Saturday, March 04, 2006

Keep off the Grass

I went to BYU; for one semester; then I had had enough of it. All of my experience there can be boiled down into one metaphor, one pervasive dictum: “Keep off the grass!” Broad sidewalks run across that characterless campus and you are expected to stay on them. It wasn’t the signs or the "brown shirts" (campus security) always on the prowl. It was my fellow students who were always condemning me for venturing out onto the green that most pained my rebellious soul. I noticed that, up on the “designated” playing fields dormward, large gangs of tee shirt clad collegians frolicked at football and Frisbee. There the grass seemed to survive, but venture a step onto the lawns between classes and the cries of “keep of the grass” from all quarters from my concrete bound colleagues were instantaneous and merciless. The semester ended and I fled to USU. In Logan, things were different, students went where they chose; teachers encouraged the adventure; grass was a thing for walking on. In winter time, when muddy trails appeared, students tracked else where or slogged through, and the grounds crew brought in sod with the spring. Also with the spring, shirts came off and shorts got shorter. Campus was a beautiful place to be with the grass between your toes. I have often thought back on the difference between the paths students were expected to walk and the way students were expected to think and learn. At BYU, when the Professor spoke, all the thinking had already been done. Minds were herded down concrete walks, preplanned and posted. At USU minds ran everywhere, got muddied up, wondered off, or found the truth on their own. I was happier there, with crumpled grass and sun tanned skin.

I listened with some interest this past week as the lawn protection squads, many of whom pretend to value free speech to the point of dying for it, went berserk over comments made in a High School Geography class by “teacher” Jay Bennish. Bennish’s rant against George Bush was one lie after another. His students knew it; one of them taped him, and revealed his lesson in fiction and spin to the nation. It was the screams from the sidewalk crowd that most concern me. Students whose minds are never allowed to stray from the crafted trails are in danger of losing the lust to striking out on their own. When minds rely only on “established” trails for truth and are never allowed to feel the “grass between their toes”, they are in danger of losing their ability to challenge falsehood when it comes at them masked as the “straight and narrow way”.

Years ago I expressed my frustration about BYU to a friend at Scout Camp. His reply, “You don’t let anyone walk off the trails at camp; afraid you will damage the “beauties” of nature. Why should you so harshly judge the “lawn protection rules” at BYU?” I see a difference. The purpose of imported Kentucky blue is for walking, the purpose of class rooms is for enticing treks into the unknown to craft new trails for others to follow on a journey to truth. Perhaps there are sacred bounds of thought; delicate ways of woodland wonder, forever lost if tread upon. Perhaps there are minds too delicate to face the challenges of bigotry, prejudice, and deceit, of obscenity, anger and hate; but I have not met them in the wide world. At camp, where the green things get one chance to live in a four month summer, I say, “If the trail will get you there, take the trail, but if you want to go beyond trails end, walk softly and wisely on the land.”

I was pleased to see my students, who had heard the President's State of the Union speech, laughed Bennish to derision for his lies. The way to encourage new thoughts, to thicken the grass, is to give minds the truth and let them stand the test of lies.


Rumpole said...


The Bennish tape is amazing, but it stops short of being eye opening. The conservative point of view has faced such rants since the 60’s. All who post at the Agora have probably faced their own “Professor Bennish” during their academic careers.

I do not advocate, however, the position of the “sidewalk crowd”, or even that of the current “thought police” that such outbursts ought to be controlled and curtailed. Make no mistake, I do not support Bennish. I have clips of the tape. Bennish misrepresented the truth. Further, he only advocated one side of the story. Both approaches are beneath contempt. A real professional would have no need at misrepresentation, and would welcome dissenting views, views that would stimulate discussion. Isn’t that where education can begin? Isn’t that the when the difference between learning “how to think” verses being told “what to think” manifests itself?

BYU does have somewhat of a defendable position. Remember that BYU is a private institution. I would absolutely agree that BYU only promotes an agenda based on its own “well formed, strait and narrow, concrete path”. That, however, is BYU’s right. The administration at BYU makes no attempt to pretend that the sidewalk is anything but well-formed concrete rather than an adventuresome frolic in the grass.

Contrast that with the U of U. Claims of “academic freedom” at the U appear to me to be nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to promote a “Bennishish” agenda. You only hear one side from many professors at the U. That side typically seems weaker to me than the positions taken in Provo, in that the U’s professors have to wait to hear the BYU position in order to take the opposite. Purely reactionary! It is Anonymyesque! Positions are not based on thought, but rather are based on hatred!

I’m trying to steer The-Republican-At-The-Peak-Of-His-Knowledge-Curve to attend an institution that is not afraid to educate rather than to insulate. His long-term education will only benefit by hearing all sides of the argument. In my estimation, neither the Y nor the U provides that environment. What did you say about Utah State?

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...


I particularly appreciate the line you draw between “misrepresentation” and “dissenting views”. It is one thing for a teacher to argue for a position, or open discussions by presenting various sides of a topic, it is quite another to lie outright. We should have noting but contempt for intentional liars. This is what Bennish is.

However, the best way to deal with liars is to arm ourselves and our students with the truth. The paramount mission of education, self or otherwise, should be to develop ones “divine sense of right and wrong” so that when the lies come along; they can be parried.

There is a problem presented by both the U and the Y in this instance. The biased “political correct negativism” (for lack of a better term) of the U, is just as oppressive as the doctrinal sidewalks at the Y. Both institutions can, by the way, provide excellent educations to those who already know how to learn, but for students to benefit from them, they must be able to 1) recognize that they are on pre-appointed walkways, and 2) have the courage to stray onto the grass no matter the hew and cry of their professors or classmates. In fact, if Universities fail to stimulate such skepticism and free thinking in their charges, they fail in their purpose.

Bennish should not be fired, or even shut up by an embarrassed administration, he should be show as the liar he is and made irrelevant by the exposition of truth.

I agree with you that both BYU and the U of U are reactionary to each other. The U is driven to be the un-Y. The U’s “hot bed” of thought is often so much hot air expended in arbitrary opposition to their perception of “what goes on at the Y”. Unfortunately, it is not so much what goes on at the Y as what does not. By keeping its students to the concrete way, in order to save them from the wicked ways of the U, the Y places them in a hot house where their delicate protected growth wilts when transplanted into the “real world” of an ever shifting weather of ideas.

As for BYU holding some sort of defensible position in this, due to its nature as a Private School; the Y purports to be an institution of higher learning; if it dedicates its self to teaching “what” not “how” to think, it misrepresents itself to its students. What is more irritating, it defrauds those of us who are really paying for the Y through our donations to God. The same can of course be said concerning Utah tax payers who are required to support an institution that fails in their primary purpose (teaching students how to think for themselves) in order to drive an agenda. By abusing the credit and trust of the tithed and the taxed “hot houses” and “hot beds” both fail in their most important purpose.

In a church today, the subject of public education came up. I was requested and required to “report”. I maintained that the primary purpose of schools is to create thinkers capable of learning to do anything. (Including govern a free nation.) By way of illustrating the dangers student face, I mentioned the “Wikapedia”, an on line “encyclopedia” that allows any reader to edit it as he pleases. I mentioned that I had gone into an article on the “War in Iraq” and changed all references of “invasion” or “occupation” to the words “free” or “liberate”. Some “new fellow” sitting just behind me literally booed my actions. When I demurred; by telling him that someone else had probably re-edited it within a few days; he cheered. When the discussion went elsewhere, he continued to pester me in a loud voice, demanding to know if I was a “neo-con” I replied no; are you a “neo-lib”? He grumbled away for the rest of the lesson. After class as we walked past his wife, he pointed to me and said loudly, “He’s a war monger.” Sounds like a perfect citation for the Wikapedia, and a perfect reason to be able to think for ones self in a world were hot house topics and hot bed spin combine to produce a dangerous environment for free thinkers.

Go Aggies!!!

Rumpole said...


I quite enjoyed your post. I would absolutely agree that the best way to handle the Bennish situation would be as you say: “Bennish should not be fired, or even shut up by an embarrassed administration, he should be show as the liar he is and made irrelevant by the exposition of truth.”

You questioned my defense of BYU's position as a member of the "sidewalk crowd". I would suggest to you that you yourself post the defense of that position. Certainly, while BYU promotes itself to be an “institution of higher learning” it openly promotes its own agenda. BYU does not hide when it suggests it will teach you “what” to think. I recognize that by your definition of “institution of higher learning” BYU might then not qualify. My suggestion here is that at least BYU openly admits to its agenda.

Further, BYU has staked the right to that agenda with the use of its private endowment. As a member that supports that endowment, if you have issue with the use of those dollars perhaps you could take it up with one of the “chosen” members in the employ of the church education system. But that is where the discussion must go if you want change, and it is a "private" discussion. There is not an elected official that can help you.

Again, contrast that with the U. The U is a public institution. The U would openly suggest that it will teach you “how” to think. Is that what happens? You post: “The U is driven to be the un-Y. The U’s “hot bed” of thought is often so much hot air expended in arbitrary opposition to their perception of “what goes on at the Y”. I think you are right.

In a one sentence summation, the Y does not hide its agenda, while the U pretends that it does not have one.

Tonight the fruit of choice for the Littlest Republican is an orange. Just as we do at the Agora, I’m going to go peel back the layers so that the underlying juicy goodness of the truth may be enjoyed!

Reach Upward said...

Two and a half decades ago we used to show this cheesy 10-year-old filmstrip called "Meet the Mormons" to people learning about BYU's parent organization. Part of the presentation featured BYU, and then said that there were LDS institutes adjacent to many colleges and universities "for those not fortunate enough to attend BYU." That line always stuck in my craw. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

I have always considered myself to be very fortunate, but I never had the least desire to attend BYU. I'm glad that the Y exists and that it offers the types of programs it offers for those that wish to attend there. I don't at all mind contributing to its endowment. I believe it offers a valuable service. Still, I would prefer that my children choose to attend elsewhere. I have felt this way for decades, but never really understood why until I read this post.

I want my kids to get good grades and to perform well academically. But more importantly, I want them to know how to think. I want them to understand why they believe what they do, and I want them to be able to handle criticisms of their beliefs in a positive way. I want them to be good citizens and productive members of society because they choose it for themselves.

Silver Lining said...

It is often easy to stand back and make things overly general or simple especially when we have formed a view about the situation already. I mean, BYU was never for me, so it would be so easy for me to sit back and say repressive, unthinking, too structured or whatever the case may be. I choose instead to say that the environment is not what I sought in a college education, though I know MANY fine people who have.

I laugh a bit at the oversimplification of hot air and fluff pinned to the University of Utah. I attended the U. I had a few teachers that were exactly what has been described here in the Agora. I even transferred out of a class after the first day rather than be subjected to it. Not that I said a handful of professors. I also had a professor who is generally a liberal politically, but who didn't bring that to the classroom, who taught me a lot about critical thinking and good writing and taught me more about research than any other instructor I have had bar none. Many years ago, he wrote a letter to the editor in the Chronicle (the University of Utah's campus newspaper. In it he took on the occurence in the classroom of statements such as that a Mormon intellectual was an oximoron. He instructed that an institution of higher learning was for just that, higher learning and free thinking. He argued that an institution of higher learning was supposed to help us all think beyond such uninformed prejudices. You get the idea. He had one colleague who wouldn't speak to him for a year. He didn't count it a loss. By the way, I had her for a class and learned a lot to spite her silly reaction. I know this is only one example. I pull it out though to illustrate that the U isn't an all oppressive left indoctinating conservative intolerant environment. To say it is is oversimplistic to say the least.

