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What Are the Main Arguments That Newman Puts Forward as the Ideal Functions of an University?

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What are the main arguments that Newman puts forward as the ideal functions of an university?

The idea of an university is one of Cardinal John Henry Newman's most famous essays. In this essay he explores what should be the ideal functions of an university; with respect to the needs of the world and the needs of the society at large. Since Newman has the honorary position of a Cardinal of the Church, religion plays a major role in the composition and the arguments of this essay, indeed he addresses this essay primarily to Catholics. When this essay was written the Protestants had founded many universities where education was often influenced by protestant perspectives. Hence this essay also highlights the importance of a Catholic based institute of education. However he does argue that the ideal university can't be based or influenced by religion. Furthermore he states that universities should concentrate on not teaching students and dismissing them when they have achieved proficiency in their area, but that they should be taught how to learn. He extends this argument by saying that, a student who has been educated until he/she is 17, is no match against a student who has been educated until he/she is 22. Henceforth universities should provide a place for further education, and enhanced facilities to support the student in his/her education. Universities also provide the vital training that an individual requires to become and intellect. Newman states that universities should polish ones intellect and modify one's perspective so that one is able to perceive things for what they are and not what they seem. He further outlines a general curriculum of the basic things that an ideal university should teach, regardless of the student's area of concentration. The subjects outlined provide the basic sophistication that an intelligent mind requires. Newman also stresses that Universities should provide a range of subjects and not focus on one subject only. He argues that if someone is in an environment where many subjects are taught, said person will gain some degree of proficiency in all the subjects, even though he/she does not study the subject. Thereby this student will understand how much weight a subject carries and to what extent that subject can be trusted for the pursuit of knowledge. He concludes by saying that universities will also satisfy the human's natural thirst for knowledge. He points out that knowledge in itself does not stay caged within one person; instead it disperses and rebounds from one person to another. His final argument is that a human being isn't born perfect, and the achievement of perfection is a life-long pursuit which is satisfying in itself, he states that knowledge is a very important part of this process and one should be considered incomplete if one lacks this component. Using the above arguments Newman portrays an unique picture of what an ideal university should be like, a picture that all universities across the globe should try to replicate.

Newman begins his essay by saying that an university is "a place of teaching universal knowledge". This implies that the education at an university should be intellectual and not moral. Universal knowledge is not the knowledge of everything between the heavens and the earth; rather it is the knowledge which enables one to perceive and understand everything that one may come across. However, such a pursuit would be incomplete without any form of moral education. Therefore he comes to the conclusion that even though an university in its essence must be independent of the church, however it cannot practically fulfill its objective without the Church's assistance. Henceforth Newman proposes that an university must have an independent "office of intellectual education", however for the sake of its integrity the Church must be present to "steady it in the performance of that office".

Newman also points out that as human beings we have a specific purpose in life. "Just as a commander wishes to have tall and well-formed and vigorous soldiers, not from any abstract devotion...but for the purposes of war" in a similar manner, an university should aim to train them to fill their respective posts in life better. He further states that an university should aim to produce intelligent, capable and active members of society to fulfill the role of the human being as a social animal and as a citizen of Earth. An university shouldn't produce nothing better or higher than the "antiquated variety of human nature and remnant of feudalism" commonly known as a gentleman. One who has a very firm grasp of science, art, professional skill, literature but has no notion of a world that is bigger than the narrow minded perspective that he has been trained for. These people may benefit the University for the short-run; however in the long-run they become incapable of any form of development and pretty soon they become burdens on an ever-changing, ever-evolving society. We are not to help ourselves only, but to help others. An university should educate one in a way that promotes the growth of moral and intellectual habits, habits of learning and updating oneself continuously. If these habits can be nurtured in an individual; said individual will become open-minded and continuously develop himself/herself. Thereby they will always be contributing to society and by extension the world at large. "Nothing short of this can be his aim" and the production of individuals such as this should be the objective of the ideal University. Having said that, it must be noted that, in order to be intelligent, capable, active members of society we need a firm grasp of science, art, professional skill and literature. We need these characteristics but they should be taught in a way which does not impose on the aforementioned intellectual and moral habits. Newman concludes by saying that this is not about the opposition between knowledge versus intellect, this is about their differences. The ideal university bridges these differences by providing knowledge that broadens ones perspectives and shows the possibility of a newer, brighter and more diverse future for the individual. When an individual can see the world in this manner, then he/she can set out to truly achieve perfection, as is human nature.

Newman also raises the point that Universities provide a platform for further education. "A youth who ends his education at seventeen is no match (ceteris paribus) for one who ends it at twenty-two". At seventeen one is at the prime age to receive new knowledge. This is the age to develop habits, install perceptions and learn reason. An university should provide a base for the continuum of education. Being a cardinal of the Catholic



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