Before You Go To University: Prepare Yourself and Your Children Intellectually


In April of this year I had to attend compulsory research methodology classes at the University of Pretoria in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree I am currently completing. One would imagine that research methodology is a straightforward affair: these are some approaches, this is how you use citations, and these are useful sources. But, as with most things university-related today, it was far more complex and demanded a far higher level of skepticism. If you are going to university or are ready to see your kids off to one, it is incumbent on you to prepare them and yourselves for what is likely to come.

For, you see, at the compulsory research methodology classes, they outlined a very diverse range of approaches to us. Indeed, we had approaches from the far-left all the way to the other wide, the center-left. Critical Race Theory, decolonial theory, Critical Legal Studies, and Transformative constitutionalism, were all on the menu.

If my sarcasm is not apparent, it most certainly should be. Critical Race Theory, decolonial theory, Critical Legal Studies, and Transformative constitutionalism are all variants of the same thing: neo-Marxism. I do not use this term lightly, so allow me to explain. Every single one of these approaches to research make use of some or other class analysis that envisages an oppressor and an oppressed. In none of these approaches is the State remotely regarded as an oppressor. And in each one of them are white people, mostly of the straight and male variety, regarded as the or one of the oppressors.

The first three approaches are all of a far-left variety as they seek to bring about revolutionary change in (in my case) the law. Only Transformative constitutionalism is on the reservation of ‘sane’, but it too is characteristically leftist, given that it enjoins the judiciary to first and foremost pursue social justice in its interpretation and application of the law.

Classical liberalism and textual conservatism were completely absent. But here’s the rub: nobody in the research methodology class seemed to notice. And this is the problem.

Students accept what they are told uncritically. For the most part, they wish to sit, listen, and leave. Those who do engage, more often than not, seek only to impress their professors, and in most cases regurgitate what they’ve heard before. But whether they think they are interested or not, the flawed and biased information they are hearing does get internalized, even if only subconsciously. When a professor of contract law says that the common law of contract must be overwritten by statute because there is an imbalance in bargaining power between parties that must be addressed, students’ heads bob along. Very rarely do they think about the implications of what is being said — that violence must in the final analysis be used against those who wish to preserve their freedom of contract — they simply think the professor knows best. It may be true that there is an imbalance in bargaining power, but it does not follow that ‘thus’ a statute must be introduced upending the common law of contract. There are voluntaryist ways of achieving equitable outcomes, but because professors believe in the force and power of the State, legislation is what they propose.

Most readers of Being Libertarian are young and in their prime. If you do not have children right now, you may well soon have. And because you are a politically conscious member of society, and you know that universities will try to indoctrinate your kids (often very subtly and subconsciously), I would argue that you have a responsibility to prepare your children for what is to come. Indeed, you must play open cards with them and make sure they are exposed to viewpoints that their professors will not expose them to. If you yourself are preparing to go to university, you should arm yourself intellectually, and make sure you don’t only bury your nose in your textbooks, but also in works expressing perspectives not covered by your curriculum.

Be critical and raise your children to be critical. Universities are no longer places to gain new information. They are where you go to test your own and your children’s intellectual strength. If you or they go there unprepared, resign yourself to the fact that either you or they will come out the other end a fist-clenching revolutionary with little time for rational discourse and even less for peaceful solutions to society’s problems.

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Martin van Staden is the Editor in Chief of Being Libertarian, Rational Standard, and Think Liberty. He has a law degree from the University of Pretoria. His articles represent his own views and beliefs, and not that of any of the organizations he is involved with.