On the Bennish topic: I get where Lysis is coming from on this. I would like to point out a couple of things and perhaps pose a couple of questions. Perhaps I am being overly subtle. It has happened before. There is a curriculum in public schools, and as a trained teacher, I can verify that often, it is hard to pick and choose what to include and what to cut to meet the curriculum and to meet the broader goal of teaching students to learn and to think, to research and to write. Bennish's rants, which he has argued are to make his students think about the situation, seem to leave little room for the wider curriculum. There has to be some responsibility to the educational basics. If he is covering them, then great. Also, if he is making these arguments to get his students going, to make them think, why not ever offer the opposing view? I admittedly don't know, but I quetion the welcome any opposing view would have in his class. As circumstantial evidence, I offer that said student felt he had to record the class secretly. This is evidence not only that the students could discern truth from not Lysis, this is evidence that there wasn't room for opposing points of view in his classroom. At what point to cross to indoctrination? At what point does your class become pointless? At what point does a parent get to be irrate at what his or her student is not being taught in school? I don't see Bennish's comments as grounds for dismissal, but if he is failing as a teacher, that is.

Silver Lining said...

P.S. keep your knickers on about the whole U vs. Y thing. One of the biggest Republicans I know went to the University of Utah. My closest friend here in California graduated from BYU, and she considers herself a democrat. There is a lot more to our political socialization and political choice than where we attend college.

Silver Lining said...

Sorry, brain is all over the place today. What I meant to add above is when is a teacher, in this case Mr. Bennish, failing to tread lightly on nature Lysis?

Lysis said...

Reach upward:

I also see value in the Y, and believe there are many great students and teachers there, however I am pleased that my children have chosen to go else where. I have one graduating from the U this spring, one in attendance there, one attending Weber State, and one graduating from USU in May. My baby will be attending USU next year on scholarship. I am bragging; although there mother gets the credit!

Reach; should you children choose to go to the Y or to the U; I am sure they will do very well because I am confident they have already learned how to think.

Silver Lining:

I agree that my comments on the U and the Y are general. I am attending the U myself at this time; my instructor, a graduate of BYU. But also in general; I will maintain that these are schools with agendas that transcend their service to their students. This should not be the case, but it is, for both schools. They are not the only schools with such problems. I observe with dismay as the President of Harvard is forced from office for bringing up a discussion point on women’s issues, I am befuddled by a non qualified Taliban operative receiving admittance to Yale. Schools often choose to desert their “primary” mission of educating student to make political or social statements. In GENERAL I disagree with this action. I often enjoy most the professors with whom I disagree the most, but their willingness to challenge and on occasionally accept are the attributes that qualifies them as teachers not indoctrinators.

As for Bennish – Silver lining, you have perfectly stated the position all parents, and students, and teachers should take. Teachers who fail to teach need to be removed. I add that Universities that put their other agendas above teaching students should be open to criticism from the people who pay for their existence in tithes or taxes!

The point that we can all take comfort in is that: “There is a lot more to our political socialization and political choice that where we attend college.” There is also much more to our education.

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...

On a related topic: The Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously that colleges that accept money from the federal government must allow the U.S. military to recruit on campus. It seems that now and then “We the People” do have enough gut to stand up to the “Professor”!

Dan Simpson said...

I have to hearily disagree with your post on two major spheres. I actually couldn't care less about that teacher, I don't really know why it is big news besides the fact that Sean Hannity is in an uproar. But I think you are way off on both BYU and the underlying grass idea.

I went to Weber, we have had many discussions about it, and I know you don't have a lot of respect for it as a institute of higher learning, but I loved it. (I know, you have said you are sure I got a great education and would have gotten one anywhere, but I can tell you don't really like the place).

That having been said, it always bothered me to see the students cut across the grass to get to class. I am not talking about going out on the lawns, sitting to study, just lying to look at clouds. I am talking about the droves who, in order to save .5 seconds would cut across the lawn from one sidewalk to another. It was pointless, but it was destructive.

It had nothing to do with feeling free, or being unfettered, it was selfish, and lazy. The sidewalks were for a reason, not to restrict, but to provide a beautiful campus for all of us.

I think this is a more apt description of BYU that you have offered as well. I went to the U, I didn't dislike it, but for the horrible paper. I didn't go to BYU, though I have MANY friends and much family that have. I think the sidewalk analogy, as correctly applied by me, works here as well.

Rules about drinking, smoking, using drugs, behavior on campus. I see these as services that allow a campus to be more beautiful and enjoyable to those who wish to be there.

Do you get people that are closed-minded at BYU, sure, but point out one place you don't. If you really think they aren't at USU then you have blinded yourself to the truth.

I would also argue that the facts are against you when it comes to education and classroom teaching. You claim that the students are taught 'what' without freedom or opportunity to explore. If this were truly the case, I cannot believe that the students that came out of the school would be among the most successful in the world.

I can understand why people wouldn't want to go to the school, I chose not to, but I don't understand the distaste with which people view the school.

Yes, you must abide by the honor code, a multitude of schools have such. I tend to think that the highly diminished problems with alcohol, sex, violence, and various other problems that are plaguing campus' across the country is a pretty good thing as far as education goes.

It annoyed me when people wanted to make ugly trails across the grass to save a second, and it annoys me when people think that rules = inability to learn or grow.

That idea goes against what I've learned my whole life, oddly enough, mostly at Scout Camp.

Anonymous said...

. . . TAUGHT how to think? Hmmm, how to think -- not what to think? Hopefully, happiness, honor, and the love of a good man/woman will come with "thinking" -- will they not?

But, thinking, perhaps, will not bring the heart's desire.

Hamlet "thought" too much and consequently could only find his happiness in oblivion!!!!

"Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no impressive lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one's marked cards -- the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed, the dismal fact is that self-respect has NOTHING to do with the approval of others -- who are after all, deceived easily enough; has NOTHING to do with reputation, which is something people with COURAGE can do without." -Didion

I applaud Bennish for awakening his students from their apathetic slumbers -- the malaise and torpor of INDIFFERENCE is the real EVIL in classrooms. Please consider the valuable lessons this whole experience has made possible!!!!

Lysis said...

Dannyboy; “On the Two Major Spheres”:

1. On the side walk analogy, I have admitted my “inconsistency” on camp and campus up front – it isn’t “the grass that grows back” that bothers me, it is the adventures never taken. Saving five seconds to get to ones pre-appointed destination differs, in my mind, from the “one way only” approach to transit. I am speaking metaphorically of sidewalks. No grass dies when a mind is allowed, even encouraged, to wander off the beaten track.

One thing they did do at USU, which I thought wise, was allow students to carve their own trails about campus, then put stepping stones were the students had chosen to go. This cut down on the mud, and they didn’t have to put up the signs nor train the student body to yell at each other.

As for rules about smoking, drinking, using drugs – these are not the off path excursions I defend. Drugs are off limits on all campuses – it’s the just law of the land. I would not condone theft or murder in the name of free expression or experimentation either. As for smoking or drinking – it seemed odd to me that such prohibitions have to be place on adults, along with how long one can grow one’s hair or what kind of jewelry or length of shorts one can wear. But when one adopts a code of conduct requisite to admission it is to be expected that one will conform or go else where. I chose to leave, many of the finest minds I know chose to stay. These are not the designated walk ways at the Y or at the U that concern me; the ones that do link to the uproar about Bennish. It is the determined effort at both institutions to force conformity on the minds of students that troubles me. Here I agree with Anonymous and Joan Didion, (Whom I had never read before – thanks for that romp in the ruff, Anonymous); that minds need to be shaken from the torpor of INDIFFERENCE. It’s not the rules about smoking that bother me, it is the professors that refuse to allow decent, even discussion.

As for the successes of BYU students, I can only speculate what heights they might have reached “blessed” with opened minds. My distaste is not with the U or the Y or Weber, I have attended and benefited from all of them, my knotted knickers come from an agenda of “teaching” that stifles free thought. I also do not buy the “highly diminished problems with alcohol, sex, violence, and various other problems” at the Y. I detect instead a heightened hypocrisy.

A side note on Weber State. I have been attending classes at Weber for five years – I find ample opportunity to walk on the grass both figuratively and on the way to class. The brightest mind I know was the Val Victorian of the College of Education at WSC.

Dannyboy, I agree with you that rules do not inhibit growth, but forcing minds to follow predetermined paths does. Reasonable rules allow us to go beyond our selves; removal of freedom is an unjust misapplication of rules. When thoughts are not free, minds are controlled not inspired to growth.

The beauty of Scout Camp is that it teaches one how to walk softly on the land beyond trails end, so that free Americans can enjoy the wilderness they learn to love and preserve. A University should open the “grass” to exploration, not force minds to stay on the concrete walks that others have chosen.

2. Bennish does matter. It is not the end of the world to have teachers that lie to their students, or that hide the truth from them, but those lies must be exposed; someone must seek the “way” of truth.


I don’t think that Hamlet was a very good thinker. He never thinks to challenge his prejudices or narrow obligations to seek revenge for his damned daddy. He killed his best friends and his lover in this fit of blind revenge. If he would have used his head he could have undone Claudius rather than engineering his mother’s death and handing his father’s kingdom over to his old enemies from Norway.

I do not necessarily applaud Bennish for lying to his students, (he does get a good laugh), but I do applaud his student for catching him in his lies and exposing him for what he is. I share your assessment of the value of the lessons taught. Taught by a teacher who lied and a student who told the truth!!!

Dan Simpson said...

You have continually claimed that BYU forces its students down one road of thinking, but you have yet to give an example, or proof, of this statement.

My comments about the 'blue' laws at BYU were to illustrate how silly your stance seems to me. I know that people have issues with BYU, but the only ones that have ever had backing are ones were people speak of rules imposed by the honor code. I still think them silly, but at least they are based in fact, BYU does in fact not allow certain behavior.

Again, I think it would be most helpful to the debate for you to actually spell out the basis for your claim. You say that minds are stifled at the Y. You say that they are not allowed to think, discuss, or wander as they will. I have many people I am close to who have spent years there who would disagree. These people include those who whole heartedly enjoyed their experience, and some who did not.

Your claims, so far, are completely unsubstantiated. Unless you are using the fact that some told you to keep off the grass as proof. I for one would have been with them, if you were, much like many I encountered at school, were saving some seconds at the expense of the campus.

Reach Upward said...

I have a number of respected friends and acquaintances that graduated from BYU. All of them will readily admit that the place has a few shortcomings, but most of them enjoyed their experience there. Many of them seem to be decent thinkers as well.

I think that my desire for my kids to avoid attending the Y comes down to an attitude that seems to pervade the campus. A friend of mine whose grades were top-notch gave up her scholarship to the Y after two years and completed her degree at WSU. She is a quiet humble person that does many good things quietly in the background. When I asked why she gave up her scholarship, she replied – in a very kind way – that she was uncomfortable with the attitude of superiority that was common among many of the Y students with whom she had interacted. It ran counter to her personality type.

That may be anecdotal, and it certainly does not apply to everyone that attends the Y. But many will recognize at least some grain of truth in it. Otherwise the old joke about finding a guy crushed underneath a huge pile of rocks on campus holding a sign that says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” wouldn’t be funny. Inappropriate attitudes can block the thinking process as much as anything else.

Rumpole said...


