Saturday, April 30, 2005


Yesterday Apple introduced a new operating system called Tiger. Walt Mossberg, in a column on Thursday in the WSJ, said the new OS rocks. He is right. I got it and installed it. Here are some things that I noticed immediately. #1 - Dashboard - allows you to find all those little programettes that you use but don't want consistently - things like your address book or weather or translation. It has a feature that will keep the dashboard handy in the program you are using if you want to toggle back and forth. #2 - Mail is revised - the mail program was redesigned to look better but also to perform better - and it seems to do just that. #3 - Smart Folders - in iPhoto and iTunes you have always had a function where you can group information logically - all the things that go with X - all the photos that have a picture of your dog or all the tunes with Bach in them. Now that is available in the finder - so you can group all the things you have in a particular project or set of issues. #4 - Spotlight - this allows you to search for all those things on any source in your environment - any disk that is loaded - for anything. This is NOT a find command - it is much more. It finds everything - any type of file and does it with context - so any word file you you have with the keyword gets grouped. With the size of hard disks now and the range of places that I store stuff - this feature alone is worth the price of admission. There is a beefed up version of iChat that allows video conferencing - I bought the camera they sell but still have not used it to its full potential - but when I have used it - it was slick - now I can hook in three people.

What you cannot see is some additional beefing up of the security features of the operating system. There are loads of other features yet to be discovered.

The best thing I have seen about the whole OSX environment (this is the fourth generation of OSX) is its stability. In the time since I used the OSX beta - I have never had the system crash on me. Windows has the blue screen problem but OSX just continues to rock on.

Friday, April 29, 2005


Last night I got back from LA and went into my office to change so I could go to a Rivercats game. My office is used for an internship class once a week. They were having all of the interns and their sponsors in to thank the sponsors and to do a sort of final event. I went back to my office and changed and then was getting ready to go and one of the students came in. His name was Will Britt. He was one of my son's best friends and he wanted to talk. Earlier in the year I had encouraged Will to consider transfering to UOP and to leave UCLA. He had been accused of sexual assault in what looked to even a casual observer as a trumped up case. That had weighed heavily on Will, who was a thoughtful, somewhat quirky kid. He eventually enrolled in UOP and from the conversations I had had with him during the semester it was beginning to be a better fit.

WC Fields once said "I've been rich and I've been poor and rich is better." I've known Will since he was a kindergartener and we've lived through happiness and sadness with Will and his family. Last night as Will was driving back to Stockton he was killed in a single car accident.

Will came into our family because his mom died when he was about to go to school - the school had a sixth grade buddy system and my daughter was asked to be Will's buddy. His older sister was Peter's buddy in the way that our daughter was Will's.

Last night was a typical conversation - he came into my office and told me about how the false charges had been (or would be) dropped. The lying coed, that had caused him so much grief for most of the last year had recanted some of her false accusations. The remaining parts of her testimony looked bogus. I asked him what he and his dad would do and we talked about whether the young lady had any culpability here (in my opinion she does) and whether UCLA's rather limited investigation into the veracity of the charges was appropriate (in my opinion they did not treat him fairly - they just did not bother to balance the rights of the accuser and the accused). Then we talked about the future - should he stay in UOP or return to UCLA. We discussed both options - in my opinion it was better to stay at UOP for a host of reasons - but we also talked about an option to go to GW law school (I did some graduate work there and we talked about that - not in the law school but what it would be like to live and study so close to the White House) and a host of other things. It was a normal conversation that you have with people you are close to;nothing exceptional and expected to be continued. As I drove to the game I thought about what kind of attorney he would be - his dad, Don, is a trial lawyer. Will and I discussed, on one visit to UOP, the things that excited him in the practice of law. He had thought a lot about the practice of law, about the elements and skills he needed to develop. He talked to me a lot about things like cross examination in ways that told me he had thought a lot about the practice of law.

Will had a mixture of a unique sense of grace, intellectual fire and clumsiness. We have the burn spot in the carpet - which I kidded him about unmercilessly - caused by teenage carelessness. We remember the attempt to create a new story of the burning bush. He and Peter, my son - thought it would be smart to buy some beer when Don was away and party for the weekend, Will's sister found it - told Don and so we had a conversation about it parents and Will and Peter - they came up with a teenage explanation where they suggested they had somehow found the beer in a local park under a bush and took it home to assure that no other child would be tempted - they actually thought we would believe that! We have the great week where Will joined our family in Oaxaca to learn Spanish - each afternoon the two boys would go off and search out the city and small bargains. By the end of the week they knew the city well. I embarassed Will when I told a shaggy dog story in the Spanish class - he got put into the slower class with us while Pete went to a higher level. Later in his life - in part because he was bored - he attempted to pick up Italian off tapes. There are more stories - among Peter's friends. Most of the boys in his class left his K-8 school at the end of 8th grade but Will stayed on and graduated from the high school. Pete and Will lost contact for a while - but in the last couple of years - they came back together and saw each other frequently when Will was in town.

