Greg Examines Harvard’s New Civility Pledge in ‘The Huffington Post’

By September 8, 2011

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff writes today in The Huffington Post on the introduction of a civility pledge at Harvard College, the undergraduate college at Harvard University. The "Class of 2015 Pledge" commits students to building a "place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment." But as Greg points out, this type of oath has no place in the academy:

Higher education is at its best when it understands that bold, free-wheeling intellectual experimentation is what you want to cultivate if you want a genuinely innovative and dynamic environment. … Harvard should know better than to promote unreflective certainty right at the time when students most need to be embarking on the truly difficult work of challenging their own assumptions and learning to think for themselves. 

Rather than pushing students to commit themselves to a system of moral values privileging kindness and civility before they have even taken their first class, Greg argues, institutions such as Harvard should remember that it is their job to help students learn how to think critically, not what to think. They also should recognize that intellectual life demands vigorous and sometimes even distressing debate and discussion that some on campus might deem "unkind." Greg calls on Harvard to leave room for genuine debate and embrace the "core principles" of higher education. Read his entire piece at The Huffington Post.

Schools: Harvard University