I don’t have much time. The Republicans-Who-Would-Be-Olympians have a bowling tournament. If my thoughts lack clarity because of the rush, I apologize

I must come out from the shadows. I am a graduate from BYU. I have experienced the “blue laws”, as you refer to them, first hand. Here are some specific examples of BYU forcing its students down one road of thinking, as follows:

1. No organized protest. BYU did not allow students to organize and protest on campus when I was there! Why? Are they threatened by a difference of opinion?
2. No “clubs’. The only clubs that existed when I attended BYU were the Intercollegiate Knights, the Young Democrats (how big an organization do you think that was?) and the Young Republicans. The Knights existed simply as a service organization. I’m not suggesting I support the “Greek” system, but the replacement for such organizations was “Family Home Evening Group”. The stimulation from that group usually consisted of wondering who was bringing the Kool-Aid to go with the brownies.
3. No face painting and signs at athletic events. The administration has since relented on the face painting, but I don’t think signs are still legal. Booing was supposed to be replaced by jingling you keys! I’m sure all the U teams really feared such a display!
4. Enforcement of the Honor Code. I have no issue with the Honor Code. I wish more Institutions would institute such policy. However, the code was enforced by students telling on fellow students. I’m not suggesting I have a better way, but the whole approach created a negative environment.
5. Homogenous Student Body. Diversity of thought at BYU is rare if for no other reason than all the students come from the same background and influence.

I’ve got to go. I have more, but it will have to be for another time.

Rumpole said...


The Republicans-Who-Would-Be-Olympians fared quite well. Both won Silver Medals. Frankly, though, the bowling is secondary. The French fries are far more important. I’m sure there is a joke somewhere in there about the French, but I’ll leave that to Lysis.

Since no one else has posted during bowling, I’ll continue with two more points.

6. Worthiness interview. Every one who attends BYU must now have a worthiness interview by their Bishop. In my estimation, this interview again guarantees the homogenous nature of the student body.
7. Faculty members are expected to be “recommend” holders. Can I say homogenous again?

As I see it, these standards are the gravel base and concrete forms that help to create the foundation for the “strait and narrow path” that exists as BYU. Now let me emphasize that I have no issue with these requirements. They are clear and well-defined. If one does not wish to adhere to them, there is ample opportunity elsewhere. As a private institution BYU has the right to say so.

I would further suggest to Lysis that if he feels these “standards” disqualify BYU from being considered an academic institution, his issue is not with BYU, but is with the accreditation board.

My issue with BYU is one of image. It was my experience that most of what is done at BYU is done to promote a positive image for its Endower. Sadly, in that promotion quite often the individual student is lost. I’m not going to regale you with specific examples right now, but I have them.

I hope to see my son attend an institution that will focus on his needs, rather than sacrifice his needs for the benefit of its own image.

a quiet listener said...

i guess i have no excuse to not comment this week. i can't justify my silence in lack of experience on the topic. in the past i felt a lack of expertise on the complicated subjects but perhaps as a full time student at the university of utah i can offer some insights.

all i can say is to support the thought already mentioned that no matter where you go if you know HOW to think you'll be fine. I chose the university of utah because they're the only university in the state which even offers a materials science and engineering degree. Even if all the schools in Utah offered a degree in MSE I can't say as I'd choose any other school for the simple fact the U is a research school focused on undergraduate student research. I found many options immediately available for internships. I am currently studying in a fuel cells internship at a local company as a direct result of the schools internship program.

I must hand it to BYU though. I can definitely see where 10% of my paychecks have been going all my life. We had the opportunity to go down there last week and see their two operating TEMs (Transmission Electron Microscopes), the one at the U is practically kept in a dirty old closet. It's also constantly under repair and as old as lysis himself.
I was absolutely amazed at the shear funding available for BYU. These machines looked more complex than the engine room in star trek episodes. The entire science complex was built around these two magnificent machines. The concrete slab holding the TEMs was 30 feet deep and is 3 feet thick and surrounded by a 2" air gap with rubber insulation to absorb vibrations. The whole room around the TEMs has the same air gap and insulation and also is encased in welded Aluminum to keep out x-rays, low to high frequency vibrations, electro magnetic fields....One smart aleck had the nerve to ask the generic zoobie professor if the cage could even keep the spirit out.
Too keep out air vibrations due to air conditioning the whole entire rooms are water cooled! I could go on... and on and on...

BYU certainly has its perks. As does weber or the U or any school. It's all about finding the school that's right for you. I go to college to get a specialized education which will help me along in my career. I don't go to college to get an opinion. Don't get me wrong. I've had plenty of idiot teachers out to force some agenda on us. However; just like those thinking students who exposed Bennish for the idiot he is I simply stand up for truth where lies are taught and back my arguments with facts.

oh and... GO UTES!!! I bleed as red as the next guy.

Lysis said...

Danny Boy:

I am sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. Your very biting and justified critique on my position deserves more time that I have hitherto had at my disposal. I have appreciated the comments by Reach Upward and Rumpole, they have fought a lot of my battle for me, but I will try a few salvos.

First, I want to strongly reiterate that I find similar fault with both BYU and U of U. The motivations for the sidewalk mentality are at polar opposites, but just as pernicious.

I will begin with my BYU experience. I believe it was in 1974, and attempt to classify my complaints into three major categories. 1) Specific instances of “anti-academic” attitudes, 2) The attitude that, in all instances at BYU, what is best for the institution must come first, not the needs of the students, and 3) examples of an attitude I found disconcerting in some students at BYU as related to personal prejudices.

1) Specific anti-academic attitudes:

I had actually spent a year at the Church College of Hawaii before I transferred to BYU Provo campus. While in Hawaii, I had taken two semesters of “Book of Mormon” classes. As I felt I had spent most of my mission studying Japanese rather than religion, I had opted for the “non-returned missionary” version of the Book of Mormon Class. On transfer to the Y, I attended registration. In the days before computers, we had to pick up cards and then try and get professors or their aids to accept our cards and enroll us in their classes. I went into the large room full of students waiting in several lines to sign up for religion classes. (Which are “required” at BYU for all students, including the ones who do not want to take them); be that as it may, I presented my card to the rosy cheeked youth taking signup for B of M Class. He looked at me and asked if I was a returned missionary. I said, “Yes.” He told me I could not sign up for this section but would have to take a class for returned missionaries. I explained to him, as I had in Hawaii, that I did not feel qualified for the more demanding class and asked to be placed in the class I had requested. He said no. I replied that I would therefore not be taking a religion class. He said, “You have to take a religion class!” I replied that since I was paying for my classes, I would choose what I would take, and turned to leave. He started yelling after me, “You have to take a religion class! You have to take a religion class!! You have to take a religion class!” When I left the room he was still screaming.

I have always felt that there was something wrong with communism, but at 22 I had never read the *Communist Manifesto*. I decided that I needed to read it to properly critique it. I went to the BYU library, back in the days of the card catalogue, and tried to find a copy. Failing to find it in the stacks, I went to the help desk and asked for some assistance. I was told that the *Communist Manifesto* was in the Locked Book Case. I told the kid I wanted to check it out. He asked me why. I said I wanted to read it. He escorted me to the locked book case, key in hand, and helped me find the *Communist Manifesto*. We took it back to the desk where I had to write the title down in a ledger and sign my name.

When I was attended the Y, your branch was part of your school experience, and I was assigned a branch and expected to attend. I was led to believe that the my Branch President’s opinion of me would influence on my status at the University. After attending the branch for a couple of weeks, I was called in and told I had been assigned to take the genealogy Sunday school class. I had no interest in Genealogy, (still don’t), but when I told the official I would rather attend Gospel Doctrine class he told me I couldn’t.

Perhaps the most discouraging and frustrating “academic illness” at BYU in the days I attended was the attitude toward Blacks. Blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood, and since priesthood position and activity was a driving force in campus life, African (though not Australian or Fijian) Blacks were relegated to second class citizen status. The lessons in church and the attitudes on campus reinforced this bigotry. To question it anywhere on campus was to invite not only ridicule but real anger. You might ask what this has to do with classes at the Y, anyone living at that time knows that race and race relations was a major topic of thought and discussion every were in America, every were but at BYU. There we were told the thinking had already been done!

BYU disbanded their debate program, and has long been one of the few colleges in the nation without a debate team, because it found the format which required students to prepare to defend both sides of issues unacceptable.

I was at BYU, and I know there was a general attitude that did not tolerate questioning or skepticism. Each week we were marched of to convocation in the Marriot center where we were given remixed Conference speeches and told not to question.

One of my favorite poems, The Old Juniper, was written by Carlo Clumsy, a philosophy professor, who left the Y for USU because he was not allowed to teach his student to think.

I think it is telling that the last LDS Church Historian, Leonard Arrington, left his personal papers to USU rather than BYU because he wanted them to see the light of day.

2) The attitude I found at the Y that “what was good” was what was good for the reputation and prestige of the school, not what was best for any individual student.

I had taught Japanese to missionaries in Hawaii for a year after my mission. I sometimes worked 70 hours a week. On my arrival at the Y, I was told that I could not work more than 20 hours a week because the Y did not want to pay Social Security taxes on my pay check. I was also required to be a full time student in order to hold my position at the LTM. Thus my job as an instructor of missionaries had become a school position. And I was required to pay all my income to attend the school in order to have a job to make any income in the first place.

I was dismayed that many of the finest teachers from the LTM in Hawaii were not allowed to come to Provo, though they wanted to. They where native Japanese and were told it was because they could not pass the English test, but it was common knowledge that the Church wanted them to return to Japan rather that emigrate to the US mainland. Thus the most effective instructors and the teachers, who taught by their very persons, the love for the Japanese people that is requisite for successful missionary service, were prohibited from teaching.

I could give many faults of the MTC as compared to the LTM in Hawaii. They angered me deeply at the time, but they do not relate directly to this particular discussion.

I attended BYU as a Japanese Major, but my experience at camp had heightened my interest in some kind of outdoor related carrier, and I took a fancy to study Botany. I took my first ever Botany class at the Y, and enjoyed it immensely. I should add that the professor was on loan form WSC. Anyway, I decided that I would like to be a Botany Major, and so I went to the Botany Department and sought an audience with a professor and advisor. I entered his office at the appointed time, told him of my hopes, at which point he reach into a drawer and fished out a barley legible blue on pink paper mimeograph list of two years worth of classes. He handed me the list and said, “When you’ve finished with these come back and seem me.” He did not look up at me again, nor say good by. Within a few weeks I found my self in Professor Holmgreen’s office at USU. Professor Holmgreen spent the better part of an hour with me explaining the opportunities for and steps in obtaining a degree in Botany. At the end of our time together he asked if I was going to live on campus. I said I planed to commute, and he showed me a desk in one corner of the herbarium, told me to take it as my own, and speculated on the fun I could have as one of his graduate students. Within a few weeks after I started at USU, Dr. Holmgreen had found me a job as a 4H councilor with the 4H justice program.

3) Student attitudes that are encouraged and cultivated at the Y that I find objectionable.

When I moved to Provo I found I could not live were ever I wished, but had to live in “approved” housing. I found a suitable apartment. The young manager told me he had a perfect place for me, as a teacher of Japanese at the LTM he felt I would not mind having two Japanese Room mates. He actually said, “Not everybody would live with um, you know.” He also told me that he was concerned that my roommates were not living according to BYU standards, but was sure as an LTM teacher, I would report any infractions. I soon discovered that my roommates drank like fish, (and I don’t mean water) and one of them had a live in girl friend. Oh the stories I could tell; it was the highpoint of my BYU education!!!

