News

The Path to Public Service at SEAS

News

Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum

News

Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President

News

Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study

News

Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum

WHY, WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Yesterday, Bill Cunningham, sports seer of the Boston Post, using levy-League football as a spring board, took a flying swan dive into a deeper problem. His query: "What's happened to youth?" His answer: they've lost "not only physical energy but ... moral courage." As representative of the current younger-generation-is-going-to-the-dogs school of thought, that answer is a challenge.

Mr. Cunningham comes of a generation which in its youth saw issues clearly. Things were right,--or things were wrong. With a self-assurance born of pioneer optimism, they made their decisions and acted on them. In 1917 they made one of their self-assured decisions. England was right. Germany was wrong. War was glorious, like San Juan Hill. So America went to war.

But the war to end war turned out to be the first pitched battle in a world revolution. By entering that first battle America became embroiled in the vast, incomprehensible complexities of the European world. Ten years later, partially as a result of that participation, this nation's financial system nearly collapsed.

American standards, assumptions, beliefs have had to be re-examined in the light of those momentous changes. In that re-examination our eastern universities have played a leading role. They have tried by every means of scholarship to comprehend the new forces, the new meanings. But the going is rough. The firm, sure ground of twenty-five years ago has dissolved into quagmires of conflicting opinion.

Yet Mr. Cunningham calls for the self-assured decisiveness that was characteristic of his own generation. When he witnesses the torrents of debate on the campuses of today's Ivy League, he bewails the lack of "leadership," the decay of "moral courage."

Apparently he would see the student bodies of our colleges divided into large, cohesive blocks of opinion each dedicated to a distinct, cut-and-dried party line. Perhaps that would have been possible in his day. Today it is not.

Today the majority of students in the Ivy League colleges do not see the issues of our nation in terms of absolute right and wrong. Furthermore, they doubt the wisdom of their elders who attempt to make judgments in those terms. Every thinking student has his own set of premises, draws his own conclusions from those premises. Rarely do either the premises or the conclusions agree perfectly with those of any other student. In this era of shifting assumptions mass thinking in our colleges cannot exist.

There is no dearth of leaders on the Ivy League campuses of today, only a dearth of followers. There is no lack of moral courage to make decisions, only a lack of self-assured dogmatism.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags