Monday, May 15, 2006

Perhaps St. Paul can speak to Durham

John A. Murray, headmaster of St. David's School in Raleigh, wrote an excellent op-ed in the News & Observer last week, asking whether it wasn't time for colleges, and particularly Duke University, to look to the impact of faith or its lack on students and their communities. He suggests engaging a much older book than those picked for UNC's summer reading program:

    While Duke faculty committees continue to explore ways to address recent events, perhaps they should consider reexamining the original tenets of their institution. Former Duke Divinity School professor George Marsden documents the 1924 mission statement in The Soul of the American University: "The Aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." As Marsden notes, "Until the 1960s, Duke continued to require undergraduates to take courses in Bible."

    Given tensions between Duke and the community of Durham, perhaps incoming freshmen could once again be challenged to read, discuss and debate a thought-provoking work such as the Bible's book of Galatians. Here are found the ideas of knowledge and faith which shaped the principles of our democratic republic: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). This is a much-needed reminder as our society faces issues of race, class and gender today.

-- John A. Murray, "College Students Could Do With More Faith", News & Observer 5/9/06

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