Universities are (of course!) Lighthouses

Question: What do universities and lighthouses have in common?

Answer:  They both shed light. Which is of course the prime purpose for both.

Dr. George Lakoff makes a very good living lecturing about the importance of “framing” — that how you frame your arguments has a lot to do with how well (or badly) your argument is  received.

I am sure that George would scold me for the title is used in this post:  Why a Lighthouse 100 Miles from the Sea?

George would tell me that by asking a question that actually reinforces a deeply held conviction:  Lighthouses don’t belong anywhere except along an ocean coast or vessels may be put in danger.

Why on earth would you ever put a lighthouse one hundred miles from where they are meant to be?  John, what will you think next — How to put rattlesnakes in your child’s crib. Why smelling armpits are good for attracting beautiful women,

In other words, ask a dumb question and you can expect a dumb response. What would happen if the title of my post would have been any of these:

  • Universities and Lighthouse – Joined at the hip
  • Since when is University NOT a Lighthouse?
  • If Universities are NOT Lighthouses, then what are they?

George would also remind me that logos, tag lines, images and titles are all part of the “framing” issue.  The world’s best example is of course the Nike Swoosh and the tag line “Just do it“. These fit like silk stockings on Marilyn Monroe. Tell the customer that the glove will fit and most probably it won’t. (Unless you represent O.J. Simpson, then show why it doesn’t fit — and tie up “If it doesn’t fit you must acquit.) (But I digress.)

So, what would the reception have been had  my post been titled as per any of the three above?  Or as I have entitled this post? If so, then how much would  this tag line help to make my case:

Lighthouses and Universities

Beacon Points Where Bright Minds Gather

Isn’t my “job” to tie in all the images that come swiftly when one gives thought to either word University or the the word Lighthouse? What words are common to both?Some come very quickly, almost automatically —

Universities and lighthouses are both “safe harbors”.  One provides protection from an angry sea, or a dangerous reef. The other is a bastion of protection for those in dissent. Or persons with bold new ideas. Or those that don’t cotton easily to a Herd Mentality. Or those who want venture out for new horizons.

One provides lights, horns and fixed coordinates  widely distributed for purpose of safe passage. The other provides intellectual properties for purposes of good heading, orientation and knowledge acquisition.

More often than not, the Keeper of the Light is also a Harbor Master. If you are a Sailor and need information you can trust, who better than these?  If you are a student, who better to trust than the instructors in your class?  And if not them, how about those you meet in side the harbor — whoops — I meant to say classroom.

Of course Lighthouse don’t only mark the way to safe passage. For young sailors nothing is quite so exciting as the first time you sailed beyond the range of a Lighthouse Beacon. Like the deep end of the swimming pool, or like going off to college, these are passages that are memorable all your life.

How about Lighthouses as viewing platforms? Climb to the top and you get a 360 degree view. What else is a University for except to provide “high” platforms and 360 degree viewpoints. Arguably, the only thing  more important than keen observation than keen observation is to understand and accept that “the view always depends on where you stand.” Good sailors make good Lightkeepers because they know the value of the beacon. Isn’t this the same for good instructors?

Is it such a big stretch to link how deeply lighthouses are embedded in the rock with the value of moral courage and how important that culture is to the whole entire landscape of the University?

Enough   — (except it would be great if we could have a contest for the best 200 word essay, or the best two minute video that links Universities and lighthouse.) Let me close with how what Ted Kennedy has to say about Robert in the last line his eulogy;

Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

If Lighthouses, built to fit perfectly in the campus landscape, don’t belong smack dab in the center of a University, then what does?

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About oregonhibbs

Just past 70 I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world".

Posted on June 20, 2013, in Lighthouse Project. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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