To the Editor of the CRIMSON:
Few of his colleagues will quarrel with Dr. Zipf's principle that the teacher should not misuse the lecture, or the tutorial conference, in a deliberate effort to impose his political views. There has been very little of that misuse at Harvard. There is need for making a distinction between such misuse of the teacher's position, and what may be legitimately involved in his work. The teacher is often asked--and rightly so--to relate whatever he is teaching, whether ancient civilization, or semantics, or the classical tradition, to present-day problems and issues. The student wants to know, and rightly, the relevance of his subject of study to the world in which we live. In the humanities and social sciences this will, sooner or later, bring up the question of values. It is nearly impossible for a teacher to make such a correlation without showing or implying his own stand in relation to values that may be directly involved in present political or social problems. Sometimes this can be done so cleverly, by implication, that the student is unaware of the extent to which the values of the teacher are being presented. At other times a less politic but sometimes more honest teacher will openly state his own position, and thereby run the risk of being charged with misuse of his function. The student must judge whether the teacher is intellectually honest and his discussion and recognition of values are relevant, or whether it is done in an effort to impose a teacher's views; done in a way that violates honest scholarship and distorts the subject of academic treatment. I submit that most of what Dr. Zipf is attacking as an abuse is not an abuse--unless any discussion of values is irrelevant to a liberal education, or is limited to courses in ethics.
Most of Dr. Ziuf's letter is not pertinent to the issue of class-room abuse. His attack on teachers who show themselves to be pro-Ally is merely a part of his larger attack on the "Benedict Arnolds." The latter phrase refers, in his letter, to "the unpaid efforts of thousands of Americans to conduct pro-Ally propaganda." In effect, anyone who supports a policy of aid to the Allies in the present juncture is a traitor. The use of this epithet invites attention to Dr. Zipf's remarks on "emotional involvement."
Whatever position we take, we are going to take it in part because of our emotions, and in part (as large a part as possible, we hope!) on the basis of rational and critical analysis of our emotional position. But a great deal of current discussion assumes that "emotional involvement" is confined to a pro-Ally position. It is not true that the other position may represent "emotional involvement"? I offer in evidence Dr. Zipf's letter, using phrases such as "Benedict Arnolds," "despicable type of disloyalty," "educated fool," "copperheads," "hypocritical agitation under cover of the academic gown" (cf. the full text of his letter in the "Herald"). The unreflective emotional content of a verbal communication is often directly proportional to the number of such phrases and adjectives. Any appeal to reason is hindered by their use. This criticism, if valid, applies to Professor McLaughlin's communications as well as to that of Dr. Zipf. Charles H. Taylor, Associate Professor of History.
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