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What is the true purpose of college?

Why do students attend colleges and universities? What is the purpose of higher education? For many people, the point of college is to perpetuate a certain worldview and certain set of opinions, one that is, generally, overwhelmingly left-leaning or liberal.

Not so, says Heather Mac Donald at City Journal. “The true purpose of the university,” she writes, is “the transmission of knowledge.” Contra the received wisdom of much of modern higher ed pedagogy, “there is a universe of knowledge that does not belong in the realm of ‘opinion,'” Mac Donald writes, and it is “the university’s core mission to transmit” that knowledge.

In spite of what “postmodern theorists” claim, she writes, “there exists a bedrock of core facts and ideas that precede any later revisionist interpretation.” Students coming to college “have likely been traveling on a surface of selfies and pop culture with, at best, only fleeting plunges into the past,” and thus desperately need to be acquainted with the basics of “history, literature, art, or philosophy.”

From the essay:

If ever there were a narrative worthy of being subjected to “stubborn skepticism,” in Salovey’s words, the claim that Yale was the home of “hatred and discrimination” is it. There is not a single faculty member or administrator at Yale (or any other American college) who does not want minority students to succeed. Yale has been obsessed with what the academy calls “diversity,” trying to admit and hire as many “underrepresented minorities” as it possibly can without totally eviscerating academic standards. There has never been a more tolerant social environment in human history than Yale (and every other American college)—at least if you don’t challenge the reigning political orthodoxies. Any Yale student who thinks himself victimized by the institution is in the throes of a terrible delusion, unable to understand his supreme good fortune in ending up at one of the most august and richly endowed universities in the world.

But the ubiquitous claim that American campuses are riven with racism is not, apparently, one of the “false narratives” that Salovey had in mind. Not only did the president endorse that claim, but the husband-and-wife team who had triggered the Halloween costume furor penned a sycophantic apology to minority students in their residential college: “We understand that [the original e-mail] was hurtful to you, and we are truly sorry,” wrote Professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis. “We understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you.” Yale’s minority students may “feel” voiceless, but that feeling is just as delusional as the feeling that Yale is not “inclusive.”

Mac Donald points out that, while the current fight over campus free speech policies is a good one, we should not lose sight of the university’s ultimate purpose, the transmission of important objective facts.

Read the whole essay here.

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