i.e., the Cambridge Review
On the Shelf
It would be easy to dismiss i.e. as a product of sexual repression or sheer mysticism, simply by mentioning its many absurd assertions: "At Harvard, we have absolutely no emotional life.... Harvard does not cultivate a respect for the intellect... the students who are more or less artists or intellectuals and are busy thinking and painting are all stimied." (sic) But in the midst of the inanity and polemic, i.e. expresses forcefully generally felt undergraduate fears that creeping prestige-consciousness threatens their intellectual integrity. Although i.e.'s attempt to prove that the University is somehow responsible for human vanity seems unfounded, it seems seriously concerned and deserves serious consideration.
If i.e. is serious, however, it is unfortunate that it lashes out so wildly. This behavior, according to i.e.,is based on the supposition that "fights" of any kind are a good thing, merely for the exercise. The Advocate seems to agree (see below). Judging from both, however, one would say that "fights" tend to obscure issues which discussion might clear up. The action for action's sake psychology almost invariably leads to hazy thinking.
i.e.'s excoriation of the University is based upon two invalid assumptions: that discipline of any kind invariably contradicts intellectual freedom and that prestige-consciousness cuts off creativity at the bud. On these assumptions, i.e. urges a thorough revision of present concepts of the University, including fewer papers and the abolition of lectures and exams. To be perfectly consistent in its structure of prestige, i.e.'s ideal university would also have no degrees or any other symbol of competence. Present methods of challenging incompetence are certainly not ideal, but in the present state of society it seems difficult to do without some formal evaluation of the individual, especially if he is to set himself up as an expert or professional. Having marks may encourage the prestige bug, but it does not prevent creative thinking. i.e. contends that passing an exam requires only one night of concentrated study. If this is true, a considerable section of the year is left for intellectual dalliance. If it is true that the intellectual is unable to retain his perspective in the face of eight exams, he might as well take up hod-carrying immediately. Far from being destructive to integrity, necessity in some form can hardly be abolished. Exams and papers can be creative in that the intellectual discipline they impose helps somewhat in discouraging the hazy thinking that is so prevalent in i.e.
The same disregard for the values of intellectual discipline marks its criticisms of undergraduate organizations. The CRIMSON according to i.e., need only serve as "an outlet for energies and the expression of a point of view." Most Crimeds, however, feel that, beside blowing off steam, they are developing an intellectual discipline which may liberate them from confusion. Seeking its own kind of integrity, not sexual or emotional, the CRIMSON spends much of its time attempting to clarify issues, and, we hope, offering constructive solutions. In the process, it would like to have a rational point of view. If this not enough, we leave the presentation of an irrational one to i.e.
i.e. contends that people join the Advocate or the Signet Society merely for prestige. It might have added WHRB, Phillips Brooks House, the CRIMSON, and i.e., (see front page). This, however, doesn't necessarily prevent creative activity, although it will always remain as a condition of existence.
Since prestige consciousness, and sexual-repression, are unavoidable problems for the individual in any society, it is unfortunate that i.e. has identified them with specific institutions. Abolishing exams, or even as a logical following, Harvard degrees, will not do away with prestige. If the final clubs were done in, a "polished" set would develop at the Casablanca, discomfiting the artist and the thinker even more that at present. After all, there isn't room for all the white shoes at Princeton.
i.e.'s essential messages, if truisms, are still true--the individual is confronted with the problem of sex, and in the face of prestige-values it is a running fight to retain integrity. I submit, however, that there is very little that the University or any other institution can do to help the individual with these problems. In this light, the existence of sex and prestige hardly offers sufficient basis for overthrowing the University. That there are no institutional solutions to these problems is indicated by the fact that i.e. makes no suggestion except the abolition of certain otherwise necessary institutions and the exhortation of tutors to develop latent homosexuality.
If i.e had put its few good suggestions in a more rational fashion, not identifying the problem of existence with the whole existing order, it might have gained itself a more receptive audience. Many of its criticisms, wild as they are, contain a certain element of truth. The value of the lecture system is questionable. The departments of history, English, classics, and philosophy could well be more stimulating. (So, for that matter could Government.) Something, but not lack of sex, is wrong with the present tutorial system. Drama here is becoming a little too professional. Possibly, the CRIMSON is. (Readers have occasionally disagreed.)
These valid criticisms, however, have been lumped together with some of the most ill-considered inanities ever to be proposed in this community. Professors have very rarely labeled students as immature, except, perhaps, in the case of i.e. Clubs are not a "negative force in the college, deadening controversies which should be spontaneous, institutionalizing social conflicts, sapping intellectual morale ... in the undergraduate group as a whole." This is so untrue as to smack of totalitarian scapegoatism. Unless the editors of i.e. spend a great deal of time with "clubbies," it is difficult to see how the clubs can affect their morale. The clubs may be a symbol of hypocrisy, but this does not mean that they are the root of all prestige-consciousness. When one reads assertions as reck-less as these, it convinces him that id est, the Cambridge Review, is a good example of how un-repressive the University as Superego actually is. In spite of its pervading irrationality, however, i.e. has stimulated some thought, as well as disgust. It might be called a Good Thing, badly done.