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Michael Roth
A historian and frequent commentator on higher education, Michael Roth is president of Wesleyan University. His most recent book is Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, published in the spring of 2014 by Yale University Press. Among his past publications are Psycho-Analysis as History: Negation and Freedom in Freud; The Ironist’s Cage: Memory, Trauma, and the Construction of History and Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living with the Past. In 1998 he curated the international traveling exhibition, Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture for the Library of Congress. He also blogs at

Entries by Michael Roth

Fighting for Full Access to Education for Girls and Women

(4) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 3:32 PM

This week we sadly remember the three-month anniversary of the kidnapping of the schoolgirls from Chibok. The world's attention for these victims of brutal terrorists has underscored that the battle for equality in the developing world is inseparable from the battle for access to education for girls and women. Unfortunately,...

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Declaring Our Independence Through Education

(7) Comments | Posted July 3, 2014 | 1:31 PM

Just tell me one thing. Will my daughter have a job and not be moving back home after she graduates from your university?

That's what a dad asked me at a Wesleyan University information session caught on film for the recent higher-education documentary Ivory Tower. Traditionally, a college degree...

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Review of Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst

(2) Comments | Posted June 29, 2014 | 5:37 PM

Reading Adam Phillips' account of Freud's early years, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, I was reminded of philosopher of history Hayden White's remarks at Wesleyan University's Commencement this year.

You can change your personal past. You do not have to continue to live with the past provided...

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How to Destroy College Education

(82) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 12:11 PM

It is crucial to support efforts to reduce student indebtedness and increase access to higher education . However, we should beware of those who want to turn this moment of educational reform into a program of vocationalism and tracking as a substitute for liberal education. I recently made the case...

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Commencement Thoughts for Class of 2014

(2) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 4:54 PM

You, the class of 2014, have spent your college years exploring new fields, creating work that pushes boundaries, even setting new records. While you have been creating your own legacy, you've also joined your school's tradition (which means that you can officially start complaining that the new entering class isn't...

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Education, Gender, Kidnapping: Fight for the Right to Learn!

(2) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 6:52 PM

Almost two weeks ago Gordon Brown wrote: "The world must wake up to an escalating tragedy now engulfing Nigeria. Today the lives of 230 teenage schoolgirls hang in the balance." As of this afternoon, more than 200 girls are still missing, presumed kidnapped from their school in Nigeria....

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Supreme Court Decision Undermines Education and Opportunity

(158) Comments | Posted April 24, 2014 | 12:47 PM

Ever since the founding of this country, we have recognized that education is indispensable to our vision of a democratic society. All men may be created equal in the abstract, but education provides people concrete opportunities to overcome real circumstances of poverty or oppression. Thomas Jefferson argued that the talented...

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In College, Choose to Thrive

(3) Comments | Posted April 14, 2014 | 9:46 AM

I originally wrote this op-ed for the McClatchy-Tribune, and it has appeared in various newspapers over the last few days. I then read Arianna Huffington's new book, Thrive, which argues for a different "metric of success" -- something harder to quantify than traditional measures, but potentially much more...

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Conflict and Culture at New York's Jewish Museum

(1) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 3:17 PM

In December I enjoyed announcing to the guards at The Jewish Museum that my name was Sigmund Freud, and that I was coming for the Wish You Were Here event. I died in 1939 (and it was enough already), but Michael Roth had been invited to speak for me, as...

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Tolerance of Ambiguity -- An Opportunity to Learn

(0) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 8:35 AM

"A high tolerance for ambiguity" is a phrase I heard often from chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees, Joshua Boger, during my first years as president. I understood the phrase to mean that much creative and constructive work gets done before clarity arrives, and people who seek clarity too...

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The Obamas' Jeffersonian Moment

(5) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 9:37 PM

Last week I sat with about 100 other college and university presidents invited by the White House to discuss boosting access to and success in higher education. We spoke about the myriad ways that big public universities, like UC Berkeley, and small liberal arts schools, like Wesleyan University (my institution)...

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Boycott of Israeli Universities: A Repugnant Attack on Academic Freedom

(135) Comments | Posted December 21, 2013 | 8:30 AM

I published this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times rejecting the resolution of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities. The universities, claim the leaders of the group, "are a party to Israel state policies," and these scholars of American culture claim to be responding to "the call of...

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Hopes for an Undergraduate Education That Challenges the Staus Quo

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 1:34 PM

Earlier this semester I participated in a symposium in honor of the inauguration of Nicholas Dirks as Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. My task was to speak briefly on undergraduate education. Drawing on my forthcoming book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, I described the aspirations for...

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Learning to Think for Ourselves

(81) Comments | Posted November 12, 2013 | 5:01 PM

Over the last year there has been a steady stream of articles about the "crisis in the humanities," fostering a sense that students are stampeding from liberal education toward more vocationally oriented studies. In fact, the decline in humanities enrollments, as some have pointed out, is...

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Liberal Learning: A Pragmatic Education for Social Good

(2) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 9:51 AM

I spent Sunday at the 92nd St Y in New York at the Social Good Summit. The Summit is "a three-day conference that unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges." The summit is...

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Review of Suzanne Corkin's Permanent Present Tense

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2013 | 3:18 PM

Henry Molaison (1926-2008) lived a long life, but as it turned out, he experienced most of it in a very short time segments. His seizures started early, and by the time he was in high school they had become frequent. Medications to control epilepsy had a variety of side effects,...

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Review of Derek Bok's Higher Education in America

(34) Comments | Posted September 2, 2013 | 11:01 AM

American higher education is the envy of the world. Students flock to this country from all over, and the most highly ranked schools tend to be here. We should be proud!

American higher education is a mess. With high costs, low graduation rates, unhappy faculty members and coddled students, our...

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Commencement: Nonviolence, Diversity, Equality

(2) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 8:36 PM

Excerpts of Remarks at Wesleyan University Commencement, May 26, 2013

During your four years here, our campus has been largely isolated from many of the troubles of this world. While you have been students, the United States has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on this Memorial...

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Review of David Nirenberg's Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition

(214) Comments | Posted April 28, 2013 | 9:14 PM

"Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition." By David Nirenberg. 610 pp. $35

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,

And the Catholics hate the Protestants,

And the Hindus hate the Muslims,

And everybody hates the Jews.

So sang Tom Lehrer in his satirical song "National Brotherhood Week." It's no...

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Choosing Your University

(19) Comments | Posted April 22, 2013 | 9:30 PM

In April each year I post something about college choice, and I've revised my annual blog just a bit for 2013. Campuses like mine this time of year welcome hundreds of visitors who move around campuses with assurance but also with plenty of questions. These are the newly admitted members...

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