The title of this post is the motto of The University of Texas. I’m pretty familiar with that motto, having received degrees and paychecks from UT. I only recently learned the motto’s context, a statement by Mirabeau Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. The motto is the Latin form of the opening phrase.
A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and, while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge and the only security that freemen desire.
I found Lamar’s statement in the essay Against Great Books (subscription required) in which the author comments on the “contradiction between the seals and mottos of older institutions and their more recent mission statements.” The marketing coming out of UT now emphasizes cultivating research to advance the economy more than cultivating virtuous minds to serve as guardians of democracy.
4 thoughts on “Disciplina praesidium civitatis”
It isn’t merely that universities like UT deny the importance of cultivating virtuous minds, they deny that there are such things as virtue and nobility.
You can see vestiges of when universities actually did care about virtue and leadership. They’ve maintained some of the symbols but eviscerated their content.
Mostly UT markets orange merchandise, especially that with the word TEXAS written on it, a word that might seem uncopyrightable but not for the well funded team of lawyers ready to attack anything that moves.
Luckily this is engraved in stone and nobody will ever be able to remove it even though some may try. Education is the protector of democracy !
Marcos P. Sivitanides, BA (Hons) ’82, MBA, ’84, PhD ‘ 91