The emptiness of branding universities for “success”

Sue Sorensen, University Affairs, Aug 18, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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I'm sympathetic with Sue Sorensen's argument that universities ought to be about more than "success' but I wondered why she referred twice to their religious origins. The answer lies in her defense of reading with faith. That's all fine, but while it is true that the Bible states "I am among you as one who serves" it is equally true that the Tao Te Ching states that "If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility" and indeed, "Allah is with those who are of service to others." And it is repeated frequently in business literature that the key to success is to serve; by helping others you return measurable benefit for yourself. Service is even the key to happiness; as Gandhi says, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." So, yes, I agree that universities should focus on service - and also on broader social needs, "commitment, dissent, justice, open inquiry, insight, compassion," a focus on these is not as she says "an act of faith." It is an act of reason and will. That's why service should be core to the university's mission. The weak man serves himself; the wise man serves others. Image: Civil Rights and Labor History.

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