The University of St. Thomas, founded as a Catholic men's four-year college in 1885, is now the largest private university in Minnesota, home to 46 graduate degree programs and to numerous intercultural and interfaith institutes.
By Deborah Morse-Kahn
By its own mission statement, St. Thomas values intellectual inquiry as a lifelong habit and the imaginative and creative exploration of new ideas. Its roots as a four-year college are in the humanities and sciences, in the liberal arts.
The Jesuits in their strength were the rabble-rousers and thorns in the side ofThough St. Thomas has stumbled recently over Desmond Tutu, this remarkable institution has no need to look abashed when Katherine Kersten points an accusing finger (Star Tribune, Nov. 7) at the assignment of Margaret Atwood's disturbing and magnificently evocative "Handmaid's Tale," in which women are enslaved for a greater social good and Christians come out looking rather bad. The Jesuits would want this internationally acclaimed book read, discussed and taken apart for its literary and political value, then compared to the world outside the student's door ...and to life experience.
Rome. They made their reputation on astonishing academic and intellectual
achievements well into the 20th century and, through constant exploration of the
life of the mind and the natural world, challenged the status quo and drove
their popes mad for centuries. In my lifetime they have marched for civil
rights in the 1960s and raged against the war in the 1970s, and though their
numbers, as with all religious orders, are much thinned, they can still turn out
marvelously pointed and irreverent work, such as "On Becoming a Public
Nuisance: A Case for the Jesuit Business School as Agent for Progressive Social
Change," written by faculty of Fairfield Jesuit University's well-respected
Dolan School of Business.
Then, dashing Kersten's hopes of authentic liberal brainwashing, the professor would bring in examples from other times and other cultures in which, for a perceived greater good, a people or category of people would be made lesser in value.
I have no doubt that the Freshman English syllabus will reveal a respectable number of American literary chestnuts and some solid world lit as well. But it takes courage to place in the hands of every entering student a book that challenges our ideas of the value society places on the individual or classes of individuals. And in a time of religious fanaticism -- and every major religion in the world has its own -- it is a topic very much worth considering.
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