Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leave to Learn

Teaching in the U.S. recently, playwright Mark Ravenhill encountered a Christian student who was allowed to opt out of course material he found objectionable on the basis of his Christian beliefs. It's not just an American phenomenon, Ravenhill says; it's happening in the U.K., too. "Surely the university should declare itself a liberal organisation, and insist that those joining it must abide by its liberal values? ... There should be no opt-outs when it comes to culture." The Guardian (UK) 02/05/07

Is the act of learning - by it's very nature a "liberal-only" concept? I've never heard colleges or professors labeled as anything else (and always in a derogatory sense). I proudly proclaim myself as liberal on the majority of issues. I believe in unbarred free speech, etc; but is the very act of self-improvement “liberal”?

Why go to college, visit a library or even travel – if you have no interest in opening your mind to new ideas? Why leave home if your moral compass is incapable of adjusting its factory settings? While I feel it is noble to uphold one’s beliefs of their youth; I tend to hold more respect for a person that makes a conscious choice towards a system of ethical, religious and philosophical ideals after studying and experiencing concepts foreign to the initial upbringing. If a person searches outside the world of their youth and still finds their comfort zone back where they started – than at least their life hasn’t been wasted, because they made their own choices, rather than having them dictated by another power.

I hold similar feelings toward viewing art and the process of art-making. If one holds a preference for one form over another, that’s fine – obviously, I hope that a large number of people choose my style over that of fellow artists. These preferences decide movements, establish collectors and breed exhibitions and ultimately sales. However, I realize that a person mesmerized by barn paintings on saw-blades is less likely to view and appreciate the nuances of my own paintings if the saw-blades kitsch they dearly love is their only exposure to the art world. Similarly, if an art student spends their entirety in a program focused on conceptual and kinetic structured art, what knowledge will they have regarding an appreciation of rudimentary (yet vital) painting and drawing techniques. The building blocks of aesthetic techniques and ideas are equally as important, today, as the upholding of free-thinking religion and civil rights to our modern society. – DN


Anonymous said...

In order to accept new ideas, you must deliberately reject old ones. Thus is the farce of "liberalism". "We want you to learn everything there is to know, but only if you agree to reject everything you stood upon before." Nothing more than sheer, self-absorbed, borderline-masturbatory hypocrisy.

Nicholas Wineman said...

I gotta stand behind you North. I always believed Christianity should be available to be taught (maybe in world history) BUT if it did, that Judiasm, Hunduism, and Muslim education should be given (and not just overviews). The problem with my idea, is that idiots like this can murder my idea with a knife. Personally, I say screw it and just let life continue on. He'll end up being some bum, and rightfully so.