Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why UT Dallas Should Be Tier One

When Barack Obama moved to Chicago he was supported by the University of Chicago. He received more than money. He was provided credentials (a fellowship), an office, connections, and intellectual stimulation. This support for future leaders is the real benefit of having a Tier One university in a power center, usually a large city. The Texas Leadership Revolution (TLR) is a plan to develop better leaders in Texas to lead Texas and America to a brighter future. Having another Tier 1 university in Texas is important for developing and supporting our future leaders in the way the University of Chicago supported Barack Obama.

What is a Tier 1 university? Usually the Tier 1 ranking refers to the university research budget. Planning to become a Tier 1 university usually entails financial commitments from the state legislature. There was a nice article in the Saturday January 17, 2009 Dallas Morning News, "Dewhurst Says Lawmakers Can Begin Work to Add New Flagship Universities," by Terrence Stutz. The article said there is competition between the University of Texas Dallas, the University of Texas Arlington, Texas Tech, and the University of Houston for money from the state.

It takes more than money to be a great university. Let's rank these universities by SAT scores, throwing in the flagship school UT Austin for comparison:

1.) Reading 550 - 670 & Math 590 - 700 at the University of Texas Dallas
2.) Reading 540 - 660 & Math 570 - 690 at the University of Texas Austin
3.) Reading 480 - 580 & Math 500 - 610 at Texas Tech University
4.) Reading 460 - 570 & Math 490 - 600 at the University of Houston
5.) Reading 450 - 560 & Math 480 - 590 at the University of Texas Arlington

These are numbers fresh from the College Board. UT Dallas already has the intellectual firepower in its students to gain respect on the national and international stages. Yes, UT Dallas students do have higher SAT scores than UT Austin students.

The America Dream is the freedom to be all we can be. No American needs permission to strive for greatness. The University of Texas Dallas can choose to become a world class university without permission from the Texas state legislature. UT Dallas can become a world class university without a Tier One budget. It would help to define what we mean by World Class University, and money is nothing to sneeze at, but the will power and commitment to excel are the prime ingredients.

We do need a clear goal for education. Walter Lippmann, an honest elitist, said, "... men are not good, but good for something ... men cannot be educated, but only educated for something...." [1]. This is the education our children receive today in the public schools and public universities: education for a professional trade.

Here's a better description: "The goal of education is to drag every man as far out of the cave as possible," referring to the Cave Allegory in Plato's Republic. Our young men and women need to lead on the national and international stage because America needs better leaders. It's our civic duty to educate our children for greatness.

Now that UT Dallas students are academically superior to UT Austin students, we need to raise the bar. We need to stop comparing UT Dallas to UT Austin and start comparing ourselves to the University of Chicago and Columbia University.  Forget their research budgets, look at their intellectual influence. Texas politics will keep UT Dallas smaller than UT Austin, and that is fine. Our goal is greatness, not size.

The DFW metroplex needs a World Class University to become a world class city. We citizens of the DFW metroplex need to look to UT Dallas as our cities' flag ship campus, recognizing that UT Arlington and the University of North Texas also serve our community.

As the nations' economies around the world are shuddering from the failed policies of East Coast elitists, we must become resolute in replacing the failed leadership in Washington and Wall Street with the best leaders Texas can provide.

Robert Canright

[1] "The Phantom Public" by Walter Lippmann, 1927, ISBN 1-56000-677-3, page 140.

Related Posts:
Texas, New York, and Universities (October 29, 2008)
Texas Needs More Tier 1 Universities (November 12, 2008)

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