The (Vo-Tech) Idea of the University

Academic Leader

Throughout the 1850s, John Henry (Cardinal) Newman published a series of lectures that he grouped under the title The Idea of the University. In this work Newman, despite his own profound faith, argued that a university was by its very nature an institution dedicated to the free range of the human mind, not the inculcation of any particular orthodoxy or set of values. The exploration of controversial topics was to be encouraged at a university, even if that exploration led to discussion of issues that made authorities uncomfortable. In fact, the purpose of a university education wasn’t to make people comfortable; it was to make them wise. Newman’s ideas, which are shared by many if not most faculty members at universities throughout the Western Hemisphere, seem to be speaking about an institution entirely different from the one described by U.S. governors and legislators when they talk about the purpose of higher education.

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