by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Heather MacDonald writes at National Review Online about a misconception surrounding the purpose of higher education.
Yale University’s president recently provided a window into the modern university’s self-conception — an understanding embraced by both liberals and conservatives but flawed in essential ways. A primary purpose of a Yale education, President Peter Salovey told Yale’s freshman class last year, is to teach students to recognize “false narratives.” Such narratives, Salovey claimed, are ubiquitous in American culture: “My sense is that we are bombarded daily by false narratives of various kinds, and that they are doing a great deal of damage.” Advocates may “exaggerate or distort or neglect crucial facts,” Salovey said, “in ways that serve primarily to fuel your anger, fear, or disgust.” (Salovey repeated this trilogy of “anger, fear, and disgust” several times; it was impossible not to hear a reference to Donald Trump, though Salovey tried to stay nonpartisan.)
According to Salovey, the Yale faculty is a model for how to respond to false narratives: They are united by a “stubborn skepticism about narratives that oversimplify issues, inflame the emotions, or misdirect the mind,” he said.
Two things can be said about Salovey’s theme: First, it is hilariously wrong about the actual state of “stubborn skepticism” at Yale. Second, and more important, Salovey mistakes the true mission of a college education.