Who Runs Them? And for What Purpose?
January 19, 1995
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/SfHS/1995-01-19.htm
handout reprinted for use in
The idea that American universities are or ever were (even if only as an ideal) bastions guarding an untrammeled search for value-free, objective knowledge and supporting the widespread diffusion of such knowledge is one of the myths that university presidents and other such public relations employees are forever eager to propagate. From the first article reprinted below we learn however, of "a meeting of top level business leaders and élite university presidents . . . assembled to promote what Howard W. Johnson, chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called [in either an unguarded moment or a blush of naive and unusual candor] 'the symbiosis between the private corporation and the private university'" (emphasis added)
These "great" universities also strive to maintain their freedom from bias by existing in symbiosis with the government and its various agencies, even the most notorious of them.
President Johnson of M.I.T. is probably not quite so candid in letting it be known that "Massachusetts Institute of Technology is still the largest university recipient of Department of Defense (DOD) [Department of War (DOW)] funds, according to a DOD analysis of its top 500 R&D [Research and Development] contractors in fiscal 1973. With $124 million in military contracts, MIT ranked 15th, a notch below IBM and one above Westinghouse" according to the March 8, 1974 issue of Science magazine, Vol. 183, p. 936.
The second and third reprinted articles also illustrate the controls used to prevent honest research and teaching that threaten important interests of the dominant societal groups. That these practices are rooted in the economic system and have firm historical precedent is indicated by the excerpts from Upton Sinclair's The Goose Step: A Study of American Education of half a century ago (1923), which follow these contemporary news items.
--George Salzman, June 23, 1974
reprinted from The New York Times of October 18, 1973
By MARILYN BENDER
Corporations should no longer make unrestricted gifts to private education, David Packard, chairman of the Hewlett-Packard Company told a meeting of top level business leaders and elite university presidents yesterday.
The former Deputy Secretary of Defense said that boards of trustees could no longer be counted on to spend the money in ways the corporation could defend to its stockholders.
"Almost every board of trustees must have its members selected from a wide array of constituents: students, faculty, alumni, various ethnic groups, etc.," Mr. Packard declared in a luncheon address sponsored by the Committee for Corporate Support of American Universities at the University Club.
Formerly, most of the trustees of the major private universities were also corporate officers and their judgment could be trusted with unrestricted funds, he indicated.
Militant Minority on Faculties Gaining Power, Packard Says
"Moreover, much of the power has gone to the faculty, and too often faculty decisions are determined by a militant minority of the faculty," he added.
Mr. Packard said he was no longer convinced by the "bell cow theory" that the great private universities give distinctive leadership to all of higher education in America. He questioned whether trustees should "sit as sole judge of the social responsibility of each American corporation and use this as a basis for deciding whether its stock should be held in the university portfolio?"
He also alluded to "kicking R.O.T.C. programs off the campus . . . prohibiting business from recruiting on the campus" and said that a survey by an unnamed trustee showed that 90 per cent of students believe as they have been taught "that American corporations are evil and deserve to be brought under government control."
Mr. Packard recommended that corporations support the leading private universities but give the funds for specified programs and to schools and departments which "also contribute in some specific way to our individual companies, or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system."
His speech was clearly an embarrassing disappointment to the committee and to the educators who had assembled to promote what Howard W. Johnson, chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called "the symbiosis between the private corporation and the private university."
The other university heads present were: Derek C. Bok, president of Harvard University; Dale Corson, president of Cornell University; Edward Levi, president of the University of Chicago; Martin Meyers, president of the University of Pennsylvania, and William F. Miller, vice president and provost of Stanford University.
Corporate philanthropy to higher education has declined in part because of businessmen's disgust with campus unrest, it is generally conceded in fund-raising circles. In 1972, corporate giving to both private and public education amounted to $340-million or less than one per cent of pre-tax earnings of contributing companies. Five years before, corporations gave $375-million to colleges and universities.
reprinted from The [New York] Guardian of June 19, 1974
By JOHN KEILCH
Guardian Bay Area Bureau, Berkeley
Over 3000 University of California students engaged in a week-long series of rallies and sit-ins early in June, in one of the largest demonstrations to hit the Berkeley campus in years.
The students were protesting the administration's plans to close the School of Criminology and to restructure the Ethnic Studies programs. Both the 'Crim School' and Ethnic Studies are enclaves for radical faculty members, whose courses enjoy great popularity among students.
University authorities, disturbed at this breakdown of bourgeois ideological hegemony, are moving with determination to eliminate the radicals' incursion into the academy.
On June 5, 100 heavily armed riot police were called on campus by University Chancellor Albert Bowker to disperse a student occupation of Haviland Hall, where the School of Criminology has been located.
Ironically, the riot squad secured the shutdown of a school which had originally been designed to produce "professionals" for law enforcement and corrections agencies, particularly the police. To a large extent, the School of Criminology still serves this purpose: 30 percent of the 1970-72 graduates are now employed in the criminal justice system.
But in the past five years a left-oriented school of thought has emerged, centered around radical faculty members Tony Platt, Herman Schwendinger, Paul Takagi and Barry Krisberg, and a number of radical graduate students.
Characterizing themselves as "radical criminologists," these teachers and students have worked for community control of the police in Berkeley elections, helped high school students organize to oppose Justice Department-funded, police-in-the-school and identification programs and lobbied against the proposed Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence at UCLA (a laboratory for psychosurgery and behavior modification experiments on prisoners).
The radicals also pressed to change the structure and content of the school itself. A policy of admitting 50 percent third world and women was adopted. David DuBois, editor of the Black Panther newspaper and radical lawyer Barbara Dudley were hired as visiting professors. Courses included such guest lecturers as former Ramparts editor Robert Scheer, author Paul Jacobs, Black Panthers Elaine Brown and Ericka Huggins, and such films as "The Battle of Algiers," "Growing Up Female," "The Murder of Fred Hampton" and "The Winter Soldier Investigation."
Ideologically, the radical criminologists taught that legally defined "criminals" were really victims and focused instead on the activities of the wealthy and privileged who are beyond incrimination under the present system.
"Any objective study of the sources of crime," explains instructor Barbara Dudley, "leads to the conclusion that it is poverty and injustice which drive people into petty crime and that the most grotesque forms of theft and corruption go unpunished. Any method of detection of 'criminal types' points directly at the White House and this is unacceptable to Chancellor Bowker."
The attempt to "sanitize" the School of Criminology began with the denial of tenure to Tony Platt in 1969 and continued with the denial of tenure to Herman Schwendinger in 1973. But this customary method of academic repression was ineffective in weakening the position of the radical criminologists and the administration decided last year to take the unprecedented act of eliminating the entire school. Bowker plans to replace it with a "safe" interdepartmental program in criminal justice.
Although Bowker postponed announcing the decision to close the school until "dead week" when students were preparing for finals, the response was intense. A student and faculty Committee to Save the Crim School organized sit-ins on four separate occasions preceding and after the announcement. Broad student support was expressed in rallies and mass marches on the campus.
reprinted from the November 1972 issue of Environment
Dr. George W. Cornwell, wildlife ecology professor at the University of Florida [was denied tenure by the university last winter, which means, in effect, that his contract will be terminated this year.]
Ironically, Dr. Cornwell received the University of Florida Intrafraternity Council 1971-1972 award for excellence in teaching this year. Last fall he received a 3.5 out of a possible score of 4.0 on his students' evaluation of his teaching ability and has scored high marks in student evaluations since coming to Florida in 1967. The School of Forestry, which denied Dr. Cornwell, contends that he has not fulfilled his research responsibilities at the university and does not fit into the "future plans and directions of the school." Dr. Cornwell appealed the decision to the University Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and during the first portion of the hearings, he countered the charges of the Forestry Department by displaying the nine Master of Science in Forestry theses he has chaired (41 percent of the total for the department), the 37 papers he has published in refereed journals (about one-third the total school output), the 18 research proposals he has authored or co-authored, and the 23 research projects he has been involved in. Since coming to the university in 1967, Dr. Cornwell has demonstrated the greatest academic productivity of anyone in the entire Forestry School, which totals twenty faculty members.
When Dr. Cornwell came to the university there were 31 students enrolled in Wildlife Ecology. Last fall the program had 81 students, an increase attributable in great part to the rising concern over environmental deterioration and the strong leadership Dr. Cornwell gave to the program.
. . . Dr. Cornwell has been one of Florida's most effective environmentalists. He was one of the original founders of Conservation 70s, the Florida Conservation Foundation, and The Florida Defenders of the Environment, which led the successful fight against the Cross Florida Barge Canal. He is advisor to the student Environmental Action Group (EAG), which recently won a highly publicized battle to stop a four-lane highway from slicing directly through the campus, a plan that the university administration was short-sightedly in favor of, and consequently came into direct and prolonged conflict with EAG. In 1970, Dr. Cornwell was awarded the Florida Governors Conservation Award in recognition for his many environmental contributions, far too numerous to list.
