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.