Editors’ note: Last fall, the Buckley Program sponsored an essay contest open to student Fellows and others within the Yale community. The topic, tied to our annual conference, was James Burnham’s 1964 book, Suicide of the West. Judged by three Yale professors, the following essay was written by Theresa Oei, member of the Class of 2015 and a former Buckley Fellow. She won the first-place prize of $1,000.

The removal of ignorance is at the heart of the mission of education and rightly should be. However, it is the conception of how education is defined that liberalism has gotten wrong. Rationality embodies the human capacity to remove ignorance through a gain of knowledge, but human beings are not purely rational. An education that capitalizes only on a human capacity for reason neglects much of the human condition. While universal institutionalized schooling may satisfy the development of human rationality (although it is questionable whether even this objective is effectively accomplished), the human need for a directing, intuitive establishment of principles is neglected. Traditionally, private spheres were the spaces where the rational capability of man became fully integrated into his whole existence through religion, culture, tradition, or uncritical belief.  

Editors’ note: Last fall, the Buckley Program sponsored an essay contest open to student Fellows and others within the Yale community. The topic, tied to our annual conference, was James Burnham’s 1964 book, Suicide of the West. Judged by three Yale professors, the following essay was written by Thomas Hopson, a Buckley Fellow and rising senior in Trumbull College. He won the second-place prize of $500.

When most Americans discuss education reform, they use the language of economics. Their goals are quantifiable: higher test scores, more scientists, better factors for future growth. Their means are commensurate: more testing at younger ages, a rigid national curricula, and greater “product supervision.” As such, although their proposed reforms are well suited to increasing productivity, they otherwise ignore student’s personal prosperity.

Editors’ note: Last fall, the Buckley Program sponsored an essay contest open to student Fellows and others within the Yale community. The topic, tied to our annual conference, was James Burnham’s 1964 book, Suicide of the West. Judged by three Yale professors, the following essay was written by Adrianne Elliott, a Buckley Fellow and rising senior in Saybrook College. She won the third-place prize of $250.

In our society today, liberalism and progressive politics often point toward private sources of education as fountains of ignorance. According to these arguments, traditions passed to children through family or spiritual beliefs delivered through religious institutions and churches often impede societal progress toward equality and harmony. However, these ideals are based not in the presumption of equal opportunity, but in the assumption that humans are all exactly the same and should therefore be treated the same. Nevertheless, reality shows us that each and every person is unique, and those differences are something to be valued and celebrated, for only by being exposed to a variety of perspectives can one obtain a true education.

Leonard Schleifer, the CEO of Regeneron, is a billionaire. Regeneron, a global, extremely successful biotech company, has seen the best performance in the S&P 500 for the past three years. A little unknown fact about Schleifer though is that he started out operating a small snow-shoveling business.  This surprising revelation led me to begin thinking about the “rags-to-riches” dream associated with the United States. Specifically, I began to wonder whether or not it would be fair to say this dream still exists today. Sure, we haven’t fully pulled out of the economic downturn. Sure, there are vast differences between the wealth of the very wealthy and the very poor. Sure there are many Americans receiving welfare assistance and food stamps. All of that aside, I believe that to an extent, this traditional American dream most certainly still exists.

This year, President Salovey’s Freshman Address was on free expression. His speech focused on a report on that topic written by a committee appointed by President Kingman Brewster. Notable among the members of the committee was Professor Woodward, Sterling Professor of History and scholar of the American South. Salovey remarked “…it is important on occasions like this one to remind ourselves why unfettered expression is so essential on a university campus.” I wholeheartedly agree. Nonetheless, while it is true that free expression is on the defensive today, I think the more interesting phenomenon is the increasing social stigma attached to expressing views that are unpopular, different, or simply as of yet not well articulated and explained.