2017/04/10: Six Minutes on the True Purpose of University Education


(Applause) [Interviewer]: Dr Peterson, you’ve mentioned these ideas of responsibility, of virtue, of respect. You’ve, I think, detailed what you think students shouldn’t do in these examples of like, protests and these examples of certain types of activist tactics. What advice would you have for students? How can students make the changes that they want to make? Particularly, do you have any advice for students here? [Peterson]: Yeah, read great books. Really, man, you’ve got this four year period that has been carved out of your lives by society. It’s given you an identity, like a high quality identity, and freedom at the same time – and you’re not gonna get that again in your life. You’ve got a respectable identity: University Student. And complete freedom associated with that, or as near as you’re ever gonna get. And you’ve got these unbelievable libraries that are full of the writings of people who are intelligent and articulate beyond comprehension. And you can go there and you can learn all this…and you might think, well, “why should you learn it?” Well, you learn it to get a job, or you learn it to get good grades, or you learn it to get a degree…and that’s all nonsense. It’s nonsense. The reason that you come to university to be educated is because there is nothing more powerful that someone who is articulate and who can think and speak. It’s power, and I mean power of the best sort: It’s authority and influence and respectability and competence. And so you come to university to craft your highest skill. And your highest skill is to be found in articulated speech. And if you’re a master at formulating your arguments, you win everything. And better than that, when you win everything, everyone around you wins too. Because to transform yourself into, let’s consider your transformation into something approximating the Logos, it means you shine a light on the whole world. Well there’s nothing more exciting to do than that, there’s nothing better you can possibly do. And to think that you’re coming to university to be trained to have a job, it’s like, “Great, that’s a hell of a lot better than to be unemployed and covered with cheeto dust while you’re snacking away in front of your video game in the basement”, but it’s not…and I don’t have anything against video games by the way… (Laughter) But it’s hardly a triumphant call to being in the world and that’s what universities should be calling forth. It’s like, God, you people you… I know what Harvard students are like – I taught here for 5 years . You people are spectacular, you’re spectacular. You’re all capable of being world beaters. You transform yourself into something that’s articulated, and sensible, and grounded in history, and knowledgeable and wise, you can do anything you want, and hopefully anything you want for good; because if you have any sense, everything you wanna do would be for the good, because there’s nothing more compelling, or meaningful, or or useful in combating the tragedy of life than to than to struggle with all your soul on behalf of the good! And the universities have forgotten that. It’s why everyone’s bailing out of the humanities. And they should – the humanities are corrupt. And they’re corrupt because they’re not telling students this. It’s so bloody obvious. It’s like, “learn to think, learn to speak, learn to read.” It makes you a superpower, an individual superpower. I don’t understand why that isn’t just told to students. It’s not that hard to understand, and everyone wants to hear it; It’s like “really, I could do that, I could do that?” Yeah, really, you could do that. And the whole society around you has labored for thousands of years to provide every single one of you with this spectacular opportunity that you have while you’re undergraduates and graduate students here. Everyone’s just praying that you would come here and manifest everything that you could manifest! And that’s what you should be doing, instead of waving placards and complaining about how you’re oppressed, for God’s sake! You see these Yale students complaining about their oppression. It just leaves me aghast. It’s like, “we’re against the ruling class.” No, no, no – you’re baby ruling class members You’re young – (Laughter and Applause) The only reason you’re not rich is because you’re young. You know that’s the best – Really, if you look at the 1% even, the dreaded 1% you know most of those people are old. Why ? Well, when you progress through life, if you’re reasonably successful you trade in your promising youth for your wealthy old age. But you’re still bloody old. Would you trade it? Would you trade your youth for that? If you factor age out of the economic equation, things look a lot different. Well, of course older people have more money; If they have any sense they’ve been collecting it for their whole life. Is that somehow unfair? It’s not unfair, unless you want to be poverty stricken when you’re 70. And you don’t want to be poverty stricken when you’re 70. So, I just don’t understand what’s happened to the universities. I can’t believe that you’re not told when you come, the first day, “Look, man, you’re here on a heroic mission.” “You’re going to take your capacity to articulate yourself to levels that are undreamed of.” “You’re going to come out of here unstoppable. You’re going to be able to do anything you want.” It’s like, that’s what you’re here for. Instead, you’re taught that, “Well, you know, the world’s a pretty oppressive place and you’re probably the bottom of the victim pile, and there’s virtually nothing you can do about it except ‘deconstruct the patriarchy’ ” and it’s so weak-kneed and so pathetic that universities should be embarrassed that that’s what they’re peddling to students. I’m embarrassed by it. You know, I’ve gone on public record telling parents, “bloody well send your boys to trade school because at least they’ll learn something useful.” And that’s a terrible thing for someone like me to say, because I do believe that being articulated and educated in the highest possible manner…there’s nothing that’s better for you and for society. Why have the universities forgotten this?! Well, that’s post-modern neo-Marxism for you, you know. Then the philosophy of intense resentment and oppression and group identity and… God, it’s just…pathetic.

