This will be my last blog post. At least, my last for some time. For I have bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket, whose face value is reportedly $540 million United States dollars. I expect to win.
That $540 Really Big Ones, because of taxes and the structure of the annuity which is actually won, works out to about $180 million cash. This is enough. I will use some of the money to feed, clothe, and shelter me and mine for our remaining years in this phase of our existence, and the rest will go towards founding a college.
Yes, a new college. I have in mind something the kind of place which is a cross between what Isaac Asimov had Hari Seldon (another statistician) found and a middle medieval institution in the scholastic tradition (a sort of How the Irish Saved Civilization scenario).
In Foundation Seldon had predicted, centuries in advance, the collapse of civilization and the loss of culture. Although all appeared now strong, he warned “the rotten tree trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had.” He placed his gathering of scholars to a far remove, a place so remote it could be forgotten, a land (planet) where (as the Chinese say) “the mountains are high and the emperor far away.”
I have been told Beaver Island is that place, but I have been leaning on Samoa, which would welcome the infusion of cash, and which is always clement, and “hidden” such that I’d bet not one politician in fifty could locate it on a map. I’m open to suggestion, here.
There is of course a difference between Trantor and the West. The collapse of the former was organic, the result of inexorable economic forces, while the dissolution of the latter is largely voluntary with many in academia not just walking but sprinting away from their birthright, willfully making Lot’s trip in reverse.
Asimov had Seldon at his trial (for no emperor likes bad news) say “truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.” He unnecessarily prefixed the word “Scientific” to this sentence. This does not change the truth of the proposition, but it unnecessarily limits it. Science at this new college, yes, but not scientism. Scientism is the belief that all truth can be known through science, which is a manifest falsity. Indeed, the definition falls down upon itself because the definition is not a scientific statement.
Now to what will be studied. Did you not know that there are many, more than a few, universities in this country with departments of religion which have no courses on theology, the subject which Newman called the queen of sciences? Even if you reject all of metaphysics (an impossible task logically) you should be able to defend why you do so, and even if you claim all religion a nullity you should be able to refute its real tenets and not just restate cartoon myths such as “more wars were started by religion”, etc. The point is: before studying anything, one should learn why one should study.
As for the school entertaining a “business major”:
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Actually, there will be no “departments” and no majors. There will be scholars and students, chosen for their competence and not their credentials (some of us have learned the lessons of William James). In some scholars, there will be an extreme narrowness of focus, of sublime expertise. Others will mean broad reach and catholic tastes. Scholars will be judged on their ability to guide and teach: we recognize that true original contributions to knowledge in foundational subjects are rare. Scholars may only be dismissed because of incompetence, turpitude, outright criminality, what we used to call mortal sins.
Faculty to student ratio will be 8 to 1: no higher. Students, capped at say 1,000 souls, who are admitted based on their willingness to learn and whose first goal is not a job, will face a three- to four-year ordeal of guided reading and study, with only minimal lecturing. To graduate, they will have to find seven (plus or minus one, perhaps) faculty who agree that the student has reached “competence” in a course of study which these faculty agree upon. The student must corral these faculty on his own, and all faculty must have at least one (or two, of whatever number) under his wing.
As to funding, the $180 mill’ will be enough to build and leave enough of an endowment to pay the salaries of all for a good number of years. But more will be needed, so all students, who will pay no tuition but who must work in maintaining the college (cleaning their diggings and buildings, etc.), must on their honor pledge 1% (maybe 1.5%) of their future yearly income to the college. As our students would certainly be taught the meaning of “honor”, these monies will be enough to sustain the school.
There are many more details, but the money will give me the luxury of time to contemplate them.
There. This fantasy—mine, probably not yours—was worth the one dollar it cost me for the ticket.