Dr. Cornwell's environmental role often brings him into direct conflict with forestry practices advocated and taught by faculty of the Forestry School, and his philosophy on environmental management frequently clashes with administrators of the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, especially over the use of DDT and other hard pesticides.
. . . As a student of Dr. Cornwell, I have come to admire his convictions, his intelligence, his capability as a leader, and his willingness to lay it on the line for what he believes. The hearings have been in process for some months now and promise to continue for many more. The university has provided unlimited legal funds to the School of Forestry, while Dr. Cornwell must finance his own defense. Students, friends, and colleagues of Dr. Cornwell have formed a legal defense fund to provide help; however, legal costs have exceeded $5,000, and money is of the essence if the battle is to be continued. Those interested in aiding in this struggle are asked to send their contributions to: The Cornwell Defense Fund, P.O. Box 13062, University Station, Gainesville, Florida 32601.
--E. CURRY HUTCHINSON
added by G. S., January 14, 1975
The other day I was talking to Robert Shope, a philosophy faculty member who is offering a course in the philosophy of science. He was disappointed that so few students had enrolled, however, he thought that the course material was in reality quite complex and unlikely ever to attract very many undergraduates. One of the major topics he had listed was, "Is science value-loaded or value-free?," and I remarked that that theme was an important — even crucial — one in the Science for Humane Survival course, where student interest was very high. So we wondered together how much our active interests in such themes ovelapped, and it soon seemed the answer was — probably not very much. We are both convinced that science is not at all value-free. Shope's interest tends towards such questions as whether it is possible to make deductions in arriving at ethical systems (which are also of course not value-free) in ways that are similarly structured logically to the internal logic of scientific disciplines. In other words, can ethics be "derived" as sciences are, or is ethics irrevocably arbitrary?
It's the question that Bronowski attempts to answer (affirmatively) in his essay "Science and Human Values," (in the December 29, 1956 issue of The Nation magazine). I think the question is interesting, but not very important in the real world. In a world where hundreds of millions of human beings are needlessly famished and suffering untold agonies of many kinds, it seems to me that whether or not ethics can be "derived" is really — to use the common jargon — just a philosophical exercise.
This is not to say that I am critical of it, any more than I am critical of other pursuits of "the high culture." The theories of cosmology in physics are certainly very interesting, as are studies in abstruse fields of mathematics and logic, as are, I am sure, studies in the theories of art and music, and so forth. The justification for such pursuits, I would argue, ought to be that they give us pleasure and/or enrich our understanding. In my view that would be enough, and I could not argue with them. A society with surplus can use the surplus for a variety of luxuries — and why not support philosophical and cosmological speculations among them — if they give pleasure to people?
Of course, the reality in our world is that many people are deprived of necessities to provide surpluses used to support and provide pleasure for other people, privileged people. Most of us who are privileged are aware in some degree of this one-sided "siphoning-off" process, and most of us don't want to feel that we are part of a morally reprehensible social arrangement in which we benefit by hurting other people, however indirectly. If, therefore, some real utility attaches to the things we do to gain a livelihood we feel better about them. It seems to me that this is probably part of the reason why so often among academics one hears them argue about the usefulness — the utility of their particular pursuits. The society reinforces such beliefs in a variety of ways, most directly of course by rewarding (paying) people to engage in such surplus pursuits, by awarding them prestige if they are highly successful, and in general by promoting the high culture, which is comprised of these pursuits.
The educational establishment is one of the means for promoting and supporting the development and diffusion of the high culture. While educational institutions play other, more directly utilitarian roles — like training people how to build bridges that don't collapse in the wind and how to design electric motors — the promotion of the high culture is also an important task, for it helps give the illusion of living in a society that is civilized and devoted to genteel pursuits even when this is far from the reality.
Upton Sinclair's great muckraking book, The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education, which he published himself in 1923, ought to be "must" reading for all college and university faculty, to help them perceive the reality of their own lives. The book consists of ninety-three brief chapters, of which I have included in the following only chapters I through V, and a bit of VI, which tell of Sinclair's own experiences up through college at The University of the House of [John Pierpont] Morgan, popularly known as Columbia University, and chapters XIV through XIX, which describe The University of Lee-Higginson, alas better known as Harvard University. Make sure you read this dynamite right through to the end. The last paragraph focuses powerfully on Harvard's promotion of the high culture, and shows that Sinclair understands clearly wherefrom that surplus comes which provides the material basis for sustaining these esoteric pursuits. He writes,
. . . I have a list of some of the titles of "theses in English," accepted for the Ph.D. degree by Harvard University in the last ten years, and representing Harvard's view of general culture. Slaves in Boston's great department store, in which Harvard University owns twenty-five hundred shares of stock, be reconciled to your long hours and low wages and sentence to die of tuberculosis because upon the wealth which you produce some learned person has prepared for mankind full data on "The Strong Verb in Chaucer." Policemen who have had your strike smashed by Harvard students, rest content with your starvation wages — because one of these students has enlightened mankind on "The Syntax of the Infinitive in Shakespeare." Girls who work in the textile mills, who walk the streets of the "she-towns" of New England and part with your virtue for the price of a sandwich, be rejoiced because you have made it possible for humanity to be informed concerning "The Subjunctive in Layamon's 'Brut.'" Men who slave twelve hours a day in front of blazing white furnaces of Bethlehem, Midvale and Illinois Steel, cheer up and take a fresh grip on your shovels — you are making it possible for mankind to acquire exact knowledge concerning "The Beginnings of the Epistolary Novel in the Romance Languages." Miners, who toil in the bowels of the earth in hourly danger of maiming and suffocation, be reconciled to the failure of a great university to install safety devices to protect your lives — because that money has gone to the collecting and editing of "Political Ballads Issued During the Administration of Sir Robert Walpole." Peons, who quiver under the lash of the masters' whip beneath tropic suns in Central America, be docile — because your labors helped to pay off the bonds of the United Fruit Company, so that a Harvard scholar might win a teaching position by compiling "Chapters in the History of Literary Patronage from Chaucer to Caxton."
by Upton Sinclair
Chapter I. The Little Gosling
Once upon a time there was a little boy; a little boy unusually eager, and curious about the world he lived in. He was a nuisance to old gentlemen who wanted to read their newspaper; but young men liked to carry him on their shoulders and maul him about in romps, old ladies liked to make ginger cakes for him, and other boys liked to play "shinny" with him, and race on roller skates, and "hook" potatoes from the corner grocery and roast them in forbidden fires on vacant lots. The little boy lived in a crowded part of the city of New York, in what is called a "flat"; that is, a group of little boxes, enclosed in a large box called a "flat-house." Every morning this little boy's mother saw to his scrubbing, with special attention to his ears, both inside and back, and put a clean white collar on him, and packed his lunch-box with two sandwiches and a piece of cake and an apple, and started him off to school.
The school was a vast building, or so it seemed to the little boy. It had stone staircases with iron railings, and big rooms with rows of little desks, blackboards, maps of strange countries, and pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Aurora driving her chariot. Everywhere you went in this school you formed in line and marched; you talked in chorus, everybody saying the same thing as nearly at the same instant as could be contrived. The little boy found that a delightful arrangement, for he liked other boys, and the more of them there were, the better. He kept step happily, and sat with glee in the assembly room, and clapped when the others clapped, and laughed when they laughed, and joined with them in shouting:
Oh, Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,
The rest of the day the little boy sat in a crowded classroom, learning things. The first thing he learned was that you must be quiet; otherwise the teacher, passing down the aisle, would crack your knuckles with a ruler. Another thing was that you must raise your hand if you wanted to speak. Maybe these things were necessary, but the little boy did not learn why they were necessary; in school all you learned was that things were so. For example, if you wanted to divide one fraction by another, you turned the second fraction upside down; it seemed an odd procedure, but if you asked the reason for it, the teacher would be apt to answer in a way that caused the other little boys to laugh at you, something which is very painful.
The teacher would give out a series of problems in "mental arithmetic", tricks which you had been taught, and you wrote the answers on your slate, and then marched in line past the teacher's desk, and if you had done it according to rule, you got a check on your slate. You learned the great purpose of life was these "marks." If you got good ones, your teacher smiled at you, your parents praised you at home, you had a sense of triumph over other little boys who were stupid. You enjoyed this triumph, because no one ever suggested to you that it was cruel to laugh at your weaker fellows. In fact, the system appeared to be designed to bring out your superiority, and to increase the humiliation of the others.
