Below are links to some recent bylines by Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth.

September 12, 2023 - New York Times
The Value of an Education That Never Ends

One mother laughingly called herself a “perpetual student.” She meant she pursued learning for the sheer joy of inquiry. But the term is usually one of gentle derision: someone who keeps taking more courses as a way to avoid holding down a job. In other words, a slacker, or a loser. I think that’s wrong. We should begin to see this sort of lifelong learning as a way for individuals to gain not just knowledge, but liberation. In its ideal form, being a perpetual student is not an act of avoidance but rather a path to perpetual self-determination and freedom. [ Read More ]

September 9, 2023 - Los Angeles Times
Opinion: College students were ‘woke’ in the 60s, annoying to elders and drivers of social change. Meet their successors

There is a long history of student protest in this country. And today’s demands from students for greater diversity and inclusion — among the faculty, in admissions and in what’s taught in the classroom — fall within that tradition. Back in the day, students raised their voices against apartheid and more recently have demanded concrete action to deal with the climate emergency. Students have pushed higher education to live up to the ideals we claim to espouse, and in so doing they have learned how to constructively respond to political differences beyond the campus. [ Read More ]

September 8, 2023 - Boston Globe
What makes a good student?

From elementary school to the university, educators want to create engaged learners. This will include some imitative training, to be sure, but the aim is for the student to learn without having a teacher to please. The point of creating a classroom of active students — whether they are collaborating on a design project or working through a classic text together to see how it might be relevant to their lives — is to make progress toward the goal of learning freedom. [ Read More ]

September 7, 2023 - Wall Street Journal
College Students Have Always Wanted Freedom

It’s not hard to find examples on today’s campus of illiberal students, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s even easier to find open-minded ones. You can still discover campus radicals, as I did 50 years ago, and also student-athletes and their fans who seem to live for the next home game. Yet students today are wary of stereotypes. No one wants to be just a jock or just a Social Justice Warrior. When you look beyond the headlines at the diversity of college campus cultures around the U.S., it’s clear that there is no monoculture in higher education. [ Read More ]

August 15, 2023 - Institute for Citizens and Scholars
Strong Students Make Better Teachers, And Both Create Better Citizens

Strong students make better teachers, and both help create better citizens. I have had the good fortune of working with students whose seriousness and joy, playfulness, and purpose have illuminated for me the very subjects I was trained to teach. Working with students has also made me more attentive to the concerns of others. By exploring the complexities of the world, students and teachers practice making connections that are intellectual and effective. And today, when parochialism is encouraged under the guise of solidarity, it’s more important than ever for schools, colleges, and universities to promote citizenship by helping students increase their powers of aversive thinking, critical feeling, and of the sympathetic imagination. [ Read More ]

July 19, 2023 - CNN
Wesleyan University president: Why we’re ending preferential legacy admissions

Wesleyan University is a small school. But we take pride in graduating students who will have an impact disproportionate to our numbers as they shape a changing world. Our renewed commitment to equitable and forward-thinking admissions processes is made in that spirit. I hope that many American colleges and universities will use their resources to do much the same, by ending legacy preferences and expanding access to their educational programs. [ Read More ]

July 6, 2023 - Salon
Colleges must now fight back: Supreme Court's attack on affirmative action is anti-freedom

Today there are more subtle means of denying members of historically marginalized groups the opportunity to be students. Privileges of access abound for the wealthy; now, in the name of a phony meritocracy, these opportunities are shrinking for black and brown Americans. I trust that we in Higher-Ed will keep in mind the historic link between education and freedom and will find ways to broaden access to our institutions so that they will do more than replicate contemporary social hierarchies. The quality of education in America and the future of our democracy depend on it. [ Read More ]

June 12, 2023 - Boston Globe
Practicing Education is Like Practicing Democracy

Teachers point students toward experiences and discoveries that become available through collaborative exploration. We must be on our guard against those who are afraid of that exploration; we must stand up against those who fear fluidity, who ban books, and who are frightened by free expression and creative transformation. Practicing education is like practicing democracy — both are collaborative, experimental paths of improvement.  [ Read More ]

June 2, 2023 - Los Angeles Review of Books
The Ironic Radical: On Hayden White’s “The Ethics of Narrative”

The first of what will be two volumes of occasional pieces, The Ethics of Narrative collects 15 of White’s essays and lectures from his final two decades. Most of them are linked by a concern with how to translate an anti-foundationalist approach to history into ethical positions, or at least, as Judith Butler notes in the introduction, into ethical questions. How do the ways we conceive of history and agency create preconditions for practical judgements? How do these judgments in turn alter our perspective on what counts as progressive or reactionary historical change? Some of the essays are of the public intellectual sort, like his opining on patriotism or European identity. Others are rather academic reflections on the metaphysics of Western historiography or on symbols and allegories of temporality. [ Read More ]

April 27, 2023 - Washington Post
What would Freud say about our online behavior?

In “The Age of Guilt: The Super Ego in the Online World,” he turns to the psychoanalytic concept of the superego to understand why so many are obsessed with judging themselves and others. Human beings are fundamentally divided, according to Freud: We are ambivalent creatures who want things we are afraid to want. Freud introduced the idea of the superego in the 1920s to describe how one part of our personality judges other parts. The superego is an internalized authority that at once holds us to a standard we are incapable of meeting and punishes us for our deficiencies. When we torture ourselves with self-recrimination or simply feel guilty for not living up to our aspirations, it’s the superego at work. The online world offers a way to displace this work by satisfying the desire for judgment with social media outrage. Instead of punishing oneself, one can share one’s judgments and be “liked” for having high, or at least crowd-approved, standards. Living online, one can master group morality and be mesmerized by physical perfection. The internet is “the great enforcer of super-ego socialization.” [ Read More ]

April 18, 2023 - Wall Street Journal
‘Unearthed’ Review: A Holocaust Story Kept Secret

History is written, we’d like to believe, from the impulse to create a record of the past that is as accurate as possible. More frequently, I suspect, history is written for some personal or political purpose in the present. Sometimes, though,we turn to the past from an obligation to preserve what we care about from the oblivion of forgetting—expressing a form of piety. Mostly, the histories we read are formed out of a combination of these impulses, and in “Unearthed” they are closely intertwined. [ Read More ]

Read older bylines here.