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The Table Video

Robert P. George

"Safe Learning" and a Thinking Faith - Robert George on Education

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University / Founding Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
August 9, 2015

If we pursue safety in the university we are not challenged and if we are not challenged we have wasted our money. Robert George of Princeton University comments on the importance of being challenged in one’s higher education.


All I can tell you is if you’re a student and you’re looking for a safe space, don’t come to the classroom where Cornel and I teach. [laughter] ‘Cause that is not a safe space. Whatever your views are, I don’t care if they’re Christian, if they’re secularist, if they’re Muslim, if they’re Jewish, if they’re Marxist, whatever your view is, that is going to be challenged.

It’s gonna be challenged with the very best arguments that can be mustered against it. If you look at the, I’m teaching this semester, in addition to my seminar with Cornel, a Civil Liberties course. My Civil Liberties course covers all the hot button issues. Affirmative action, religion in public life, abortion, marriage, death penalty, targeted assass.., targeted killing. You’re not supposed to say assassination though, right? Targeted killing, all of these issues.

Now if you look at my syllabus you will find that no matter where you are on any of those issues, you’re going to find powerful arguments in those readings against your position. They’re going to trouble you, they are going to disturb you, they are going to make you worry about your view. I think as teachers, that’s our job. It’s not to make you feel comfortable and reinforce you, it’s to–

Rick: Hard to feel good.

A feel good, it’s certainly not to make you feel good. It’s to make you feel.

Cornel: Socratic.

Yeah, kind of feel pulled apart.

Socratic, feel Socratic.

You know, intention, wondering what’s up here. Maybe I’m not thinking the right thing. That really is such a, we want the development of critical intelligence. Not, again, not because there is no truth. You know that all three of the fellas sittin’ up here in front of you are people who are strong believers in truth and strong opponents of the idea of moral relativism.

It’s not because there is no truth, it’s precisely because if we’re going to get to the truth of the matter we must on any given issue understand and appreciate the most compelling arguments to be made on both or all sides of the question. If we’re not doing that, we’re not thinkers. We are ideologues. We are dogmatists, we are not thinkers. And even as Christians it’s important for us to understand that our faith is a thinking faith.

Cornel: That’s right.

Our faith is a thinking faith. [applause]

So our critical intelligence is in play, in the very activity, of living the Christian life.

Continue the discussion with this conversation between West and George.