Clase Parts, by Eliot, Jones, and Reel, Cover Wide Field at Commencement Ceremonies
At the Commencement exercises in Sever Quadrangle this morning, three members of the Senior class gave Class Parts covering a wide range of problems in college and life. They are reprinted in part below.
Thomas Hopkinson Eliot '28, of Cambridge, read a paper on "Harvard Democracy." It follows, in part:
Two months ago Bishop Lawrence, describing the work of the Harvard Corporation, mentioned the fact that when a man connected with the University dies, no resolution concerning his death is passed, and no account is given of the services which he has rendered. The President merely informs the Corporation of the death of the instructor, or professor, or overseer; it makes no difference whether he gave millions of dollars to Harvard or conducted a section in History 1. The recognition which he receives from the Corporation after his death is the same. That, said Bishop Lawrence, is Harvard democracy.
Harvard's Intense Individualism
It is refreshing to hear those two words put together--Harvard democracy--and it is a pity that they cannot be applied until after a man is dead. We hear much of Harvard indifference; we even hear, when we are away from Cambridge, of Harvard snobbishness; but we hear little of Harvard democracy. The beauty of Harvard indifference is that it is not indifference at all, but intense individualism. The curse of it is that it is intolerant individualism. Individualism at its best can be evidence of highly developed democracy; but in Harvard individualism there is little democratic feeling. By democratic feeling I do not mean glad-handing collegiatism and sartorial standardization. Few lament the lack of those things. And it must be admitted that individualism could not exist without a certain amount of tolerance. But for all that we have our intellectual snobs, and our athletic snobs, and our social snobs, and our anti-social snobs, and there is little democracy in us. We pursue our own interests whole-heartedly and unhampered, but we are apt to look upon those who follow other paths with utmost scorn. . . .
Democracy A Necessity
This democratic country: let us not forget that we live in a nation where democracy is the enduring keynote of social and political life. And that brings us to the larger question--has Harvard fitted us to live usefully in a democratic country, to serve as leaders of a democratic people? We hear comparatively little today of democracy, and much of big business; but the United States will not be ruled forever by the men who have money. The time may be not yet, but the day will come when those who exploit the people shall no longer deceive them, and when democracy shall once again be a principle to stir the world. . . . Democracy is more than a catchword and more than an ideal; it is a necessity for the preservation of civilization.
And there is no such thing as democracy at Harvard? No, not so bad as that perhaps; but still we could have been better fitted with a realization that America is a democratic country. Harvard as we have known it, as we have composed it, has learned of democracy chiefly in the classrooms, and then often as a political theory of doubtful value. Let us again face facts! The tide of American democracy will rise high once more. Let Harvard prepare its men to rise with it. Let Harvard undergraduates show that tolerance which is the essence of individualistic democracy. Let Harvard graduates fit themselves to lead aright a democratic people. And let Harvard democracy, true democracy, free from boasting, free from standardization, but filled with faith in man and zeal for the service of man, become a watchword through the nation!
Lombard Carter Jones II '28 read a paper entitled "This Education." It follows, in part:
There have been occasions when we, who are met here today to be welcomed into the brotherhood of educated men, wondered why anyone should go to college. We know that college stood primarily for education, and we knew, in a rather vague way; what was meant by education. Some of us came here to carry on the traditions of the medieval clerk, to lay aside the vanities of the world, intent upon enriching the mind with the wisdom that is found in books. Some of us came here "to live", as our present-day novelists would put it. But the majority of us came here to seek education by choosing what was most happy and wholesome in our books and in our companionships.
What, now, is the purpose of the college? We hear that the college prepares young men for life. That is a laudable (not to say Gargantuan) undertaking. But, since life itself sets no immediate standard of examination for the college, how is a man to discover for years whether or not he has passed the examinations admitting him to the ultimate institution? And even then, how shall he know whether it be because of his college career, or in spite of it? We cannot help feeling, as time goes on, that the influence and the significance of college are beginning to slip a bit. Things are too ill-defined.
