Requiescat In Pace: Donald Kagan

Aristotle rightly observed that, in matters other than scientific, people learn best not by precept but by example. Let me conclude, therefore, by making it clear that the colleges who claim to offer a liberal education today and tomorrow must make their commitment to freedom clear by their actions. To a university, even more than to other institutions in a free society, the right of free speech, the free exchange of ideas, the presentation of a variety of opinions, especially of unpopular points of view, the freedom to move about and make use of public facilities without interference, are vital. Discussion, argument, and persuasion are the devices appropriate to the life of the mind, not selective exclusion, suppression, obstruction, and intimidation. Yet in my time our colleges and universities have often seen speakers shouted down or prevented from speaking, buildings forcibly occupied and access to them denied, different modes of intimidation employed with much success. Most of the time the perpetrators have gone unpunished in any significant way. These assaults typically have come from just one section of opinion, and they have been very successful. Over the years few advocates of views that challenge the campus consensus have been invited, and fewer still, sometimes victims of such behavior, have come. Colleges and universities that permit such attacks on freedom and take no firm and effective action to deter and punish those who carry them out sabotage the most basic educational freedoms. Yet to defend those freedoms is the first obligation of anyone who claims to engage in liberal education.

Donald Kagan




One of the great classicists of our time, Donald Kagan has died at age 89.  His three volume study of the Peloponnesian War is enthralling and original.   A typical liberal Democrat earlier in his life, he was repulsed by the campus riots in 1969 and began his transition to being a conservative.  His wife of 62 years, Myrna, passed away in 2017.   Ave atque vale Professor, may you now be debating a fine point of history with Thucydides.

Published in: on August 19, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Requiescat In Pace: Donald Kagan  
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