Finishing off our series on freedom of speech, renowned historian Niall Ferguson discusses ideological conflict both between America and China and within the United States, and particularly our universities. Along the way, he shares important lessons from academic culture during the World Wars, how history ought to be taught, how optimistic we should be about the future of tech, and, of course, his newest project, the University of Austin.

Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, where he served for twelve years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is the author of 16 books, most recently Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, which has been short-listed for the Lionel Gelber Prize. He is a founder of the University of Austin, a new university in Austin, TX. His recent essay for The Free Press, “The Treason of the Intellectuals,” referenced during the episode, discusses the role of German academia in the Third Reich.

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  1. WilliamWarford Coolidge

    That was a wonderful discussion. I especially like what Niall said about students knowing nothing about life under totalitarian regimes, and their having no understanding of why the US has succeeded where other democracies have failed. Some may have read Democracy in America, but I would wager many could not identify Tocqueville much less discuss L’Ancien Regime in any language.

    Another factor, beyond the ideological factors, that I believe is hurting our universities is grade inflation. I just read an article, I believe in Harvard Magazine, by a student pointing out that A’s have become so easy to attain, students spend far less time learning material or researching/polishing papers. 

    Continuing to follow the progress of the University of Austin, and hope that Niall will come back often to update us.

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