100 thoughts on “2017/04/10: Six Minutes on the True Purpose of University Education”

  1. Reminds me on Werner Herzog's advice on how to be a film maker:
    Read. read. read. read. read. read. read. read. read… read.

  2. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and now Dr. Peterson, all striving to get us out of the cave and into full light of day.
    Every student should watch this before they go to college.

  3. Thank you so much for this Mr Peterson. This clip resonates so much with my own thoughts during the semester. Thanks again!

  4. I would love to shake this man's hand. He may not save the world, but by God he's giving it one hell of a shot.

  5. Dude. Dr. Peterson nearly broke down in tears here. One of the most important messages ever told is being said here.

  6. all this problems have the same root the judeo christian tradition and the same cure namely our European sacred and heroic tradition

  7. The more I love the more I am amazed with how powerful language is. If it is refined, indeed, pretty much anything can be done.
    Also, great point on the university problem. I too feel that there is this miscommunication of what you are suppose to do.

  8. Books yes. University no longer. Self education. I know many a tradesman whom have read more widely than college graduates. American university is pyramid scheme. I know this is self evident by now

  9. Dr. Peterson has a tight mental grip on these argumentative subjects encompassing society. I admire a thorough explanation based on observation and experience rather than theory and conjecture.

  10. Please do a video analyzing mark zuckerbergs commencement speech, the one where he talks about his mass wealth and how the graduates cannot even pay off their debt. He could pay it all off right now for them if he truly cared

  11. I have never heard a modern speaker directly channel Plato's Republic more clearly.
    Brilliant.
    Peterson is precisely correct, and the modern academy is falling apart thanks to neo-Marxism and this bizarre, shallow obsession with Derrida and Foucault.
    The liberal education is almost dead, and the current crop of professors in the humanities have killed it.

  12. It's nice but also sad to see that I'm not alone in my dirty apartment and failures to finish higher education. Thank you sir for giving me a lift. Praise kek

  13. Any ideas of how the Universities and Colleges were infiltrated? How do we clean them up now? Good luck, you are breath of fresh air! Truth is painful when all you have been fed is lies. That is exactly what we all need a good dose of tho!

  14. Read Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind". I feel like it's a great supplement to what Dr. Peterson is saying here 😀

  15. I am a Harvard grad living in Asia. My advice: don't flatter them too much, they will graduate with a feeling on entitlement, and that is not healthy. Apart from that, I loved the talk. Thank you

  16. Yes, he's totally right about the fact that you need to read and learn and grow, and I can't say anything to argue against this opinion. BUT, don't forget that most universities' goal is to just train you into a cog for the economic machine whithout a personal opinion A.K.A. shut up, sit down and do what we told you (learn this boringly put together s*it from a textbook) (also to take your money and leave you in debt). Read, learn and grow, but don't turn into a robotic servant.

  17. I like how he gets genuinely mad, makes me feel slightly more normal. Everything is so backwards right now, without people like JBP, Shapiro, or even Milo, we would be digging ourselves an early grave. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, in many different areas of life.

