Last week I wrote in op-ed in the Yale Daily News in support of Yale's new college at the National University of Singapore. There has been strong disagreement among members of the Yale community over whether Yale should open a campus in Singapore, which has limits on freedom that we in the West strongly disagree with. Here's a portion of my response:
"Singapore is not a liberal democracy, though it is not so different from many Western democracies at earlier stages of development. It is not the caricature one sometimes reads about. Singapore is open to the world, embraces free markets and is routinely ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
"It has also become more open over the last ten years. In fact, it is to enhance and enrich this process that Singapore has invited Yale to help create a liberal arts college. There will be differences in perspectives among students and faculty, foreigners and locals, but that makes it an ideal place to engage with issues of democracy and liberalism. I can imagine a fascinating seminar on democracy that would be much feistier in Singapore than at Yale precisely because there will be those who take positions quite critical of what is received wisdom in the West.
"Singapore has a great deal to learn from America, and NUS has a great deal to learn from Yale. That's why they have engaged in this collaboration with us. But it is a form of parochialism bordering on chauvinism — on the part of supposedly liberal and open-minded intellectuals — not to see that we too, in America and at Yale, can learn something from Singapore. In fact, together, Yale and the National University of Singapore can teach the world a new way to think about education in a globalized world."