Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Of Libraries and Morality

Victor Davis Hanson has a thoughtful column about things he observed on five days.

Hanson notes that most students at CSU Fresno do not actually use the library to access books. I have noticed that trend at BYU as well. Hanson estimates that only twenty percent are studying. My impression is that BYU might be higher, but I could not say how much. Like Fresno,
The library has very little to do with students searching out books and articles in a repository.
Last year, half of the periodicals in the periodical room were removed for more desks. Unfortunately, from my point of view, the half that were removed were the more useful half.
If the new library is now designed as a valuable cultural nexus, to throw together all sorts of young people of different classes, religions, and races, and at least expose them to the idea of sitting in a comfortable and humane learning place, overseen by courteous and professional staff, where reading is theoretically possible, then it is a smashing success.

If, on the other hand, it is supposed to be a place where disciplined young people individually pursue real knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences, through self-motivated and faculty-guided research, then it appears an utter failure. Does playing a video game next to the Iliad and Prometheus Bound mean that it is more likely that the video game is educational?
Hanson also thoughtfully explores the morality of wealth using the example of Leland Stanford.
It is difficult to figure out quite how the methodology of gaining huge fortunes is atoned for by later unprecedented generosity. Might Bill Gates have been a little more honorable to rivals when 35, earning a billion or two less — or did he need every penny so that he could give most of it away at 55?
Given that God will judge us not only for the aims we have but also the means we use to achieve them, it is a point worth considering.