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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Where to find curious, confident, inquisitive students

Her expectations were low she visited Utah Valley University, a large, open-enrollment state university, admits Martha C. Nussbaum, a University of Chicago philosophy professor.

But UVU's curious, inquisitive students paid attention to her hour-long talk on justice for animals, "then peppered me with very hard questions for another hour," she writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education. "The students didn’t hesitate to contest the philosophical approach I was advocating, or to grill me about issues important to their own lives, such as hunting."

Utah Valley requires all students to take "Ethics and Values." They "learn skills essential for good citizenship in our polarized society: how to debate about fundamental matters with civility and respect," Nussbaum writes. They learn "how to examine themselves in Socratic fashion, asking why they hold the beliefs they do, and how strong the foundation for those beliefs is."

As they develop "confidence in their own mental capacity," students become "relatively free from deference to mere fads," she adds. "What I saw was joy, the sort of joy the philosopher Seneca described . . . a solid inner joy that comes from discovering yourself."

Utah Valley enrolls a lot of Mormon students who've completed a mission. They're a bit older and presumably more mature than the usual undergraduates. On the flip side, the six-year graduation rate is an unimpressive 37 percent.

Utah legislators are considering requiring Western civ courses at the University of Utah, writes Stanley Kurtz in National Review. "All students will read Homer, ancient Greek philosophy, Greek tragedy, and substantial selections from the Old and New Testaments. Students will encounter the Renaissance, the Reformation, parliamentary democracy in Britain, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise and fall of the Soviet state and Nazi Germany, not to mention similarly broad survey courses on American history, civics, literature, and much else besides."


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