I see much mention of moral mission, ethical mission, service mission, and such. I think a great university must be concerned first of all with an intellectual or academic mission.
There is a liberal tendency to meddle in all directions, and this can be destructive to what should be a university’s first priorities. I’m stunned to see that our great universities pay almost no attention to the illiteracy and ignorance in our public schools.
My sense is that fewer than half the kids graduating from public school can read fluently, that is, easily and for pleasure. What used to be taken for granted in the fourth grade a century ago is now an impossible dream for millions of young adults.
Do you wonder how this is possible? Easy. The schools use ineffective methods, as has been explained by many authors going back to Rudolf Flesch. A second part of the equation is that the surrounding society, in particular the institutions concerned with learning and culture, stand aside as culture is carefully destroyed. Princeton’s proper mission is to oppose this destruction in every way possible.
Nassau Hall set up a team of people, at great trouble and expense, to identify students who might be persuaded to transfer to Princeton. I would like to see the same effort and expense exerted at putting pressure on K-12 across the country to do a better job.
I am glad to hear from alumni who would like further discussion of these issues.