I lament “Crashing the Conservative Party” (January issue). As an undergraduate, I saw the aspects that Mr. Walter employs to stereotype Princeton. These did not change my life. With scholarship across the sciences and humanities, commitment of faculty to look deeply into what one did not question, humility always seeking to learn, Princeton defined education for me. I learned how what is known has failed humanity, and how what new we uncover as novel gives us hope for a better future.
The Founding Fathers were read as brilliantly flawed, struggling to resolve conflicting beliefs, victims of their times, yet somehow wise in that they framed a task for those to come. I doubt that Madison today would encourage professors to establish a “James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.” I think Madison hangs his head in shame that all were and are not yet created equal in America, that he owned slaves and knew that others raped and murdered their slaves, that he would not reject South Carolina’s conditions and politically “die to make slaves free.” Anathema is Princeton regarded as “a premier incubator for right-wing talent” that “mints” individuals who Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer identifies as ideologues and Richard Wranghan’s The Goodness Paradox makes despots.
Walter F. Murphy’s essay “Remembering Alpheus Mason” (PAW, Dec. 1997, pp. 55-56) speaks eloquently for the liberal arts educational tradition now imperiled if not lost at Princeton. An education does not tolerate or teach ideologies, left and right, that warp, not free, young minds to think.