To most of us, education means learning how to think and not what to think. We have insisted, especially in the midst of the ideological storm of the present crisis, on the maintenance of educational standards which permit a maximum exchange of ideas, and a minimum of stereo typed, "follow-the-leader" thought. In the light of such beliefs, the oft-repeated idea of a college "morale-building" program strikes an unpleasant and unresponsive chord in the minds of those who believe in the preservation of academic liberty and in the destruction of intellectual straitjackets.
That this country would whole-heatedly support any program designed to set up and maintain a high national morale is unquestioned. The implications of a "college morale-building" program are far more menacing. If such a program referred to the establishment of defense training courses intended to place graduates in important positions during the emergency, there would be no cause for alarm. But "morale-building," when it refers to colleges, goes a good deal farther than that; it means more than drafting the man-power or physical facilities of a University; it mean more than stirring up some enthusiasm in patriotic rallies. It means, instead drafting the minds and wills of Faculty and student body alike.
It means defining "morale" as a limited group in our midst have decided to define it; it means giving a specific meaning to one of the most elastic words in our language. In 1918, Wagner and hamburger steak were bad for "morale." If draftees kick about their lack of recreational opportunities, then "morale" is bad. Reading the wrong magazines, jitterbugging on a dance floor, or playing baseball of Sunday are equally harmful to "morale." And there is no lack of United States Congressmen to proclaim that union-organization and the right to strike are ruining the nation's "morale."
Building up a true military morale out of the curriculum of any American university could be accomplished only if that curriculum were completely junked and a manual of arms substituted in its place. History courses teach the bungling corruption of one after another of our American heroes. Government course strip the glamour off the gleaming facade of our administrative set-up. Psychology reduces emotion, patriotic or otherwise, to nothing more than a stimulus-response mechanism. And a course as basic as Ec A, by adding one and one, dos its part in exploding the myth of free competition in our capitalist society.
All those who advocate a similar morale-building program for our universities, forget that morale is at its best when a nation supports a military program of its own free will; there is no better was to squelch the opposition's cries of "misleading propaganda." If the government's aims in this war have been properly stated, there is no need to put education in khaki. The morale of college students, Faculty members, and the country at large will be a lot higher when there is no destruction of academic freedom to undermine the government's program.
America's college youth is old enough and mature enough to decide what course it wants to follow in the present conflict. It may back the President's foreign policy, or it may not. But the Administration is not going to get the support of the bulk of this country's university students if it insists on filling them with some pre-determined notions as a part of their curriculum.