When he came over - if you could engage him (sometimes he was in the teenage distance mode) - he had some really great thoughts. We talked stocks (he held AOL when it was worth holding), and economics and politics and life and rap and an odd amalgam of other topics. He could be a fierce advocate but always with that grace that never slipped away. He was a part of our household. He could do outlandish things - eat a dog biscuit or wear the sag and bags of his generation but he always came back to ideas. But he wasn't in any way odd about his thoughts. This was not a kid who was out of place in himself. This morning I watched a video that Pete had taken of them in eighth grade doing eighth grade things - rap and crude jokes.

Last fall we went to the USC game at Stanford and had an extra ticket to Will came with us. Throughout the game Will kept asking Peter if he could take our grandson Mason and go "meet some girls" - that unique sense of humor came through again. Mason and he had a special bond. We still have not figured out how to tell our grandson. Mason referred to him as "My Will."

The last year was a tough one. The allegations weighed heavily on him. I spoke with his dad and Will several times in the fall - trying to explain how colleges in general and a place like UCLA would process on charges like this and also making a couple of phone calls in his behalf. I took care to suggest a couple of alternatives where he could complete his degree. In the end UOP looked like a good match. Last night we talked about how in the last few weeks he had found some friends at UOP and had begun to get some balance back in his life. I looked forward to having some discussions this summer to hear how his developing confidence would lead him over the next year to possibly an internship in Washington or a law school.

He would have been a great lawyer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Great Truism

In the literature of economics there is a lot of discussion about tax incidence. In any class on taxation, one of the immediate debates is about the corporate tax - do corporations pay taxes. Jeffrey Miron, a professor of economics at Boston University put a series of his lectures on the net on the economics of libertarianism. In his lecture #21 (on economic and social policy) he came up with a great aphorism. His initial test of incidence is "if you can't shake hands with it, it does not pay taxes." Great line. Ranks of there with one of my student's definition of the concept of epiphenomenality (A secondary phenomenon that results from and accompanies another, often unexpected) in economics as "Who'd a thunk it?"

Thanks Professor Miron - his lectures are on the net and are worth reading. They are well constructed. He also did an interesting paper on Social Security privatization where he argues that it is not a panacea although it might produce some positive results.

Baseball Humor

Last night's game was an interesting one. The Rivercats won 6-5. But in the middle part of the game it got boring. The roving camera went out to the grassy area that starts in right field. It was a cold night and there was a couple romantically engaged. One of our crowd made the comment that it looked like the guy was on second base but digging for third. Another wag chimed in that gave a whole new meaning to Homerun Hill. About an innning later the Cats came back with four runs and were able to hold off the 51s for the last couple of innings and pull out a win.

Monday, April 25, 2005

What is happening in Iraq

Over at Winds of Change there is an interesting and long article on underreported news in Iraq. The responses are generally positive - not without some bumps - but positive. The URL for the article is I was most intrigued with some quotes from a BBC set of interviews -

Here's Saad, 32, sound engineer from Basra: "Iraqis are feeling better. They are breathing the air of freedom. They read, watch and say what they want. They travel, work and receive a living wage. They use mobile phones, satellite dishes and the internet, which they did not even know before... As for terrorism, we are now beginning to unite against it and to defeat it."

Noura, 32, computer engineer from Baghdad and a Christian: "While we lost security after Saddam's fall, we gained our freedom and a chance to build a new society."

Nada, 32, government worker from Mosul: "We never imagined that the Turkmen community would have a political party representing them in Iraq, but this is happening now."

Kaban, 31, electrical engineer from Baghdad: "There have been many changes since the fall of Saddam's regime, but the most important change was that we feel free... However, those who say that security was better in the past are completely wrong. It is true we did not have suicide car bombings in Saddam's era, but our homes did not feel safe from the intrusion of Saddam's security men, who came in the middle of the night to kidnap, kill or rape."

Waala, 25, schoolteacher from Baghdad: "The Sunnis in Iraq do not live in isolation from the political and social circles of life, as many people outside Iraq seem to believe. Nothing has affected our relationships with each other - we face the same problems. This applies to Sunnis or Shia, Christians or Muslims, Arabs or Kurds. Unfortunately, the refusal by some Sunnis to participate in the elections was the cause of some political isolation."

Imad Mohammed, 25, university graduate from Baghdad: "I am no longer worried about losing my dignity or my life. And I am also getting a higher income, like most Iraqis."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

An answer to my daughter's question

Yesterday at lunch I was defending the new pope and my daughter asked me if you think he is a good guy and you thought the same of JPII and you changed your thinking about capital punishment because of a discussion with a priest and you are fundamentally unhappy with the episcopalians at this point - how come you do not become a catholic?

I told her a couple of things. First, as readers of rambles would no doubt be unsurprised to learn, I am skeptical of authority structures of any kind. I think religious belief comes from the individual rather than the organization. Obviously, religious belief does not grow without some social nurturing - but if I am distrustful of organizations in general why would a religious one be exempt?

Second, I am not sure about a couple of the doctrines - that does not make catholic doctrine special - but two - the Infallibility of the pope and the role of women in the church does not make entire sense to me.

It was an interesting question nonetheless.

OK so this was not a surprise

I had lunch yesterday with my daughter in LA - before a meeting at USC. She asked me if I liked the new "reactionary" pope. As noted earlier, I think he looks like a good choice - a bright and thoughtful person. We had a discussion about the "Bush conspiracy" that then Cardinal Ratzinger created by suggesting that democrat politicians who try to split their theology (be a catholic for the voters but do not live by the major ideas of the church) are ineligible to receive the sacraments.

Emily wanted the formerly french looking John F. Kerry (my what a remarkable parallel - do you think? John F from Massachusetts????) to win and was surprised that he did not. Kerry, and several other catholic democrats, want to have it both ways. Catholic doctrine suggests that a) catholics should value life and b) oppose abortion. That doctrine is pretty clear. But those politicians argue that while they are personally opposed to abortion they cannot oppose it in their public role. The church merely suggested that if you want to be a member or our group - you have to agree to some rules - including the tenet on abortion. If Kerry and others disagree with the doctrine they can easily opt out to become a methodist or episcopalian or even a buddhist. But they want to have their cake and eat it too.

What has amazed me is how quickly the dispersion of an idea can happen - with the LA Times in place it is small wonder what opinions my daughter would have on the new pontiff. But the immediate and vehement reaction to his background and ideas by those who believe in the relativism that Cardinal Ratzinger criticized in his homily at one of JPIIs funeral masses was not a surprise.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam

A recent quote from Cardinal Ratzinger which I found interesting, "[Relativism] is letting oneself be 'swept along by every wind of teaching.' (It) looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." His comments are an encouraging sign.

The left will read this as an inflexibility, unfortunately. But his comments are much more complex than that. Ultimately his remarks can be applied to a lot of issues in society.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Reformation in Ratings

Over at Baysense ( there is a suggestion to include in the US News Rankings an intellectual diversity index. Impossible to construct but an interesting idea. But who says the folks at US News would be interested?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

David Reisman as Martin Luther

About 35 years ago I invited David Reisman to speak to a group of White House interns. He suggested an idea to change the credentialing of society. He said - why not create degrees for a fee that would have two things - a beautiful and frameable certificate with a degree title and a ticket book. Individuals who wanted the title would buy both and then sell off the ticket book which would admit a student to a specified quantity of classes or learning activities. The separation would allow those who really wanted to learn to get an education at a pretty substantial discount while driving the credential mongers in society batty.

It was a novel idea then and still is one to think about.


Arnold Kling (at is off on the Reformation discussion again for higher education. His thesis is that higher education, like the church before the reformation, has a series of taxes (tuitions) and odd theologies(political correctness) that the majority of people are beginning to reject. That falls in line with people like Dennis Prager who has advocated that people do not send their children to college - simply let them have a year or two out of high school and then send them to the cheapest one possible.

The critics' reading of history is not very good. Indeed, the reformation was first and foremost about corrective ideas suggestions that could help an important institution in society to be better. Luther was trying to get his colleagues to think differently. There are a lot of things different about this situation. First is monopoly - the church in Luther's time had a monopoly - but higher education, even traditional higher education does not. Look at the proprietaries and the range of non-traditional institutions and you can see change. Even look to some of the traditional ones - change is coming. The best are looking for better ways to meet this generation of students and the next generation of knowledge. Kling talks about the wide availability of knowledge but look no further than the Leavey library at USC to see how great universities are thinking differently about how knoweldge is used. Go down the lane a bit to the labratory sites and see how the transmission of knowledge is changing.

