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“[University students] such as mean only to while away the aukward interval from childhood to twenty-one …”

From Sir William Blackstone’s introduction to his 1758 Oxford lectures on law, endowed by the then-recently-deceased legal scholar Charles Viner:

To the few therefore (the very few I am persuaded) that entertain such unworthy notions of an university, as to suppose it intended for mere dissipation of thought; to such as mean only to while away the aukward interval from childhood to twenty-one, between the restraints of the school and the licentiousness of politer life, in a calm middle state of mental and of moral inactivity; to these Mr. Viner gives no invitation to an entertainment which they never can relish.

But to the long and illustrious train of noble and ingenuous youth, who are not more distinguished among us by their birth and possessions, than by the regularity of their conduct and their thirst after useful knowledge, to these our benefactor has consecrated the fruits of a long and laborious life, worn out in the duties of his calling; and will joyfully reflect (if such reflexions can be now the employment of his thoughts) that he could not more effectually have benefited posterity, or contributed to the service of the public, than by founding an institution which may instruct the rising generation in the wisdom of our civil polity, and inspire them with a desire to be still better acquainted with the laws and constitution of their country.

There’s nothing new under the sun, at least when it comes to public perception of university students (except perhaps the precise time that the “licentiousness” sets in).

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.



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