Adapted with appreciation from a version by Professor James Pesta,
Department of English, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
In this course, we study literatures and systems of thought from cultures not only of our own time, but of ages before you were born. Their world is not ours. Their beliefs may not be yours. No one asks you to believe or endorse any premise, attitude, precept, theology, philosophy, ideology, or political system contained in these books or expressed in class. Nor will you ever lose points or be docked grades because of an opinion you express courteously by giving reasons for what you think.
We will not malign or trivialize these texts or views because they do not always parrot the beliefs common in our own day. We will not assume that these books are bigoted because of the views they express, the period in which they were written, or the race, class, sex, or religion of the authors.
Persons who approach alien cultures with such preconceived notions are bigots masquerading as critical sophisticates, often in the name of “toleration” or “social justice.” By diminishing the past in this way, they are neither tolerant nor just, especially when they compel others to adopt their biases. In this course we will be free to disagree with each other, but always with courtesy, and always giving reasons for what we say.
If you are “triggered” by free speech, the free exchange of ideas, or people who courteously express and defend ideas or opinions that differ from your own, please drop the class immediately.
If you are “triggered” by open, direct, adult discussion of issues including but not limited to faith, war, race, sexuality, moral law, or moral character, please drop the class immediately.
If you are “triggered” by recurring encounters with heterosexuality, traditional attitudes toward marriage, sympathetic representations of Christianity, Judaism, or belief in God in general, positive views of property ownership or free markets, or unapologetic defenses of patriotism, chastity, hierarchies, or merit-based institutions or attitudes, please drop the class immediately.
If you are “triggered” by traditional pronouns such as “he” and “she,” or by traditional nouns such as “man” and “mankind,” please drop the class immediately.
Finally, please drop the class immediately if you consider yourself entitled to censor the thoughts or the courteously expressed words of others, or to insist they tailor their language or attitudes to your preferences.
Please sign your name to certify that you have read this contract and accept the norms by which the class will be conducted – or, that if you don’t accept them, you will drop the course immediately.
J. Budziszewski is a Professor in the Departments of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin. This article has been republished with permission from his blog, The Underground Thomist.
His latest book is Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Happiness and Ultimate Purpose, published by Cambridge University Press. Also check out his just-back-in-print books, Natural Law for Lawyers and Evangelicals in the Public Square.