Then think about technology - Luther's quest was to change an institution and to, in essence, restore a theology. But the widely available net that we have today was not then - does Kling think that this will not influence the academy? There are other forces at work too - wider in society that will affect higher education.

Institutions that celebrate their major events in ancient costumes are slow to change - but just because the robes are still there, and just because there are people like Ward Churchill - does not mean we are not adjusting to the new realities.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The New Orleans Zephyrs

I am in the Big Easy for a meeting tomorrow and thought it would be a kick to go to the AAA affiliate of the Wasington Capitols in New Orleans. The stadium is a bit older than Raley field and a bit smaller - seats about 10,000 fully packed. Tonight was opening night. About 60% full. Nice mix of a crowd. No hot dog cannon. But cheaper ticket prices ($9.50 for box seats) and cheaper food - lots of barbeque and other southern specialties and pretty good baseball but a pretty slow pace. At 9:45 (2 1/2 hours in) they were finished with 7 innings. I like the ambience of the stadium but then I like minor league baseball stadiums in general.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Early in the Season

Tonight's game was a yawner. The Raniers had a hot prospect named Hernandez- who is 19 and threw for 5 good innings. His speed was pretty impressive - although one of the Rivercats pitchers recorded a C (100 mph) late in the game. The night was cold - about 60 degrees and the crowd was small. The Rivercats just could not get it together - losing 4-0. The most excitement of the game came before it - when we both got some all-star paraphrenalia and when I went and got coffee - which raised the temperature in the section by a couple of degrees. Dan Johnson got thrown out on a very lousy call. But umpires are relatively human.

Also saw two relatively rare calls -

The infield fly rule is a rule used to prevent a team from letting a pop-up drop in order to get two outs instead of the one that catching the ball would accomplish. It is called when a pop-up is hit on the infield (judgment call by the umpire) and there are less than 2 outs and runners on first and second base, or the bases are loaded. The reason is that a player could let the ball drop and because all of the baserunners return to the bases assuming the ball will be caught, the fielder could presumably throw to two bases for a double play as if it were a ground ball. Once the rule has been called by the umpire (done by pointing to the sky) the batter is out, and the runners can advance at their own risk after tagging up like they would on a fly ball.

There are a couple requirements for a balk. When the pitcher is on the rubber and comes to a set position, which is when they plant their lead foot into the position they throw from they must then make a movement toward their throwing direction. If they are going to throw to a base they have to step in the direction of the base. Once in a set postion a pitcher can't move his body without throwing to the plate or a base, if they do it is a balk. A pitcher can also balk if they do not come to a complete stop when they go into their set position, There is not time limit on the stop as long as they come to a complete stop. A pitcher can also commit a balk if they got to their mouth while on the dirt of the pitchers mound. If a balk is issue each runner on base gets to move up one base and the play is dead. If there are not runners on base then the batter is issued a ball.

I always have to remind myself about both rules.

More on Sheepskin Envy

An eternal truth of higher education, as proposed by my longtime friend from Massachusetts Clare Cotton , is that three things drive us. To wit - greed, status and envy. We had the first hearing today on the bill proposing to change the Master Plan and I was struck with three things. First, aspirations seem to drive policy. The CSU aspires to be able to get more status - they are clearly not content with simply being the biggest public university system in the country and lord knows they don't seem intent on perfecting the model. But a lot of the questions by members in the committee were related to aspirations of constituents to get a title after their name. Second, sound research may or may not influence policy. A recent study by the Teacher's College at Columbia - a thoughtful and innovative place - suggests that the Ed.D. may not be a way to train people to run schools. That suggests two alternatives - either change the nature of the Ed.D. or equally logically, change the nature of the credentials recognized for school leadership. But the discussion in the committee suggested that creating a credential to match the aspirations and then offering them regardless of the demonstrated improvements in schools (more Ed.D.s do not seem to make much difference in school performance). Finally, being a good research university in not an easy job. UC is a pretty good place. They have done a serious effort to build new educational programs with CSU in joint programs. But these things cannot be built in a day. In the coming few years there will be 500 more slots in the state for these joint programs - but that does not seem to matter (500 is a lot of people in doctoral education if you want to maintain quality).