In this school everything in the world had been conveniently arranged in packages, which could be stowed away in your mind and made the subject of a "mark." Columbus discovered America in 1492; the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776; Switzerland was bounded on the north by Germany. This business of "boundings" appeared in little diagrams; Switzerland was yellow and Germany pink, and no one burdened your mind with the idea these spots of color represented places where human beings lived. At this same time the little boy was going to Sunday school, where he learned something called "the creed," with a sentence declaring that "from Thency shall come to judge the quick and the dead." The little boy pondered hard, but never made sure whether "Thency" was the name of a person or a place.
Some thirty-five years have passed, but the little boy still remembers the personalities of these teachers. There was a middle-aged lady, stout and amiable, and always dressed in black; then one who was angular and irritable; then one who had pretty brown eyes and hair, but to the puzzlement of the little boy had also the beginnings of a mustache. Next came a young man with a real mustache, and pale, washed-out eyes and complexion; but he was dreadfully dull. The novelty had worn off the school by this time, and the boy had got tired of stowing away packages of facts in his mind. He had become so expert that he was able to do two years' work in one, and at the age of twelve was ready for what was called the City College. But he was judged too young, and had to take one year in the grammar school all over. The fates took pity on him, and gave him as teacher for that year a jolly Irish gentleman, so full of interest in his boys that he did not keep the rules. If you wanted to ask him questions you asked, and without first raising your hand; you might even get into an argument with him, as with any boy, and if he caught you whispering to your neighbor, his method of correcting you was novel, but highly effective; he would let fly a piece of chalk at your head, and you would grin, and the class would howl with delight.
In this strange, happy group the little boy went by the nick-name of "Chappie"; for the school was located on the East side of New York, and most of the boys were "tough," and had never before heard the English language correctly spoken by a boy. "Chappie" owned a collection of one or two hundred story-books which had been given him by aunts and uncles and cousins at a succession of Christmases and birthdays. The priceless treasure, when he left the school, became the foundation of a class library, to the vast delight of the other boys and of the Irish teacher. So the boy ended his grammar-school life in a blaze of glory, and went away thinking the public school system a most admirable affair.
Chapter II. The College Goose
The College of the City of New York at that time occupied an old brick building on Twenty-third Street and Lexington Avenue. It gave a five years' course, leading up to a college degree; but the first two or three years were the same as high school years at present. The boy went there, not because he knew anything about it, nor because he knew what he wanted, but because that was the way the machinery was built; he was turned out of the grammar school hopper, and into the city college hopper. In his earliest days it had been his intention to become the driver of a hook-and-ladder truck; later on he had decided to follow his ancestors to Annapolis; now he had in mind to be a lawyer; but first of all he wanted to be "educated."
Most of the students in this college were Jews. I didn't know why this was; in fact, I hardly knew that it was, because I didn't know the difference between Jews and Gentiles. They came from poor families, and most of them worked hard; they lived at home, so there was little of what is called "college life" about our education. There were feeble attempts made to get up "college spirit"; now and then a group of lads would run about the streets emitting yells, but their efforts were feeble, and struck me as silly. In the course of time one of the better dressed members of my class came to me with mysterious hints about a "fraternity." I didn't know what a "fraternity" was, and anyhow, I had no money to spare; I was living on four dollars and a half a week, and earning it by writing jokes and sketches for the newspapers.
I took six or eight courses each half year at the college, and as I recall them, my principal impression is of their incredible dullness. For example, the tired little gentleman who taught me what was called "English"; I remember a book of lessons, each lesson consisting of thirty or forty sentences containing grammatical errors. I would open the book and run down the list; I would see all the grammatical errors in the first three minutes, and for the remaining fifty-seven minutes was required to sit and listen while one member of the class after another was called on to explain and correct one of the errors. The cruelty of this procedure lay in the fact that you never knew at what moment your name would be called, and you would have to know what was the next sentence. If you didn't know, you were not "paying attention," and you got a zero. I tried all kinds of psychological tricks to compel myself to follow that dreary routine, but was powerless to chain my mind to it.
Then there was "history"; first the history of the world, ancient and modern, and then the history of England. I remember the tall, stringy old gentleman who taught us lists of names and dates, which we recited one hour and forgot the next. Here, if you were caught not paying attention, it was possible to use your wits and "get by." I remember one bright moment when we were discussing the birth of the first prince of Wales. Said the professor: "How did it happen that an English prince, the son of an English king, was born on Welsh soil?" The student, caught unawares by this singular question, stammered, "Why - er - why - his mother was there!"
Also there were the physics classes; rather less dull, because they included "experiments," which exhibited the peculiarities of natural forces - sparks and smoke, and noises of explosions major or minor. But why these things happened, or what they meant, was never understood by anyone, and whether an explosion was major or minor was entirely a matter of luck. I remember composing a poem for the college paper, dealing with the effect of physics upon a poet's mind:
God's promise, as poets feign,
Was transverse oscillations
Turning somersaults in rain.
And then there was drawing. We sat in a big studio, in front of plaster casts of historic faces, and we made smudges supposed to resemble them. On this subject, also, I wrote some verses, portraying the plight of a student who forgot which cast he was copying, and paced up and down before them, exclaiming: "Good gracious, is it Juno or King Henry of Navarre?"
I studied a number of complicated technical subjects - perspective and mechanical drawing and surveying - though now, thirty years later, I could not survey my front porch. I studied mathematics, from simple addition to differential calculus. The addition I still remember; but if I were asked to do the simplest problem in algebra I should not have an idea how to set about it.
I remember with vividness the men who put me through these various torments; young men, some feeble, some impatient, but always uninterested in what they were doing; old men, kind and lovable, or irritable and angry, but all of them hopeless so far as concerned the task of teaching anybody anything of any use. Every morning we spent half an hour in what was called "chapel," and the old men, the members of the faculty, were lined up on the platform, and remain to this hour the most vivid line of human faces stored in my memory. It was their duty to listen to student oratory; and so perfect had been the discipline of their lives that they were able to sit without moving a muscle, or giving the least sign of what they must have felt.
Sooner or later we came into the class-rooms of these old men, and each in turn did what he could for us. I remember the professor of German, lovable, genial, highly cultured. During the two years that I studied with him, I learned perhaps two hundred words - certainly no more than I could have learned in two days of active study under an intelligent system. Little things he taught me that were not in the course, for example by a slight frown when he saw me trimming my finger-nails in class.
And then the professor of Greek, a white-whiskered old terror. For three years he had me five hours per week, and today I could not read a sentence from a child's primer in Greek, though I still know the letters and the sounds. I suppose there are Greek words which I have looked up in the dictionary a thousand times, yet it never occurred to any human being to point out to me that I might save time and trouble by learning the meaning of the words once for all. I marvel when I realize that it was possible for me to read "The Acharnians" of Aristophanes, line by line, and hardly once get a smile out of it, nor have it occur to me that there was any resemblance between what happened in that play, and the fight against Tammany Hall and the Hearst newspapers which was going on in the world about me.
And then the professor of Latin; he also was a terror, though his whiskers were brown. He was a prominent Catholic propagandist, editor of "The Catholic Encyclopedia," and conceived a dislike for me because I refused to believe things just because they were told me. I can see this old gentleman's knitted brows and hear his angry tones as he exclaims: "Mr. Sinclair, it is so because I say it is so!" Five hours a week for five years I studied with that old gentleman, or his subordinates, and I read a great deal of Latin literature, but I never got so that I could read a paragraph of the simplest Latin prose without a dictionary. I look at a page of the language, and the words are as familiar to me as my own English, but I don't know what they mean, unless they happen to be the same as the English.
And then the professor of chemistry; an extremely irascible old gentleman with only one arm. There was a rumor to the effect that he had lost the other through the misbehavior of chemicals, but I never investigated the matter. I learned that chemistry consists of mixing liquids in test-tubes, and seeing that various colored "precipitates" result. After you do this you write down formulas, showing that a part of one chemical has got switched over to the other chemical; but why these things happen, or how anybody knows that they happen, was something entirely beyond my comprehension, and which neither the professor of chemistry nor his three assistants ever explained to any member of my class. My most vivid recollection of this class has to do with the close of the hour, when a group of us would gather with our various test-tubes, and each put up a nickel, and guess a color; then we would mix the contents of the tubes in one big tube, and shake them up, and the fellow who guessed the right color won the "pot."