  18. Because of Jordan Peterson I started cleaning my room and now that there's space in my room, I began working out.

  19. Jordan isn't completely right here. He's right that many among the 1% are there because they traded youth for wealth, but he's wrong to believe that all or even most of them are there because of that. Many of them are there because they were either born with advantages that allowed them to use the economic system better than everyone else or they have successfully exploited the economic system's flaws and imperfections to the detriment of everyone else. To believe that everyone in the 1% has earned it would be naive. Some have earned it, many have not, and we have paid for and are worse off because of those who have not earned it. Still, Jordan's more optimistic view of the 1% is certainly more inspirational, and probably a more beneficial message to be giving to society.

  20. Tell us how you really feel Dr. Peterson 🙂 Now let's go sort ourselves out and read some great books.

  21. Universities are medieval and should be done away with as their impact on society today is almost entirely negative. Go to an all trade school model and be rid of this nonsense.

  22. Awesome. Feel the love young people, he is encouraging you to think, to speak and to shine a light on the world.

  23. I wish that I had heard this speech when I entered high school in 1976. My life might / would have been different.

  24. I've never seen such an honest and intense look of disgust before I saw Jordan Peterson's face at the end of this clip. 'PATHETIC.'

  25. Or… We can say "Fuck university", and gain free information about everything online from students that pretty much just posted everything on YouTube.

    Or, just go to the library…
    They also have a ton of books.

    There is no shortage of free sources of information… University, is only useful for the tools it offers… Like, laboratories, far bigger libraries than the conventional ones, professors that are suppose to deliver knowledge in a wise manner… SUPPOSE…

    Let alone, allot of other students that are all there in pursuit of lore… Or, career…

    Yet, you can still gain a ton of information right here, on youtube…
    The internet is full of shit, yet… Among the toilet seats, you can discover the true purpose of this medium-
    Sharing data over long distances.

  26. Professors should shed the aura of being the repository of wisdom. They are not. They can't even come close to wikipedia or youtube. What they should do is to encourage students to think critically and question everything. Including professors.

  27. So, what's the purpose? I feel like he said alot but didn't answered the question at all. How I will "learn to think, speak and read" as a engineering student?

  28. Gift for gab here. You could ask him, "how was your day" and he would give an enlightening 10 minute answer 🙂

  29. I would bet a lot of those "great books" will be removed soon, due to the threat they pose on Marxist ideology.

  30. It is this super power they want to destroy. This is how they will eventually control the masses. They do not want people to be educated and articulate. It is not hard to figure out.

  31. I began to feel cheated and lied to during my second year of college. The glorified concept of university seems like a hoax and devolved to a high dollar scam. I later realized I sit in front of the greatest, most accessible archive in all of history and have no excuses. Pay your dues for the sake of the ticket, and then educate yourself on your terms.

  32. I'm a big fan Peterson and I've watched a decent amount of his video's, but this where, this was just amazing.

  33. The only thing that bothers me about Jordan Peterson is his lack of character when using the word 'man' too much. I also think he lacks concrete examples to his presentations. Jordan usually refers to movies rather than people. Other than these things I think he brings forward interesting thoughts.

    I am personally more interested in the integrity and veracity rather than the theories and material being presented to me.

    I say – that what schools lack mostly is the representation of sources. Using your profile as a teacher or professor with arguments to claim integrity or veracity of sources is not convincing to me. Without sources and research presentation, everything is just theories.

  34. In my humble opinion University should be seen only as job training. If you're going there to 'open your mind' you're a spoiled little shit. Look at it as job training, as basically trade school for a white collar job.

  35. Yelling like a madman, saying that you can do everything you want as long as he likes what you choose to do… lunatic.

  36. Hey!!! I've just achieved my first CHICKEN DINNER in PLAYERUKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS! Nothing was harder and more rewarding in my life! That includes 4 years in military service, and 4 years in the university. ;))))
    gamer for (short) life!

  37. My favorite Peterson video. I am glad you took this excerpt out of the long video because I was trying in vain to point people in that video to this exact except! A must watch for all parents of students, uni students and high school students.

