Cambridge 38

Brass Tacks

Cambridge 38 is a magazine that has yet to live up to its layout. Usually one of the most attractive undergraduate publications around, 38 scores once again with its photographs and artwork, but its content, with one exception, drags down the level of the issue.

Although David Hammack's long essay on Urban Renewal in Boston reads occasionally like a Soc Sci 136 paper, it does manage to explore in considerable detail the politics and character of neighborhood redevelopment in the West End district and Charlestown. Hammack's work shows impressive familiarity with urban renewal problems on both the local and national levels.

Mark Meyers, on the other hand, in "Officers and Gentlemen," a study of ROTC at Harvard, seems depressingly unfamiliar with his subject. An article which begins "In 1939 all Harvard ROTC cadets were probably polo players, academic bums, or both" promises little in the way of reasonable evaluation or accurate reporting; and Meyers keeps the promise in nine pages of off-centered insights and dull prose. Quite often he either has his facts wrong, as in his description of drill inspection, or he distorts them. What might have been an interesting statistical portrait of the typical cadet at Harvard, for example, is blurred by irrelevant snide comments: "The typical ROTC man is a Catholic from Malden or Dedham or Weston or Winchester, a Dunster or Winthrop House member. . . . Practical minded, he thinks less about his life at Harvard than about a career. He wears a watch."

Especially revealing is Meyers' accusation that "ROTC is basically a fantasy." Most ROTC cadets, he explains, are cut off from "real life" several hours a week, 300 hours in four years. He complains that parts of the training program, like the Air Force Emergency Notification Net, are silly and bear no relation to the undergraduate's full-time role as a student. Meyers' own implicit view of real life raises the question of what conception a Harvard student can have of life outside the Yard. In an institution where seventy-five per cent of the students continue their studies in graduate school and where the only impressive adults accessible to students are scholars, it is difficult for an undergraduate to comprehend very well what "real life" is.

Meyers' objects to the ROTC's purpose because it is not "engaging," because it is Mickey Mouse. A great many things, in and out of Harvard Yard, are not engaging. The ROTC is one; the military as a whole is another. But some unattractive jobs have to be done, whether or not undergraduates approve; and other values beside the academic obtain in other communities. "Real life" includes much more than the life intellectual which Meyers seems so much to admire. There is an inscription on one of the gates leading into the Yard: "Enter to Grow in Wisdom." Perhaps for most of us the sign should be on the other side of the gate. At least occasionally.