And then the professor of literature. Perhaps you think I should have had some success in classes of literature; but that only shows how little you know about college. A new professor came in just as I reached this class, and I learned in after years that he had got his appointment through the Tammany machine. A bouncing and somewhat vulgar little man, he was an ardent and argumentative Catholic, and his idea of conducting a class of literature was to find out if there was anything in the subject which could in any way be connected with Catholic doctrine and history, and if so, to bring out that aspect of the subject. Thus I learned that Milton, though undoubtedly a great poet, had cruelly lied about the popes; also I learned that Chaucer was positively not a Wyckliffite. I had not the remotest idea what a Wyckliffite was, but got the general impression that it was somethng terrible, and I was quite willing to believe the best of Chaucer, in spite of his perverse way of spelling English words. As part of the process of disciplining our taste in literature, we were required to learn poems by heart, and this professor selected poems which had something to do with Catholicism. Seeing that most of us were Jews, this was irritating, but we got what fun we could out of our predicament. At that time there was a popular music-hall song, with a chorus: "Ta-ra-ra-ra-boom-de-ay"; so we used to go about the corridors of our college chanting to this lively tune a poem by Austin Dobson:
Missal of the Gothic age,
I hope you know the tune of "Ta-ra-ra-ra-boom-de-ay," so that you may get the full cultural benefit from this recitation!
However, my little Catholic professor of literature did one thing for me; he let me know of the existence of a poet by the name of Shelley. We read "The Skylark" and "The Cloud" in class, and there came over me a realization of the ghastly farce I was going through in this college. I was near the end of my senior year, but my store of patience gave out, and I presented a letter to the faculty, stating that I was obliged to earn my own living, and requesting that I be allowed two months' leave of absence. The statement was strictly true, but the implication, that I was going to spend the two months in earning money, was not true; I spent the two months sitting on the bed in an eight by ten hall bedroom in a lodging-house, reading Shelley's poetry and Emerson's Essays and the prose of Ruskin and Carlyle. I went back to college and made up my lost months in a week or two, and passed my examinations without either credit or discredit - ranking just in the middle of my class.
I take it that the purpose of education is to discover the special aptitudes of the student, and to foster them. And here was I, a man with one special aptitude; here were a score of teachers, with whom I had been in daily contact for five years; yet I am sure, if these teachers had been told that one man in the class of '97 would come to be known throughout the civilized world in less than nine years, they would have guessed more than half my class-mates before they guessed me. I am not so egotistical as to imagine that I was the only man in that class who had special aptitudes; if few of the others have developed any, I think I know the reason - the machine had rolled them flat!
Chapter III. The University Goose
Columbia University at the time I went to it had just moved up to its new buildings on Morningside Heights. The center of the group was a magnificent white marble library, built almost entirely for display, and with but little relation to books and those who were to use them. But of this I had no suspicion; I had come now to the real headquarters of education, and I studied the fascinating lists of courses, and my heart leaped, because I was free to choose whatever I wished of all this feast. I was a proud "bachelor of arts," and declared my intention of becoming a still prouder "master of arts." To achieve the feat I must complete a year's course, consisting of a "major" subject and two "minors," and I must also compose a "thesis." To register for all this I paid a hundred and fifty dollars, earned by a newly discovered talent for writing dime novels.
My major subject was English; and as part of the work Professor George Rice Carpenter undertook to teach me the art of composition. This was an undergraduate course, taken by students of Columbia College, and so I had a chance to see how they were taught. To my dismay I found it exactly the same dreary routine that I had been through at my City College. Our professor would set us a topic on which to write a "theme": "Should College Students Take Part in Athletics"; or perhaps, "A Description of the Country in Winter." My own efforts at this task were pitiful, and I was angrily aware that they were pitiful; I did not care anything about the matters on which I was asked to write, and I could never in my life write about anything I did not care about. I stood some six weeks of it, and then went to the professor and told him I wanted to drop the course.
So I discovered one of the embarrassments of the American college system. Students are supposed to choose courses, but no provision is made for them to sample the wares and make an intelligent selection. If anybody finds he has made a mistake, he is in the same plight as if he has married the wrong girl; he can not get out without hurting the girl's feelings, and I, unhappy blunderer in the undergraduate machine, had to hurt the feelings of Professor Carpenter. "I don't know what you want," said he, "or how you think you are going to get it; but this one thing I can tell you positively - you don't know how to write." To which I answered humbly, of course; that was why I had come to him. But I had become convinced that I wasn't going to learn in that way, and my mind was made up to drop the course.
Also I took a course in poetry with William Peterfield Trent. The predecessors of Milton were the subject of our investigation, I remember, and perhaps they were uninteresting poets - anyhow, the lectures about them certainly were. I stood it for a month or two, and then we came upon a grammatical error in one of our poets. "You will find such things occasionally," said the professor, "There is a line in Byron - 'There let him lay - and I have an impression that I once came upon a similar error in Shelley. Some day before long I plan to read Shelley through and see if I can find it." And that finished me. Shelley was my dearest friend in all the world, and I imagined a man confronting the record of his ecstasies, seeking a grammatical error! I quit that course.
Also I had started one in French. It was the same dreary routine I had gone through for five years in Latin; translating little foolish sentences by looking up words in the dictionary. I seriously meant to read French, so stayed long enough to get the accent correctly, and then retired, and got myself a note-book and set to work to hammer the meaning of French words into my head. In another six weeks I had read half a dozen of the best French novels, and in the course of the next year I read all the standard French classics. I did the same thing with German; having already got the pronunciation, I proceeded to teach myself words, and in a year or two had got to know German literature as well as English.
Most of my experience at Columbia consisted of beginning courses, and dropping them after a few weeks. At the end I figured up that I had sampled over forty courses. I finished five or six, but never took an examination in one. And this was no mere whim or idleness on my part; it was a deliberate judgment upon the university and its methods. I had made the discovery that, being registered for a master's degree, and not having completed the necessary courses, I was free to register for new courses the second year, without paying additional tuition fees; and failing to complete the courses the second year, I was free to register for the third year, and so on.
Thus I worked out my system - education in spite of the educators! I would start a course, and get a preliminary view of the subject, and the list of the required readings; then I would go off by myself and do the readings. Almost invariably there was one book which the professor used as a text-book, and his lectures were nothing but an inadequate resume thereof. At the beginning of his course on the drama Brander Matthews would say "Gentlemen, I make it a point of honor with you not to read my book, 'The Development of the Drama,' until after you have finished my course!"
Brander Matthews was a new type to me, the literary "man of the world." His mind was a store-house of gossip about the theater and the stage-world, and I was interested, and eagerly read the plays. I knew that Brander was not my kind of man, that his world was not for me; but what kind of world I was going to choose, or to make for myself, I did not at that time know. As I dwell on these days, I see before me his loose, rather shambling figure, with a queerly shaped brown beard and a cigarette dangling from the lower lip. I do not know how this dangling was contrived, but I doubt if I ever saw the professor at a lecture that he did not have that cigarette in position as he talked. Brander is the beau ideal of the successful college professor, metropolitan style; a club-man, easy-going and cynical, but not too much so for propriety; wealthy enough to be received at the dinners of trustees, and witty enough to be welcome anywhere. He is a bitter reactionary, and has become one of President Butler's most active henchmen; his reputation as author of more than forty books is made use of by the New York Times for an occasional job of assassinating a liberal writer.
With Nicholas Murray Butler I took a course in the critical philosophy. At this time he was a modest professor, and his dazzling career lay in the future. I shall have many impolite things to say about Butler, so let me make it plain that there is nothing personal in my attitude; to me he was always affable. He possesses a subtle mind, and uses it thoroughly. With him I read "The Critique of Pure Reason" twice through and as a work of supererogation I read also the impossible German. I had had a little metaphysics before this, and was now pleased to have Kant demonstrate that I had wasted my time. I took seriously what I read, and assumed that my professor was taking seriously what he taught; so imagine my bewilderment when shortly afterwards I learned that Professor Butler had left the Presbyterian church, and had joined the Episcopal church, as one of the steps necessary to becoming president of Columbia University. It gave me a shock, because I knew he had no belief whatever in any of the dogmas of the Christian religion, and had completely demonstrated to me the impossibility of any valid knowledge concerning immortality, free will or a First Cause.
Another "man of the world" type of professor whom I encountered was Harry Thurston Peck, who gave me a course in Roman civilization of the Augustan age. It was so like America that it was terrifying, but Professor Peck I am sure was entirely unterrified. He was widely read in the literature of decadence, and from him I heard the names of strange writers, from Petronius and Boccaccio to Zola and Gautier. It was a world of grim and cruel depravity, but one had sooner or later to know that it existed, and to steel one's soul for a new endeavor to save the race. Poor Harry Peck was not steeled enough, and he broke the first rule of the "man of the world," and got found out. A woman sued him for breach of promise, and published his letters in the newspapers. There were some who thought he should not have been assumed to be guilty, merely because a blackmailer accused him; but the powers which ruled Columbia thought otherwise, and Professor Peck was driven out, and committed suicide.
It was a peculiar thing, which I observed as time went on — every single man who had had anything worth-while of any sort to teach me was forced out of Columbia University in some manner or other. The ones that stayed were the dull ones, or the worldly and cunning ones. Carpenter stayed until he died, and Brander Matthews, and Butler, and Trent, who purposed to read through the works of Shelley to find a grammatical error, and John Erskine, whom I knew as a timid and conventional "researcher," and who, I am told, has been chosen by Butler as his heir-apparent. But Peck went – and Hyslop, and Spingarn, and Robinson, and MacDowell, and Woodberry.