I have to admit that I found the Gym uniform policy oppressive. In order to prevent BYU students from appearing uncovered in the gymnasium, (the naked place) all students were required to rent suits from the school. It just bugged me.

It bothered me that I had to take tests at a testing center for the express purpose of passing by an inspector who evaluated my appearance before I could take the test in a class in which I had worked hard to learn, and for which I had paid twice, if you count my tithing and tuition. I was never out of standard, though, like most guys, I tucked my hair behind my ears before entering. It just bugged me that “the powers” found long hair so offensive that they would institute such a oppressive and dehumanizing process. My professor was not even present to administer the exam.

Since leaving the Y, I have found it amusing and telling that the students at the Y refused to allow the display of Rodan’s famous statue, the Kiss. The University, and the trustees actually thought it appropriate, but the students protested, (an infraction of University policy), until the statue was removed from the exhibit. It’s not the prudishness, it’s the hypocrisy. I am confident that sex is just as readily available at BYU as it is a UC Berkley. I was lucky enough to have a small copy of the Kiss which I put on display in my classroom; eager form my students to enjoy the beauty forbidden at the Y. It is still front and center on my book case today.

I could go on, but to what end? Some might think my complaints petty, but it is the accumulation of such actions and attitudes that stifles free thinking at the Y.

Dannyboy, I know you have many people close to you who have spent years at the Y; who would disagree with me, I imagine I know and respect many of the same folks. However, I would suggest that they are not the type of people to push the parameters of free thought at the Y or elsewhere. It is easy, if one does not question, to sit in a class and not notice that no one questions. I wonder if your Y trained acquaintances ever ask questions in their religion classes, or tried to spark discussions in their history or biology lectures. Have they ever questioned how, if sinners are unacceptable to God, and murder is an unforgivable sin, God choose murderer like Moses, Paul, and Alma the Younger to be his prophets. Have they ever asked their “religion Teacher” why, if Joseph Smith died as a Martyr, he felt it necessary to empty a repeater pistol out the door of his cell into the crowd of mobsters. Ask them how these questions would go over at BYU. Ask them yourself why a living prophet can’t tell the military were Osama bin Laden is hiding, or warn the President that three airplanes are about to murder 3,000 innocents or that the levies in New Orleans are about to break. I am curious how the BYU trained tolerance feels about homosexuality or evolution. Has there ever been a discussion on how silly it is to have a movie rating system that puts Hollywood in charge of what we watch in Prove. Again, I am not asking acceptance of any positions here, just your assessment on how often they have discussed these things with their colleagues at the Y, how open they are to those who hold differing views, how able they are to defend their own positions with logic and reason, evidence, or argument. I would argue that those who don’t find BYU oppressive are comfortable not asking questions. Ask you BYU friends how often a professor presents the positive side of premarital sex, or what would happen to a student that advocated watching “The Passion of the Christ”, or the benefits of divorce or suggested that Brigham Young misused Church funds and labor on the railroads to build his own fortune.

Reach Upward,

Your example may be anecdotal, but it is not unique.


The BYU College of Education is not accredited, or at least it wasn’t the last time I checked. It seems that I am not the only one questioning BYU’s academic standing.

Lysis said...

Quiet listener,

Seems we’re both keeping late hours. Thanks for the ideas. You are right; we can learn were ever we are if we know how to think. I just believe that the major purpose of any education is to teach that “how”.

As for fancy machines, I’m glad you have access to them. I don’t mind the tithes or the taxes if they go toward your future.

Reach Upward said...

Lysis, it seems to me that you have equated taxpayers and tithepayers. I see these two groups as quite different, just as I see the U and the Y as quite different.

The U is owned by the citizens of Utah. The taxpayers have equity in the institution, much as stockholders of a company have equity in that company. The desires of the owners (equity holders) must be adhered to. The caretakers hired to run the institution must be required to accept direction from their bosses or face discipline.

The LDS Church, on the other hand, is not a democratic institution. Although it has some populist elements, it is a theocracy. Although adherents may be heirs to all that God has, tithepayers do not hold equity in the church's institutions in the same way the citizens of a democratic republic hold equity in the republic's institutions.

In a theocracy, the adherents give a portion of their resources, which doctrine dictates actually belong to God anyway, to those they believe God has ordained to run the organization for him. The donated funds belong to God, as do the institutions funded by those funds. Tithepayers have no "right" to have a say in the running of those institutions outside of the format established by the organization. While it might be a good idea for organizational leaders to get input from adherents, adherents have no right to demand such. They are free to withhold their funds and support, and to offer counsel when it is requested, but that's about it.

This is not meant to justify any of the shortcomings you cited with regard to BYU. It is merely an attempt to delineate between the fundamental ownership and influence issues that are the basis of the schools we have been discussing.

Dan Simpson said...

So much to respond to. I will try to take each in turn.

1. Organized protest. I have no idea why BYU doesn't/didn't allow such. I don't see it as stifling minds, however. There are many other reasons one would not want public demonstrations, and many other places you can't do them.

2. I really don't see this as an academic issue. (Clubs) I find the greek system to be a great hinderance to academia, on the whole, and FHE groups don't even enter into academic anything, in my opinion.

3. Face painting and signs at athletics? Again, this doesn't come anywhere near being told what to think.

4. "tattling". I would refer you to a speech I have heard at least 6 times. Its about loyalty. Where does your loyalty lie, with your friends who are doing wrong, or with your employer/administration. "Ratting" someone out for breaking rules is not inherently a bad thing.

5. This brings us to what I believe to be one of the most basic flaws in 'diversity' thinking. Even if every student who went to BYU was born and raised in Utah, that wouldn't mean they either thought or acted the same. To claim that a group that has similar religious beliefs is de facto homogeneous as a whole is intellectually dishonest. I wonder how many schools in the world have the diversity of language, culture, background, or number of students who have lived abroad, or away from their home state.

6. I would again disagree greatly to the idea that because one is asked to live by certain rules that means their thought process will be the same. You could very well make the claim about every citizen who obeys Americas laws thinks the same. The rules may be more specific, but it still doesn't pan out logically.

7. same


I don't doubt for a second that your friend ran in to that kind of person. I know that they exist, I know they are there. I also know that they are at both Universities I have attended.

I think it is easier to see, and more disappointing, when you expect better of the people who have such shortcomings.

To go back to Rumpole:

You speak of BYU going for image rather than for student good.

I would say that I believe that those things you see as image come from a sincere belief that if those rules are adhered to the atmosphere will be a certain way. It is out of a desire for such an atmosphere that those rules are in place. Lysis is obviously not comfortable with such an atmosphere. I do not believe it is out of a PR meeting that these standards were created.


1) attitudes

Registration. If you think this is institution specific you are misled. This has nothing to do with academic thinking, this is a sad state of University hoop-jumping. Every school I have attended has had stupid rules that make no sense. (there are also lower classes that are not available for higher level students, the criteria here just happened to be RM, instead of Junior, or some other random attribute).

-the debate program, I believe you have pulled the 'reason' out of thin air, if you can show me that BYU actually stated that as the reason, I will retract.

-You were never told 'not to question' I don't believe that for a second. If you don't like conference talks, sounds like you shouldn't go to the Y, but that has nothing to do with academic freedom.

-Carlo Clumsy, Leonard Arrington. These are lies. Lysis, you are ascribing reasons and motives that support you. Clumsy was not 'disallowed' to teach his students to think. Arrington never said that was his reasoning.

-Work. Many, many, many campus supplied jobs will only allow you to work part time. In fact, I do not know of a single job I have ever seen where you work for the school as a student were you are allowed to work full-time. This is not specific to BYU.

-Bad Botany teacher. Welcome to the University system. You lucked out at USU with that department head. I went through two department heads one history, one anthropology. One as helpful as possible, the other an old fart who was self-important, and anything but helpful. To ascribe an attitude to a university based on the department head you encountered is, to say the least, ridiculous.

-Student attitudes.

Here is where your hypocrisy really comes out. I can't number the times you have talked to me and others about rules. About loyalty and obeying the rules. About reporting to you rule infractions for the good of our friends. Either you didn't really believe that, or you are filled with a huge double standard.

Your final paragraph is a diatribe against the church, not the Y. I have known for years you have issues with the Church. That is your perogative, but it does blind you to the hypocrisy and lack of reason in your own position.

Your stance is also incredibly condescending. You claim that people who are comfortable with this are those who do not question? How do you know? What gives you the monopoly on questioning?

What if people have questioned and already come to their answer? What if while searching for the truth, they desire to live a certain way, until they do come to the answer?

Your problems here are largely with the stances that the church takes.

You have yet to show an academic restriction imposed that supports your original attack.

As far as college of Education, Weber's isn't accredited either.

Silver Lining said...

So I guess I don't understand your original argument regarding Bennish Lysis. It seemed that you were upset about the sidewalk crowd who is upset about Bennish's teaching practises. Yet, in the comments and replies you seem to agree that if he is not teaching, he should be removed. What am I missing here? You also argued that his students saw beyond his lies. Well, we know one did and is now transferring to another school, because many either agree so passionately with Mr. Bennish that they are making his life at school unbearable.

As far as Universities (namely the U and Y) having agendas that transcend their teaching, I would argue that most, if not all, Universities have some larger agenda. If you don't like it and it is a public University, you can, by all means, contact the Board of Trustees about the situation given that your taxes help fund the school and decrease the amount of tuition you pay as a resident of the state. I will contend, however, that the agenda at the University of Utah trumping the teaching depends on your experience. Any agenda pushing, in my experience, was the exception rather than the rule in the classroom. It, admittedly, saturated the education department. However, my experience with the department of history most specifically and even the political science department were different. There were certainly professors who pushed an agenda, but like I said, most often even when I knew which side of the political fence a given professor sat on, it rarely permeated into his or her teaching in a way I found to be unquestionable or indoctrinating. The larger agenda was to be found more outside of the classroom in the institutions of the University such as the counseling, the paper, the Residence Hall programs and the like. I would like to know who the sidewalk crowd is. Perhaps I am overly obtuse, but I didn't feel like I had anyone yelling at me about where I could and couldn't venture physically or academically. The closest I came to that was in the education department, and let's face it, you don't have to follow their philosophy as a teacher, and they can't punish you for it. I echo part of Dannyboy's sentiment in pointing to the fact that you had a good experience at USU and with your department head, and you offer it as proof that that school is above and beyond. I argue that many had similar positive experience elsewhere, and yet those schools have agendas. Is it possible that the agendas don't always permeate down into the classroom? Is it possible that you agree with the larger agenda that USU has? Just a thought.

Lysis said...

Silver Lining:

I do not think Bennish should be removed. May I quote myself? Agreeing with Anonymous, I said, “I share your assessment of the value of the lessons taught, taught by a teacher who lied and a student who told the truth.” I am only concerned when schools preempt the student from thinking. Let teachers say what they may, as long as students are encourage to seek for truth and allowed to speak it openly.

The fact that most, or even all, Universities have agendas that transcend teaching student does not make those agendas at the U of U or BYU any less onerous. Doesn’t it seem particularly damning that the “Education Department” at the U is unabashedly agenda driven? Saturated, to use your word. Knowing “which side of the fence” a professor sits on is the first step in dealing with any agenda. Professors that admit this up front are taking a step in the right direction, but they must further allow the clash of ideas that will either challenge of vindicate their stated position.

