Mr. Stascavage’s claim that somehow what he has learned at Wesleyan University could cement his vote for Donald Trump seems to make sense only within the framework of a self-proclaimed partisanship. As he suggests in his New York Times op-ed “My Liberal University Cemented My Vote for Trump,” Trump’s victory is, for Mr. Stascavage, vindication for Republican losses in 2008 and 2012.
The notion that a “widening gap” can somehow justify Mr. Trump’s election or that the University’s “liberal education” may be seen as the logical path toward this thinking deserves to be challenged. As the Director of Wesleyan’s new Center for Global Studies, I have been charged with rolling out a high-profile educational project aimed at “helping all members of the Wesleyan community achieve the knowledge, language skills, and sensitivity” needed for exercising “effective and responsible citizenship in an increasingly inter-dependent world” (wesleyan.edu/cgs). The center represents a template for advancing a mission that our first president, Willbur Fisk, outlined in the 1830s in the following terms: “Education should be directed in reference to two objects: the good of the individual educated and the good of the world.”
Most importantly, this project is based in a pedagogy that is profoundly ethical. We sharpen our students’ critical acumen while challenging them to develop the values that will serve them best in an increasingly interconnected world. We invite them to think about how governments might reconcile their responsibilities to their own citizenry with our obligations, as human beings, to humanity as a whole: how to reconcile national sovereignty with global citizenship. At no time do we compromise our commitment to the social decency that is the foundation of the bridges we must construct, in order to transcend the very borders that define us.
In short, we work tirelessly through our liberal education to narrow gaps—by teaching a diplomacy of both thinking and action. Our students learn to see the many ways in which human beings perform who they are and what they believe. With the deepest respect to Mr. Stascavage’s apparent partisanship, I challenge him to explain to us how Mr. Trump’s performance represents an embodied commitment to Wesleyan’s liberal values and to the principles of intercultural understanding and mutual respect that are so needed for narrowing gaps in today’s inter-dependent world.