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Campuses should be hotbeds of ideas, not just protest

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The tragic events of September 11 sparked two rallies here at Harvard University. A peace vigil included over 500 people; a rally organized to celebrate patriotism attracted only 50.

While talk of war takes our nation and media by storm, a new antiwar movement, with teach-ins and demonstrations, galvanizes many universities. As more questions surface about our war effort, students must not allow disillusionment to breed disengagement. In this new environment, our capacity to produce new ideas and inventive policy proposals has often appeared deadlocked in invective.

We can draw on the diverse opinions, backgrounds, and specialties found on campuses to reinvigorate the national debate. As the Pentagon plots military strategy, we should heed their advice to think "outside of the box" - but not just for military solutions.

Our education and divinity students, for example, could work hand in hand with law students to develop an acceptable curriculum for the instruction of religious history in our schools. Surely we can teach about religion without infringing on the separation of church and state. Our religious ignorance has been fatal for Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.

We should help craft a nationwide "America the Beautiful" curriculum, showcasing what makes our country stunning: our religious and ethnic diversity. In this new age of American religious pluralism, we need to teach students about Sikhs and Muslims as well as about the Puritans. Indeed, if Americans knew more about Islam, they might be less likely to dismiss the entire tradition based on the actions of a few extremists.

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