Tuesday, March 23, 2021

#82 / Erasmus


Erasmus, pictured above, was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance. Erasmus was called "Prince of the Humanists," and he wrote On Free WillIn Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, and many other works. Click the link above for a Wikipedia review.

Most recently, "Erasmus" is the name that has been given to a student exchange program operated within the European Union. Established in 1987, the Erasmus program has involved more than 4,000 university institutions from thirty-one countries. With the departure of Great Britain from the EU, the program no longer operates in Britain. This affects not only British students, but also students from other EU countries who will now not be able to study in Great Britain as part of the Erasmus program. 

On December 30, 2020, The New York Times ran a front page article discussing this particular impact of Brexit:

Britain’s departure from Erasmus, one of the most popular programs in the European Union, may be one of the starkest signs of its divorce from the bloc, a clear signal of its vision for its future relationship with its former partners. 

“Erasmus opens people’s horizons and broadens their conceiving of the world,” said John O’Brennan, a professor of European studies at the University of Maynooth in Ireland, where he leads a European integration program financed by Erasmus. “If that’s not the embodiment of the European ideal, I don’t know what it is.” 

While exchanges will still be possible between British and European universities through bilateral agreements, British students will not benefit from the monthly grants supplied by Erasmus, now officially known as Erasmus+. It will also be harder for academics and teachers to train or teach abroad.

I was unaware of the Erasmus program until I read about it in The Times, but I completely agree with what Professor O'Brennan had to say about it. My own hope has always been that the United States might someday establish a large student exchange program, something like the Erasmus program, perhaps, that would have the objective of making it possible for virtually every high school or college student in the United States to have an opportunity to study abroad, during that particular time in their life. In my mind's eye, as millions of American students went abroad, millions of students from other countries would come here. This is definitely a "Talking To Strangers" idea, seen from a global perspective, and that is one good reason to take the idea seriously.

The idea first came to me, a long time ago, and not so much because of its educational benefits - which, of course, would be great - but because I think such a program would be a good way to deter those countries that have nuclear weapons from launching them against some other country, since doing that would inevitably mean killing tens of thousands, or maybe even hundreds of thousands, of their own young people. 

This is a rather bizarre thought, I realize, but it is, perhaps, not completely "off the wall." While such a program might deter nations like Russia and China from launching an attack on the United States, the effect would be most pronounced, I feel certain, with respect to any nuclear strike that might be contemplated by the United States itself.

For those still worried about nuclear war, that is probably what we ought to be worrying about most.

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