One other conclusion on the discussion today. The main representative for CSU commented they do 80% of the training of public school people in the state. That is nonsense. She knew and and so did everyone in the room - but she claimed it still. The #2 guy in CSU claimed that CSU will NEVER ask for more state support for these programs (even though he was quoted in a faculty senate discussion of saying we will get the program and then ask for more dough). That means one of a few things - either other parts of CSU will suffer (longer graduation times for undergraduates for example) or much higher costs for the students in the programs - or longer times to degree for each of the programs than would normally be taken in UC or independent college program. CSU probably has some faculty who could do some excellent training in this area. And were they creative they might suggest a new type of training that did not try to change the Masterplan for Higher Education - but aspirations are a powerful force.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sheepskin Envy

One of the fights we are in this year is an odd one. About 45 years ago the state adopted something called the Master Plan for Higher Education - whose most important tenet was "differentiation of function" - the state made a decision to focus each of the public sectors. So, UC was given doctoral and professional education, CSU was given undergraduate education, and the Community Colleges, would be open ended places to do the first two years. The systems were given differential admissions requirements and fee structures.

The system offered something positive and something negative. The positive created a UC that is often described as the best public research university in the country. The negative is that completion rates, especially in the CSU and Community Colleges rank California near the bottom among the states.

But as William Massey, the sage of Stanford, once said universities are often stuck in the lattice effect. Everyone is not satisfied with doing their job well but want to offer more programs at the next higher level. CSU, several times, has asked for authority to offer doctoral degrees. Each time they drum up a need and then try to press it forward. Several times they have argued that since they train teachers they should have independent authority for an Ed.D. But each time previously the efforts have been held up on logic - the expense of new programs would divert resources from the key purpose.

Three years ago, Charlie Reed, the bombastic chancellor of the CSU system, who came from that bastion of educational excellence Florida, pressed hard for authority to offer the Ed.D. In Florida you can get a degree at almost any public institution - but can you think of any nationally ranked educational institution there? He maneuvered to cut out the independents and concluded a deal with UC where he would renounce the need for a big investment in joint programs. Based on the experience since then - there have been a number of new programs developed between CSU and UC as well as one big one with the independents and CSU. For that deal, he put up a lot of dough and also agreed to renounce the envy for the future. The future only lasted about three years.

Now Reed would like to offer clinical doctorates - in Audiology and Physical Therapy. Without a real demonstration in need, without any serious attempt to move forward with joint programs - he wants the independent authority to offer these programs. The problem is if they do not use state support - the programs will be priced as much as existing programs. At the same time, since doctoral programs are expensive to develop, undergraduate programs in CSU are likely to suffer even greater degredation in graduation rates.

Why couldn't CSU concentrate on its primary tasks and do them well - i.e. graduate undergraduates in a reasonable amount of time? Many of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country do that quite well. It is odd. In any other industry there is a recognition that doing what you do well is an admirable goal - would Starbucks begin to offer hamburgers?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Rivercats and Three More Days

We missed the game on Friday against the Portland Beavers - but as I was driving back from a board meeting in Stockton - I heard the last of the game. WIth two outs in the top of the ninth the Portland team tied it up. The Cats went on to win in the 10th.

We did go on Saturday and they stunk the place up, losing 10-2. The score is not a good indication of how bad they really were. Dan Johnson is a classy player and usually good but in this game he even slipped up - stepping off the base in an easy out. Tony DeFrancesca came out and beefed the ref - I think just to pump up his team (which did not work). One wag interpreted the conversation with Tony saying something like "have you heard the latest knock-knock joke?" all the while waving his fist - he knew his 1st baseman was wrong but it was a chance to show support.

Today, they came back to look mostly like opening day. They got behind early but then had a marvelous inning where the entire team got to bat - they ended up winning 10-6.

Tried two new taste treats at the park this evening - an ice cream hot dog (fair) and a meatball sandwich (lousy). The new Dinger Dog - which is big - is pretty good. I still like the polish at the park. Beautiful day - sunny and a bit breezy - only wish some of the days in the summer were this pleasant.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Political Capital, more on spending it wisely

Yesterday, the Governor conceded that the public employee pension issue was going to be (in the nicest of terms) put off a bit. Needless to say the opposition is patting itself on the back. At the beginning of this set of fights there were three comments - somewhat contradictory. The first was that the Governor had bitten off more than he could chew. contribution of less than $200 million to more than $2 billion in a couple of years - there is something out of whack. But having a provision that seemingly leaves widows and orphans out in the cold - especially for public safety is just plain dumb. The long term trend in pensions should be away from defined benefit plans. Compensation to state employees is generous in current terms and outrageous in future terms when pensions are added in. But the thing needed a bit more thought.

