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Walter Lippmann, writing about the coming Tercentenary in the New York Herald-Tribune, lands Harvard for its freedom from political entanglements and takes the opportunity of warning against the current influence of university professors in the affairs of government.
The necessity of keeping the dead band of politics from touching any institution of learning will be readily admitted by all but the most violent radicals, of either fascist or communist hue. On the other hand, there is a danger in being too dogmatic concerning the role to be played by university professors when called upon to serve the government.
It is a natural reaction against the insanity of the New Deal that even men of Mr. Lipmann's intelligence should decry the "influence" of the professors. The cartoonists who have constantly portrayed the typical New Dealer as a frankfurter in cap and gown have succeeded in surrounding almost all learning with a bad odor, but this should not be allowed to blind Americans to the fact that when complicated problems of government and economics are to be solved there is no one better fitted to perform the task than the university authority.
It is impossible to read history without being impressed by the role played by men of learning in good government throughout the centuries. Up until modern times the Church was the great repository of knowledge, and the rulers who culled the best from this patch had no reason to regret their choice. Today the university has replaced the Church in this position, and the professors may yet be made to walk the path of the cardinals. If instead of Richelieu and Mazarin we have Moley and Tugwell, the fault is not in the system but in the man responsible for the choice of his advisers, President Roosevelt.
The President should not be attacked for selecting professors to help him in the work of government but rather for gathering from university classrooms the wildest, most irresponsible clique of economic and political quacks ever assembled in one administration. It is still interesting to speculate upon the possible turn of events if the man in the White House had the honesty and consistency to let Professor Sprague of the Business School carry out the program he was called back from London to perform.
In demanding that the universities themselves be kept out of politics Mr. Lippmann is only stating a prerequisite for academic freedom, but when he says that the professors must remain aloof oracles, he is hoping for a neutrality and aloofness which can never exist. The centers of learning should still send forth professors to "walk with kings." It is only when an incompetent ruler selects the most miserable of the breed that the universities are dragged down into the mud alongside the government.
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