  38. I enjoyed this. I still have my great books on my shelves which I look at from time to time. One of the great things for me doing a humanities degree was accessing primary sources from the library.

  39. "Complete freedom" by virtue of being a university student? In some senses, sure – in others, not so much. Of course when someone speaks at schools like Harvard, it makes sense to tell them everything that they're doing is somehow noble, free, virtuous, spectacular.. In reality there are cons to every 'benefit'.

    The secondary school system morphs the mind into a rigid, subjective system of processing, rather than one that naturally thinks in terms of abstractions and potentials that aren't limited by the confines of a university students increasingly subjective outlook.

    "Memorize these 'facts', think this way, believe that this is right".. the school system acts as a systematic constraint on the potential development of the mind outside of the 'politically correct' context of schools. I would argue that only a few university degrees offer a context that actually allows us to make use of the mind in abstract ways, rather than limiting it through memorized and regurgitated "facts". You naturally see the benefits and some minor cons of secondary edu because of your immersion inside of that area, rather than seeing the macroscopic cons of modern education in terms of society, perception, belief etc.

  40. It's because we need money to survive. The degree is worth more for survival than the knowledge in some form. Democracy rules American society IMO. Amazing deep debate loved it

  41. I have watched this half a dozen times, and it brought tears to my eyes every time. This guy is an absolute gem.

  42. Lol. this is great. My goodness it bugs you. It's nice to hear you on this, though I always wince when you devolve into the "that's pathetic" mode. Then I feel given up on. It's wasn't an irrational stage, postmodernism, nor without reasons for arising. Yes its gone too far and yes, as the pendulum swung the positive side of the patriarchy was not particularly celebrated. But then, it was at the top of the heap for a very long time and the "dominance hierarchy" model needed a swift kick. Still does – we have Trump for president. So, great voice of Logos, for the dialectic, the first one to clearly demonstrate through narrative the stages of development of the mind – are you going to lead with nobility, or derision?

  43. (Plato’s Republic, tr. Bloom, 492A) Education: "What do you suppose is the state of the young man's heart?" GLAUCON asks SOCRATES, “But WHEN do the biggest sophists turn out young and old, men & women, JUST the way they want them to be?” 

    SOCRATES: “When many gathered together sit down in assemblies, courts, theaters, army camps, or any other common meeting of a multitude, and with a great deal of uproar, blame some of the things said or done, and praise others, both in excess, shouting and clapping; and, besides, the rocks and the very place surrounding them echo and redouble the uproar of blame and praise.

    "Now in such circumstances, as the saying goes, what do you suppose is the state of the young man’s heart? Or what kind of private education will hold out for him and not be swept away by such blame and praise and go, borne by the flood, wherever it tends, so that he’ll say the same things are noble and base as they do, practice what they practice, and be such as they are?”

  44. You must stand on the shoulders of giants to peer into the horizon instead of being stuck in the muck and mire of ignorance.

  45. All what universities care is MONEY MONEY MONEY! More and more bureaucrats involved in the ongoing business. It is not University what we thought it used to be.

  46. Learn history. Learn how the world got to the exact position it's in now and what events and people it was built upon to reach this point. Find your place in the world's dominance hierarchy by assessing your life circumstances within the time period you currently exist in. Deconstruct your psyche to find your strengths and weaknesses and define an aim to get yourself back on your feet. Master a skill or field and expand your domain of competence. Realize that you are the product of a 3.8 billion year long genetic timeline and then voluntarily take on the burden of both your historical responsibility within the world and your personal genetic one.

    I finally understand what people meant now when they said 'we have so many resources available to us' due to the hard work put in by past generations. It's an offense to the very nature of the human condition itself to wallow in nihilism and waste it. We should work just as hard, if not harder to sort out the current problems in the present moment for the future generations. I just realized how selfish I've been my whole life.