Burden on the Student
Today, the burden of acquiring knowledge is thrust entirely upon the student. Facts are ladled out to him wholesale, like sweet and sour pickles from a tub, with little effort expended upon distinguishing the sweet from the sour. The man behind the book is more willing to learn than ever before, but the man behind the desk is often too busy to teach. The professor having absorbed facts throughout his comfortable career, is content to add to his achievements in the seclusion of a library stall. There he may dissect at his ease some trifling bit of antiquarianism to satisfy the cry of modern educationists for research, and more research! And so the instructor, who alone should be best fitted for presenting facts to his students, is dodging the issue with long assignments of reading to be tested by reports and written questions, for which the student can assemble more pertinent facts in one evening at a tutoring school than he can in a month in the library.
A Plea for Teaching
Great teaching is rare. It is a divine gift. But, whereas the great teacher is a source of spontaneous inspiration to his students, there is no reason why the supposedly ordinary teacher should cease trying to inspire his students. Students are not isolerant of the man who is trying to teach to the best of his ability. And such men, those who are primarily interested in teaching, the college needs, for the time will come we shall find that, by avoiding the responsibility of the actual task of imparting learning in order to devote more time to meticulously unravelling the unnecessary, the professors will have brought this education to the level of a puppet show. The college needs men who realize that teaching is a task requiring coordination of body, mind, and soul in actual labor,--a task, demanding inspiring personality, for which reading systems and so called self educational methods are poor substitutes. If the college stands primarily for education, let the college promote education by encouraging and insisting upon more inspiring teaching.
Adolf Frank Reel '28, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, read a paper on "Newspapers and Censorship." Reprinted in part, it follows:
When you ask a New England farmer what he thinks is the substance of a college education, he will answer "Book Larnin'". That response will not be far from the truth. Certain modernistic notions to the contrary not with standing, reading comprises the greater part of our waking hours in college, and books of one sort or another are the most evident concomitants of the academic atmosphere. But in spite of our private shelves of volumes, in spite of our wonderful library with its millions of tomes, its acreage of information--there is one wholly extraneous class of printed matter that in time consumed and interest manifested can be said to equal even our beloved books. I refer, of course, to the daily newspapers.
A survey of the front pages of modern newspapers convinces us of the truth of most of the charges levelled against the journals. The newspaper art of making much ado over unimportant events and neglecting matters of political and historical interest is demonstrated to us day by day, not alone by tabloids, but by high-minded and supposedly intellectual journals. . . .
The tremendous increase in news of crime and sport events during the past 25 years has made necessary the cutting down of space given to the naturally increasing number of real news items. . . .
I have been able to give you but a small reminder of our questionable press conditions; there is little doubt that they merit intelligent alteration. But how to alter them? One answer is, of course censorship and fascist methods. . . .
But caution! We must stand off and see where the current leads. Well do we know the evils of censorship, the glorification of bootlegging, the emasculation of conscience. Well do we know that although in the beginning this sacrifice of principle might apply only to news of crime and scandal, it would soon fall on politics. History tell its unambiguous story of the fate of any state that prohibits opposition, and we know that the destruction of safety valves has caused more than one explosion. Let us remember that to free press, democracy owes most of her important victories. Political advances and governmental achievements as well as the exposure of wrongdoing, are concomitants of newspaper activity. Journalism has its evils to be sure, but if in order to abolish those evils we must also dispense with the functions of political support and opposition, by all means let us keep the entire field.
We must trust ourselves and net raise insuperable barriers in a moment of panic. Opponents of prohibition tell us that the lamp of liberty burns but dimly in our land. However that may be, it burns, and we must guard what light there is, guard what remains of our old right, the freedom of the press. That Liberty's torch be not smothered by the cloak of Fear, we must stand our ground and be our own censors.