What is annoying about this is that it is predictable. The consultants are pocketing lots of dough but is the public policy agenda moving forward? In recent weeks the opponents of redistricting - another of the Governor's priorities - have done an ad that disingeniously argues that we should watch out for the judges who took God out of the pledge. The groups sponsoring the ad are the people who want those judges in place. Go figure.

The saving grace is that the opponents still look weak and with the right management of issues - the Governor might be able to yank us into progress.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Opening Day

The Rivercats opened this evening with a 7-0 win over the Portland Beavers (a Padres team). It was a cold night but a good start to the season. There are nine returning players - out of 25 that is a small start. But there are some interesting new players - a couple with good base speed. We took Mason - our grandson - and he stayed for the full game. While he did not watch much he seemed to have a great time. What a kick.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


There is a joke told about lawyers that I have always liked - California has more trial lawyers and New Jersey has more toxic waste dumps. Explain why. New Jersey got first choice.

Indeed the law is an honorable profession, but the number of instances where avarice beats ethics are too numerous to ignore. Take for example a case where we just filed an Amicus brief. A woman went to one university in California's volleyball contest. She had been to this sports pavillion many times before and most often sat on the second level. But in this game she chose to sit on the first floor. In between one of the games that evening, the band was doing what bands do at college games (the band was two sections away) and her attention was diverted and she got hit in the head with an errant ball which caused a detached retina. She went home, called her lawyer and sued the university.

There is a well established standard in law called primary assumption of risk. If you go to a public event where unexpected things can happen, in most cases you assume that things might happen and you should exercise care. But the woman and her attorney argue that a) college bands are not an integral part of college athletics and b) someone should compensate her for her inattention - even though she could have thoroughly protected herself if she had sat at the second level.

In the first hearing on this idiotic claim the trial judge did not dismiss the claim and so the university has had to argue the thing at the appellant level. What a waste of time.

John Paul's Remarks

As I was browsing my computer today - I ran across the remarks that John Paul II offered to that university convocation. As I re-read it while sitting in a hearing, I was inspired again. So here it is.

Address of the Holy Father
For the Jubilee of University Teachers

Saturday, 9 September 2000

Dear University Teachers,

1. I am happy to meet you in this year of grace, when Christ powerfully calls us to a stronger faith and a deep renewal of life. I thank you especially for the commitment you have shown in the spiritual and cultural gatherings which have marked these days. Looking out at you, my thoughts turn to university teachers of all Nations as well as to the students entrusted to their guidance on the path of research, a path both arduous and joyful, and I send them cordial greetings. I greet also Senator Ortensio Zecchino, Minister for Universities, who is here representing the Italian Government.
The distinguished Professors who have just spoken have allowed me to see how rich and articulate your reflection has been. I thank them most sincerely. This Jubilee gathering has been for each of you a timely moment to consider just how well the great event which we are celebrating, the Incarnation of the Word of God, has been accepted as a life-giving principle informing and transforming the whole of life.
Yes, for Christ is not a symbol of some vague religious reality, rather he is the concrete point where, in the person of the Son, God makes our humanity completely his own. With Christ, "the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face" (Fides et Ratio, 12). This "self-emptying" of God, even to the "scandal" of the Cross (cf. Phil 2:7), can seem foolishness to that reason which is enamoured of itself. In Fact, this self-emptying is "the power and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23-24) for those who are open to the unexpectedness of his love. You are here to give witness to that.

2. The basic theme which you have considered °V The University for a New Humanism °V fits well with the Jubilee's rediscovery of the centrality of Christ. In fact, the event of the Incarnation touches the very depths of humanity, it illuminates our origin and destiny and it opens us to the hope which does not disappoint. As men and women of learning, you never cease to enquire into the value of the human person. Each of you could say, with the ancient philosopher: "I am searching for man"!
Among the many responses given to this fundamental quest, you have accepted that given by Christ, a response which emerges from his words but which is seen even before shining brightly on his face. Ecce homo: Behold the man! (Jn 19:5) In showing Christ's battered face to the frenzied crowd, Pilate did not imagine that he would, in a sense, speak a word of revelation. Unwittingly, he pointed out to the world the One in whom all human beings can recognize their origin, and in whom all can hope to find their salvation. Redemptor hominis: this is the image of Christ which, from my first Encyclical, I have sought to "shout" to the world, and which this Jubilee year seeks to propose anew to human minds and hearts.