James Hyslop gave me a course in what he called "practical ethics," and this was a curious affair. In the first part he discussed abstract rules of conduct – regardless of the fact that there can be no such things. In the second part he attempted to apply these rules to New York City politics, explaining the methods by which Tammany politicians got their graft, and devising elaborate laws and electoral arrangements whereby these politicaians could be kept out of office, or made to be good while in. The professor was a frail and ascetic-looking little man with a feeble black beard. It was painfully clear to me that the politicians were more clever than he, and would devise a hundred ways of countering his program before he had got it into action.
Now, as I look back upon this course, the thing which strikes me as marvelous is that never once in a whole year of instruction did the professor drop a hint concerning the economic basis of political corruption. The politicians got money – yes, of course; but who paid them the money, and what did the payers get out of it? In other words, what part was Big Business playing in the undermining of American public life? I took an entire course in "practical ethics" at Columbia University in the year '99 or 1900 – two hours a week for nine months – and never once did I hear that question mentioned, either by the professor or by any of the graduate students in that class!
You would have thought that this would have made James Hyslop safe for life; but alas! the poor man became too anxious concerning the growth of Socialism throughout the world, and decided that the way to counter it was to renew the faith of the people in heaven and hell. You may find his ideas on this point quoted in "The Profits of Religion," page 224. He took to studying spiritualism, and the newspapers took him up, and the university authorities, who tolerate no sort of eccentricity, politely slid him out of his job.
After his recent visit to the United States, H.G. Wells wrote that the most vital mind he had met was James Harvey Robinson, author of "The Mind in the Making." Twenty-two or three years ago I took with Professor Robinson a course in the history of the Renaissance and Reformation. It was a great period, when the mind of the race was breaking the shackles of medieval tyranny in religion, politics, and thought. I read with eagerness about John Huss and Wyckliffe, Erasmus and Luther. I still hope for such heroes and for such an awakening in my own modern world; meantime, I observe that Professor Robinson, unable to stand the medievalism of Columbia, has handed in his resignation.
Then MacDowell, the composer. Edward MacDowell was the first authentic man of genius I met; he is the only American musician whose work has won fame abroad. He was a man as well as an artist, and his courses in general musical culture were a rare delight. After much urging, he consented to play us parts of his own works, and discuss them with us. Needless to say, this was not orthodox academic procedure, and the college authorities, who do not recognize genius less than a hundred years away, would not give proper credits for work with MacDowell. The composer's beautiful dream of a center of musical education came to nothing, and he retired, broken-hearted. As I described the tragedy at the time, he ran into Nicholas Murray Butler and was killed.
Finally, George Edward Woodberry, who was in the field of letters what MacDowell was in music, a master not merely of criticism but of creation; also a charming spirit and a friend to students. He gave a course in what he called comparative literature, and made us acquainted with Plato, Cervantes, Dante, Ariosto, Spenser, and Shelley. He was a truly liberalizing influence, and so popular among the men that the Columbia machine hated him heartily. I was taking Brander Matthews' course at the same time as Woodberry's, and would hear Matthews sneer at Woodberry's "idealism," and at his methods of teaching. A year later Woodberry was forced out, under circumstances which I shall presently narrate.
Chapter IV. The Goose-Steppers
In the year 1901 I was twenty-one years of age, and was ready to quit Columbia. The great university had become to me nothing but a library full of books, and some empty class-rooms in which to sit while reading them. No longer was I lured by elaborate prospectuses, setting forth lists of "courses"; I had tried forty of them, and knew that nine-tenths of them were dull. The great institution was a hollow shell, a body without a soul, a mass of brick and stone held together by red tape.
But before I went out into the world, I made one final test of the place. I knew by this time exactly what I wanted to do in the world; I wanted to create literature. I had an overwhelming impulse, so intense that it had completely ruined me as a hack-writer; my "half-dime" novels had become impossible to me, and the question of how I was to earn my living was a serious one.
And here was a great university, devoted to the furthering of all liberal arts. This university had trained me to love and reverence the great writers of the past; what was its attitude to the great writers of the future? The university controlled and awarded a vast number of scholarships and fellowships in all branches of learning; that is to say, it offered support to young men while they equipped themselves to understand and teach the writings of the past. But what about the writings of the future? What aid would the university give to these? I was planning to spend the summer writing a novel, and the idea occurred to me: Would Columbia University accept a novel as a thesis or dissertation, or as evidence of merit and of work accomplished, in competition for any fellowship or endowment under its control?
I made this proposition to the proper authorities at Columbia, the heads of the various departments of literature, and to the president's office as well; and I received one unanimous decision: there was no fellowship or endowment under the control of the university which could be won by any kind of creative writing, but only by "scholarship" – that is to say, by writing about the work of other people!
I was not satisfied entirely. It occurred to me – maybe there was some other university in this broad land of freedom which might have a more liberal and intelligent policy than Columbia; so I set out on a campaign to test out the question. I wrote to the authorities at Harvard, and at Yale, and at Princeton, and Cornell, and Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, and Chicago, and Wisconsin and California, and I know not what others. I did not let up until I had made quite certain that among all the hundreds of millions of dollars of endowment at the disposal of the great American universities, there was not one dollar which could be won by a piece of creative literature, nor one university president who was interested in the possibility that there might be a man of genius actually alive in America at the beginning of the twentieth century.
So I went out into the world to make my own way, and to fight for the preservation of my own talent. I had given the academic authorities nine years in which to do what they could to me, so I might fairly lay claim to be a completely educated man. I look back now, and see myself as I was, and I shudder – not merely for myself, but for all other products of the educational machine. I think of the things I didn't know, and of the pains and perils to which my ignorance exposed me! I knew nothing whatever about hygiene and health; everything of that sort I had to learn by painful error. I knew nothing about women; I had met only three or four beside my mother, and had no idea how to deal with them. I knew as much about sex as was known to the ancient religious ascetics, but nothing of modern discoveries or theories on the subject.
More significant yet, I knew nothing about modern literature in any language; I had acquired a supreme and top-lofty contempt for it, and was embarrassed when I happened to read "Sentimental Tommy," and discovered that someone had written a work of genius in my own time! I knew nothing about modern history; so far as my mind was concerned, the world had come to an end with the Franco-Prussian war, and nothing had happened since. Of course, there was the daily paper, but I didn't know what this daily paper was, who made it, or what relation it had to me. I knew that politics was rotten, but I didn't know the cause of this rottenness, nor had I any idea what to do about it. I knew nothing about money, the life-blood of society, nor the part it plays in the life of modern men. I knew nothing about business, except that I despised it, and shrank in agony of spirit from contact with business people. All that I knew about labor was a few tags of prejudice which I had picked up from newspapers.
Most significant of all to me personally, I was unaware that the modern revolutionary movement existed. I was all ready for it, but I was as much alone in the world as Shelley a hundred years before me. I knew, of course, that there had been Socialism in ancient times, for I had read Plato, and been amused by his quaint suggestions for the reconstruction of the world. Also I knew that there had been dreamers and cranks in America who went off and tried to found Utopian commonwealths. It was safe for me to be told about these experiments, because thay had failed. I had heard the names of Marx and Lassalle, and had a vague idea of them as dreadful men, who met in the back rooms of beer-gardens, and conspired, and made dynamite bombs, and practised free love. That they had any relationship to my life, that they had anything to teach me, that they had founded a movement which embraced all the future – of this I was as ignorant as I was of the civilization of Dahomey, or the topography of the far side of the moon.
I went out into the world, and learned about these matters, by most painful experience; and then I looked back upon my education, and understood many things which had previously been dark. One question I asked myself: was all that deficiency accidental, or was it deliberate? Was it merely the ignorance of those who taught me, or was there some reason why they did not teach me all they knew? I have come to understant that the latter is the case. Our educational system is not a public service, but an instrument of special privilege; its purpose is not to further the welfare of mankind, but merely to keep America capitalist. To establish this thesis is the purpose of "The Goose-step."
And first a few words as to the title. We spent some thirty billions of treasure, and a hundred thousand young lives, to put down the German autocracy; being told, and devoutly believing, that we were thereby banishing from the earth a certain evil thing known as Kultur. It was not merely a physical thing, the drilling of a whole population for the aggrandizement of a military caste; it was a spiritual thing, a regimen of autocratic dogmatism. The best expression of it upon which I have come in my readings is that of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Prussian philosopher and apostle of Nationalism; I quote two sentences, from a long discourse: "To compel men to a state of right, to put them under the yoke of right by force, is not only the right but the sacred duty of every man who has the knowledge and the power. . . . . He is the master, armed with compulsion and appointed by God." I ask you to read those sentences over, to bear them in mind as you follow chapter after chapter of this book; see if I am not right in my contention that what we did, when we thought we were banishing the Goose-step from the world, was to bring it to our own land, and put ourselves under its sway – our thinking, and, more dreadful yet, the teaching of our younger generation.
