Academia is not always close-minded. One of the goals of the Pope Center is to find courses that stretch students’ minds and introduce them to important ideas. Thus, we honor three professors each year with our Spirit of Inquiry Award.
The 2010 winning course, Foundations of Liberalism, taught by Brian J. Shaw, professor of political science at Davidson College, exemplifies the spirit of inquiry. The course reflects the many different interpretations of the liberal tradition — from John Locke to John Rawls. Shaw tells students, “We’re all liberals now,” but teaches them that diverse policies flow from liberal origins. Shaw’s students rarely know his personal views about the philosophers they study. “When we do Rawls, I work for Rawls,” he said. “When we do Nozick, I defend Nozick.”
I would like to see other reform organizations around the country offer such awards. Let students nominate their “best course” (under guidelines that emphasize academic rigor and open-minded exploration) and from those select the best.
Speaking of awards, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni is giving its Philip Merrill award today to Benno Schmidt, chairman of the board of trustees of the City University of New York. ACTA says that he is being honored for his role in revitalizing CUNY, which has become “an engine of New York’s resurgence.”