Peterson made these remarks near the end of a question period after his talk at the “Mind Matters: Toward a New Understanding of Psychopathology” conference, which occurred on Saturday March 19, 2011.
One of the things i noticed ten years ago was that we never had our students in university make a plan for for the future and justify it. Cause you know, there is no course which is like “Make a plan for the future and justify it”. Cause you know, maybe you’d think that might be worth forty hours of concentrated effort, instead of just being an after thought. And the more I thought about that, the more I thought “jesus that’s weird. I mean, we bring like we bring people into university, there sort of the cream of the academic crop, they write a history essay it gets critiqued. But no one says “here’s what I want to do with my life and why”, and no one comes and says “well this is stupid, and maybe you should think about this”. And, you know like, think about it for god’s sake it’s your life. And the more I thought about that the weirder it got. So then I looked at the history of the education system in north america. And I found out that the elementary schools, pre university, were set up by Chicago in the late 18th century by fascists, really, this was before WW2 so being a fascist wasn’t associated with murderous genocide. They were set up to make the children of workers obedient. Well workers get told what to do by other people. So that’s been there for a hundred years and no one’s noticed so that seems pretty weird. And then, it’s even weirder in universities because theoretically you are being taught to be an individual, like a citizen, in universities, but no one does that. But I think that’s this responsibility issue again. It’s so daunting, that we just don’t pay attention to it. So part of what I do, is make people do that. Think about who you are, think about the fact that if you don’t get your act together you will be one dangerous son of a bitch like one horrible nasty creature, and you will create untold harm. And don’t do that – set your life up so you aren’t inclined to do that. And think about it, and beware that you are like that, even though you don’t want to think you are, because no one wants to think you’re a Nazi but everybody is one. Look, like 95% participation in Germany, and the only thing that distinguishes the average person from Hitler is that Hitler was an organizational genius. That’s the distinction – not the bloody motivation, but the ability. There is no shortage of tyrants in families, it’s probably the rule. And there’s no shortage of tyrants in leaders, it’s probably the rule. So since it’s the rule, it probably applies to you. So if you’re not a tyrant, you’re probably a victim, so you can pick your category.
Would it be a worthwhile thing to work on in university – people’s life plan, with justification? I think it may be highly politically incorrect for professors to critique students’ plans and values – but on the other hand, if students are setting out with values that cross with what they might dismiss as the older generation, shouldn’t they know this and be willing to deal with the conflict? Would the strife and difficulties that would result from such classes be worthwhile?