Alchemical Thoughts

Leadership guru John Gardner on what a university ought to stand for

Posted on: November 6, 2012

I came across this list when Bob Sutton, another leadership and management “guru,” discussed it in his blog here. Gardner’s ideas go well with some things I read in the book Generation on a Tightrope (you can see my notes on the book here), specifically the parts of the book discussing where a university needs to make a stand. At a time when a lot of people view universities, at best, as glorified vocational school and, at worst, as wastes of time and money, I think this list makes a good reminder of what is really important. Sutton’s discussion is worth reading as well.

So, according to John Gardner, the university stands for:

  • things that are forgotten in the heat of battle.
  • values that get pushed aside in the rough and tumble of everyday living.
  • the goals we ought to be thinking about and never do.
  • the facts we don’t like to face.
  • the questions we lack the courage to ask.

I think in large measure these values are why I enjoy working in higher education. I think they are also values that librarians share and should be embracing. We should stand for truth and have the courage to ask the questions others will not ask. We should then seek out answers where they may lead, and we should help others do so as well.

By the way, Sutton does not mention the exact source of Gardner’s words, but I did a little searching. They come from the following book:

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