Since stepping down from his 10-year tenure as dean of Yale Law School, Anthony T. Kronman has been thinking a lot about the larger purposes of a humanities education. He’s addressed the topic in two books, Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life (Yale, 2007) and Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan (Yale, 2016), this last a 1,000-page exploration of his personal theology that draws on thinkers from antiquity to Freud to Rawls. (Kronman earned a Ph.D. in philosophy and spent some time undergoing psychoanalysis.) As Joshua Rothman put it in The New Yorker, Kronman “suspects that he might have found the meaning of life.”
His most recent book, The Assault on American Excellence, will be published by Free Press in August. It’s a crisply argued jeremiad about what Kronman sees as the wrong turn taken by elite universities in recent years. Under the guise of concerns for inclusion and a misplaced egalitarianism, Kronman argues, universities have abandoned what should be their core commitments to reasoned argumentation and, more controversially, to the development of an “aristocratic ethos.”
I met with Kronman in his office at the Yale Law School to talk about democracy and aristocracy, campus debates over free speech, affirmative action, and what he calls “the conversational ideal.”
Related: 1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.