Chapter V. Interlocking Directorates
The first step toward the intelligent study of American education is to consider the country in which this education grows. We are told upon good authority that men do not gather figs from thistles; we are also told that we cannot understand the cultural institutions of any country unless we know its economic and social conditions.
If you want to learn about America, the plutocratic empire, come with me and meet the emperor and his princes and lords; come to the Customs House in New York City, early in the year 1913. The memory of our busy age is short, so perhaps it will mean nothing to you if I say that the Pujo Committee of the House of Representatives is in session. They sit in a solemn row, eleven solemn legislators; and into the witness chair step one after another the masters of this plutocratic empire: J. P. Morgan senior, a bulbous-nosed and surly-tempered old man whom everyone in the room knows to be the emperor; George F. Baker, president of the First National Bank of New York, the second richest man in the world; William Rockefeller, brother of the richest man in the world; George M. Reynolds, president of the Continental National Bank of Chicago, the second largest bank in America; Henry P. Davison, Jacob Schiff – so on through a long list.
They are being questioned by a small, frail-looking Jewish lawyer named Samuel Untermyer. All his life he has been one of them, he has been in the game with them and made his millions; he knows every trick and turn of their minds, every corner where their money is hidden – and now he turns against them and exposes them to the world. They hate him, but he has them at his mercy, and step by step he shows us the machinery of our industrial and financial life, the thing which he calls the Money Trust, and which I call the plutocratic empire.
There is one phrase which makes the whole argument of the Pujo Report, and that phrase is "interlocking directorates." Interlocking directorates are the device whereby three great banks in New York, with two trust companies under their control, manage the financial affairs and direct the policies of a hundred and twelve key corporations of America. The three banks are J. P. Morgan and Company, the First National Bank, and the National City Bank; and the two trust companies are the Guaranty and the Equitable. Please fix these five concerns in your mind, for we shall come back to them in almost every chapter of this book. Their directors sit upon the boards of the corporations, sometimes several on each board, and their orders are obeyed because they control credit, which is the life-blood of our business world. Said George M. Reynolds, in his testimony, speaking of the control of American finance: "I believe it lies in the hands of a dozen men; and I plead guilty to being one, in the last analysis, of these men."
Such was the situation in 1913; and now, America has fought and won a war, and become the financial master of the world. The wealth of America was estimated in 1912 at a hundred and twenty-seven billions; in 1920 it was estimated at five hundred billions, greater than the combined wealth of the British Empire, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, and Japan. At the same time that wealth has increased, so has the concentration of its control. If the Pujo Committee were to conduct another inquiry in the year 1922, it would find exactly the same interlocking directorates, only more of them; and it would find that the financial empire controlled by three great banks and two trust companies has grown from twenty-two billions to not less than seventy-five, and probably close to a hundred billions of dollars.
Just how do these interlocking directorates work? A picture of their method was drawn in Harper's Weekly by Louis D. Brandeis, at that time an anti-corporation lawyer of Boston, and now a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Said Mr. Brandeis:
Mr. J. P. Morgan (or a partner), a director of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, causes that company to sell J. P. Morgan and Company an issue of bonds. J. P. Morgan and Company borrow the money with which to pay for those bonds from the Guaranty Trust Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. J. P. Morgan and Company sell the bonds to the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The New Haven spends the proceeds of the bonds in purchasing steel from the United States Steel Corporation, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The United States Steel Corporation spends the proceeds of the rails in purchasing electrical supplies from the General Electric Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director. The General Electric Company sells the supplies to the Western Union Telegraph company, a subsidiary of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and in both Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is director. The Telegraph Company has a special wire contract with the Reading, in which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director.
So – on to the Pullman company and the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Mr. Brandeis points out how "all these concerns patronize one another; they all market their securities through J. P. Morgan and Company, they deposit their funds with J. P. Morgan and Company, and J. P. Morgan and Company use the funds of each in further transactions."
But Mr. Brandeis stops his story too soon; he ought to show us some of the wider ramifications of these directorates. He ought to picture Mr. Morgan (or a partner) falling ill, and being treated in St. Luke's Hospital, in which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a trustee, and by a physician who is also a trustee, and who was educated in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a trustee. He ought to picture Mr. Morgan dying, and being buried from Trinity Church, in which several of his partners are vestrymen, and having his funeral oration preached by a bishop who is a stockholder in his bank, and reported in newspapers whose bonds repose in his vaults. Mr. Brandeis might say about all these persons and institutions just what he says about the Steel Corporation and the General Electric Company and the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Baldwin Locomotive Works – they all patronize one another and they all deposit their funds with J. P. Morgan and Company.
Men die, but the plutocracy is immortal; and it is necessary that fresh generations should be trained to its service. Therefore the interlocking directorate has need of an educational system, and has provided it complete. There is a great university, of which Mr. Morgan was all his active life a trustee, also his son-in-law and one or two of his attorneys and several of his bankers. The president of this university is a director in one of Mr. Morgan's life insurance companies, and is interlocked with Mr. Morgan's bishop, and Mr. Morgan's physician, and Mr. Morgan's newspaper. If the president of the university writes a book, telling the American people to be good and humble servants of the plutocracy, this book may be published by a concern in which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director, and the paper may be bought from the International Paper Company, in which Mr. Morgan has a director through the Guaranty Trust Company. If you visit the town where the paper is made, you will find that the president of the school board is a director in the local bank, which deposits its funds with the Guaranty Trust Company at a low rate of interest, to be reloaned by Mr. Morgan at a high rate of interest. The superintendent of the schools will be a graduate of Mr. Morgan's university, and will have been recommended to the school board president by Mr. Morgan's dean of education. Both the board and president and the school superintendent will insure their lives in the company of which Mr. Morgan's university president is a director; and the school books selected in that town will be published by a concern in which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director, and they will be written by Mr. Morgan's university's dean of education, and they will be praised in the journal of education founded by Mr. Morgan's university president; also they will be praised by Mr. Morgan's newspaper and magazine editors. The superintendent of schools will give promotion to teachers who take the university's summer courses, and will cause the high school pupils to aspire to that university. Once a year he will attend the convention of the National Educational Association, and will elect as president a man who is a graduate of Mr. Morgan's university, and also a member of Mr. Morgan's church, and a reader of Mr. Morgan's newspaper, and of Mr. Morgan's university president's journal, and a patron of Mr. Morgan's university presidents' life insurance company, and a depositor in a bank which pays him no interest, but sends his money to the Guaranty Trust Company for Mr. Morgan to loan at a high rate of interest. And when the Republican party, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director, nominates the president of Mr. Morgan's university for vice-president of the United states, Mr. Morgan's bishop will bless the proceedings, and Mr. Morgan's newspapers will report them, and Mr. Morgan's school superintendent will invite the children to a picnic to hear Mr. Morgan's candidates' campaign speeches on a phonograph, and to drink lemonade paid for by Mr. Morgan's campaign committee, out of the funds of the life insurance company of which Mr. Morgan's university president is director.
Such is the system of the interlocking directorates; such is, in skeleton form, that department of the plutocratic empire which calls itself American education. And if you don't believe me, just come along and let me show you – not merely the skeleton of this beast, but the nerves and the brains, the blood and the meat, the hair and the hide, the teeth and the claws of it.
Chapter VI. The University of the House of Morgan
The headquarters of the American plutocracy is, of course, New York City. Here are the three central banks, and here the hundred and twelve corporations have their offices, and the interlocking directors roll about in their padded limousines and collect their gold eagles and half-eagles with the minimum of trouble and delay. According to the Pujo Committee, the banks and trust companies of New York, all interlocked with the House of Morgan, had over five billion dollars' worth of resources, which was nearly one-fourth of the bank resources of the country. This did not include the House of Morgan itself, which was, and is, a private institution. These figures, of course, seem puny since the world war; in that war the House of Morgan alone is reputed to have made a billion dollars from its war purchases for the British government, and if the Pujo Committee were to inquire at the present time it would find the banking resources of New York City somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five billions of dollars.
It is inevitable that this headquarters of our plutocratic empire should be also the headquarters of our plutocratic education. The interlocking directors could not discommode themselves by taking long journeys; therefore they selected themselves a spacious site on Morningside Heights, and there stands the palatial University of the House of Morgan, which sets the standard for the higher education of America. Other universities, we shall find, vary from the ideal; there are some which have old traditions, there are others which permit modern eccentricities; but in Columbia you have plutocracy, perfect, complete and final, and as I shall presently show, the rest of America's educational system comes more and more to be modeled upon it. Columbia's educational experts take charge of the school and college systems of the country, and the production of plutocratic ideas becomes an industry as thoroughly established, as completely systematized and standardized as the production of automobiles or sausages. . . .
