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College more than liberalism
by Jake Highton
May 06, 2012 | 833 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A journalism student told me recently sad, sad words: His parents didn’t want him to go to college “because he would become a liberal.”

College is so much more than liberalism or conservatism.

It’s a broadening viewpoint and outlook. It’s learning and enlightenment. It’s abandoning provincialism.

Perhaps a professor will influence a student’s life and thinking. Thoreau and Gandhi influenced Martin Luther King’s life and thought. King in turn influenced the thinking of millions about race in America.

No small thing, college!

College is Shakespeare and Twain, Mozart and Beethoven, van Gogh and Monet.

It’s Lincoln and FDR, Holmes and Brandeis, Verdi and Puccini.

It’s Marx and Freud, Emerson and Sinclair, Marlowe and Milton.

It’s Anne Frank and Orwell, Dickens and Emily Dickinson, Goethe and Nietzsche.

It’s Hugo and Plato, Joyce and Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and O’Neill.

It’s Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois and Thurgood Marshall, Margaret Sanger and Rachel Carson.

College students generally outgrow their parents, becoming more tolerant and more understanding. Yet conservatives in the nation vastly outnumber liberals. This is a profoundly conservative country.

Soulless America

John Barry’s new book, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” is flawed from the very title.

Williams had nothing to do with the American soul either in religion, politics and government. Indeed, America has no soul.

So much of American religion today is pinched, backward and un-Christian. Right-wing religionists do not believe in the rigid separation of church and state. Williams did.

American politics means pleasing the lowest common denominator. American government is backward, hostile to anything slightly liberal.

The 400-page book is about 100 pages too long, full of irrelevancies, digressions, paddings and repetitions. By page 135 we have precious little details of Williams’ life.

The book overflows with the biographer’s sin: “probably,” “possibly” “likely,” “might have,” “could have” and “seems to have.”

Nevertheless, the one great strength of the book is stressing Williams’ belief in freedom of conscience, the necessity of believing what you will about religion and the absolutism of keeping church and state separate.

This was heresy to the Puritans ruling in 17th century New England, heresy that got Williams kicked out of the Massachusetts colony.

The Puritans had fled England for religious freedom but denied religious freedom in Massachusetts.

Williams founded Rhode Island on principles of freedom — freedom for even atheists to express their view.

Barry also notes the irony of the “savages,” the Indians, who saved Williams’ life in the wilderness while the so-called Christians threw him into the wilderness.

Class athlete

Tim Duncan was 36 last week, getting old for a professional basketball player.

But his coach, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, tells his assistants: “We have the easiest job in the NBA because of Tim Duncan, because of who he is and the way he conducts himself.”

Harvey Araton, New York Times sports writer, lauds Duncan as “the most minimalist superstar of the modern professional era.”

Duncan gives the lie to Leo Durocher’s dictum that “nice guys finish last.” Duncan has led the Spurs to four NBA titles in 15 years.

All about money

The Gannett chain, owner of the Reno Gazette-Journal, places no value on quality and experience. Money is all.

That’s one reason the Gazette-Journal is such a dreadful newspaper.

Yet Reno readers are either stuck with it as the only daily in town or they can take the sensible step of canceling the paper.

I get tired of the page one clutter of the RGJ, tired of seeing the same story inside that I have already read on page one.

Example of good makeup? Look to the sports pages of the New York Times.

The other day the RGJ advertised for three “information positions.” That job is unheard of in the annals of newspapering.

Insiders say an IP job has something to do with search engines and social media.

Obviously reporting is obsolete.

I’m guilty

The page-one story in the New York Times recently about mini-ebooks indirectly referred to me.

The Times cited “a lonely independent bookstore put out of business by Amazon.com.”

For three decades I spent about $100 a month on books, CDs and DVDs at a Reno independent bookstore.

Now I never go there. I order those cultural “fixes” from Amazon. UPS delivers to my door and USPS to the mail box, cutting out the middleman and saving the 10-mile round trip to the store.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be contacted at jake@unr.edu.
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