I do agree with you completely on one other point, I see the agenda at USU as being driven by service to students and to the facilitation of student learning. Perhaps it is that they must compete more for students, perhaps it is that they are less reliant on “research’ monies and “research driven Professors” perhaps they are not so narrow in the “type” of student they prefer to teach, or perhaps it is rather a long tradition of putting students first. I have attended the U, the Y, USU, and Weber State for years. I have children in three of those institutions at this time. I simply related one instance, out of a multitude that contrast the attitudes of two of these schools. If my experience with which school most diligently attends to student needs indicates to you that one is “above and beyond” the others; that was your assessment of the actual incidents I have related.

That you were, and that many other students are, capable of dealing with the “problems” to be found in most or all Universities is encouraging, but it does not remove the fact that challenging these problems is worthy.

Danny Boy:

Thank you for your comments. Once again I find my time limited, but I look forward to responding to you when I get home from WSU tonight.

Silver Lining said...

To also quote you, "teachers who fail to teach, should be removed." I am asking, because I am too thick to get it I suppose. Which category does Mr. Bennish fall in? When is he needlessly not caring for the grass that won't grow back or failing to tread lightly on nature? I am sure only I fail to understand where you would draw that line, but I will expose my own lack of sophistication to ask the question.

Lysis, I may not be sophisticated or quick witted, but I am not stupid either. You do believe USU to be above and beyond the other schools in the state. Whether you said it or merely implied it, it is no creation of my own. That being said, my point isn't that having an agenda isn't onerous, it is that I believe the situation at these schools to be less onerous than you do. That is all, simply put. Oh and that I haven't had a sidewalk crowd yelling at me to keep off the grass figuratively or literally. Perhaps you would suggest this is my ability to see the truth, to think for myself? I would argue it is a combination of that and the fact that the sidewalk crowd just wasn't large or loud in anywhere I had or chose to tread. (Even in the agenda saturated Education Department)

Anonymous said...

Vegimatic Here,


Interesting discussion about university life.

I have a different take.

I don't know if you remember it, but you lived next door to my older brother at that "approved" apartment building.

I want to give an observation (that may or may not be relevant.)

My brother is a liberal. No a flaming liberal. He is a PHD taught at George Washington University (statistics).

He graduated from BYU, UofU, University of Nebraska at Lincolin and USU.

He has never been one to walk on the grass. It is not in him. He is a compliant soul.

He did go on a mission to Chile during the Allende coup. Was arrested several times (my mom still does not know this) worked for the church while at the U of U. etc.

Lost his first wife to cancer. His oldest daughter (joined the army to spite him) She is now in Iraq, 50 miles north of Bahgdad.

He has been through it.

When you talk with him about academic issues, he is mainstream academic, he has written textbooks, etc.

I have observed his teaching, he is a challenging and thoughtful teacher.

But, he STILL will not walk on the grass.

I on the other hand, head straight for the grass. I challenge athority at any turn, and love to challenge the status quo.

Same family background, for the most part same type of academic experience (we had classes together at USU).

I think it (walking on the grass) is a choice. Not an outcome of exposure to academics, but more a personality choice.

He can argue both sides of an issue, explain his answers to all of the (BYU) questions with an open mind and a grasp of all sides.

But he still will not walk on the grass.

What I think you are describing is a personality need to have your curiosity satisfied.

Once it has been, if it makes sense, you walk on the sidewalk, if not, better get the pavers.

One of the biggest reasons for the "trails" at USU was that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It is very cold in Logan and during the winter the way to survive the cold is to create a route that goes through as many buildings as possibe. When you are going from building to building you follow a straight path.

By spring, it's a habit. You know that it is a better way because you used it all winter.

Anyway, the rambling will end now,

My observation is that the behavior you are espousing is not a function of the institution, or even the teacher, it is the individual.

Just my experience.....

Anonymous said...

"The primary goal of the 'Church of Reason' is always Socrates' old goal of TRUTH, in its ever-changing forms, as it is revealed by the process of rationality. Everything else is subordinate to that. Normally this goal of TRUTH is in no conflict with the (university) location goal of improving the citizenry, but on occasion some conflict arises, as in the case of SOCRATES himself. It arises when trustees and legislators who've contributed large amounts of time and money to the (university)location take points of view in opposition to the professors' lectures or public statements. They can then lean on the administration by threatening to cut off funds if the professors DON'T SAY WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR. That happens at the U of U and also USU and Weber -- I would conjecture, even Layton High School.

"True 'churchmen' in such situations must act as though they had never heard these threats. THEIR primary goal NEVER is to serve the community ahead of everything else. Their primary goal is to serve, through reason, the goal of TRUTH."

On the other hand, "the citizens who build a church and pay for it probably have in mind that they're doing this for the community. A good sermon can put the parishioners in a right frame of mind for the coming week. Sunday school will help the children grow up right. The minister who delivers the sermon and directs the Sunday school understands these goals and normally goes along with them, but he also knows that his PRIMARY goals are not to serve the community. His primary goal IS ALWAYS TO SERVE GOD. Normally there's no conflict but occasionally one creeps in when trustees oppose the professors'/minister's sermons and threaten reduction of funds. That happens sometimes, even at BYU!

A TRUE professor/minister, in such situations, must act as though he'd never heard the threats. His primary goal isn't to serve the members of the community, but to always serve GOD." -Robert Pirsig

A distinction in the discussion should be made -- REASON in service to TRUTH, while FAITH in sevice to GOD -- that makes for important differences in the forms of worship!!!!

Rumpole said...


I enjoyed the Anonymy’s posting. Great things can be drawn from those comments.

As to our discussion, I believe the goal of BYU is to promote truth. However, I believe the BYU administration operates with an attitude that is similar to that of the liberal media (re Bernard Goldberg – “Bias”, the media can’t see its own bias because it believes it already promotes the truth). BYU’s administration believes that it is in the possession of truth as it is defined by its board of trustees; hence, once the board of trustees puts out “the word”, the debate ends.

I emphasize to you, now, that we are not talking about matters of doctrine. We are talking about matters of administration. As I have said before, this is BYU’s right. It is a private institution. My point is that the attitude of “lockstep” in matters of doctrine carries over to an attitude of “lockstep” in administration at BYU. That being said, here are my responses to your comments:

1. You see no “stifling” in not allowing students to gather and disagree? I thought the purpose of education was this very point. We must raise questions and challenge in order to find truth. I do not suggest we question for the sake of questioning, but if legitimate disagreements in the search for truth arise, why not provide a forum to reach the truth? Further, let me explain to you why BYU doesn’t want public demonstrations. It is because of image. BYU wants to promote that it moves forward in “lockstep”.
2. As I pointed out to you, I also see no great value in the “Greek” system. I also don’t disagree that FHE groups were ever intended to stimulate academics. What does not exist, however, is a mechanism that will stimulate thought outside of the “lockstep” FHE framework. The “Greek” system exists on a national level, providing opportunity for interaction and diversity of thought. That opportunity and interaction does not exist at BYU.
3. I think this point is very illustrative on being told “what to think”. I must disagree with anyone who would suggest that booing is not appropriate during an athletic contest. I will also disagree that tasteful signs are inappropriate. The student body at BYU, however, has been told that both actions are undesirable. Here comes that “image” thing popping up again!
4. Here also, we will have to agree to disagree. At some point (sooner rather than later), I want my children dealing with their own problems rather than “tattling”, as you say. The Republican-at-the-peak-of-his-knowledge-curve is quite angry with me right now. He fell behind in math. He will make up the assignments (per me) with no credit available (per his teacher). He doesn’t understand the point of being accountable for those assignments. None of his friends have to do it. The teacher isn’t making any of his friends do it. As his father, I say SO WHAT! The sooner he learns to deal with his own problems rather than worrying about telling someone else metaphorically “what to think”, the happier he will be.
5. Again, great disagreement. Our thoughts and actions are the sum total of our experience. If there is no great divergence in that experience, I believe we will think and act the same. Do you want to take a poll at BYU to see how many students accept Darwin? And of those who do, will you follow up with a poll as to how many would actually be willing to voice that opinion in Biology class?
6. More disagreement. Specific attitudes about who we are (i.e. “what” we think, and I don’t think that connection is a stretch) and actions we deem acceptable (i.e. “what we think, and I don’t think that connection is a stretch”) exist in those “worthiness” questions. How many students at BYU oppose abortion? How many students (or Mormons in general) believe that you can be a Mormon and a Democrat? How does Dingy Harry keep his membership? Sorry, but I had to throw that in!
7. The same as 6, except more! Those “whats” are expected to be demonstrated and exemplified from faculty to students.

As to your points about image, I must again disagree. Every night on the evening new (independent of which of the 4 local newsgroups you watch) I see a story that poses the question, "What does the rest of the world think about Utah?" The Tribune prints a list every week of “Utahns in the NFL” or Utahns in the minor leagues.” Go to California and look for the same thing. No one cares. I would suggest to you that BYU, and the Church in general, is the same. We are a recruiting organization. Image is everything. The other issues I have discussed with you I believe to be accurate, but irrelevant. In my humble estimation, the image issue is the most troubling.

BYU “lost the meaning” (I think that was from Harrison Ford in “Witness”) when it lost the individual. Can you still get a great education there? You bet. You just have to understand the ramifications going in.

Lysis said...

Silver Lining;

I still say that “teachers that don’t teach should be removed”. I don’t know if Mr. Bennish teaches or not, I do know that he lied and got caught. And that was good for his students.

As for my opinion on USU’s quality as an institution; I have given my reasons.


Good points all, especially the one where you say, “I think walking on the grass is a choice; not an outcome of exposure to academics but more a personality choice. I would point out to you that there are places were “walking on the grass” is prohibited, and they are the ones I have problems with. That prohibition was imposed on me at BYU, mentally and physically, and as we have seen by the screaming here in that Agora, there are those who would keep us on the sidewalk here too.


I really appreciate what you have said. I am reminded that Socrates was executed for “challenging the religion of Athens”, but where I really think you got it right was: “True ‘churchmen’ in such situations must act as though they had never heard these threats. THEIR primary goal NEVER is to serve the community ahead of everything else. Their primary goal is to serve, through reason, the goal of Truth”

I cannot however concur with you that a “TRUE” church would have a goal o f only putting the parishioners in a right frame of mind. They must help all in the search for truth as all truth must, after all, be circumscribed into one great whole”.

Danny Boy;

First let me comment on your numbered responses to Rumpole:

1. Organized protests. The Constitution justly maintains protections of public assembly, and petition of grievances; to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence; “a right inestimable to them (in this case – the students) and formidable only to tyrants.” Student protest and assembly are important academic pursuits at university, a university that forbids them is afraid of something – perhaps students getting new ideas on their own.

2. Clubs – this IS a major academic issue. Your failure to grasp the role of Greek and other fraternities and sororities in the university community speaks of a “commuter” style of education that misses much of what is most valuable about college life. Clubs play an important academic part in many schools and open minds where they are allowed.

3. Face painting. Being told you can’t paint your face is being told you cannot express yourself. That prohibition is imposed solely to maintain the image of the Y at the expense of free, albeit trivial, expression.

4. “tattling” I’ll agree with you that loyalty requires employees to support the goals of the people who pay their salaries. Dannyboy, that you see no difference between a student participation in legal activities, on their own time and in their private lives, and an employee being disloyal to the “company” that give him employment; speaks, once more, to your misperception of education.

5. “Diversity thinking”. The students at BYU probably DON”T think or act the same as each other in private, but that pretend to in act the same in public.

