Letters: 9.25.12


Education is not just capitalism

The world is too much with Chuck Stetson (“Preparing Yalies for business,” Sept. 21), whose vision of an education grounded in the “western tradition of the humanities” as inculcation in capitalist values and American civics would lay waste our powers more than poor Wordsworth ever could have foreseen.

Set aside what all alumni of Directed Studies know: If our study of the western tradition is just pro-business prolegomena to future financial success, then thinkers like Marx or Jesus (who begs us reject Mammon to find salvation) should be thrown off its syllabus. What a shame that would be, since Stetson also thinks we should be reading more of C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, who loved Jesus lots! Set aside, also, Stetson’s strange insinuation that European and American economic clout stems from some innate virtue in the West’s supposed values, above and beyond those of Asia and Africa. Friends I have talked to who study Asian and African languages, culture and history here have plenty of bones to pick with this pretty terrifying atavism of European imperialist ideology.

By definition, part of what a “humanistic” education teaches us is that there are human forms of value totally separate from and perhaps totally superior to dollars and cents. An education in the humanities should, if anything, convince us that careers in businesses such as hedge funds — which, like Mammon in Milton’s Hell, mine grimy lodes to build dubious palaces — are hardly a natural next step for us. One wonders if Stetson’s tendentious elision of embracing the humanities and embracing capitalist values doesn’t help, in another form, make it easier for some to apologize for Yale’s decision to set up a campus in politically repressive (but hyper-capitalist!) Singapore.

Let us hope that Yale’s next president will actually commit him or herself to the humanities and instead always ask us to consider the pitfalls of treating our education as mere career training.

Ryan Pollock

Sept. 24

The writer is a senior in Calhoun College.

Ayn Rand loves love

As Marissa Medansky points out (“Don’t begrudge happiness,” Sept. 11) being happy for others is something the world needs more of. So it was sad to me, as someone who studies Ayn Rand’s works, that Medansky chose to illustrate her points with a dubious story about Ayn Rand that fails to mention her actual views on the subject.

In fact, Rand repeatedly observed that hating, denigrating and being envious of others’ accomplishments was one of the greatest evils that the world faced. That’s why Rand’s alleged snub toward a budding architect struck me as completely out of character for a woman who wrote stacks of letters to fans, friends, fellow stamp collectors, astronauts, soldiers and many others with her typical joyful response to their achievements — being genuinely happy for their happiness and success in the world.

So how can we get rid of the pernicious attitude of envy and start down the road to happiness? It might surprise you to know what Rand considered the best weapon in the fight: “For once it is I who will say that love is the answer … ” she said. For Rand, this meant the love of effort, achievement and “man at his highest potential.”

Amanda Maxham

Sept. 21

The writer is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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