What You Learn at Yale

For the record, I have far less problem with Stan McChrystal teaching a course on leadership at Yale than John Yoo teaching law at Berkeley or Doug Feith teaching anything anywhere.

But I am rather amused by the effort on the part of the students who took McChrystal’s class to defend him against charges that his class policies stymie academic freedom.

Here’s the core of their defense:

Non-attribution is the standard practice [at Yale] when sensitive topics are going to be discussed by responsible officials.

So the arguments Stephen Walt and Gian Gentile made about McChrystal? Aside from the detail of whether students had to sign a piece of paper, the arguments all appear to be true, to the extent that Yale told students to treat the class with non-attribution.

But that fact is apparently true for Yale generally, not just for Stan McChrystal.

Stan McChrystal sure seems to have taught these students at least one of the values they say he emphasizes in the class: loyalty. Though I question what lesson they’re learning about another characteristic he emphasizes, integrity.

In any case, their education more generally is teaching them that all “responsible” officials should be treated in such a way that those officials cannot be held accountable. Not only does it make these students unsuited for much of public service–to say nothing of journalism (at least one of the students is a photojournalist). But it really makes them unsuited to be citizens.

19 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    well said, directly and simply.

    mcchrystal hit the snitch switch in these proto-citizens’ emotions.

    clever general.

  2. par4 says:

    These are the future managers of the Empire. They only need to be loyal to the .1%. The rest of us just abide here.

  3. bmaz says:

    I find the juxtaposition with West Point, which is pretty open and on the record for criticism by students and others, interesting.

  4. rkilowatt says:

    It seems relevant to point out: Insanity is contagious.

    Examples abound. Fortunately, sanity usually is recovered by removal from an overly insane environment.

  5. ondelette says:

    This is standard practice at certain kinds of trade schools. For instance, it has been the time honored ritual at Cordon Bleu (the real one, not the U.S. whatever it is) and many other prestigious chef schools for decades. But it certainly isn’t usual for universities.

  6. joanneleon says:

    Make sure you have a barf bag handy before watching this. I think it’s all part of the same program. It was posted on YouTube on April 26th.

    A discussion on leadership with GEN (Ret.) Stan McChrystal and Henry Paulson, 74th United States Secretary of the Treasury. Part of the Jackson Institute Conversations on Leadership Series. For more details visit

    Doesn’t that give you just a warm and fuzzy feeling inside? Blech.

    My son wants to try for Yale Law school after he gets his undergrad degree. I don’t know. He’s starting undergrad in September, so he has a lot of time to think about it.

  7. greengiant says:

    It is worse if your tax payer dollars are subsidizing Paulson’s hedge fund through his son’s soccer team.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: True. Though for better or worse, West Points academic standards for profs is FAR below that of most elite colleges. I studied Spanish with a guy who was about to go teach Cuban history for two years there. Not only was his Spanish far weaker than mine, but he didn’t seem to know all that much about Cuba.

    You’d think Cuban history is one we’d want our future officers to have a decent grasp of.

  9. MadDog says:

    OT – In Greg Miller’s piece last night in the WaPo, he delves further into Blabbermouth Brennan’s “3 men doing jumping jacks” targeting in Yemen:

    U.S. drone targets in Yemen raise questions

    “There is little doubt among U.S. intelligence officials that Kaid and Nabil al-Dhahab — brothers who reportedly survived a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on Memorial Day — are associated with the al-Qaeda insurgency in that country. Less clear is the extent to which they are plotting against the United States.

    “It’s still an open question,” a U.S. counterterrorism official said. The siblings were related by marriage to Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda operative killed in September, but they have not been connected to a major plot. Their focus has been “more local,” the official said. But “look at their associations and what that portends.”

    The quickening pace of the U.S. drone campaign in Yemen this year has raised new questions about who is being targeted and why. A review of strikes there so far suggests that the Obama administration has embraced a broader definition of what constitutes a terrorism threat that warrants a lethal response…”

    And of course, it’s not only about “3 men doing jumping jacks” in Yemen, it’s also about “310 men and a funeral” – via the AP:

    Pakistan: US drone kills 10 suspected militants

    An American drone strike in the frontier tribal areas of Pakistan killed 10 suspected militants Sunday, Pakistani officials said. It was sixth such strike in two weeks as the U.S. pushes ahead with its drone campaign in the face of Pakistani demands to stop…

    …At the time of the attack, suspected militants were gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another American unmanned drone attack on Saturday. The brother was one of those who died in the Sunday morning strike…”

  10. phred says:

    @bmaz: Yalies derive from and represent the interests of the 1%. West Pointers come from a broad spectrum of the citizenry.

  11. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And as the UPI’s report shows, it’s also important where one parks one’s car:

    “…The drones targeted a house with two missiles and another two at a nearby car in South Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan…

    …Two of the fatalities were suspected militants associated either with the Taliban or al-Qaida, the report said. At least 10 other people were injured by the blasts, which leveled the house and destroyed the car, witnesses said…”

  12. pdaly says:


    It’s true the children of the 1% are present at elite colleges and universities, but it is important to point out that public high school graduates (the elite of the public school system) are also being inculcated in this Yale ‘not for attribution’ culture.

    According to Yale University’s admissions stats (pdf)

    Yale college (undergraduates):
    59.7% of the 2015 Yale class graduated from public school,
    34% of its class comes from the northeast.
    53% of the class received some form of financial aid (and 57% of Yale undergraduates received need-based aid directly from Yale in 2010-2011).
    58% white
    19.8% Asian American
    9.3% African American
    11% Hispanic

    Admissions stats for undergraduates at Harvard University and Princeton Universtity are similar:

    Harvard College (undergraduates): 16% from New England,
    Over 60% of the college undergraduates receive some scholarship assistance.
    Harvard provides need based financial aid and this does not hurt chances for admission.
    20% of students come from families earning less than $60,000/yr and pay nothing.
    Harvard does not post what percentage of its undergraduates are from public school. It used to be around 70%.

    17.8% Asian American
    11.8 % African American
    12% Hispanic

    Princeton University undergraduates: 12% are children of alumni
    58% of its undergraduate class graduated from public school
    18.6% Asian American
    7.4 % African American
    7.1 % Latino/Hispanic

    The financial packages make attendance at these universities competitive with state schools; what the students learn when they get there is something to be concerned about, however.

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