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I’d go to Austin in a heartbeat

Malcolm Gladwell in 1978. Bob Olsen/Toronto Star/Getty Images

The idea of an anti-woke college like the University of Austin should make me bristle, says Malcolm Gladwell in his newsletter Oh, MG. “My ideological leanings are to the left, and the people behind the University of Austin seem to be mostly conservative in orientation.” For a while, Steven Pinker had signed up to lecture. “I can’t stand Steven Pinker!” But, if I were an 18-year-old looking to go to university, my first choice would be Austin. “In. A. Heartbeat.”

I’ll explain. When I was a teenager, I was “a little right-winger”. I subscribed to the National Review, had a jade tree I nicknamed William F Buckley and a poster of Ronald Reagan on my bedroom wall. Then I went to a left-wing college in Canada. “I was all but alone in a sea of comfortable 1980s Canadian liberalism – and guess what? It was one of the best things to ever happen to me.” Everyone pounced on my arguments. I had to start thinking for myself, questioning my own ideas, learning how to defend myself against worthy opponents. It was invaluable. “So if 18-year-old Malcolm had been a liberal, I would say – he should definitely enrol at a school like the University of Austin.” And to any budding conservatives out there, I say: stay away from Austin. “You learn more from those whom you disagree with than from those you agree with.”