GLOSSIES AND PULP
You can't accuse Harper's magazine of mincing words in its headlines--at least not in the March issue, which finally surfaced, after much fanfare, earlier this week.
The well-publicized hatchet job on Jimmy Carter appears under the headline "Jimmy Carter's Pathetic Lies." No doubt there was plenty of chortling down at the office about that headline. Only problem was, it took a great headline possibility away from Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. '57, who might have loved to call his cover story "Harvard's Pathetic Lies." Instead, he settled for "Harvard On The Way Down"--an equally catchy headline, really, full of the spirit of debunkery that sweeps through the March issue.
It is Aldrich's considered opinion--after walking around Harvard a bit, talking with a few undergraduates, dropping in on Stanley Hoffmann and classmate L. Fred Jewett '57--that the place has gone to seed. ("Rumor is hardening to conviction," his article begins, "that Harvard University is in decline.") Pathetic lies abound at Harvard's decline to the spirit of guilt and "fairness" he sees running rampant here--a spirit that tramples diversity in the name of egalitarianism. (In that respect, he laments the passing of master's choice from the House selection process.)
You get the sense, though, that Aldrich is pulling at straws. looking for a malaise where one doesn't necessarily exist. His prescription is as vague and unsatisfying as his debunkery: he seems to say that Harvard should glory in its elitism, if only to provide a "contrast" to the outer world. But he doesn't really say that, and you're left wondering whether he wrote the piece to say something specific or simply to hear the squeals of righteous pain from Cambridge.