Last week I was on the Auraria campus of CU-Denver a couple of times for notable events. On Sept. 11, President Hank Brown launched a new lecture series under his personal sponsorship, hosting John Agresto for a discussion of lessons about the American character in light of our Iraq experience and the struggle against terrorism. Then on Sept. 15, a statewide teen conference in honor of Constitution Day was presented on campus by LibertyDay.org, the national civics project headed by Andy McKean of Littleton.
Several impressions stayed with me. One, education for citizenship isn't quite as dead at our high schools and colleges as curmudgeons like me sometimes claim, though it still needs a lot of reviving.
Two, the Auraria campus buildings and grounds look great -- well-appointed, attentively maintained, and with visible signs of expansion. No evidence of the alleged financial crisis of Colorado higher education meets the eye.
Three, it always saddens me to see Auraria's grand old churches (including our state's first synagogue) now serving mostly as museums, historic sites, or secular meeting facilities rather than houses of worship. You couldn't have a more vivid symbol of our current practice of drawing down the West's moral and spiritual heritage, rather than sustaining it as integral to the process of cultural transmission and learning.
Fourth -- and in my opinion the most revealing detail of all, though seemingly small -- what volumes were spoken about our times by a men's-room vending machine in one of the classroom buildings.
The items for sale were condoms, Excedrin, Tylenol, and Tic-Tacs: little packages, none more than a dollar, fully equipping your modern college guy for the day's eventualities of pleasure, pain, and politeness as he acquires higher learning.
Will it occur to him, if Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" happens be assigned in one of his English classes, that the state-sponsored, responsibility-sapping availability of Soma bliss and recreational sex envisioned by Huxley is not far from being realized in the here and now?
And even if it does, will he recognize the danger this poses to himself, his generation, and our country? I hope so, but I doubt it.
[Cross-posted at PoliticsWest.com]