The last time Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky and Boston University professor emeritus of political science Howard Zinn sat next to each other on the same platform, they were leading a teach-in at Brandeis University to protest the Vietnam War.
Midway through that event, a student burst into the auditorium to announce the surrender of the Saigon government and the end of the war.
Zinn told a crowd of 300 students--about 15 of them from Harvard--that he hoped to receive equally good news at a reunion last night at Boston University.
"It would be pleasing to hear that every government in the world has been overthrown," he said.
This comment delighted the overflowing crowd in Jacob Sleeper Hall. The audience came to hear the two scholars discuss their new book, The Cold War and the Universities: Towards an Intellectual History of the Cold War, which examines literature about the Cold War.
Chomsky is considered one of the premier scholars of linguistics. During the Vietnam War, he earned a reputation as being a leading political dissident and a leading leftist.
Zinn is noted for his leftist interpretations of American history. He came into the political spotlight with his active participation in the civil rights movement in the 1950s.
The two men said that contemporary Universities serve as instruments of indoctrination.
"Universities turn people out who will take their place in society, do their job and not make trouble," said Zinn.
Chomsky said the current struggle to cure the "Vietnam Syndrome"--cynicism that developed toward the American government in the early 1970s and exists to this day--is an effort by the government to reindoctrinate faith in democracy.
He said this is being accomplished by giving universities funding in order to teach students about the Cold War and to study military projects. Both men said that the United States, in intervening in the affairs of foreign nations, does not practice what it preaches.
Jeff D. Pooley '98 said he attended the speech because he respected the intellectuals' work.
"Both scholars provided a much-needed reassesment of Cold War scholarship, at Harvard and elsewhere," he said. Byum C. Lee '98 agreed.
"Zinn and Chomsky are unknown to many students at Harvard, and that is unfortunate," he said, "if only for the sake of intellectual debate."