The corruption of ideas

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To the Editor,
Recently there has been a series of letters to the editor, dealing with the UPEI and whether it was proper for it to host a conference on abortion.

These letters effectively focused on the role of a university in our society, and the UPEI in particular. 

Being "from away", I had prepared and braced myself for P.E.I.’s socially conservative political environment. But nothing had prepared me for returning to the Spanish Inquisition or Oxford's (former) religious admission requirement. 

The purpose of universities was, and should be, to teach people how to think and to cultivate their minds and cultural tastes. Only recently have some attempted to turn universities into corporate training grounds. The purpose of universities is to teach people to think and challenge intellectual and social conventions.

One can only wonder what Cardinal Newman or CP Snow would have to say about this attempt to reassert religion into universities, or what can be studied or discussed. The views exhibited by Mr. Roger Doiron are more than frightening and are contrary to the history of universities in Canada and the Maritimes.

Are those with religious convictions presuming to now introduce a religious entrance requirement for admission to UPEI, or that they shall have the ability to control course content and eliminate various subjects such as Darwinian evolution from biology or genetics course? Are we to cancel courses in political theory because it they study controversial philosophers such as Marx? The whole idea behind universities in a liberal democracy is free thought and free speech. 

Within a university all ideas should be open for examination, including abortion, religion, birth control, sexuality, Marxism and any other purportedly "subversive" or offensive ideas. But then Socrates was condemned to death for corrupting the youth of Athens. 

While some may want to return to antiquated times, I for one would suggest that those who want to impose their own religious views and moral values on others, especially within an educational context, should embrace the twenty-first century. Since the 1960s there has been an increasing secularization of public and social policy in Canada and here on Prince Edward Island. It is time that some people get used to it. 

Fortunately, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose Board of Regents stated in 1910 that there should be a "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing [of ideas] by which ...the truth can be found." Let there be a clash of ideas, and " Let a thousand flowers bloom." The truth will set us free.  

Richard Deaton

Stanley Bridge

Organizations: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Geographic location: Canada, Oxford, Athens Prince Edward Island Stanley Bridge

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