(Sept. 16, 2009) I had the pleasure last week of speaking to a class of students led by Professor Michael J.G. Cain, the director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM). It was my first visit to SMCM and it's a beautiful campus. I was even more impressed, however, with Professor Cain and the non-profit organization he runs.
I confess that I generally take a dim view of academicians because so many of them seem more intent on promoting a worldview rather than expanding the academic horizons for their students and teaching them to think for themselves. Professor Cain believes if he doesn't expose his students to the full range of political thought and discourse, he has abdicated his responsibility as an instructor. I can't tell you how refreshing that is.
In fact, he is looking to bring more diversity to the Center for the Study of Democracy which, although it is hosted on the SMCM campus, serves the entire community. He says he is a firm believer in the two-party system as a vehicle for more effective government, but that Maryland has been essentially a one-party state for 148 years.
The balance in the Center's approach is apparent in their organizational description:
Through its programs and activities, the Center promotes a diverse set of democratic practices, including the importance of engaging in civil discourse, illustrating a wide range of free speech activities to enable respect of diverse opinions, service to the community and civic engagement activities for students.The Center is non-partisan but Democrats dominate as guest presenters since most of the elected officials in Maryland are Democrats. In addition, Professor Cain noted that there are no Republican elected officials on the advisory board of the organization, an omission he'd like to rectify. Dr. Cain has plans to bring in more Republicans to add their voices to the discussion, and I was proud to be one of his first invitees to discuss the topic of religion in politics.
I wish a center like this were available to me as a political science student at Texas Tech. They not only emphasize classroom instruction but practical application, engaging in political and civic activities throughout the region so their knowledge comes alive.
My encouragement to Republican officials throughout southern Maryland is to put aside any preconceived notions about academia, pick up the phone and call Professor Cain to introduce yourselves.
The program has already contributed to Republican politics in Maryland through one of its alumni. Shannon Oxley, a 2001 graduate of SMCM, is the deputy chief of staff for the Maryland House of Delegates Republican Caucus.
The Center for the Study of Democracy offers an academic environment dedicated to knowledge rather than ideology, and a director who honors his profession by exposing his students to the entire world, not just the portion that suits him. I hope everyone who wants good government in our region and our state will support the Center in any way they can, including tax-deductible contributions to its efforts.
Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM)
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a conservative blogger and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate, and communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party. Ron is a regular contributor to RegularFolksUnited.com, RedCounty.com, and ProLifeUnity.com. You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.