You next introduce the weakest of arguments; “it is OK for BYU to do it because others do.” I have maintained from the start that I am against any University that discourages open discussion and free thought. So those that do are just as wrong as BYU, if they have: deep of the grass” rules in thinking, they are wrong.

6. On students obeying rules; I have never had any grief with students obeying rules they agree to before that attend any University – I have problems with those rules if they stifle free thought and expression.

Dannyboy, you next answer Reach’s concern about arrogance by saying once again, IT IS OK FOR BYU TO BE ARROGAENT BECAUSE OTHER UNIVERSITIES ARE TOO. This is a childish argument!

It is not the standards at BYU that I find offensive. It is the determined attacks on anyone who asks questions about those standards that troubles me. I have long imposed standards on my students and my employees, but I always am willing to explain why! The atmosphere at BYU does not allow such questions, and the answer given is – because you must obey! This is not an answer worthy of an institution of Higher Learning.

Now Dannyboy, to your comments directly to me;

1) attitudes – Your first response concerning my being “required to take a religion class; is to say again - others do it and that makes it OK for BYU to do it. This has nothing to do with the attitude that would compel a “student aide” to scream at me, demanding that I take a class. The fact is that I did not have to take a religion class! And I didn’t.

2) the debate program. I coached debate for eleven years. I spent hundreds of hours talking to coaches who had been involved in the ending of BYU’s debate program. They told me what happened. Calling them and me liars does not change the facts. Your demand that I produce an official statement of the University, “or be a liar”, is unfounded. You have it from the mouths of many wittiness, through me. But it doesn’t matter if I couldn’t produce a witness; you model the “BYU approach” to dealing with controversy – attack the messenger and stifling discussion, not by providing facts of your own, but by attacking the virtue of your opponent. You asked for reasons why I held my opinion of BYU’s attitude toward the search for truth – I gave you a reasons. You must either prove my reason unfounded or accept it. Calling me a liar just shows you have no support for your position.

3) On the speeches on “questioning” presented at BYU convocations. Again, you were no there. The theme of speech after speech at BYU was, “When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done”. We were told in church and school that proper respect of “Church” leadership forbad questioning and required obedience.

4) On Carlo Clumsy, and Leonard Arrington –I have been told Carlo Clumsy’s story by professors who taught with him. He told them his reason for transferring to USU from the Y. You call me a liar; I tell you that, on unimpeachable testimony, I hold this as a reason for my attitude toward BYU. I have told you my sources, where are yours? As for Arrington; the USU Professor who was in charge of the negotiations with the Church and BYU over the Arrington papers told us in a class at WSU, during the proceedings, what Arrington’s goal in placing the papers at USU was. You call us both liars. This is the typical attack of those who cannot defend their position with reason or logic – name calling and intimidation. How often I felt this at BYU. You remind me again of why I left the place.

5) Your only counter to my complaint that BYU unreasonably influenced my job at the LTM for their own benefit is to say that OTHER SCHOOLS DO IT TOO. It’s a good thing there is no sand for you to through.

6) My example of Dr. Holmgreen is one of many, many such experiences; that over years of observation have shown me the difference in attitude between a school that is student oriented and one that is “its own image” orientated. In my opinion, your decision to discount my years of personal and shared experience is what is worthy of ridicule. But once again it doesn’t matter, you offer no counter evidence, you just call me ridiculous. Such powerful argumentation must have been cultivated in some really fine institution!!! (That’s sarcasm.)

7) You call me a hypocrite for my distain for the petty and intrusive rules at BYU. You say I have a double standard because I require my employees to follow rules. I have answered this above, but reiterate that these are two different things. Employment requires you to serve for the good and at the will of the employer. At Universities, student are the employers, or at least they should be, and should not required to submit to arbitrary standards “for the service of the University that they are paying. I have clearly stated that if one chooses to attend the Y (or to work for me) they must accept the rules. I left BYU because of many reasons, but they include the University’s intrusion into the private lives of its students. What is most aggravating here is the hypocrisy of the many that break the rules while pretending to obey them!

Dannyboy, with your attack on my “final paragraph” you provide the perfect example of the attitude that permeates, often without the comprehension of the students, BYU.

In my post above I suggested some discussion questions that might raise an attack at BYU and you demonstrate such an attack on me here in the Agora. I am not attacking the LDS church. Each question relates to a truth about which I have had questions; each has a legitimated answer, or should. You choose not to answer but to attack me.

You say I have “issues with the church”; where are they demonstrated here? Are you saying there are not legitimate, logical answers to these challenges? I have never said so. I asked you to open a discussion on these facts at BYU or with one of your “BYU” friends and see what they did. No need – You have demonstrated the BYU response. I have answers to many of these questions, you are afraid even of those who ask them; so afraid that you attack their (my) faith. You call me a blind hypocrite – how am I so? Show me my blindness; all I did was ask some questions, how does that make me a hypocrite? You say that “BYU” would allow open discussion of these things, and you won’t openly discuss any of them. You call me a condescending, lying, unreasonable, hypocrite, with anti-Mormon issues. Wow!!! What an argument; what an example of open minded thought and of the quality of your education!

I have no monopoly on questions, nor have I claimed one. I have offered some questions; you have neither offered questions nor given answers! If people already have the answers, maybe they would be so kind as to share them with those who are still asking. This seems far more open minded and educated than attacking those who are still seeking with hurtful names and innuendo.

If BYU doesn’t take the “church stance” what stance do they take? Is the church stance, “if you ask questions you a hypocrite”? Your reaction to my “questions” is typical of the reaction to questions at BYU. I was there, I know. I asked the questions and got this reaction. I have offered examples; you call them lies. But it doesn’t matter; you have provided a perfect example of the very “anti-academic” reaction I have faulted at many Universities.


You are right; as always (That’s sarcasm). The problem with BYU is they put their image above the growth of their students. U of U has an agenda too, so does Bennish, and as I have pointed out to Silver Lining, so does USU. I suggest that in encouraging a style of teaching, we seek the agenda that most closely aligns with the search for truth.

Dan Simpson said...

Lysis, that was some pretty passionate spin you put on my comments. The most interesting of which is that you claim I am stifling debate or questioning on the topic because I have disagreed with you.

I asked for something concrete to backup your claims, you put forth a list. I went down it point by point giving my opinion on your backing. You claim I have said end of discussion you are wrong. The next time you use " " to describe what I say, you may want to actually take the text from my comments, rather than paraphrasing with your own take on it. I don't mind if you want to paraphrase, but don't use quotes, its not honest.

Lets talk about the format of this argument for a moment. You made claims. I asked for you to substantiate those with something beyond your personal opinion. You gave me a list, I disagree with the logical ties that you feel makes your list proof.

I never said "other schools do it so its okay", but if you feel my debate tactics are juvenile, it must have been my education. I obviously didn't get a very good one.

Your claim: BYU stifles free thought and questioning.

Your 'proof':

-a teachers aide had an attitude about you fulfilling requirements and which classes you could take.

-debate was ended because, you claim, the school doesn't want students to see two sides of an issue.

-devotionals told you to quit thinking.

-Clumsy was told he COULD NOT teach students to think.

-Arrington didn't want his papers at BYU because no one would EVER see them

-The Y would only let you work part-time.

-You had a horrible experience with a department head who didn't give a crap.

-The school asks students to turn others in for honor code infractions.

My responses (again).

1- Every University has academic requirements. I was told I had to take an earth science, I could have said no, and stomped off to prove my point, but I would not have been fulfilling the requirements of the University.

Religion classes are required, but there are a plethora of classes that can be taken, both LDS doctrine and world and comparative religions. Requiring these classes, in my opinion, does not stifle free thinking or learning. You have claimed it does. What I think is your burden is to show that it does.

2- First, devotionals are not required. I know that for a fact now, and I can find out about while you were there, my mother-in-law was there around the same time, but I don't believe they were then either.

Second, I think you have wildly misrepresented the content of those devotionals. Why, no not because I am some mormo-fascist bent on the destruction of discussion, but because I can provide you with, literally, hundreds of talks and devotionals by the leaders of the Church encouraging truth seeking. Specifically telling the members to find out for themselves if what the Prophet says is true.

If you want, I will take the time to link to a huge number of such talks, but I don't really think it necessary, as you know what I am saying is true.

3-Debate, sorry got out of order. The debate program was ended, fact and truth. The debate program was ended because the school doesn't want students to know two sides of an issue, conjecture and not true. What do I base that on, the fact that they still hold public debates to this day on topics such as gay marriage.

Yes, an openly gay professor from the U (one of mine, great guy) was invited to BYU to debate a professor at the Y about this issue. It was an annual thing, with the campus location switching each year.

I call you a liar not because the fact you present was untrue, but because the 'reasons' you give are based on dishonest misrepresentation designed to get the listener (reader) to come to an erroneous conclusion.

4-Clumsy and Arrington. The previous paragraph applies here as well. Clumsy went to USU, true. Arrington's papers reside at USU, true. Was Clumsy forbidden from teaching his students how to think, no I don't believe that.

You claim that I am ignoring your proof, and just stubbornly saying you are wrong with no proof of my own. But what proof have you put forward. How was Clumsy forbidden? I am sure that some things were not allowed.

You are not allowed to show graphic pornography videos to your students, it might help them to critically think about pornography, is it wrong, are there dangers, exploitation, etc.? Do the restrictions on you keep you from teaching students how to think? No.

Arrington chose USU to leave his papers, that is fact. He may even prefer USU's history department, or Library to the Y's. Did he do it because his papers would 'never see the light of day' at BYU? No, I don't believe that for a second. Does that mean I am blindly disbelieving you without proof, no. I cannot prove he never said it. You have claimed he did. I believe that the responsibility of proof lays at your feet, as you have claimed those were his motives.

5-As far as working, you are right, I did say that everyone else does it. You say that is a stupid and juvenile argument. What you are missing is that your original claim was that BYU was different from USU, and that BYU's policies stifled free thought.

First, my argument was that BYU isn't different, no University will give you a full time job as an undergraduate.

Second, not allowing you to work for them full-time does not stifle free thought, or learning.

6-This is the only one that goes to academics. I have no doubt whatsoever that this experience happened, just like you describe it.

I have experienced the same lack of caring. Department heads like that have no business being department heads. Unfortunately, from what I have experienced, the beauracracy that prevails in the University system does little to prevent or rectify it. My point on this argument was that that is not BYU specific, does that excuse it, no, but it was meant to refute your idea that BYU is different.

Again, your claim was that BYU stifled thought. My point was that this one experience does not prove how the institution works.

I have a brother-in-law who had several professors take him under their wings, he worked very closely with them while getting his degree, was given a research position, and was taken to an international conference to help present research. This was at the undergraduate level.

You see, my point is not, everyone does it, so it is okay. My point was that your experience does not prove your claim.

7-Here is where YOUR weakest argument is, and your hypocrisy.

You have attempted to differentiate between the reporting you required of your employees, and the reporting BYU requires of its students when rules are broken. It is weak at best.

When I was hired to work for you the rules were clearly explained. We were also told that you expected us to report rule infractions, we all agreed. We were honor, and loyalty bound to do it.

When you enter BYU the rules are clear, and every student is told that as part of that honor code they are to report infractions. Everyone agrees, in fact I believe you actually have to sign a document to that end. I believe this makes you honor bound to report. I didn't feel honor bound to you because you gave me a check, employer-employee relationship had nothing to do with it.

In life we are in a society were the rules are clear. We are expected to report those who break the rules, though many, many in our society ignore such ideas, we are (in my opinion) honor bound to report such. It is part of our duty as members of the society. I do not believe that this stifles free thought in our community, I don't believe it stifles free thought at BYU, and I don't believe it stifled free thought at Scout Camp.

