“It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.”
A group of fifteen Ivy League school professors has penned a letter to students, urging them to avoid the dangers of groupthink. In light of recent events in higher education, this couldn’t be more timely.
Bradford Richardson reported at the Washington Times:
Ivy League professors to incoming freshmen: ‘Think for yourself’
A group of Ivy League professors is encouraging incoming students to avoid blindly conforming to the dominant political narrative on campus.
In an open letter published Tuesday, the scholars from Princeton, Harvard and Yale said their advice to new students can be summed up in three words: “Think for yourself.”
“Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable,” the professors wrote. “It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions — including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.”
The letter is signed by 15 academics, including Princeton’s Robert P. George, Harvard Law’s Mary Ann Glendon and Yale’s Nicholas Christakis.
The professors said the central mission of the university is the pursuit of truth and inculcating in students the skills and virtues necessary for lifelong truth-seeking.
Here’s more of the letter, from the Princeton University website:
Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students
We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:
Think for yourself.
Now, that might sound easy. But you will find—as you may have discovered already in high school—that thinking for yourself can be a challenge. It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.
In today’s climate, it’s all-too-easy to allow your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion on your campus or in the broader academic culture. The danger any student—or faculty member—faces today is falling into the vice of conformism, yielding to groupthink.
At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them.
Since no one wants to be, or be thought of as, a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies.
Read the rest here.
Princeton Professor Robert P. George, who signed the letter, appeared on the Tucker Carlson show last night to discuss it. He emphasized that the professors who signed the letter are from both ends of the political spectrum:
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