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Brugger: The Age of Reason and Its Discontents
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Brugger: The Age of Reason and Its Discontents

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Historically the Age of Reason, sometimes called the Enlightenment, was between the years 1650 and 1800. Using reason rather than instinct or sentimentality to reach conclusions became the usual way of solving problems by the nineteenth century. However useful that was, it was not adopted universally or without opposition. The last decades of the twentieth century ushered in powerful opposition to reason, best illustrated with Fredrich Nietzsche’s philosophy that God is Dead.

A newspaper column does not have space for an in-depth discussion of the debate. It is fair to say that divides across a substantial area of public, religious, and private thought have developed at this point of contention. For many, theological debate has become embedded with political and scientific discussion. We are in a new era of discontent. In this newspaper, the theological discussion occurs on Saturdays. While the mind or will of God is essential, this column is about Idaho politics.

Idaho Freedom Action (AFA), the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s lobbying arm, has targeted any Idaho legislator who does not want to punish Boise State because the University has developed courses that talk about diversity and social justice. Their concern appears to be that the classes might persuade young minds to.........what, exactly? The same logic applies when talking about sex education and climate change. Dustin Hurst from AFA, quoted in the March 28 Times-News, said, “We want Idaho colleges to stick to their core mission and prepare students for the workforce.”

His reasoning is incorrect. Boise State is a university, not a college. A college provides specialized professional or technical training, while a university is a collection of colleges, usually called departments. Boise State’s core mission is education. Idaho’s community colleges are more focused on workforce training. All schools, colleges, apprenticeships, and universities provide education. Education includes the knowledge every human needs to function in the world. Education is not indoctrination.

Institutions have doctrines that are useful for effective continuity, but innovation depends on questioning doctrine. Rules can change, and it is often an improvement in the accomplishment of a goal that they do change. Examination of societies that depend upon indoctrinating their members reveals stagnation. The two examples of modern countries with both a central doctrine and a desire for innovation, Russia and China, must use propaganda and limits on unapproved information to function. These government controls are unacceptable in a country like the United States that values independence and freedom.

I don’t want to ignore the Freedom Foundation, but I am not persuaded that their policy proposals align with their organization’s name. What does freedom mean to them? Their plans always want to curtail something. The subjects taught by Boise University are not mandatory. Students are free to ignore them. There are natural consequences that come from having different thoughts than the prevailing culture. The United States, as a nation of law, protects people whose thinking is in the minority from unwarranted censure. However, we do not protect anyone from peaceful opposition to their beliefs.

To protect our freedom, we must always question our laws in the light of our goal of a free society. Are we imposing too many restrictions on our citizens? Freedom can be subjective, but our impulse should always lean toward more freedom of thought and action than less. Punishing an elected representative of the people for upholding American ideals is against any common sense understanding of freedom. It is not reasonable.

Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at She welcomes feedback.



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