There are those who feel everyone should be able to do what they want, and its no one elses business. The fact that I desire to be a prosecutor should tell you how I feel about that attitude. I believe it is selfish in the extreme.

I said you were being condescending, you claim I am stifling debate. You said that those who enjoy or are comfortable at BYU are those who do not question. I think that is arrogant and condescending of you. I think you are making a blanket judgment based on very little evidence.

You say I attacked you, and that was a great demonstration of what you meant. I didn't attack you, I pointed out that your final paragraph were issues with the Church, and not the Y. My point was that your problems with the Church blind you to the hypocrisy of your stance. (this is not in reference to any problems you may have with the church, it is in reference to the claims you have made here.)

How does this stifle debate here, for me to say your argument is hypocritical and point out why?

"you have neither offered questions nor given answers!"

You are either lying for emphasis, or you didn't read anything I said.

"You call me a condescending, lying, unreasonable, hypocrite, with anti-Mormon issues. Wow!!! What an argument; what an example of open minded thought and of the quality of your education!"

You have been condescending, and I pointed out where. I gave examples and reasons for saying you were a hypocrite. And I never used anti-mormon, nor did I infer it.

I did these things with reasons, and examples. I am not sure why that is closed-minded, unless you dislike being questioned that much.

As far as my education, don't worry, it isn't the first time it has been questioned here. (usually the anonymous is the questioner however) Its not even the first time you have questioned its quality. I am secure in its strength.

You claim I call you a hypocrite for asking questions, and that proves your point. Its kind of funny. I called you a hypocrite for a stance you have, not for questions you asked, that was clear in my post.

You say I ask no questions, and I am 'anti-academic'. I have done nothing but question you.

And when we look at who is attacking who, lets remember a few things. I have said your stance on this is hypocritical, and that you have posted condescending remarks here. I also said that your backing for your claims lacked reason.

You have laid down claims about the quality of my education.

Reach Upward said...

Perhaps Lysis heard in a weekly convocation speech something like Pres. N. Eldon Tanner's statement (see here) that when the Prophet speaks the debate is over. (By the way, this citation is a favorite of anti-Mormons).

If you read Pres. Tanner's article if becomes clear that he is referencing official directives from the First Presidency. If you read the Sis. Elaine Cannon talk that is referenced by Pres. Tanner (see here), it becomes clear that she is talking about accepting clear directives from the President of the Church.

Both of these statements are actually rather narrow in scope. From my reading of these articles, I do not believe they were intended to stifle intellectual inquiry. But I have seen well-meaning people use statements such as these made by church leaders over the years to try to beat members of the church into submission. I have seen others use statements such as these to "prove" that the church wants an army of mind-numbed robots. Either of these is a gross misapplication of the principle being taught.

I have little first-hand experience with the Y in this regard, but I do know from friends with Y degrees that some students and employees there feel they are forced to fit into a certain mold that they feel ill suits them and has little to do with their relationship to God. Others I know have accepted the game and have learned to be good actors in public. Others enthusiastically embrace the one-size-fits-all mold. My Dad said that growing up in Germany he knew Nazis that were like that.

On the other hand, I have first-hand experience with this same kind of thing at other universities. Only it's not couched in a "church" form, but is religiously pursued, nonetheless. There is tremendous pressure applied to fit a certain mold. Some leave. Some learn to be good actors. Others enthusiastically embrace.

As others have noted, BYU has no corner on the market on this kind of thing. Very few universities see students as customers. They are a necessary evil that allow the institutions to pursue their more important goals. And they vehemently hate and detest lowbrow interlopers, such as those based on the University of Phoenix model, that treat students and the business community as customers.

Still, it seems that some bright stars pierce through the orthodoxy. I think of Hugh Nibley, for example. BYU can't be all that bad. They have to turn away thousands of applicants every year.

Anonymous said...

Reach Upward:
In 1966 John Lennon observed that, "We (the Beatles) are more POPULAR than Jesus."

Reach and Lennon seem to have a lot of FAITH in the academic, redemptive and moral forces of popularity.

However, I think that "thousands" of rejected applications to BYU has NOTHING to do with whether that institution is BAD or GOOD.

*Sunstone* is a VERY POPULAR magazine and colloquial for dissident/ex-communicated/ dis-fellowshiped/intellecually liberated Mormons "piercing through the orthodoxy" -- although I do not know the precise article/speaker rejection numbers.

"Others I know who have accepted the game. . . "

Are efforts that are made at BYU for the purposes of Salvation and Redemption only a GAME that has to be accepted???? If so, no wonder Lysis fled such insincerity and pretense!!!!

Reach Upward said...

Anonymous, your points are valid. The fact that many people want to do something does not make it good. My Dad saw a lot of people in his home country of Germany persecute Jews, but that did not make the practice good.

However, I would argue that having read a fair amount of Hugh Nibley's works that his tenure is definitely a feather in BYU's cap. That does not make everything BYU does good. In fact, professor Nibley was not infrequently at odds with the administration.

The "game" I wrote about involved regular minor infractions of campus rules. According to my friends, nobody acted like this stuff went on or that they participated in it, but the commonality of it could not be gainsaid.

I suppose that each institution has a personality, as it were. We stick with the institutions whose personalities we can live with. We flee those we can't live with. Sometimes living with an institution invites one to make pragmatic decisions that some would see as a compromising of principle. Others feel that the environment that invites those kinds of decisions is the actual problem.

Lysis' point is that educational institutions should encourage thinking rather than stifle it. Some would argue that this has logical limits. But I agree with Lysis that there is no need to fear truth.

Dan Simpson said...

I agree there is no need to fear truth, what I disagree with is that BYU, or those who are ultimately in control of its policies and procedures do fear truth.

Lysis said...

Danny boy;

I have said from the beginning that “stifling thinking” is a problem at many Universities; I used the “keep off the grass” metaphor as an example of it. BYU is the institution that my experience demonstrated is most egregious in this “stay on the side walk” attitude. Therefore all your, they do these things elsewhere arguments are moot; I am against such mindsets wherever they appear and regardless of their motivation.

I feel obligated to deal with each of your now redundant complaints against my positions for the discussions sake, but what I really want to do is get back to the original premise, and show how you prove it by your own actions. Work with me.

FIRST) - Under your discussion on “the format of this argument” you say, and I quote, “I never said, ‘other schools do it so it’s okay . . .” Let me give you three quotes from your post of the morning of March 8th:

I quote you:

1) In response to the screaming T.A. determined to force me to conform; you state, “Every school I have attended has had stupid rules that make no sense”

2) On the fact that BYU was interfering with my job at the LTM – (not, by the way, at BYU) you said, “many, many, many campus supplied jobs will only allow you to work part time. In fact, I do not know of a single job I have ever seen where you work for the school as a student were you are allowed to work full-time. This is not specific to BYU.”

3) Bad Botany teacher you said, “Welcome to the University system.”

Therefore you did say “other schools do it so it’s okay” else what is the meaning of the three quotes above? My point was simply that saying its OK to do wrong because others do wrong is self-evidently childish, but more importantly it is a symptom of the “keep of the grass” mentality employed by those who want to prevent free thought. If this is how one is taught to argue in any University – one may well question the quality of that education.

Then, after denying you used such a tactic in your previous post, you continue with the same argument in today’s post. To quote you: “My responses (again). 1- Every university has academic requirements.” (By the way -You miss my point on this religion class entirely; it was not just that I was told I had to take a religion class, I was told I couldn’t take the one I wanted. I had to stay on the sidewalk!)

SECOND) – You claim above that, and I quote, “I never used anti-Mormon, nor did I infer it.” I say you did infer it in your post of Wednesday morning when you wrote:

1) “Your final paragraph is a diatribe against the church, not the Y.” Can’t your claim that I am presenting a diatribe against the church be taken to infer that you are calling me “anti-Mormon”?

2) “I have known for years you have issues with the Church.” Are you inferring that I have pro-Mormon issues with the Church or neutral-Mormon issues with the Church; I think not – I think you are clearly accusing me of anti-Mormon issues.

3) “Your problems here are largely with the stances that the church takes.” Are the problems you infer (as I did not present any) pro or anti the stance the Mormon Church takes. I don’t think you would say I was having problems if you thought my stance was pro or neutral on Mormonism.

I feel that these examples from your own words show serious flaws in your argument – but they are also examples of the attitude I call “keep off the grass” which imposes irrelevant and personal attacks in place of reasoned discourse.

THIRD) You say that I ask you to question then ignore the questions you ask. But the context of my request was to call for questions similar to the ones I put forward challenging you to ask them at BYU. Your response was to imply that BYU mindset types do ask such questions and already have the answers. I then asked for some of those questions and answers.

You might question me, but you offer no questions to the “side walk” educational positions of BYU. Those were the questions I challenged you to put forward. You implied you had answers to questions, I wanted some questions and their answers. Questioning me is not the issue I was presenting here.

FORTH) The examples I gave of how my free thought was stifled at BYU have not been challenged by all your innuendo and name calling.

1. The teachers aid yelled – “stay on the side walk”, don’t take the class you want, take the path prescribed! That was surly my perception, about which I have told the truth.

2. My colleagues in the high school debate circuit told me that the Debate program was ended at BYU because students were being trained to intentionally “walk off the sidewalks” of thought by developing arguments on both sides of issues. I do not believe they were lying to me. You do, but I was explaining why I feel the way I do about BYU. Telling me that honorable people whom I respect and trust are liars does not give weight to your disagreement with them nor change my opinion of BYU.

3. I was in the devotionals and heard what was taught. I was required, at least by my duty and honor, to attend convocations, as were all students at the Y. If that has changed, then they are letting people “off the sidewalk”. Good for them. But you say you have speeches by church leaders that encourage the search for truth. Just how do those speeches advocate the search? Show me one were the advice is “get off the side walk and go exploring in the grass.” Show me some that say, “ask hard questions, challenge the church leadership, question the prophets, point out the inconsistencies in the scriptures, tell your bishop he’s wrong.” No, I am afraid your pile of conference talks will boil down to, “read the scriptures, attend the meetings, pay the offerings, go to the temple, pray, and follow the leaders of the church.” I would greatly like to read some to the contrary. Please provide them for me, and I will at least admit that both positions are presented. However, even if you could show me such council from the church leadership, it is not the theme of the speeches I sat through week after week at BYU, nor is it the direction of the attitude of the students and faculty I encountered there.

4. On Carlo Clumsy – I was told by unimpeachable (in my estimation) sources that Professor Clumsy found it impossible to teach philosophy at BYU under the restrictions “the keep of the grass signs”, imposed on him. For that reason he transferred to USU. You call me and my sources liars because it does not agree what you choose to believe – but Dannyboy, that doesn’t matter, the question was WHY DO I FEAL THE WAY I DO ABOUT BYU. I have told you the truth.

5. On Arrington’s papers. Once again I have the testimony of those who dealt directly with the estate and the papers, you might not want to hear it – and calling my information on the subject dishonest might salve your feelings, but again I am telling you what has made me feel the way I do about BYU. I am telling you the truth on that. If you have evidence otherwise, save me from the evil lying USU professors who deceived me. If you have no evidence other that your opinion – I prefer to believe them.

6. My points on the Y and my job was, first I didn’t work for the University, but they secondly, still controlled my hours for their and not my benefit. You say all universities do so. You only lower my opinion of all universities; you do not improve my opinion of BYU.