    “Direct self observation is not nearly sufficient for us to know ourselves: we need history, for the past flows on within us in a hundred waves.” – Nietzsche

  47. I'm in between my Freshman and Sophomore years in college, and granted, I'm at a tech school; I don't expect it to be a garden of pure philosophy. However, I do have to say, I left with nothing but awe at how utterly useless my first year of classes was, or at least, almost was. For the most part, the first year classes were utterly useless, and with several of them, we just re-trod over things I knew by heart, and even then I still had an unfathomable amount of work. There were two exceptions, though.

    I had a brilliant professor for Psychology, and honestly I don't think I've ever had a more positive class; as a whole, I left it feeling better about the human condition as a whole than I ever have, while also probably having more self-respect than I've had in a very long time. Something about the way it was taught made my absolute mess of a mind feel like it was, well, I'd still say I think I'm a head case, but I left that class believing, for once, that I could do a lot of good for the world.

    And as for the second, it was a history class, Modern Western World, that is to say, Renaissance to the 20th Century, and it introduced me to Machiavelli and Voltaire through The Prince and Candide respectively. The Prince, for a book so cynical about the nature of man, is actually one of the most inspiring things I've ever read, and I think it hammers on something we seem to have forgotten these days: that acting in the most seemingly virtuous way without thought for the consequences is no better than running amok with your vices. Candide, however, I must admit, I haven't finished, not that I don't intend to, but I tend to take a while with heavy stuff. To be fair to the book, I heard "satire" being thrown around about it, and I went-in expecting the likes of Tom Lehrer, so I'm every part of the reason I didn't expect it to be as depressing as it was. To boot, the class wasn't pushing a propagandized version of history; it genuinely explored the things we owe to European history and represented the facts (so far as I can tell; I'm a bit of a history buff myself, but my area of expertise is mainly the World War-Era) as they were.

    I'm not really sure where I was going with this. In fact, I mostly just felt compelled to say it, I guess. Probably because I haven't gotten-out much lately, talking to myself gets boring, and trees aren't very good listeners.

  48. I have recently graduated from University as a mature student in the UK and I found that there was a profound rejection of Marxism and Marxist ideology on my undergrad. I did History and American Studies and notions of Marxism and the Marxist agenda were openly mocked and described as being outdated and dangerous. Until I started watching your content I had no real idea that such ideology was being peddled in Universities, it makes me sad. Everything that you have discussed in this video that universities should be saying I was told from the get go, I was encouraged to learn as much as possible, think carefully and construct well thought out arguments. And contrary to my user name, I am not a nihilist.

  49. I am a college level professor in biology. Perhaps Jordan has talked or written about my question already, but I have yet to find anything specific. A teacher, it seems, on some level represents, let's call it "The institution of Learning". Implicitly hierarchical, or as my psychologist friend puts it, we're at the heart of numerous asymmetrical relationships (since ultimately I decide what grades to give out). I feel it my responsibility to help generate a productive learning environment and all that may entail, which is a whole discussion in itself. I think I do a pretty good job most of the time. Clearly, there's a balance between enabling productive debate and averting a descent into chaos, for example. This is embedded in promoting modes of good conduct, mutual respect etc. So a teacher necessarily has to exert some authority, based on preserving such a time-honoured institute. A classroom is like like a microcosm of a healthy society. The Institute of this noble profession has existed for thousands of years in various forms, after all. My question is: Where are those principles enshrined? I have my own ideas of course (and reading and listening to JBP has been invaluable to that end), but surely such ideas must have been codified in various texts – perhaps supremely illuminated within a single book (well, I can hope). Occasionally, when I feel the need to assert authority for the good of the whole class, it would provide much reassurance to know that I stand on the sturdy shoulders of others in "serving the Institute of learning" and to be reminded of certain underlying principles. So this is not a pedagogical question perse, more one about the wisdom of the profession. In case you get to read this yourself, Dr Peterson, I would greatly value your thoughts on this "Institute of Learning" (the best phrase I could come up with, but I hope this is making some kind of sense). When teaching a classroom of students, how do you approach your role and responsibility as their professor and what guiding principles might you offer, in particular when conflict and the need to assert authority arises? Thank you.

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