3. Drawing your inspiration from Christ, who reveals man to himself (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), you have chosen in the meetings of these days to reaffirm the need for a university culture which is genuinely "humanistic", in the sense °V°V primarily °V°V that culture must correspond to the human person and overcome the temptation to a knowledge which yields to pragmatism or which loses itself in the endless meanderings of erudition. Such knowledge is incapable of giving meaning to life.
That is why you have emphasized that there is no contradiction, but rather a logical connection, between freedom of research and recognition of truth. It is to truth that all research looks, albeit with the limitations and fatigue of human thought. This is an aspect which needs to be underlined, lest we succumb to the climate of relativism to which a large part of today's culture falls prey. The reality is that if culture is not directed towards truth, which must be sought both humbly and confidently, it is doomed to disappear into the ephemeral, losing itself to the instability of opinion, and perhaps giving itself over to the domineering will °V though often disguised °V of the strongest.
A culture without truth does not safeguard freedom but puts it at risk. I have said this on a number of occasions: "The demands of truth and morality neither degrade nor abolish our freedom, but on the contrary enable freedom to exist and liberate it from its own inherent threats" (Discorso al Convegno ecclesiale di Palermo, in Insegnamenti, XVIII, 2, 1995, p. 1198). In this sense, the words of Christ remain decisive: "The truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32).

4. Rooted in the perspective of truth, Christian humanism implies first of all an openness to the Transcendent. It is here that we find the truth and the grandeur of the human person, the only creature in the visible world capable of self-awareness and recognizing that he is surrounded by that supreme Mystery which both reason and faith call God. What is needed is a humanism in which the perspectives of science and faith no longer seem to be in conflict.
Yet we cannot be satisfied with an ambiguous reconciliation of the kind favoured by a culture which doubts the very ability of reason to arrive at the truth. This path runs the risk of misconstruing faith by reducing it to a feeling, to emotion, to art: in the end stripping faith of all critical foundation. But this would not be Christian faith, which demands instead a reasonable and responsible acceptance of all that God has revealed in Christ. Faith does not sprout from the ashes of reason! I strongly encourage all of you, men and women of the University, to spare no effort in rebuilding that aspect of learning which is open to Truth and the Absolute.

5. Let it be clear, however, that this "vertical" dimension of learning does not imply any kind of closing in on itself; on the contrary, by its very nature it opens out to the dimensions of all creation. And how could it be otherwise? In acknowledging the Creator, mankind recognizes the value of creatures. In opening themselves to the Word made flesh, people also accept all the things that have been made in him (cf.Jn 1:3) and that have been redeemed by him. We must, therefore, rediscover the original and eschatological meaning of Creation, respecting all its intrinsic requirements, but also enjoying it in terms of freedom, responsibility, creativity, joy, "rest" and contemplation. As a splendid passage from the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "enjoying creatures in poverty and freedom of spirit, [man] is led to possess the world in truth, as if at one and the same time he has nothing and possesses everything. 'All is yours: but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God' (1 Cor 3:22-23)" (Gaudium et Spes, 37).
Today the most attentive epistemological reflection recognizes the need for the human and natural sciences to enter into dialogue once again, so that learning may recover the sense of a profoundly unified inspiration. Scientific and technological progress in our day puts into human hands possibilities which are both magnificent and frightening. A recognition of the limits of science, in the consideration of moral demands, is not obscurantism but is the guarantee that research will be worthy of the human person and put at the service of life.
You, my dear friends who are involved in scientific research, must make universities "cultural laboratories" in which theology, philosophy, human sciences and natural sciences may engage in constructive dialogue, looking to the moral law as an intrinsic requirement of research and a condition for its full value in seeking out the truth.

6. Knowledge enlightened by faith, far from abandoning areas of daily life, invests them with all the strength of hope and prophecy. The humanism which we desire advocates a vision of society centred on the human person and his inalienable rights, on the values of justice and peace, on a correct relationship between individuals, society and the State, on the logic of solidarity and subsidiarity. It is a humanism capable of giving a soul to economic progress itself, so that it may be directed to "the promotion of each individual and of the whole person" (cf. Populorum Progressio, 14; and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 30).
In particular, it is urgent for us to work to ensure that the true sense of democracy, an authentic achievement of culture, is fully safeguarded. In this regard, worrisome trends have emerged, as when democracy is reduced to a purely procedural matter, or when it is thought that the will of the majority is sufficient of itself to determine the moral acceptability of a law. In reality, "the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes...The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable 'majority' opinions, but only the acknowledgement of an objective moral law which, as the 'natural law' written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself" (Evangelium Vitae, 70).

