Renewing the University

For the past several years, American universities have been buzzing with protests and counter-protests, charges and counter-charges. These have centered on a rather small cluster of concepts: safe spaces, the campus as home, microaggressions, and trigger warnings. If one cannot see fellow students, or colleagues, as engaged in a common and intrinsically human search for knowledge — maybe even wisdom — then one will have no incentive to cross the boundaries of race, gender, or culture. Such individuals may occasionally speak the language of “alliance,” but they will define their allies as those who obey their demands. And, in times of conflict, it will be characteristic of their stance toward the world to make demands. This is a way to live. But it is not a good way to live, and it exacts a heavy toll on everyone involved — especially the students. If America’s young people are going to see that there are less confrontational alternatives, something other than zero-sum games, they will need instruction in the humanities.

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