Vital Signs

The Life of the Mind in Glitter Gulch

For seven years (1989-96), I was a full time faculty member at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). I grew up in Las Vegas, earning a B.A. in philosophy from UNLV in 1983 before going to graduate school. In August 1996, my wife and I left Nevada and moved to Southern California, where I had accepted a tenure-track position at Whittier College. Although leaving our family and friends in Las Vegas was difficult, our departure from Glitter Gulch has provided me with a new perspective on casino gaming and the culture of Las Vegas.

As a social conservative who grew up in Las Vegas, I used to be defensive about my hometown. In 1989, at a professional conference of evangelical Christian scholars, I met a professor from a Southern Bible college who had attended that year's meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Las Vegas. Noting that I taught at UNLV, he said in a deep Southern drawl, "I'll ne'er ferget walkin' through them casinos and feelin' the sin in the air," to which I replied, "Similar to the feeling you had during the days of segregation?" He turned and walked away, and I felt pretty proud of my clever comeback. Yet he was perhaps closer to the truth than I would have cared to admit at the time.

The problem is that the life of the mind is inconsistent with the cultural values of Las Vegas. This is why I believe that academics in communities that are considering the legalization...

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