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.