ASSERTING that there is a "genuine ferment on the campus" and hoping that this ferment will lead to a union of college youth marching on the "path to an ordered, cooperative, profitless society," James Weschler has, with his admirably written study of the "Revolt on The Campus" made an important contribution to our understanding of the present maelstrom of confused tendencies of political thought and action as they whirl about the ivyed walls. Documented with care and thoroughness, organized with skill and clarity the work is also very readable. Mr. Weschler has a clear swift moving style which makes the going smooth and pleasant. However, the worth of the book does not depend on its literary merits. As an historical analysis of the condition of the American campus since 1917 and as a brief, however sublimated, for the political organization of college youth in the active struggle against "suppression, discrimination and violence" the work is of deep significance, journalistically at least.
In a panoramic introduction Mr. Wechsler draws a concise picture of the American campus as it was beset first by war and then by an almost equally damaging peace and prosperity. He brings into bold relief the wholesale prostitution of the colleges first for the war and then for the peace which denied the glory of that war. He shows us professorial chairs being stuffed with industrial moneys, unorthodox belief being roughly wiped out by college officials under pressure from above. The whole era of Mencken, Babbitt, the hip flask and the Charleston is seen with as great a clarity as that afforded by Mr. Allen's now almost classic "Only Yesterday". This part of Wechsler's book is a vivid and illuminating bit of journalistic history.
When he moves to describe "The Revolt" Mr. Wechsler is bucking heavier odds but his analysis, is generally credible. There is a tendency to draw lines a bit too sharply and to exaggerate student playfulness into political activity but in general Mr. Wechsler seems to have gotten the spirit of the American campus. Though it displeases him very much is appears to this reviewer that indifference, annoying as it can be, is preferable to half-baked activity and student organization such as is seen today in the middle and west of Europe. Indifference may not be good preparation for citizenship but it is better than youthful partisanship and violence.
Perhaps the main value of the book is its presentation of facts and figures which bear upon the political thought and activity of colleges in the various sections of the country. This material is well presented and affords an interesting insight into the methods by which officials and students maintain the balance of "normal orthodoxy" on the campus. To this column the revolt on the campus hardly deserves the name, at least at present, unless an enforced but gradual awakening to realistic issues can be called a revolt.