Chris Kolenda: Harvard students cheering on Hamas shows why character counts

Harvard students cheering on Hamas shows why character counts

American students’ celebration of Hamas’s massacre of Israeli civilians shows that elite education is losing its soul.

Why it matters: employees who cannot grasp the three basics of character formation: think critically, conduct basic moral reasoning, and maintain an open mind, will stifle innovation, cut ethical corners, and undermine your culture. 

Trusting relationships are the glue that holds organizations together. You should assess a prospective employee’s character before hiring them. 

Education, Plato wrote in The Republic, is the guardian of the guardians. Its purpose was not technical training but intelligence and character formation. You demonstrated your character through action in the public square and on the battlefield.

“The function of education,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Sadly, many students get indoctrination rather than the intellectual courage that comes from practicing critical thinking, moral reasoning, and agreeable disagreement. 

How else to explain their inability to see Hamas’s mass murder as beyond the pale?

One can condemn Hamas’s atrocities while at the same time empathizing with the plight of Palestinians and Israelis who want to live a peaceful and prosperous life, however they define it. One can support Israel’s right to self-defense while at the same time demanding their adherence to the laws of war and respect for Palestinian civilian lives. Hamas’s murdering thugs are Palestinians, but only a fraction of Palestinians are Hamas.

Who benefits from Palestinian misery and Israeli paranoia? Hamas, of course, and associated groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (whose errant rocket killed scores of innocent civilians outside a Gaza hospital).

Many students have become, in words ascribed to Lenin, the “useful idiots” of those who seek to divide humanity based on their chromosomes, categorizing them into colonized/colonizers and oppressed/oppressors. The former, in this simplistic view, are good, and the latter are evil, so any action against evil is justified. 

Hence, you have university students cheering on Hamas as they beheaded Israeli civilians and butchered children. It’s obvious who benefits, on both sides of the aisle, from pitting people against each other.

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation,” Abraham Lincoln warned, “will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

The Enron, Madoff, Theranos, and FTX scandals, among others, show the damage when people lack moral and intellectual courage. Given what we see on many college campuses, such scandals will likely increase. Employers aware of the danger have revoked employment offers from students who celebrated Hamas murders.

Before the indoctrinated become bosses, you may see a perverse Robinhood effect – talented, self-righteous employees who sabotage your company.  

Artificial intelligence can improve this problem by leveling the book-smarts playing field. 

A B-level graduate of character from a state university can tap into artificial intelligence for the book smarts. The reverse is not true for the elite college A-student who lacks moral and intellectual courage.

P.S. Many students report that self-censoring is a significant problem on many college campuses. It’s a habit that may carry into the workplace. Did you know employees who report low psychological confidence are reluctant to identify problems, offer fresh ideas, and try new things?

​​Employees with high psychological confidence report significantly lower stress and anxiety and substantially higher performance, productivity, and innovation. Dr. Mark Goulston and I developed this psychological confidence survey so you can assess and identify ways to improve. We can also survey your entire team and provide you with a Net Psychological Confidence Score.

About Author