In Defense of Liberal Education," (Sep. 16) Daniel Choi '94 declares that the goal of a "liberal education" ought to be a healthy vision of "truth and goodness." He suggests that we can achieve such vision by limiting our studies to classical and time-tested philosophy, literature, art and music. To give Choi credit, there may indeed be great value to intense study of Greek philosophers. But this is certainly not "the only true road to wisdom," as he claims. Intense study of any number of religious texts may also be formative of healthy character; and perhaps the truest form of wisdom cannot be found at all in texts, but in personal experience, the very source of knowledge Choi anathematizes.

Choi is right that universities, and the western world in general, have lost something valuable in their embrace of multiculturalism. What they have lost is a proven system of dealing with the world, a system based on classical philosophy and Christian scripture. But that system was far from perfect, as we are constantly being reminded--and Choi can't pretend that before the universities were secularized, they turned out only saints.

Choi is right to liken the current University scene to a bazaar, with precious gems and useless junk laid out together indiscriminately. But what he and other traditionalists must recognize is that though relativism (which he somehow mistakenly confuses with "democracy"), is certainly not a good in itself, it is necessary for questioning the roots of our western culture--a process that is happening and will continue to happen, whether we like it or not. The product of this assimilation may be far superior to both the bazaar and the good, but provincial, culture that came before.

The "liberal education" that Choi describes can be gotten today at many universities by those who desire it. Even the Harvard bazaar has a booth for it in the form of a wonderful Classics Department. But the mission of the University is different: as an institution, the University must meet the social issues of the day, and today that means taking as inclusive a picture as possible of the "state of the world." --Brent Ranalli '97

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