Thursday, May 15, 2008

Washington University and anti-intellectualism

Back in the late '70's, I went to Washington University in St. Louis for a year. Seeing that campus for the first time, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was a kid from Texas, from a family with its share of problems. Now I was going to be a student at one of the finest schools in the country. Had it not been for a generous financial package, I would have missed a peak educational experience, and I remain grateful to them for giving me an opportunity to splash in the pool of Big Ideas.

Now comes the announcement that they are giving an honorary degree to Phyllis Schafly. PHYLLIS SCHAFLY?! This is a travesty. And it makes about as much sense as Columbia giving one to Ahmadinejad.

I'm more than just disgusted. I really feel stabbed in the heart. Wash U used to repudiate anti-intellectualism. Now they want to give one of its most vigorous, vicious proponents its highest honor. It cannot be the school I thought it was.

Update: Cathy G. at Crooked Timber has a great blog on the subject here.

Today, the St. Louis Post reported that hundreds protested Schlafly's award by turning their backs. Just like most of those Wash U graduates will when they get those fundraising calls.

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