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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 41,847

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Lynchburg without the stranglehold of the Falwells

Maybe one good thing about the scandals reigned upon Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife, Becki, is that Lynchburg may be free of the Falwells as unelected local government.

I went to school at Sweet Briar College, graduating in 1979. I've watched as for 40+ years, the City has been in the grips of Jerry Falwell and then his son via their college/university and to a lesser degree, their church, the Thomas Road Baptist Church.* The school has been incrementally buying up land and taking it off tax rolls, thereby raising the municipal taxes borne by local residents. Jerry Falwell had so much influence that when he died in May, 2007, the public schools made an announcement over the public address system. (My goddaughter leapt up and yelled, "Yay!" ) I went out for take-out that week-end in Lynchburg and the local Pizza Hut had a Jerry Falwell and black crepe on the computer screen-saver when I went to pay.

As it is, Liberty University is the biggest employer in the City, if not the region, and calls a lot of shots as far as ordinances and zoning, again, without the precondition of elections.

I don't know in which direction Liberty University will take, but at least it won't be for the financial benefit with power that has been given to the Falwells. For all I know, it might become a true Christian college. (Naaaaaaaaaaaaah!)

* Lynchburg has about 100 Baptist churches. Thomas Road is the largest and wealthiest.

The "Liberal Arts"

I graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1979. I majored in Music and Fine Arts. I studied three modern languages. I studied music history, art history, and theater history. I took two semesters of European Civilization. I composed rondos and song cycles and analyzed music scores of symphonies. I found overlap of other courses in the ones I was currently taking. I learned Greek philosophy, history, and cultural references.

On final examinations, my professors didn't want a regurgitation of my notes. They wanted me to demonstrate that I UNDERSTOOD the nuances, the connections, the relevancy, and the application for new situations. Even the foreign languages.

While I had my own individual program of education, my friends shared many of the courses I took. Some specialized in English Literature, Modern Dance, History, Economics, Biology, et al. We could discuss any pedestrian subject at a meal and pull out a cultural reference that the others understood.

I thought I was learning everything that ALL educated people should know. Now I know better.

I am more than educated. I am cultured.

While I don't present myself as Elite, unfortunately by default, that's what I am. I know more than many other college graduates. I know how to employ critical thinking and how to defend my theses. Without a second thought, I'll let slip a "common" French phrase that is incomprehensible. Even using certain English vocabulary turns into an exercise of using a foreign language among certain people.

While I value the advantages that Liberal Arts have given me, I also feel humbled because I also believe that this kind of education is for a privileged few. And there were plenty of students at Sweet Briar who took the courses and didn't seem to be transformed by this Knowledge.

I'm not saying that I know "too much." I have a feeling of democracy where on one hand, I wish it were more widely available; and on the other hand, it would be deferred or refused as it would be irrelevant to the needs of others who depend upon raw survival, not a heightened awareness of society, the world, and culture.

Epilogue: In light of its survival, Sweet Briar College is a now a low-impact liberal arts college. In order to attract more students, it has altered its curriculum to CORE where courses are directed towards the goals of leadership and immediate applicability. Many of the language courses are gone. Music is no longer music history in eras or music theory. While there is performance, there is no theater history. What I was fortunate enough to have is no longer offered. I understand why. The college would have disappeared from the face of the earth without sufficient enrollment and would have had the same result of no liberal arts.

All I can do as a teacher in elementary schools is to try to introduce the principles I garnered from my four years. And hope for the future.
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