A new and needed truth-seeking university
The new University of Austin (UATX), in Texas, will open this summer. It will be a radically different kind of university, neither right-wing nor left-wing. Rather, it will be on the wing that focuses on advancing truth.
What in the world does that mean, and what is truth? I can make this clear by quoting a passage from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. Note that this passage is neither right- nor left-wing, but about truth:
If an opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. ... Though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth, and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
Mill was not pushing politics; he was pushing the delineation and discovery of truth. That is precisely the goal of the new University of Austin.
Session I begins in Dallas June 13–17, with Session II launching June 20–24. These sessions are given the strange title "Forbidden Courses" to reflect that the discussion will include topics now forbidden in most universities. "The purpose of civil discourse is not to share opinions but to shape and sharpen our understanding. All ideas should be heard" — which is the freedom of speech that John Stuart Mill encouraged — "but all ideas must also be backed up by reasoned arguments and evidence." There is no place here for mindless clichés about wokeness, cancel culture, political correctness, or Critical Race Theory.
Note that the Forbidden Courses do not steer away from current focuses on hot topics. Here are the opening courses:
- free vs. unfree societies in the 20th century
- free speech, religion, and women's rights
- approaches to climate change
- the psychology of social status
- varieties of feminism
- capitalism: catastrophe or triumph?
- black-male writing from Richard Wright to Ta-Nehisi Coates
UATX is currently seeking authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer degrees as a private postsecondary educational institution and is pursuing accreditation eligibility from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Once the institution receives these two authorities, the school will implement five centers of inquiry: the Center for Politics, Economics, and Applied History; Center for Theoretical and Experimental Science; Center for Mathematics, Technology, and Engineering; Center for Education and Public Service; and Center for Arts and Letters.
UATX declares: "For universities to serve their purpose [the unfettered pursuit of truth] they must be fully committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse. In order to maintain these principles, UATX will be fiercely independent — financially, intellectually, and politically."
I was a vice president at Hillsdale College in Michigan for 14 years. The school takes no federal or state government money or loans. But it is doing very well financially because private money is available to support such principles as liberty and truth. Money will be available for the University of Austin, too.
Founding president Pano Kanelos asserts, "We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves. And so, we are building anew."
I cannot think of any university in the world, Harvard or Oxford notwithstanding, that will do a more thorough job of teaching a student how to think.
Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D., is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for U.S. chief justice Warren Burger.
Image: University of Austin.