In 1620 a band of earnest Englishmen ventured across the Atlantic to test the quality of the New World atmosphere. They liked it well enough to stay and to invite their friends to join them. Since that date it has been the fashion for prominent Englishmen to come, at least once in a lifetime, to pass judgment on America. England has never been able to forget that America is "new". As this is actually the case, one can hardly blame her for reflecting, like the Stoics, that youth is "the time of passion, when wisdom is not attainable." And when Mr. Zangwill charges us with moral callousness in our attitude towards prohibition, and what not no one is surprised. When, relenting somewhat, he hastens to add that Americans "are just beginning", he takes some of the sting from his caustic comments.
There is, however, an uncomfortable flavor of fact in Mr. Zangwill's charges. But "the remedy", he says, "is to make people care. . . . The younger generation must set the standard. . . . They should participate in politics and take an active part in law making, and it should be the function of the schools and colleges to prepare them for this undertaking."
The atmosphere of an American college is healthy, social, even cultural, but it is a life apart a blissful four years to spend and look back on, not to use. It lacks that element which in England makes the university merely the first stage in a public career. On the other hand, there is little interest among the young men themselves. The common procedure is for the budding youth to dabble in studies and extra curriculum activities at college, pausing on occasion at the beck of a compelling headline to reflect on "those politicians". Sometimes he will brace himself to hurl invective at the contestants in the "fifty" game. Then he completes his quota of "C's" and joins his father's business.
It has been said that England's government is more democratic than ours. The only inference is that over there they are "educated up" to it. The Englishman is brought up with the ambition to serve his government. A parliamentary life is the highest profession, with the result that in devoting himself to politics an Englishman is not required to "soil his hands."
In America, politics is not a gentleman's vocation, as it should be. Politics is a "dirty" game; but it will never be clean until the young intellectuals of the country cease to regard it as beneath their contempt.