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The Mail A LEAVETAKING

By Ann Withorn

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

I am leaving graduate school. I am leaving because I do not think history is a "business" as Professor Bailyn has said it is. I am leaving because all intellectual enthusiasm is being drained out of me by studying for generals and writing and thinking to please others. I am leaving because I am horrified when Professor Handlin suggests "ranking" our class from one to fifteen as an alternative to grades. I am leaving because Roman history means nothing to me and I can think of better ways to discipline my mind. I am leaving because I am already "withdrawn" from a Department which Professor Bailyn describes as "senior faculty." I am leaving because I cannot associate with a faculty which can criticize someone for having "too much imagination and not enough toughmindedness." Spare me from the tough-minded of this world.

I am leaving because I do not wish to be in the ambiguous position of earning a Harvard Ph.D. in order to prove to people that a Harvard Ph.D. means nothing. I am leaving because the History Department "Revolution" last year has been ignored: all that has happened has been the appointment of a graduate student advisor, the establishment of an "auditory" student-faculty committee, the promise of a History Center in the Yard, and the promise of a paper justifying Department policies. I am leaving because the best teacher in the Department, Professor Bailyn, admits that he envies a scholar who can work without ever teaching. I am leaving because I do not want a degree which is, as Professor Freidel says, simply a "union card" which allows me to teach in an "acceptable" school. Spare me from the "acceptable" schools of this world.

I am leaving because I do not believe a "relevancy crisis" is sophomoric but that it is something which one should have every day of one's life. I am leaving because one professor's opposition was enough to prevent me from transferring from History into American Civ. I am leaving because I do not think that one should necessarily be polite to the Visiting Professor Links who identify with and justify the Woodrow Wilsons of this world. I am leaving because I deny the elitism which Harvard represents and, even worse, in which people at Harvard believe. I am leaving because Professor May says that studying history means that one must constantly discipline oneself to do what one does not want to do. Spare us all from the discipline of Dean May's world.

I am leaving because the more I learn of what Harvard does in the community, and to its students and employees and of what it means throughout the world, the more ashamed I am of getting a Harvard degree. I am leaving because it is embarrassing to hear a Department Chairman admitting frankly that "I think you are being victimized, but there is nothing I can do about it." I am leaving even though I respect and appreciate the sincere professional concern which Professors Buck and Freidel have shown me. I am leaving because Professor Heimert-my last, best hope-does not think I should study popular literature either. I am leaving because when I look around I am afraid of what Harvard Graduate School does to people's souls. I am leaving because I am already so estranged from the Department that I cannot tell any one of them that I am going before I write this letter. I am leaving because I want to teach in junior or community colleges where a Harvard Ph.D. could create an additional barrier between students and myself. I am leaving because Professor May thinks America was imperialist for only a three-year period and because Professor Handlin thinks black people are only another ethnic group. I am leaving because "preserving the amenities" at Harvard means denying any chance for change. Spare us from the "amenities" of any world.

I am leaving because graduate school is making me forget why I ever wanted to learn American History. I am leaving even though Professor Fleming can ask fascinating questions of history. I am leaving because Professor Bailyn says "the Loyalists, we..." I am leaving because studying for generals proved to me that I could pass them but that in the process my mind might be permanently numbed. I am leaving because I have not been learning anything I wanted to learn or could not learn on my own. I am leaving and sending this letter to lots of people in the hopes that it might articulate some feelings others share. I am leaving although it might seem to prove some people right: in fact it does not. I am leaving because I finally realized that it is not great tragedy not to acquire a Harvard Ph.D. I am leaving because I hope to find a better way of learning and teaching and maybe even of living. In the end, I am leaving because I am tired of being told not to be so idealistic about my education. Somebody once said: "the call to abandon illusions about our condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions." Spare me.

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