7. Dear friends, the University too, no less than other institutions, is experiencing the trials of the present time. Nevertheless it makes an irreplaceable contribution to culture, provided that it does not lose its original character of being an institution dedicated to research and at the same time to a vital formative °V I would even say "educational" °V function for the benefit especially of young generations. This function must be placed at the centre of reforms and adaptations which may prove necessary for this ancient institution to remain in step with the times
With its humanistic aspects, Christian faith can make an original contribution to the life of the University and to its educational task, to the extent that Christian witness is borne by energetic thought and coherency of life, in a critical and constructive dialogue with those who promote a different vision. It is my hope that this perspective will be further developed in the worldwide meetings which will soon see the involvement of rectors, administrative directors of universities, university chaplains, and students themselves in their international "forum".

8. Distinguished teachers! On the Gospel is founded an understanding of the world and of the human person which does not cease to unleash cultural, humanistic and ethical values for a correct vision of life and of history. Be profoundly convinced of this, and make it a gauge of your commitment.
The Church, which historically has played a primary role in the actual birth of Universities, continues to look upon them with deep fondness, and from you she expects a decisive contribution so that this institution will enter into the new Millennium having fully rediscovered itself as a place in which openness to knowledge, passion for truth, and interest in the future of humanity may develop in a noteworthy way. May this Jubilee meeting place its indelible mark within each of you and inspire you with new strength for this demanding task.
With this desire, in the name of Christ, the Lord of history and the Redeemer of mankind, I bless you all with great affection.

Monday, April 04, 2005

John Paul II

In the Fall of 2000 as a part of the Jubileum I was invited as a speaker at a convocation of academics. The Vatican held a series of conferences celebrating the 2000th anniversary of Christ's birth. The academic one was a series of convocations held by various orders to discuss academic mission. The one I went to was an interesting meeting. The proceedings were published in a book about Globalization and Higher Education.

As part of the event we were given two opportunities to see the Pope. The first, on a Saturday, was held in a hall behind St. Peter's. We got a good seat so when John Paul came in - we were close. He looked, as a walked in, very frail. He sat in a white chair - similar to the ones you the pontiff in with heads of state. But when he sat down and began to speak he commanded the room. He asked, what is the purpose of a university? He answered - to find truth. He then asked how can a university fail in its mission? The first way was to fail to seek the truth. The second was to wander into "endless meanderings of erudition." Luckily, although he gave the homily in Italian, I had someone next to me who could translate. His speech was simple but powerful. He showed his true commitment to the academic life.

The next day, we went to a mass in the square. Again, because of who I was with, I was able to get preferred seating. I was struck again with how frail his form was but how absolutely powerful his presence was. In this instance he spoke haltingly - but his message was clear and forthright.

I am not a Catholic. But I was struck on those two days, that I had been in the presence of a holy man with a powerful intellect and other gifts that transcended his physical conditions. It was truly an inspiration.

In the last few days the "but-monkeys" have begun to come out. John Paul II was a great pope but...... What struck me about these comments is how little they were compared to the substance I saw in the two times I encountered him directly.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Remarkable Events

Last night, the Association that I lead held the first of a couple of celebrations of 50 years in operation. We did a reception in the state capitol. In it we chose to celebrate the work of the Association by highlighting the first of what promises to be 50 individuals who have led distinguished lives in some way and have a tie to an independent college. For example, we honored a professor who has spent 40 years at Biola University teaching in a number of areas. When you spoke with him, you found a remarkable dedication to the profession of teaching; genuine excitement about his life work. Another is a young capitol staffer who has probably another 40 years ahead of him but has already distinguished himself in the process. The third was president of St. Mary's college for almost 30 years. He helped to create a great books program at St. Mary's but unlike many other college presidents he actually lived in the dorms - then and now. A fourth was president of the Association before me but had a long career in public and independent higher education - as a professor and then an administrator. One who we will honor in the future has spent her entire career at the Claremont colleges helping students get admitted and then helping them in manifold ways while they were there. The final nominee last night is the Associate Dean of Admissions at Fresno Pacific University, a university with a Mennonite heritage, that has taken up the needs of its area in serving a completely new population of students.

None of these people are prominent. But the interesting thing to me about each of them was their commitment. Commitment to the sector. Commitment to leaving the world a bit better than they found it. That should not be remarkable, but it is.