To the Editors of The Crimson:
As the Faculty sat in serious assembly and debated the pros and cons of Professor of Government Joseph S. Nye's proposals regarding internationalization, my mind drifted back three hours to an international event, right here in Harvard Yard.
It happens every Tuesday at noon, and everyone is welcome. The Dudley German Table Convenes, and without fail, every week, a topic arises that bristles with international excitement, addressed by the diver-Korea (is something missing?).
What is most striking about that table is its national representation. To go around this week's table, the students came from Brazil, France, Mexico, Spain, Greece, Poland and Korea (is something missing?).
These were students working under the added burden of studying in a foreign linguistic environment, and yet they had seized the opportunity to broaden their already international experience by entering into a globe-trotting discussion in another language still.
Mark Twain was embarrassed about American Innocents Abroad. As we discuss internationalizing Harvard, we need to start worrying about Innocents at Home. Are the 94 percent of us who did not produce a single student representative at the German Table even remotely interested in learning about the rest of the world?
The subject of our reflection might be "motivation," or "objectives," or perhaps better, "curiosity." I suspect I, the only U.S. citizen at that event, was in attendance in part because, ages ago, study abroad had awakened curiosity in my parochial mind, curiosity about how differently people from other cultures looked at recreation, politics, competition, music and how rarely their minds turned to stocks and bonds or professional sports.
Their attitude towards their academic study had much less to do with meeting requirements and much more to do with understanding great thinkers and attacking significant problems. That approach carried over without pause from Horersaal to Bierstube.
"Recreation" might also be a rubric for our reflection, in as much as the way we choose to relax offers a pretty reliable index to the activities of our minds. I am shocked how quickly many Harvard students choose to dismiss the themes of classroom discussion from their minds as they shift gears to relax.
My reflections, though, are not intended to single our students for bashing. Would that the problem were so simple! No, there is something wrong with our educational philosophy, and that in turn, reflects something disjointed at the center of our culture. Maybe as a nation we are still too young (an unbroken chain of our bests writers from James Fenimore Cooper to James Baldwin had to repair to the "Old World" to survive).
Maybe we are too affluent (and should take care that what we imported to Japan and Germany does not advance what we like to call the "Third World"). But ah, Innocence, how sublime they benefits! Maybe, Professor Nye, you should drop this whole disturbing subject, and you, President Bok, should bring your wild ideas back with you to Stanford. Paul D. Hanson Master, Dudley House