Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some Things Never Change

"At BYU to be a smart a difficult thing because they don't encourage that, or at least they didn't back in the early 1970's." - Margaret Merrill Toscano from this podcast.

That was certainly the same experience I had at BYU some 30 years later.  Only, I would go further and say that to be a smart girl was discouraged, which is pretty sad when I consider the average GPA of admitted Freshman the year I started.  ALL of the girls there were "smart girls".  Some were more ambitious about academics and careers than others.  But, all had significant intellectual capabilities and potential.  I have serious problems with a "university" that discourages or fails to encourage intellectual growth and achievement in fully half of the student body.  I also have doubts that one can get a true education* at a university so lacking in diversity of thought, where tenured faculty are regularly fired for expressing points of view (no matter how well-researched and considered) that differ from the official church party line.  I believe it is impossible to be a truly tenured professor at BYU under those circumstances.  BYU stifles growth and intellect in students and faculty alike.  I will be quite disheartened if "smart girls", the other half of the student body, and the faculty are having the same experiences in 2030. 

*I consider a true education to be one in which all new ideas, points of view, and history are presented openly and discussed freely, without threat of discipline for students or professors.  I am not contending that one cannot obtain a valid degree in a particular field of study at BYU.  Rather, I contend that the real point of a college education is not to learn WHAT to think, but to learn HOW to think. If a BYU student manages to learn how to think critically at BYU, it is only through fault (damn intellectuals) of their own.


  1. I'll throw my opinion in on how they discourage smart girls. There is a constant pressure to date, date, date. You've got to find that mate. And then the pressure to have babies already. I get so angry when my daughter tells me about the dating "auctions" and the ward dating specialist. Why can't they just let those poor kids have a real college experience and just enjoy learning and being young? It's just as bad now as it was when I was there 30 years ago.

  2. I agree with Zena 100%.

    Here is my dramatic example: I was told directly (in person) by a Dean of Students (or similar title) that pursuing a PhD in Mathematics (or even an undergraduate math degree) was "incongruous" with being a wife and mother. In addition, I declared myself as a math major but mysteriously become listed as a math education major (because teaching high school is compatible with motherhood). When I went to the math department to correct the clerical error, I was actually asked if I had prayed about the decision. When I replied that I had not, as this wasn't a change of heart on my part but a clerical error on the part of someone else, I was advised to go pray about it and come back if needed in a few weeks. My irritation at this suggestion was what caused me to schedule an appointment with the dean in the first place.

    I had other experiences but they were too numerous to describe. Because I was considering, a little later on, a change to a bio major, I asked women in the bio programs about their experiences and their stories were just as discouraging as mine.

    Maybe this problem is more pronounced in the sciences than in the humanities or arts. I wouldn't know.

  3. I know a retired professor at Oregon State, Stephen Hawkes, who was raised Mormon (in England) and ended up teaching at BYU. Like others, his research to confirm "facts" in the Book of Mormon revealed conflicting information. Short story, he renounced his Mormon beliefs, was fired from BYU and excommunicated from the church. (I've actually seen his excommunication document). Stephen is a happy Atheist now.

  4. I attended BYU for one semester and HATED IT. It was like one big meat market! Hello dumbass RM, I'm not here to get invited to FHE and play f----ing Red Rover and Tag. I'm here for a real college experience. Thanks.

  5. Which, I should add, I (obviously) did not get and moved to college in California. Thank God.