Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Harvard and the Iraqis

Joe asked below, Iraqis at Harvard, what I thought of this visit by six Iraqis to Harvard, and the classes they would take or sit in on. It is, as you say, and the other links you note, very silly or worse to put such people through this pseudo-sophisticated claptrap (e.g., "Gender and the Cultures of U.S. Imperialism"). Other things aside, it doesn’t do anything for the Iraqis: It doesn’t engage them in conversation, it doesn’t teach them anything. I had some experience (well, perhaps a lot of experience) in doing such things with Estonians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, et al) and the simple truth I learned is this: Begin at the beginning and let those thinkers who are the most clear on the ends and methods of republican government talk for themselves. They read Jefferson, Madison, and so on. They almost always focus on why human beings have a right to rule themselves and, once that is reasonably assumed, what do they do with that awesome power? Is there a limit to it? And why should folks who have asserted their right to govern themselves limit their own power by, for example, dividing their own power? Everything else--the flaws and imperfections (chattel slavery, bad or disputable decisions), the things most difficult to understand (e.g., that it is individuals who have rights rather than nations or tribes or groups) is eventually made clearer. You start at the beginning, in other words, and then you go from there. You don’t start where the Left intellectuals have led us because you never are able to work it backwards; they have killed the clarity and the naivete of the beginning.
This isn’t rocket science. That’s why I am able to do it pretty well. But those Harvard profs think that the connection between gender and imperialism can only be seen by the rocket scientists, and it is their job to "explain" it to the peasants, for they will have likely missed it, being unsophisticated and boorish as they are.

I think ordinary human beings can think about these matters pretty clearly, and the thinking has to be done naturally, without the overlay of the PC that pretends depth and nuance. When people start thinking about the foundations of self government, they want to start from scratch, better to get to know the minds of Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln--and have conversations with them--than with professor Robin Bernstein, the Assistant Director of Studies and Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, or Peter Schramm for that matter. I have done this in many different settings here and abroad, and I have found that it works every single time. It is, of course, in principle, exactly the same problem we have in teaching undergraduates. Start at the beginning, use the words that are the most clear--the words that the naive founders and framers used--words that everyone understands, and then let the thinking begin. It is exciting and radical and revolutionary for any mind that until then had been enslaved. Here is a gimmick I once used. I am in the former USSR, about three months after the fall of communism. There are sixty secondary school teachers in front of me. We will be together one week. I am introduced as the teacher of the seminar on civics. I am said to be be an important and learned person who comes from the great big free country from far away. I approach, ignore the podium that would elevate me three feet above the others, stand eye to eye with them and the first words from my mouth is this: "Is the human mind free?" All sixty of them agreed that it was. Good I said, we agree on the only thing we have to agree on in order to have a conversation about these important things. When we finished the seminar a week later the women hugged and kissed me....well, so did the men. You know how those folks are, cultural differences and all.

All human beings speak a language and

human nature, equality, and freedom, are understood in human languages. This isn’t rocket science. Contempt and shame to the Harvard professors who think it is. And pity to the six Iraqis at Harvard.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Are the minds of the Harvard proffesors free?

Our Iraqi guests need to spend a few weeks in "red state" America for some balance. They should meet with small town Americans; our farmers, small businessmen to counteract the garbage fed to them by Ivy league academia. To bad it is to late for them to take in the pageantry of the Daytona 500 as opposed to the coffee house blather at Yale.

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