Refreshing Thought

Program News | Posted Mar 4, 1995

The Boston Globe

An editorial, originally published on Saturday, March 4, 1995

Global financial markets and international crime; population control, environmental degradation and national security; artificial intelligence and free will; viruses without visas - these are the topics that interweave in today's intellectual tapestry. Over five days ending Monday, some of the world's best minds will convene at Tufts University to discuss these issues in an innovative and rigorous educational program known as Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship.

At a time when the national discourse seems forever reduced to its lowest common denominators - to sound bites and slogans - EPIIC [sic] is a refreshing antidote. Far from looking to simplify the world, the symposium aims to teach students to view life in a way that respects complex human systems. As EPIIC's director, Sherman Teichman, put it: "We are trying to get them to embrace ambiguities," a noble intellectual effort when so many want easy certainties.

Students from many disciplines, even artists from the Museum School, are brought together in a kind of intellectual Outward Bound, challenging conventional wisdom with world-renowned specialists in a series of workshops. The colloquium is a project of the Tufts Experimental College, at 30 the oldest alternative education center operating out of a traditional university. The college was an outgrowth of the institutional upheavals of the 1960s, but the topics are as cutting-edge as today's headlines. Thus a workshop on human rights and humanitarian emergencies will look at the conflict between the desire for peace and the desire for justice; another on "Darwinism and artificial intelligence" will try to get at the essential difference between humans and machines with the director of cognitive studies at Tufts and the editor of the magazine Wired.

As rarefied as the discussion may seem, each workshop is aimed at producing concrete policy recommendations. In a time of rampant anti-intellectualism, the thinking alone is worth celebrating.

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