150 Years Of The Atlantic November 2006

Education

This is the tenth in a series of archival excerpts in honor of the magazine's 150th anniversary. This installment is introduced by Jonathan Kozol, the National Book Award-winning author of several books on public education.
Illiberal Education
March 1991
By Dinesh DSouza

In 1991, as the term political correctness was working its way into the national vocabulary, the rising conservative star Dinesh D’Souza criticized what he saw as a new spirit of intolerance on American college campuses.

Each fall some 13 million students, 2.5 million of them members of minority groups, enroll in American colleges … At the university they hope to shape themselves as whole human beings, both intellectually and morally. Brimming with idealism, they wish to prepare themselves for full and independent lives in the workplace, at home, and as citizens of a democratic society. In short, what they seek is a liberal education.

By the time these students graduate, many colleges and universities will not have met their need for all-round development. Instead, by precept and example, they will have taught them that all rules are unjust and all preferences are principled; that justice is simply the will of the stronger party; that standards and values are arbitrary, and the ideal of the educated person is largely a figment of bourgeois white male ideology; that individual rights are a red flag signaling social privilege, and should be subordinated to the claims of group interest; that all knowledge can be reduced to politics and should be pursued not for its own sake but for the political end of power; that convenient myths and well-intentioned lies can substitute for truth; that double standards are acceptable as long as they are enforced to the benefit of minority victims; that disputes are best settled not by rational and civil debate but by accusation, intimidation, and official prosecution; that the university stands for nothing in particular and has no claim to be exempt from outside pressures; and that a multiracial society cannot be based on fair rules that apply to every person but must rather be held together with a forced rationing of power among separatist racial groups. In short, instead of liberal education, what many American students are getting is its diametrical opposite: an education in closed-mindedness and intolerance—which is to say, illiberal education.

Volume 267, No. 3, pp. 51–79

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