"Parlor Bolsheviki find no hotbeds of political agitation within the walls of American universities," according to the views expressed by William Allan Neilson, A. M. '96, former Professor in the University and now President of Smith College, in an interview given out recently.
"It is often asserted that colleges are largely responsible for the spread of so-called parlor Bolshevism," said President Neilson. "It seems to me that such an assertion implies that the next generation can be rendered immune from such diseases by dosing them with the readymade conservative opinions. Now, in the first place, it is not the case that in the colleges generally there is a radical tendency in the teaching. The academic economists are for the most part far from radical, and sources of Bolshevist thinking are not to be found in political economy as it is taught in our colleges.
"Its origin is to be sought rather in emotion than in thought; frequently in a more or less sentimental reaction from the harrowing pictures that are frequently made of the conditions of the workers in various industries.
Investigation of Facts Only Safeguard.
"Cultivating in students the habit of docile acceptance of doctrines, however safe in themselves, is no insurance against mischievous doctrine. A student who accepts one theory in this passive fashion is just as liable to accept its contrary at a later date. The only method on which reliance can safely be placed is that of training the student in the first-hand investigation of facts; in the power of seeing which facts are significant; and in the drawing of valid inferences. To learn to think straight is the chief aim of a college education.
"To teach students to think straight is the chief aim of colleges themselves. The institution which grasps this firmly will not be driven to interfere with academic freedom. Teachers cannot safely be forbidden to offer their own interpretation of facts, but they can and must be asked to make clear the distinction between the objective facts and the subjective interpretation. When this is done there is no risk of our institutions being turned into organs of propaganda in the social disputes of the present moment.
"The business of an institution of learning is with the truth and the means of ascertaining it. When this aim is departed from for the purpose of imbuing students with particular doctrines, instead of training them to think for themselves, the institution is false to its duty."