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  • Reverend James Squire

Why Students Should Run The Government

One of our children kept us busy with questions so that we could not give easy answers. Whenever an issue came up, his question was, “Why did that happen?” followed quickly by “How do you know that?” Favorites included, “How does that work?” I must admit when we were regaled by so many questions that it irritated us because it stopped us from doing whatever the next thing was on our agenda. His questions got in the way! He benefitted because it was important for him to know the details of how things worked. What we learned was behind every general statement that we made, he was only helped when we produced some facts. Facts bring understanding as opposed to the alternative facts, lies, that have largely permeated the culture.

Teaching Ethics was a thrill for students would always ask the facts behind any generalization. Students at EA were very bright and inquisitive. I often said to people that you better know what you are doing when you enter the classroom or “the students would have you for lunch.”

Like my son at an early age, students wouldn’t settle for the general or superficial. Students interested in “deep dives” into a subject would not let a teacher get away with making a statement or opinion that could not be backed up with facts. That attribute should be part of any politician’s wheelhouse.

I am in Durham, North Carolina as I write this. I will not make a trip to the holy land known as Duke University although it took me back in time when riding on Route 70 between Raleigh and Durham when I was studying in the land of magnolias. I recall the rigor that existed there where you couldn’t get away with generalizations that were not backed up with facts. As students we could never get away with statements that at the end of the day lacked concrete support. Acting like you knew what you were doing in a counseling session with clients had to be backed up with verbatims, words that described the exchanges in as much detail as possible. It was the same skill set that an actor has in remembering his or her lines. When I am counseling someone today, I can still remember most of the exchanges. I was trained well.

I am struck by how people indicate that Biden’s economic plan is terrible. Most interviewers allow that to pass. They don’t ask, as even a child will ask, what are you basing your conclusion on because we have the numbers that say that isn’t true.

Trump is great at doing this. He operates in an alternative reality when he says I am going to improve medical care or that he will build a wall. His whole approach is to issue generalizations that are not backed up by facts or the wrong facts.

We see this as well in Comer and Jordan’s investigation of the “Biden Crime Family.” They continue to come up empty when asked about facts to prove their case. It has become a public embarrassment for the Republican Party.

A few nights ago, I had dinner sitting across from a Trumper. It was my definition of heaven and her definition of hell. I asked the obvious, “Why did you vote for Trump?” Her answer was that he “was a great businessman.” I responded with the facts that his companies went bankrupt and he stiffed his workers. It was a quick discussion because she had generalizations galore. I had the facts which shutdown the exchanges. She was use to making statements that were never questioned.

Liz Magill, President of Penn, has had a bad couple of weeks caught between donors who have blackmailed her and a large faculty who want all sides of the issue of antisemitism and islamophobia addressed. We know what the facts are at Penn and other schools where debate is encouraged.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is coming to investigate universities such as Penn to inquire about antisemitism and islamophobia on Penn’s campus. Liz Magill has already come up with the idea to gather teachers, students, alumni together to develop a program to handle these two issues and more. I think she is doing a great job. It will be interesting to see how the Office of Civil Rights comes up with better ideas than what are already in the works.

But I have a few questions to ask the Education Department of Civil Rights and want a factual response. What investigations did you do of colleges and universities that were subject to anti diversity and inclusion issues at Florida universities or other right-wing changes made there and other places? Tell me in specific terms what you did. Those issues of civil rights were glaring. Indicate as well what you are doing to enhance “affirmative action” on campuses now that it is against the law.

The Department is no better than the alumni who wanted Magill fired or else no more money. There is the issue out there that if Penn and others don’t comply, they will not receive government funding. You can’t show up only when hot topics are in the news.

Schools are places where their general statements and facts point to uncomfortable dialogue which is not occurring in Washington or in the nation at large. Schools are the last bastion of such informed conversation.

Universities are political places. Students should know something about the school to which they are applying. I think that is great. Some colleges are more up to the challenges than others.

Swarthmore College was regarded at one point in time as the best small liberal arts college in America. It was also regarded as having one of the most liberal campuses as well. A number of professors were parishioners in my parish before I came to EA. They critiqued my sermons. There was much give and take in the college and community. If you didn’t like being challenged by different opinions that would not be the place for you.

One of my sons was accepted at Swarthmore. We attended the yield party that was being conducted for those accepted to encourage them to attend their school. I asked the person who was conducting the session about what the school was like for a student that I thought went to the heart of the matter. I asked, “How would a student who is not political do here? The professor responded with honesty, “Not very well!” My son went on to Princeton.

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