7. I had a horrible experience with a University that didn’t give a crap. The head of the Botany department was a single example out of many of my experiences with BYU. I have also said I had positive experiences and good teachers at BYU, but they were the exception not the rule. Again, I was explaining why I feel the way I do about the school; I can only tell you the truth.

8. On School honor codes. School honor codes, employment guidelines, and the laws of nations must be legitimate and just. BYU has no need, other than keeping people on the sidewalks, to dictate the personal lives of their students in the privacy of their own homes or in their lives beyond the campus. If I placed stupid, unexplained, and unexplainable, and abusive rules on my employees they would be duty bound to disobey them. If our government placed laws that impose a tyrant and abused the unalienable rights of citizens, those citizens would be duty bound to rebel, and when a University requires unjust and unnecessary obligations on its students, honor requires that such “sign posting” be ignored!

Now we come to my premise and how you prove it with your “stay on the side walk, keep off the grass” thinking. When I suggested some legitimate questions about some of many topics that would be off the walk at BYU, you immediately attacked me as anti-Mormon, you questioned my integrity, and called me names. This is the way BYU posts the walkways of thought. U of U does it too, so do many high school teachers, so do all who fear the truth that might be discovered off the beaten paths of their “sacred dogma”.

If, when I suggested that you ask a “BYU” type, or better yet have one of your BYU acquaintances ask in religion class at BYU, “why did God make the murderer Moses head of his church”; you had said; oh, Lysis, my brother in law asked that question last year and his religion professor told him that, “since slavery has always been immoral, Moses was as justified in defending a slave against an abusive master as Abraham Lincoln was in sending supplies to Fort Sumter.” Then I would have had an answer and you would have had some evidence that the signs on the lawn are not posted in the minds of BYU students. But, no! Instead you say that I have issues with the church, and am a hypocrite, a liar, and condescending. You concoct long evidence-less convolutions to show that I am imagining the “signs” or rebellious against truths that should never be questioned. Your reaction was the very reaction I received to questions on civil rights (black priesthood holding), evolution, the origins of homosexuality, the propriety of art, the civil rights of my roommates to drink what the law allows and have sex with their lovers, and why it was alright for football players to play on the grass but not for me.

The only thing I question about your education is your “keep off the grass” attack on my questions.

Reach Upward:

I found the Tanner statement exemplified at BYU long before President Tanner got around to this speech. My position was then, and is now, that I need to do the thinking. Prophets can persuade, inspire, and direct aright, but they must never force the human mind. I remember too well the church sanctioned racial bigotry of my youth, and recall the horror I felt on first reading about the consequences of blind faith at Mountain Meadows. For me the debate only ends when the truth is exposed to all who truly seek it.

It is always painful to hear comparisons to the Nazis, but the world is full of sheep that follow in mass the teachings of prophets and professors. The suicide bombers and terrorists of today should have learned to think by some healthy expeditions off the sidewalks.

Lysis said...


Well said. The masses of sheep that stampede off cliff do not prove that sheep can fly, only that following in fear leads to death. A bunch of screaming groupies on a hot day in Bombay do not mean that one is the Messiah. I only speak as one who was accepted at BYU only to find out I didn’t want to play.

Reach Upward said...

For those that are interested in intellectual inquiry about the life of Joseph Smith, I highly recommend Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman. Bushman is a retired professor (Columbia University) and is a widely respected and honored historian in intellectual circles. He is also recognized as one of the world's most eminent experts on Joseph Smith.

I recently read this book and very much appreciated Bushman's honesty in dealing with some very difficult issues. He does not gloss over these issues, but tries to show Joseph Smith as an extraordinary mortal, warts and all. I'm know that many already consider Bushman's book a definite diversion from the sidewalk. However, Bushman himself said at last year's Joseph Smith Composium hosted by the Library of Congress that there is a new openness to honest inquiry by church leaders.

Silver Lining said...

Well Lysis, as I am sure you have heard, Bennish was reinstated today. So, he was put on paid leave while the situation was investigated. The school and school district found no reason to fire him. There will be many that are very angry about this over the next few days.

I realize that the point of the post has gone in a slightly different direction, but in your original post you stated, "It was the screams from the sidewalk crowd that most concern me. Students whose minds are never allowed to stray from the crafted trails are in danger of losing the lust to striking out on their own. When minds rely only on “established” trails for truth and are never allowed to feel the “grass between their toes”, they are in danger of losing their ability to challenge falsehood when it comes at them masked as the “straight and narrow way”.
I ask again, because I still feel it wasn't made clear, who are you refering to as the sidewalk crowd in this example?

Lysis said...


I appreciate the reference. I will look into the book. It is always nice to have referenced history when dealing with discussion.


Speaking of referenced history, I have another problem with your, “talk about the format of this argument,” you presented. You say my “proof” on BYU was presented in the 8 points you listed above. I feel I have firmly established the validity of those points, but what is disconcerting in your argument are the 7 “proofs” you choose to ignore. I am forced to assume you have done so because you cannot challenge them. Ducking these issues only shows the weakness of your position. These seven unchallenged “proofs” are:

1. The Communist Manifesto being in a locked book room. I don’t know if they BYU library still has a locked book room. Maybe you could ask for me, but the U of U librarian I live with, assures me that it is only rare books in the special collection that are “locked”. Other books – no matter how “offensive” are available to all students. Where do you think the “freer minds are found Dannyboy?

2. My branch president telling me I had to take Genealogy class in Sunday school. Doesn’t dictating choices in church seem a bit sidewalkish to even you Dannyboy?

3. The second-class status of Blacks. I hope this has changed at the Y, although I understand that recently a Black Professor was refused reappointment due to his voicing his frustrations with the Mormon Churches attitudes toward blacks. Seems worthy of discussion, wouldn’t you agree, Dannyboy?

4. Japanese citizens excluded form teaching at the LTM. You will probably say I made this one up – but I knew and loved these people. They had been my teachers, and were my best friends while I was in Hawaii. They told me what they were told.

5. required Gym uniforms. Go Figure.

6. A testing center that amounts to a weekly Inquisition. Don’t you think that a bit sidewalkish, Dannyboy?

7. And student protest to remove Rodin’s Kiss from an art exhibit. Proof, if it were ever needed that we have some very narrow minds being built at BYU.

I put these “proofs” back into the discussion, for I feel that even as I have attempted to answer your challenges, I am hopeful you will deal with these. That is what one really seeking the truth would do, isn’t it Dannyboy?

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...

Silver Lining:

Thanks for the news, and for the question. The people I call the “sidewalk crowd” are the ones who were angry, not with Bennish’ lies, but that he could speak them to students; the ones who will now be even more angered by Bennish’ ability to speak lies to students again. I am, of course, angered by liars, but I am confident that liars can be dealt with without silencing them, without preventing them from speaking. I agree with the school district, if Bennish is teaching, he has a right to teach. The side walk crowd are those, often on the conservative sides of other issues, that will get all bent out of shape because President Bush was lied about. President Bush gets lied about all the time, and by far more influential people than a high school teacher; he can take it. The truth can always stand against lies if people are trained to hear lies and then challenge them. The danger from “side walking” the minds of students is that they will never learn how to deal with lies, or challenges to their religious beliefs, or questions about their moral standards . . .

The sidewalk crowd are those who think Bennish should be fired rather than be dealt with by students who are trained by good educations to deal with liars. I was disappointed to hear that the student who exposed Bennish has now changed his stance from one who simply wanted to reveal the truth to one who now wants to censure what teachers say in class. He has joined, or perhaps always was among, the sidewalk crowd.

Anonymous said...

From a Larry McMurtry letter concerning his review of Richard Bushman's biography:

" . . . I resent and reject the charge, leveled by some readers, that I didn't really read Professor Bushman's biography: I read every word of it and I found it admirable, if bland and rather cautious. If you sift through all the commentary the review provoked, the root charge seems to be that I say too much good about Fawn Brodie (*No Man Knows My History*)and not enough good about Professor Bushman. That charge is true -- I do. She's the better writer by far. Professor Bushman has a lot more informantion but a lot less kick, and kick was what was needed in the case of Mormonism. Fawn Brodie's book is still the single best book about Mormonism. She saw the fraud at the heart of Mormonism and she describes it. Professor Bushman pitty-pats around it.

I have recently published a book, *Oh What a Slaughter*, which contains a long chapter on the mountain Meadows Massacre; Mormon leaders have been lying about this massacre for 150 years and are still lying, a fact that was exposed more than half a century ago by the brave Mormon scholar Juanita Brooks (who was excommunicated for publishing the truth). Should the Mormon leadership ever work up to admitting the truth about Mountain Meadows, then Mormonism might be considered an ethical faith: but not before.

Reach Evidently, appreciates Bushman's "warts and all" account, not for its accuracy, but because it hasn't so far got him excommunicated!

However, it appears to me that Bushman believed he could "kiss" the "wart covered frog" and make it turn into a prince by ignoring half the warts -- nope that's not history!!!!

Anonymous said...

Those who are so angry and offended by Bennish please quote verbatim the offending lies and explain how they ARE lies -- no one at the Agora has taken the trouble to do so!!!!

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...

Anonymous: Here is the clip from the rant that concerns most who are interested in truth. You can read all for the President’s State of the Union Address at You will see, if you don’t already know, that the President didn’t say anything like this anywhere in his speech.
Quote from Bennish: (I got it off the transcript of the discussion from Michelle Malkin’s Blog)
“He started off his speech talking about how America should be the country that dominates the world. That we have been blessed essentially by God to have the most civilized, most advanced, best system and that it is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the whole world like us.
Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler use to say.
We're the only ones who are right. Everyone else is backwards. And it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they live just like we want them to.
Now, I'm not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously, they are not. Ok. But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use. Very, very "ethnocentric." We're right. You're all wrong.”

Reach Upward said...

Anonymous' measure of historical value appears to be the literary quality of the writing and the entertainment value of the work. Brodie's work No Man Knows My History is admittedly better written than Bushman's book. It is well researched and scores well for entertainment value.

The problem we have here is that both Bushman and Brodie start their works with certain assumptions. Bushman admits that he accepts Joseph Smith as a prophet. Brodie intends to expose Joseph Smith as a fraud. This causes the authors to use sources that tend to validate their underlying assumptions. This means that those that support the basic assumption of either work will appreciate the one work over the other, which appears to be well demonstrated in Anonymous' post.

However, both authors find themselves bound by a certain degree of intellectual honesty, and therefore, include material that could be interpreted to detract from their conclusions. While Bushman is admittedly careful, Brodie is often guilty of overstating her case.

Anyone that is willing to wade through Ms. Brodie's work should find sufficient interest to read Hugh Nibley's sharp-witted critique of it entitled No, Ma'am, That's Not History (full text at this link).

Lysis has pointed out to me in personal conversation that the best possible solution to this type of thing is to have the source documents made readily available and/or a neutral historical work based on the source documents made available. For whatever reason, some of the holders of source documents on this issue choose not to make those omni-available. And with a person as polarizing as Joseph Smith, no one has yet come forth with an unbaised study of his life.


I had the opportunity of reading several BYU student blogs the other day. These students obviously did not consider themselves out of the BYU mainstream, but they openly and critically discussed 'off-the-sidewalk' issues without the slightest notion that such inquiry might be considered scandalous. It would appear that the Y does not exercise the same type of control over cyberspace as does the People's Republic of China. Perhaps electronic communication has opened a brave new frontier at the Y.