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Meyer: We need strong institutions such as universities to counteract autocracy

Meyer: We need strong institutions such as universities to counteract autocracy

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Colleges protect democracy To the editor:

Dr. Ronald Daniels, president of John Hopkins University, uses his recent book, “What Universities Owe Democracy,” to issue a clarion call to campuses around the country to teach undergraduate students the tenets of citizenship in a democracy as well as the skills necessary to function successfully in pluralistic, diverse society such as ours. Daniels warns that “at a moment when democracy is endangered and more countries are heading toward autocracy than at any time in generations” independent universities have an “indispensable role” to play in a modern democracy such as ours.

Daniels identifies four key ways that universities can continue to and enhance support of democracy:

1. Provide opportunities for social mobility through interaction with faculty, other students and leaders with expertise in such areas as government, industry, science, medicine, art and literature.

2. Offer courses in civic education to teach the tenets and practices of democratic citizenship.

3. Identify “facts and knowledge that shape public policy and help restore faith in science and expertise.”

4. Invite leaders to campus from all walks of life who can provide models for students in how to ask hard questions, be open to dissent and to new ideas.

Daniels reminds his readers that authoritarian regimes such as the Taliban cannot “abide” independent universities where critical thinking, tolerance for experience and ideas of others and open debate are encouraged. Autocracy is fueled instead by fear of reprisals for dissent and blind obedience to authority, Recent efforts to overthrow the legitimate results of the 2020 Presidential election revealed an autocratic preference among some of our citizenry. Now, more than ever, we need strong institutions such as independent universities to protect our democracy and keep it strong for the future.



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