2017/04/10: Six Minutes on the True Purpose of University Education
(Applause) [Interviewer]: Dr Peterson, you’ve mentioned these ideas of responsibility, of virtue, of respect. You’ve, I think, detailed what you think students shouldn’t do in these examples of like, protests and these examples of certain types of activist tactics. What advice would you have for students? How can students make the changes that they want to make? Particularly, do you have any advice for students here? [Peterson]: Yeah, read great books. Really, man, you’ve got this four year period that has been carved out of your lives by society. It’s given you an identity, like a high quality identity, and freedom at the same time – and you’re not gonna get that again in your life. You’ve got a respectable identity: University Student. And complete freedom associated with that, or as near as you’re ever gonna get. And you’ve got these unbelievable libraries that are full of the writings of people who are intelligent and articulate beyond comprehension. And you can go there and you can learn all this…and you might think, well, “why should you learn it?” Well, you learn it to get a job, or you learn it to get good grades, or you learn it to get a degree…and that’s all nonsense. It’s nonsense. The reason that you come to university to be educated is because there is nothing more powerful that someone who is articulate and who can think and speak. It’s power, and I mean power of the best sort: It’s authority and influence and respectability and competence. And so you come to university to craft your highest skill. And your highest skill is to be found in articulated speech. And if you’re a master at formulating your arguments, you win everything. And better than that, when you win everything, everyone around you wins too. Because to transform yourself into, let’s consider your transformation into something approximating the Logos, it means you shine a light on the whole world. Well there’s nothing more exciting to do than that, there’s nothing better you can possibly do. And to think that you’re coming to university to be trained to have a job, it’s like, “Great, that’s a hell of a lot better than to be unemployed and covered with cheeto dust while you’re snacking away in front of your video game in the basement”, but it’s not…and I don’t have anything against video games by the way… (Laughter) But it’s hardly a triumphant call to being in the world and that’s what universities should be calling forth. It’s like, God, you people you… I know what Harvard students are like – I taught here for 5 years . You people are spectacular, you’re spectacular. You’re all capable of being world beaters. You transform yourself into something that’s articulated, and sensible, and grounded in history, and knowledgeable and wise, you can do anything you want, and hopefully anything you want for good; because if you have any sense, everything you wanna do would be for the good, because there’s nothing more compelling, or meaningful, or or useful in combating the tragedy of life than to than to struggle with all your soul on behalf of the good! And the universities have forgotten that. It’s why everyone’s bailing out of the humanities. And they should – the humanities are corrupt. And they’re corrupt because they’re not telling students this. It’s so bloody obvious. It’s like, “learn to think, learn to speak, learn to read.” It makes you a superpower, an individual superpower. I don’t understand why that isn’t just told to students. It’s not that hard to understand, and everyone wants to hear it; It’s like “really, I could do that, I could do that?” Yeah, really, you could do that. And the whole society around you has labored for thousands of years to provide every single one of you with this spectacular opportunity that you have while you’re undergraduates and graduate students here. Everyone’s just praying that you would come here and manifest everything that you could manifest! And that’s what you should be doing, instead of waving placards and complaining about how you’re oppressed, for God’s sake! You see these Yale students complaining about their oppression. It just leaves me aghast. It’s like, “we’re against the ruling class.” No, no, no – you’re baby ruling class members You’re young – (Laughter and Applause) The only reason you’re not rich is because you’re young. You know that’s the best – Really, if you look at the 1% even, the dreaded 1% you know most of those people are old. Why ? Well, when you progress through life, if you’re reasonably successful you trade in your promising youth for your wealthy old age. But you’re still bloody old. Would you trade it? Would you trade your youth for that? If you factor age out of the economic equation, things look a lot different. Well, of course older people have more money; If they have any sense they’ve been collecting it for their whole life. Is that somehow unfair? It’s not unfair, unless you want to be poverty stricken when you’re 70. And you don’t want to be poverty stricken when you’re 70. So, I just don’t understand what’s happened to the universities. I can’t believe that you’re not told when you come, the first day, “Look, man, you’re here on a heroic mission.” “You’re going to take your capacity to articulate yourself to levels that are undreamed of.” “You’re going to come out of here unstoppable. You’re going to be able to do anything you want.” It’s like, that’s what you’re here for. Instead, you’re taught that, “Well, you know, the world’s a pretty oppressive place and you’re probably the bottom of the victim pile, and there’s virtually nothing you can do about it except ‘deconstruct the patriarchy’ ” and it’s so weak-kneed and so pathetic that universities should be embarrassed that that’s what they’re peddling to students. I’m embarrassed by it. You know, I’ve gone on public record telling parents, “bloody well send your boys to trade school because at least they’ll learn something useful.” And that’s a terrible thing for someone like me to say, because I do believe that being articulated and educated in the highest possible manner…there’s nothing that’s better for you and for society. Why have the universities forgotten this?! Well, that’s post-modern neo-Marxism for you, you know. Then the philosophy of intense resentment and oppression and group identity and… God, it’s just…pathetic.