Following the five introductory chapters, Upton Sinclair turns to the major lite eastern universities, starting with his own alma mater in Chapter VI., the first two paragraphs of which are reproduced above. To this university he gives extended treatment in eight chapters, as follows:
VI. The University of the House of Morgan [Columbia University]
Then six chapters on The University of Lee-Higginson (Harvard University). Then, after New York and Boston, comes a trip to Philadelphia, site of the University of U.G.I. [University of Pennsylvania; U.G.I. stands for United Gas Improvement Company], to which Upton Sinclair devotes three chapters. Two chapters suffice for Princeton, and one for Yale. All of this – the introduction and the exposure of the five largest eastern universities – he packs into twenty-seven small 'dynamite'chapters occupying but 125 pages, just over one quarter of the entire book.
It would be difficult for me to recommend the book too highly for someone who is interested in understanding in a fundamental way why American colleges and universities are what they are. Our library has a single copy (please don't abuse it); used copies can be located around the Boston area; and, for the plutocrats among us, there is a reprint edition (hardcover only) that sells for an immodest $18.50, available from the A.M.S. Press, 56 East 13th Street, New York, NY 10003.
Now follow the six chapters on Harvard University, known more recently for its unwillingness to divest itself of its Gulf Oil Company holdings. (Gulf Oil has major operations in "Portuguese" Africa and has of course supported Portugal in its oppression of the Portuguese colonies, in order to share in their exploitation. So when you settle comfortably into one of the finely upholstered chairs in William James Hall (at Harvard) to have your mind uplifted with some esoteric philosophical thoughts, just remember who paid for the upholstery – and all the rest of Harvard's wealth.)
– G. S., June 23, 1974
Chapter XIV. The University of Lee-Higginson
There is a saying that when you go to Philadelphia they ask you who your grandfather was, and when you go to New York they ask you what you are worth, and when you go to Boston they ask you what you know. We are now going to the hub of America's intellectual life, and make ourselves familiar with our most highly cultured university.
We shall begin, as before, by investigating those who run it; and straightaway we shall get a shock. We shall find not merely the interlocking directorate – the princes, and the dukes, and the barons; we shall find the emperor himself, none other than J. Pierpont Morgan! I was puzzled when I studied the affairs of Columbia, for I knew that the elder Morgan had been on the board until his death, and I could not imagine how President Butler managed to overlook his son and heir. When I came to study Harvard I discovered the reason; the younger Morgan was graduated from Harvard in 1889. The purpose of such interchanges of royalty is, of course, to cement the bonds of empire.
The house of J. P. Morgan & Company is closely allied with the Boston banking house of Lee, Higginson & Company. Mr. Morgan was reelected to the Harvard board in 1917, along with Francis Lee Higginson, Jr., of Lee, Higginson & Company; Eliot Wadsworth, representative of Stone & Webster, an allied construction firm; Howard Elliott, then president and now chairman of the New Haven, a Morgan railroad; and, finally, a prominent corporation lawyer in San Francisco, representing the interlocking directorate in that city.
In his discussion of the Pujo report Justice Brandeis wrote that “Concentration of banking capital has proceeded even farther in Boston than in New York.” He goes on to tell of three great banking concerns, with their interlocking directorates, controlling ninety-two per cent of Boston's money resources. These concerns competed in minor and local matters, said Mr. Brandeis, but they were all allied with Morgan. “Financial concentration seems to have found its highest exemplification in Boston.” And exactly the same thing is true of the concentration of control of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the group of smaller colleges located in Eastern Massachusetts. They are all “State Street” – this being the Boston equivalent of “Wall Street.”
In 1916 the New York Evening Post, at that time in rebellion against the House of Morgan, published an interesting study of the financial connections of the governing board of Harvard. There are six members of the Harvard corporation, known as the “fellows,” and these are appointed for life. In addition, there are thirty “overseers,” elected by the whole body of graduates. The New York Evening Post examined these latter, and found eleven capitalists and seven lawyers, a generous majority for the plutocracy. Nor was there much danger to the plutocracy from some of the others; those classified as “public men” including Senator Lodge and F. A. Delano, ex-president of several railroads.
A year later the Evening Post made a further examination, considering not merely the fellows and the overseers, but the nine directors of the Harvard Alumni Association, the nine members of the Association's nominating committee, twenty candidates for overseers who had just been called, and six who had just been called as candidates for directors of the Association. That made a body of eighty Harvard graduates, forty of them Boston men, and twenty-nine of these forty being financial men, or attorneys for the State Street houses. All but six were connected with the three interlocked financial institutions; twenty were connected with Lee, Higginson & Company or its institutions – nine with the Old Colony Trust Company, the great Lee-Higginson bank, five with Lee, Higginson & Company itself, four directors in another Lee-Higginson bank, six directors in a Lee-Higginson savings bank, six in another Lee-Higginson savings bank, four in a Lee-Higginson insurance company, and six attorneys for these. “State Street,” you see, is like Virginia; the old families have been intermarrying for so long that everybody is related to everybody else.
A Harvard graduate wrote to the New York Evening Post, “Harvard has assets to be invested of about thirty-four million dollars. Is that the reason why practically five-sixths of the Boston business representation (of Harvard) is affiliated with investment banking concerns, or is it because they wish to use Harvard as a knighthood for their friends?” The Evening Post went on politely to say that it did not believe this was the case; the financial domination of Harvard had resulted by accident! But this bit of humor did not save the Evening Post from the wrath of the interlocking directorate. The paper offended also by opposing America's entry into the war – and so the valuable advertising business of Lee, Higginson & Co. was withdrawn, and shortly afterwards the owner of the paper was forced to sell out to Mr. Lamont, a partner of the House of Morgan. This story is in The Brass Check, page 248. To complete it we should note the part played by Harvard in the swallowing. It was a Harvard overseer who bought the Evening Post; another overseer is now president and trustee of the Evening Post company, and a third overseer is also a trustee of the Evening Post company!
Also, it will be worth while to notice the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, until recently allied to Harvard. This is one of the most marvelous collections of plutocrats ever assembled in the world; it includes the president of the Powder Trust, and his cousin Mr. Coleman du Pont, who is emperor of the State of Delaware; also Mr. Eastman, the Kodak king; two of our greatest international bankers, Mr. Otto Kahn and Mr. Frank Vanderlip; Mr. Howard Elliott, chairman of the New Haven, Mr. Elisha Lee, vice-president of the Pennsylvania; both members of the firm of Stone and Webster, with all of its enormous electrical interests; also nine other electrical bankers, two officials of the General Electric Company, one big electrical manufacturer, and six others who are interested in electric railways. Make particular note of this mass of electrical connections, because in succeeding chapters you will find several amusing instances of the influence of electric light and electric railway interests upon the policy and teaching of both Harvard and Massachusetts Tech.
As we have seen, the endowment of Harvard was estimated at thirty-four millions of dollars in 1917, and since then there has been a campaign in which nearly fifteen millions was raised. This money is under the direction of the Morgan-Lee-Higginson directorate, and needless to say is largely invested in Morgan-Lee-Higginson enterprises. We are told by some friends of Harvard that Harvard stands for “liberalism” in American education; do you suppose that Harvard stands for “liberalism” in American industry? Do you suppose that the votes of Harvard administrators are cast for policies of justice and democracy in the enterprises it exploits? If you suppose that, you are extremely naive. The Harvard votes are cast, just as any other votes of any other business concerns are cast, for the largest amount of dividends for Harvard. For example, Harvard owns twenty-five hundred shares in a Boston department store; has Harvard done anything to humanize the management of that store? It has not. Harvard likewise operates a mine. Harvard has a graduate business school and trains executives to run mines – on the basis of getting the maximum production at the lowest cost, and maintaining the present system of industrial feudalism.
I take these facts concerning the Harvard investments from a paper by Harry Emerson Wildes, a Harvard graduate. It is interesting to note that Mr. Wildes at the time he made this study was doing voluntary publicity work for the alumni group which was raising Harvard funds in Philadelphia; and Mr. Wildes was “dropped” immediately after this study saw the light!
We have seen how Columbia owns stocks and bonds in American railroads, public service corporations, and industrial corporations of all sorts. Exactly the same thing is true of Harvard. Says Mr. Wildes:
Twelve separate cities feed the Harvard purse from their traction lines, and more than half a hundred pay tribute from their lighting, heating, gas and power plants. Harvard has two million dollars in the traction game. The two-cent transfer charge on New York City trolleys goes to pay the interest on three-quarters of a million dollars' worth of traction bonds in Harvard ownership, and Boston ten-cent fare goes partially to Harvard's third of a million in Boston traction bonds.
