On the op-ed by Christopher Weihs ’15 (“Can conservatism save the liberal arts? Holding onto traditional liberal arts values,” Sept. 26, 2018)
To the Editor:
At a dinner lecture on Sept. 26, your delightful Opinions Editor, Haeon Yoon ’21, asked if I had read a letter by Weihs urging the College to make the curriculum more “conservative.” I now have read it and have two main criticisms.
First, while it is no doubt true that most college professors (including myself) would identify ourselves as politically progressive or democratic, it is also true that most military officers would identify themselves as conservative or republican. So what? Our personal beliefs are surely not the issue. Rather, the question is: How do we teach or lead in our public life? Are we faculty fair to conservative students and ideas? We were when I was teaching. I am sure my successors still are.
More importantly, Weihs seems to me to have a very odd definition of “conservatism.” Apparently it is a rejection of pragmatic problem solving in favor of “universal human principles, inherited wisdom, spirited debate and inherited wisdom.” What’s not to like? Do we faculty not do this? Or, more sinisterly, can we not question some of these once accepted “universal principles,” such as a compromise in this country on slavery or traditional notions of gender roles?
However imperfectly, I tried as best I could to have my students read critically, test scientifically, understand arguments pro and con and express themselves eloquently. While I hoped these skills would help students in their life courses, I was not teaching “pragmatism.” Judging by Yoon and other students I met on Sept. 26, this ancient codger feels mighty good about the College curriculum.
Peter K. Frost
Professor of International Relations, Emeritus