MISTER ZERO IV
"I'm not worried about you men now; I'm worried about you 30 years from now . . ."
Perhaps Professor Kirkland can speak these words and go back to Maine with a clear conscience. But some of us, after three-and-a-half years at Dartmouth, cannot get off so easy. We don't lie awake nights worrying about how '51 will look at its thirtieth reunion (although it is a nightmare), we're more concerned with the way it looks right now, every day, this somester and next somestor, and how the College itself has looked since that fall of 1947 when we found the "roots of Radicalism," and President Tucker's "Liberal Tradition" to exist mostly in old bound volumes and in the recollections of alumni.
Suburbia . . .
It's something to worry about. Starting with the promise that a college is as good as its students, those students are worth looking at. Most of us are more sophisticated than our predecessors, ante bellum, less enchanted with the world and with ourselves, with an easy cynicism which passes for understanding. We know a sinecure when we see one, and also a Stopping Stone. And we know that four years of Dartmouth can mean both. We're more interested in Security (nee Getting-Rich) than public service or someone else's minimum subsistence. We've watched the College turn into a prep-school for Business Courses and Executive Training, rather than an academic end-in-itself; and none of us cries out. One wonders about a "selective system" that will produce 600 seniors who would more readily compromise free speech than the welfare of a corporation. (Great Issues meeting: Thursday, January 18.)
On the positive side, our roots have withered--if one will define "radicalism" as the roots of life. There's no foment, no bubbling cauldron. We could not conceive of the American Legion picketing the Experimental Theatre today, as it did in the '30's; nor could we imagine a group of us sponsoring speeches by strike leaders in 105 Dartmouth; a Marxist Study Club today would sound heinous to the present undergraduate, and Humphrey C. Pheep might find the old Junto "subversive." There aren't enough of us to keep a Leftwing Political club alive, nor is there enough interest to bring up speakers from the camp of opposition. We've stopped listening to the Other Side, ceased reading and thinking about it, ceased talking and arguing because we're convinced. Every man has his own Iron Curtain, and all of us give in too easily. At the age of 22 we found the Answer.
. . . Has Won . . .
All of these things are just symptoms, of course, but the symptoms add up to Zero. The present atmosphere of the College is a political minus, arrived at by subtracting our self-interests from our ideals. We would much rather be safe and sure and successful than be called names or be accused of ideological heresy. We have Neon teeth and a firm handshake, but no political guts or convictions--the willingness to experiment and make mistakes. Right now is 30 years from now, which Professor Kirkland might have realized had he stayed in town.
Part of this fault lies with the faculty and administration, both of whom have made peace with the crushing mediocrity of Businessmen intellect and attitudes. Stolidly cushioned in the status quo, the College must fight for its life to raise funds and academic standards at the same time, to prepare a man for life and General Electric, to promulgate ideas and Alumni Bulletins. Working at cross-proposes with itself, the College has been losing the battle of the books since the war ended. Both faculty and administration, shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, have been "walking reluctantly backward into the future."
. . . The Rubber Match
There was a time and a climate when it could have been different. Right after World War II, before the arteries hardened, before rigor mortis began to set in, when the Liberalism of the '30's contended with the Reaction of the late '40's. It was a good fight for three years--before Suburbia won the rubber match, and World War III became the trophy. From The Dartmouth, January 22