"Reds in the Colleges"
The recurrence of a "Red" scare in the colleges--Chicago was the scene of such as event last month, and more recently Columbia--show a head for plain talking and straight thinking. No one doubt the of our universities a few students believe with adolescent vehemence in communism. Here and there a professor is an stewed (or unviewed) "Red." Larger groups of students take pride in calling themselves "socialists" or "liberals," albeit most of them have no clear conception of what they mean by "socialism" or "liberalism." A number of professors undoubtedly are hypnotized by various types of socialist theories. Some of them frankly believe that the United States would be better off if instead of the present republican form of constitutional government it had some sort of state socialism or autocracy.
Most of these theories form proper subjects of discussion in college classes dealing with the history and philosophy of government. Some belong properly in the study of economic systems and problems. No rational person can object to their being examined by the students. The only valid objection would be if, either in the form or manner of the presentation, these theories were to be definitely defended as superior to our own tried systems and if, at the same time, their advocates should preach the overthrow of our present government. The proper way to present such subjects is to differentiate between theory and practice and in reviewing the latter, to compare it dispassionately with the actual workings of our own system.
No American need fear the effects of such a procedure if it is honestly carried out. To fear it is to show an unwarranted lack of confidence in the intelligence and the intellectual integrity of the average American university student. As a matter of fact, few intelligent youngsters are worth their salt if they have not, at some stage of their education, passed through a phase of doubt and questioning. It is a healthy sign of intellectual growth to seek to know the whys of our present system--even when this is accompanied by the frequent question "Why not otherwise?"
The danger--and this inheres in all education--is that the student will become enamored of theory and either fall to recognize facts or reject them when forced upon him, Inexperienced minds too easily confuse theory with actuality, and, in particular, are inclined to revolt when reality fails to jibe with theory. But a knowledge of theories--especially of such theories as Marxian socialism--will, in mature contact with actuality, strengthen rather than weaken faith in our American institutions. The only valid objection of those who hysterically denounce "radicalism" in the colleges is against those teachers--and they are rare indeed--who openly condemn, deride or misrepresent our present institutions.
Even these men do not deserve to be dignified by abuse. The good sense of the average American university student is adequate protection against their "heresies." The few who succumb to their propaganda would doubtless be as easily influenced by others. To seek to protect these few by forbidding all expressions of "radicalism" is to use the disastrous methods of the prohibitionists. There are few better ways of increasing the number of "Reds" in our colleges than by seeking to suppress them forcibly. If curbed they must be, there is no better weapon than ridicule--as the Michael Mullins Marching and Chowder Club of Harvard has on several occasions successfully demonstrated. But it is absurd to speak of a "Red menace" in the colleges. New York Herald Tribune. Sunday, May 12.