It's a Strange World
THE NEW YORK TIMES recently carried an editorial entitled "The Virtues of the Neutron Bomb," defending the most recent piece of Strangelovian paraphernalia. The editorial stated that the neutron bomb's "modest blast and intense but circumscribed and short-lived radiation make it particularly effective against advancing tanks and armies." The cigar-chomping military brass must be dancing a jig of delight, detecting more support for their new toy. Meanwhile, most folks are sorely disappointed: at least another year before the Pentagon alchemists conjure up the Doomsday Machine. Now let's see...how many grams of uranium does it take to wipe out 50,000 human beings?
SUSAN SCHIEFELBEIN'S piece in the recent Saturday Review, "Confusion at Harvard: What Makes an 'Educated Man'?" gives the impression that the Harvard community sighed collectively in relief, when the Core Curriculum was unveiled. The sigh, however, was more of a shudder, or perhaps a gulp of disbelief. It quickly became evident that Rosovsky and the Faculty Council were not fooling around; the reform was vast, bespeaking a change in the philosophy of education. Professors and the Committee on Undergraduate Education have proposed a slew of amendments--many of which have been neutralized by a heavily pro-Core Faculty Council. In a recent Crimson poll, about half of the professors questioned said they would not vote for the Core Curriculum in its present form. Students have organized two groups--one objecting to the idea of a core, the other seeking to delay the vote lest the Faculty make a hasty, dangerous decision. Contrary to the impression left by Schiefelbein, unanimity does not reign at Harvard.
Schiefelbein and many of the professors she quotes say the Faculty must give education a "rationale," "meaning," "coherence." This is fine and good, but unfortunately no one has reduced the meaning of education or the role education plays in a hierarchical society to a pat, formulaic phrase. In fact, it seems no one has realized that this very question, and other questions in the same vein, are the root of an intense ideological battle being waged throughout the world. It seems reasonable to raise the question: Are Harvard professors--safe and secure with plenty of status and money--so removed from social reality? What makes them so objective? Unless we are willing to concede that the Harvard Faculty has stumbled upon the absolute truth, the only alternative is to leave the decision up to the individual--at least to a greater extent than would the Core Curriculum.
FOR NEWSWEEK'S latest They're In Your Back Yard report, the cover sported a spooky photo of a long line of rocket launchers, with machine gun laden soldiers perched menacingly on top. Super-imposed was striking type stating "Cubans in Africa." The impressive arms looked brand new, and many Americans who disdain the use of force--especially alien force such as Cuban troops in Africa--were sure to be alarmed and angered.
But it seems seeing isn't believing these days, at least not on the cover of Newsweek. In a correction box obscured in the letters-to-the-editor portion of last week's Newsweek, the editors confessed that they--oops!--made just a tiny mistake. The rocket launchers happened to be photographed, not in the jungles of Africa blowing up innocent women, children, and capitalists, but at a military parade in--you guessed it--down home Cuba. "By an inadvertence, this explanation of the cover photograph was left out," the correction box stated contritely, but not too contritely: the next line reminded readers that there were, in fact, rocket launchers of a similar type in Africa. Oh well, heck guys, I mean, as long as the idea's the same, don't lose a minute's sleep over it.