A Modern Education

French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his 1762 Treatise on Education that “We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.” It goes without saying that the American university system is the strongest and most accomplished on Earth; our comprehensive and accessible system of public institutions is complemented by highly successful private institutions, including Dartmouth and the rest of the Ivy League. Unfortunately, however, this clear central mission – education, research, and the general pursuit of knowledge – is becoming lost in the modern age. In part, this hijacking of institutions which should serve as bastions of critical thought has resulted in the propagation of authoritarian ideology, dangerous rhetoric, and the violent splintering of American society.

One of the most recent exhibitions of ideological intolerance occurred at the University of California, Berkeley, after the scheduled speech by well-known conservative commentator Ann Coulter was abruptly canceled by the university. This controversy gathered national news coverage, with many commentators speaking out against the university administration’s one-sided, biased decision. The riots that sprung up following the decision also have received heavy media attention; the “sucker punch” of one left-wing protester, which became a viral video on social media, was fodder for this media frenzy. As riots wreaked havoc on the Berkeley community, one group rose to the forefront of controversy: Antifa, an amorphous coalition of “anti-fascist” groups and organizations that played a major role in spurring the Berkeley protests. Antifa groups have also made appearances worldwide, including in France, where participants protested the success of the right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. These Antifa groups are noteworthy because of their proclivity for violence, their flaunting of the law, and their efforts to remain anonymous. While many left-wing activists preach and practice peace and nonviolence, Antifa groups have instigated violent riots with both Alt-Right counter-protesters and police. It is indeed worrisome that political tensions worldwide have reached this boiling point.

Protestors expressing support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement (Photograph courtesy of FrontPage Mag)

Protestors expressing support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement (Photograph courtesy of FrontPage Mag)

Dartmouth, thankfully, has not seen such controversial incidents recently. That does not mean, however, that ideological intolerance does not play a role in campus politics. Perhaps one of the most striking examples is the recent appointment of N. Bruce Duthu, Professor of Native American Studies, to the post of Dean of the Faculty. While also raising eyebrows due to Duthu’s lack of qualification (he does not possess a doctoral degree), Duthu’s appointment is particularly troubling because of his support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement against Israel. The BDS Movement, which is often associated with notions of anti-Semitism, in addition to its more tangible sanctions, also inhibits the free exchange of thought and ideas between Israel and other nations, and also between the greater Jewish community and its constituents. That Duthu would support such a movement is particularly troubling, especially due to his potential impact in college affairs in his role as Dean of the Faculty.

This brings us to the topic of the importance of ideological diversity in higher education. Ultimately, an administration that does not take into account the opinions, beliefs, and general ideological leanings of all of its students is, quite simply, an incompetent administration. A recent DartBlog post highlighted the limited academic scope of the College’s administration in comparison to the administrations of peer institutions. Whereas other university administrations represent a wide breadth of both STEM subjects and humanities disciplines, Dartmouth’s higher management is unified by a common focus: gender and sexuality studies. In addition to being particularly niche subjects (their pertinence to the real world is, indeed, doubtful), these subjects are notoriously biased, pushing fringe theories of intersectionality, gender theory, and various complicated, dubious -isms. It is propaganda, not scholarship. There is little, if any, ideological diversity within these fields of study, and their dominance in the administration of this college is indeed troubling for any who hold Rousseau’s words to be true.

This lack of true exposure to different ideas also extends to the general student body. Many took note of the recent poll in The Dartmouth entitled “A Survey of Dartmouth’s Political Landscape,” which featured one particularly striking image. Of students identifying as Republicans or independents, less than 20% would be uncomfortable with a roommate possessing opposing political views; of students identifying as Democrats, a full 45% would be uncomfortable with a roommate possessing opposing political views. This disparity, which made its rounds in the national media, is truly telling as to the state of ideological intolerance in this country: it is, primarily, a problem of the left. This administration is not serving as a model for its students; instead of embodying the values of free exchange of thought, it is standing for closed-mindedness and intellectual intolerance.

With these aspects taken into account, the state of affairs of higher education can only be seen as grim. Rousseau’s notion of strength and reason has little to no bearing on a modern education; true intellectualism and the the goal of the betterment of the individual have been lost to modern leftist thought. As the true victims of these dangerous trends, we as students can only hope that the sun soon dawns on a brighter day for intellectualism in higher education.            

  • John Stich

    Absolute rubbish BDS seeks to stop violent Israeli colonization and dispossession of the Palestinian people these parroted allegations of anti-semitism are hollow stunts of irrational hysteria. They are as disingenuous as they are absent of reflection.