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Admonishing the Admonishers


The four-page version of the Harvard Progressive which was handed out at registration may have been small, but it managed to squeeze in almost as much vituperation as the five or six hundred pages of Mein Kampf. It seems in order at this point to say a few words in defense of the institution which even the editors of the Progressive have chosen to attend.

One of the most interesting admonitions which these acid pen-wielders have addressed to Harvard's neophytes concerns the teachers whom they are meeting in these first few days. Beware of these men, says the Progressive, in sobering tones. You may believe at first that they are guiding you along the true path of knowledge. But unless you are very careful, you will realize only too late that they have cleverly contrived, out of sheer black malice, to lead you astray: Beware. For a Freshman who has just got back his first English A theme, covered with comments more pungent than insidious; and pointed up with a large red "D," this admonition can have little meaning. For a man fresh out of a midwestern high school, listening to Professor Demos at the opening lecture in Phil. A tell him that the course should make him feel that he knows even less than he knew before, this warning just doesn't make sense. For an undergraduate researcher in chemistry, confused and unable to see his special problem in its proper perspective, who comes to his instructor, expecting and receiving advice and counsel, the pointing finger of alarm just doesn't seem to point his way.

Teachers, as a class, are prone to indecision, and inaction. It is a professional disease. It is the result, perhaps, of an unusual opportunity to see the pros and cons of every situation, and to discover those hidden factors, the ignorance of which makes it relatively easy for the layman to act. Teachers at Harvard are, if anything, less subject to this disease than the average member of their profession. They are more free from outside pressures towards conformity and inaction; they are more willing to differ openly among themselves: witness last year's two opposing faculty groups, American Defense, and the Harvard Committee for Democratic Action.

The Progressive editors pass lightly over one of Harvard's greatest virtues, that of tolerance. Were it not for tolerance, their Admonition could harldly appear, much less be distributed at registration. There is undoubtedly a germ of truth in their accusations. They raise questions which need to be answered. But the spirit that animates their Admonition is alien to the spirit of tolerance. They advocate "accepting a dogma," and they practice what they preach. Harvard can get along without it.

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