No Wisdom in Cutting Philosophy and Religion

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), April 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

No Wisdom in Cutting Philosophy and Religion


Byline: Jeffrey Borrowdale For The Register-Guard

The Lane Community College administration has proposed virtually eliminating the Philosophy and Religion program to help balance the budget. From a financial standpoint, it doesn't make much sense.

As a full-time instructor of 17 years, my "break-even" is 13 students. For some part-time faculty, the number is six. Class sizes are either 30 or 40. I actually make a profit for the college through tuition alone, apart from state funding.

Due to some logistical issues having nothing to do with demand, our enrollment has been down a little more than in other social science disciplines, but we've gotten it back up. This term we're at 93 percent of capacity, and I'm submitting a plan for keeping these numbers up as we move forward.

But what's disturbing to me, and ought to be disturbing to everyone, is the idea of getting rid of Philosophy and Religion to close a budget gap. Certainly college is about preparing for work. Lane has many professional and technical programs serving that function.

But college is about more than finding a job. It's about learning how to think critically, wrestling with ultimate questions, understanding the world and being a well-rounded human being. As Winston Churchill put it, "The first duty of the university is to teach wisdom, not a trade; character, not technicalities. We want a lot of engineers in the modern world, but we do not want a world of engineers."

Philosophy is, literally, "the love of wisdom," and is the original academic discipline. Philosophers draw upon the sciences, art, literature and human experience to draw conclusions about the nature of knowledge, reality and moral value.

Philosophy teaches broad, conceptual thinking. It also directly addresses Lane's first two "Core Learning Outcomes": 1) Think critically and 2) engage diverse values with civic and ethical awareness.

The academic study of religion is essential to understanding history, culture and modern geopolitics.

You cannot understand the rise of the Islamic State, the migrant crisis in Europe, or the attitudes of American evangelicals about gay rights and abortion without understanding religion. And the study of religion, particularly non-Western religions, has the added benefit of cultivating tolerance and understanding of those who are different from us. …

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