That President Conant should consent to address the Teachers' Union is a long feather in the caps of organized teachers. It is a fitting tribute to wise leadership and constructive policy on the part of the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers that the President of Harvard, proudest and oldest university in the land, should be the first to kiss timidly the brow of organized labor.
In its struggle for "democracy in education" the Teachers' Union is by its charter denied the right to strike. In the fight for less topside control at Harvard, however, it has used tellingly the chief weapon at its disposal: the keen sword thrust of reasoned criticism. And behind that thrust are many of Harvard's much talked of "younger men." The Union's fight for the retention of Walsh and Swoezy may have been in vain. But this year's trenchant proposals for tenure reform and complete departmental democracy may cut more ice with the powers that be than the Faculty Committee's exhaustive report on the same subject. The Union's program was not only written for the younger men, but also by the younger men.
The Union is not alone to be congratulated. With the possible exception of his recent appointment of Professor Ferguson to the key post of Faculty Dean, President Conant has done nothing that will do more to endear him to the doubting liberals in the college world than his gesture of good will to the Union.
The Union's growing strength is a guarantee that the voice of those most intimately concerned with undergraduate problems--the tutor, the section man, the assistant--will be increasingly heard in the councils of Harvard. That is not to say that henceforth all will work in harmony toward the same educational ends. Inevitably there will be clashes between an ancient and wealthy institution and a group of young teachers pressing for reform. But President Conant has at last opened his eyes to the value of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition.