LETTERS: 8.30.12


Yale-NUS is committed to liberal arts

I read with interest Ryan Pollock’s recent op-ed (“Keep the Liberal Arts in Fashion,” Aug. 29). I disagree with his conclusion that “By signing on to Yale-NUS, our administration expresses its agreement with the Singaporean government that the ideas or skills we get out of a liberal arts education are essentially neutral, inert things.” I and others involved in the new College are developing Yale-NUS precisely because we think that a liberal arts education contributes to progress and positive change. Otherwise, we would not devote our energies to it. While the external constraints in Singapore are different from those in the United States, both countries can benefit from free and open inquiry, pluralistic debate, and respect for diversity. We expect Yale-NUS students to develop as robust a culture of extracurricular groups as students currently enjoy at Yale, including perhaps a Yale-NUS Daily News.

Pericles Lewis

The writer is the president of Yale-NUS College.

Exporting Yale’s model means showing our hand

Yale’s educational partnership with Singapore has hit the national news because of objections based on Singapore’s velvet authoritarianism (which was on full display when I was a student and Singapore’s founding father Lee Kwan Yoo visited Yale’s campus). But I object to this project and Yale’s analogous China ventures on other grounds: America’s preeminent educational system (especially in liberal arts) is often cited as one of our few remaining comparative advantages in a global economy where we seem steadily to be losing ground and suffering long-term structural unemployment as a result, with real peril to social peace. Why is Yale giving that educational advantage away? It is a form of self-defeating technology transfer, and it is yet another example of the empire-building hubris that seems to affect university administrators no less than corporate CEOs: the desire to grow ever larger even at the cost of risking the winning formula of the institution or, in this particular case, of adding to Yale’s core mission of educating America’s leadership the wholly irrelevant task of playing missionary to the world. Yale’s drive is expand is to the disadvantage of the country which sustains Yale and which Yale is supposed to serve.

Marc E. Nicholson

The writer is a 1971 graduate of Saybrook College.

Comments

  • cathhh

    Hi, Singapore isn’t in China.

  • rayner_t

    By Mr. Nicholson’s curious logic, all international students should be kicked out too–why educate the competition? Presumably he is not a fan of open-source software or international development assistance either. Have I perhaps missed a mercantilist resurgence? I don’t want to go into a full-blown analysis of the problems afflicting America, but it seems an imaginative leap to suggest that ‘exporting’ the liberal arts education–often seen as a decidedly un-economic prospect; I’m sure many Yalies have been asked by their parents “what can you do with a major in (…)”–can do any real, direct harm to the American economy.

    Re. cathhh’s comment: to his credit, Mr. Nicholson never suggests that he thinks Singapore is in China–‘analogous’ suggests that he does distinguish the two.

  • River_Tam

    > I disagree with his conclusion that “By signing on to Yale-NUS, our administration expresses its agreement with the Singaporean government that the ideas or skills we get out of a liberal arts education are essentially neutral, inert things.”

    Will President Lewis tell us on which issues he (or Yale-NUS as an institution) disagrees with the Singaporean government? Or would that be a bridge too far?

    > While the external constraints in Singapore are different from those in the United States, both countries can benefit from free and open inquiry, pluralistic debate, and respect for diversity.

    This is a facile statement. Any country would benefit from open inquiry and respect for diversity; the question is whether the Yale-Singaporean alliance will actually permit it.

    > We expect Yale-NUS students to develop as robust a culture of extracurricular groups as students currently enjoy at Yale, including perhaps a Yale-NUS Daily News.

    But probably not a chapter of Amnesty International.

    As for a Yale-NUS Daily News: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_Press_(report)#Asia-Pacific