Mr. Wildes goes on to study the effect of these investments upon Harvard, and the effect which Harvard, through the power of these investments, might have upon the industrial life of the country. I cannot present the subject better than he has done, so I quote his words:
With rapid transit lines throughout the nation in a state of rising fares, and continual labor strife taking place, the intervention of a conciliatory investor holding any such amounts might aid in bringing better harmony between the companies on the one hand and the public and the workmen on the other. But nothing has been done by Harvard University, nor by any educational body in the land, to work for the friendship of either public or labor towards the transit lines. . . .
How strenuously the influence of Harvard will be thrown on the side of limitation of armaments and the ending of war may be gauged by the total of more than a million dollars' worth of ordnance bonds and munitions stock owned by the corporation. And, as these are largely in great steel corporations such as Bethlehem, Midvale and Illinois, the attitude of the college heads towards the move for unonizing workers can be clearly understood.
When railroad brotherhoods put forth a plan for guild operation of the lines, they face a mighty opposition from security investors. The eight million dollars which Harvard holds in railroad stock and bonds would be affected by victory for the Plumb Plan. The professors of economics and particularly of railroad operation and finance can scarcely be expected to imbue their scholars with a holy zeal for the securing of the Brotherhood aims. . . .
Evidence of the patriotic ardor of the financiers directing Harvard's investments may be readily seen in the fact that only one per cent of the funds of the university is invested in the Liberty Loans. The total of United States bonds held is less than half of that spent for bonds of five foreign nations. Intervention in Mexico would perhaps be pleasing to the authorities, since they hold a total of nearly one hundred thousand dollars in Mexican government bonds. So, also, is the pacification of Central America through the stationing of American marines and blue-jackets in those lands. Meddling of our State Department in the internal affairs of Costa Rica, Honduras, San Salvador and the rest helps to uphold the value of another one hundred thousand dollars' worth of United Fruit Company bonds.* This company notoriously controls entire nations in Central America and sets up or deposes presidents at its whim. There is scarcely a large community north of Panama that is not in some degree tapped by the Harvard treasury. The American college is becoming the strongest single force in the world. Its management is almost entirely in the hands of international bankers or men dependent upon that group. *These bonds have just been paid off, but the ability to pay them off was of course asssured by American intervention.
Such are the business facts underlying Harvard University; such are the roots of the plant, and we shall now examine its flowers.
Chapter XV. The Harvard Tradition
Harvard has a tradition, which is a part of the tradition of New England; it is one of scholarship, of respect for the dignity of learning. Money counts in New England, but money is not enough, so you will be told; you must have culture also, and the prestige of the intellectual life. More than that, in New England is found that quality which must necessarily go with belief in the intellectual life, the quality of open-mindedness, the willingness to consider new ideas.
Such is the tradition; and first, it will pay us to ask, how did the tradition originate? Was it made by Harvard University? Or was it made by Charles Sumner, anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, who was found unfit to be a professor in the Harvard Law School, and wrote to his brother: “I am too much of a reformer in law to be trusted in a post of such commanding influence as this has now become.” Was it made by Harvard, or by Wendell Phillips, who, according to his biographer, Sears, denounced “the restraint of Harvard, which he attributed to affiliation with the commercial interests of Boston, and the silence they imposed on anti-slavery sentiments.” Was it made by Harvard or by William Lloyd Garrison, who was dragged through the streets of Boston with a rope about his neck, by a silk-hatted mob of State Streeters, many of them of course from Harvard?
Sumner, Phillips and Garrison were extremists, you may say; and the best traditions are not made by such. They are made by scholars, who lead retired lives and guide others by the power of thought. Very well; New England has had no more revered scholar, no more keen thinker than Emerson. Emerson was gentle, Emerson was dignified, and you will find Emerson a part of the Harvard tradition – one of its halls bears his name. So let us see what Emerson had to report about the Harvard of his time; how much credit he gives it for progress in the anti-slavery days. Writing in 1861, in “The Celebration of the Intellect,” Emerson said: “Harvard College has no voice in Harvard College, but State Street votes it down on every ballot. Everything will be permitted there, which goes to adorn Boston Whiggism – is it geology, astronomy, poetry, antiquities, art, rhetoric? But that which it exists for, to be a faountain of novelties out of heaven, a Delphos uttering warning and ravishing oracles to lift and lead mankind – that it shall not be permitted to do or to think of. On the contrary, every generosity of thought is suspect and has a bad name. And all the youths come out decrepit citizens; not a prophet, not a poet, not a daimon, but is gagged and stifled or driven away.”
And precisely that is what we have to report about the Harvard of the time of capitalistic reaction, which is 1922. For thirteen years Harvard has been under the administration of a cultured corporation lawyer of Boston, who has generally carried out the politics of his State Street associates in all essential matters, and has preserved just as much reputation for liberalism as can be preserved – safely.
A. Lawrence Lowell is not, like Nicholas Murray Butler, a climber and a toady; he could not be a climber, because he was born on a mountaintop, and there was no place to climb to – he could only stay where he was or descend. He belongs to the Lowell family, who are among the Boston Brahmins, and it would not occur to him that any millionaire could confer a favor upon Harvard University, or upon the president of Harvard University. On the other hand, it does occur to him that Harvard is a close corporation, a family affair of the vested interests of New England, which cover an enormous financial power with a decorous coating of refined exclusiveness.
Before the days of President Lowell, Harvard was presided over by Charles W. Eliot, a scholar who believed to some extent in a safe and reasonable freedom of opinion – using his own freedom to glorify the “great American hero” known as the “scab.” President Lowell has inherited the Eliot tradition, and in my travels about the country I heard many rumors as to how he had stood by his professors in time of stress. When I got to Harvard, and turned these rumors into fact, I found an amusing situation. No circus rider who keeps his footing on two horses has ever done a more deft and delicate feat of balancing than President Lowell, with one foot on the Eliot tradition and the other foot on the House of Lee-Higginson.
They will tell you proudly that professors are not let out of Harvard because of their opinions; and that is sometimes true. One reason is, because the Harvard teaching staff is selected with meticulous care, and because, when the new man comes to Harvard he comes under the influence of a subtle but powerful atmosphere of good form. It is not crude materialism, as in Columbia; it is cleverly compounded of high intellectual and social qualities, and it is brought to the young educators’ attention with humor and good fellowship. A friend of mine, a Harvard man who knows the game, described to me from personal experience how the State Street pressure operates. Somebody in Lee-Higginson calls President Lowell on the telephone and says: “How can we get So-and-so to put up the money for that chair, if young This-or-that gets his name in the newspapers as lecturing to workingmen?” President Lowell smiles and says he will see about it, and the young instructor is invited to dinner and amiably shown how the most liberal university in America cannot run entirely without money. The young instructor sees the point, and the president goes away, thinking to himself: “Thank God we are not as Columbia!”
Even down to the humblest freshman such pressure is conveyed. There are things that “are not done” at Harvard; and you would be surprised to know how minute is the supervision. You might not think it was a grave offense for a student, wearing a soft shirt in summer-time, to leave the top button unfastened; but a student friend of mine, who had ideas of the simple life – going back to nature and all that – was coldly asked by Dean Gay: “Is the button of your shirt open by mistake, or is the button missing?” And when he did not take this delicate hint, Professor Richard C. Cabot told another student that he might help the young man by advising him to close the top button of his shirt. I am advised that Harvard men will call this story “rot”; therefore I specify that I have it in writing from the man to whom it happened.
And if they are so careful about shirt-buttons, they would hardly be careless about public speeches. A couple of years ago the Harvard Liberal Club made so bold as to invite Wilfred Humphries, a mild little gentleman who served with the Y. M. C. A., to tell about his experiences in Russia; whereupon the president of the Liberal Club received a letter from the secretary to the Corporation of Harvard, politely pointing out that there was likely to be embarrassment to the university, and would the president of the club kindly call upon the secretary, in order to provide him with arguments, “in case the press takes the thing up in a way which might embarrass the progress of the Endowment Fund Campaign.” Just as deftly as that, you see!
I found that Harvard's reputation for liberalism was based upon the custom of President Lowell to take into his institution men who had been expelled from other colleges. I was impressed by this, until Harvard men explained to me how it is managed. The basis of it is a painstaking inquiry into the character and opinions of those men, to make sure there is nothing really dangerous about them. In some cases they are men who have offended local interests, with which “State Street” has little concern. Others are men of ability who have offended religious prejudices in the provinces; the tradition of Harvard is Unitarian, and nobody is shocked by the idea that his ancestors swung from the tree-tops by their tails. The State of Texas has just passed a law providing for the expulsion of professors who teach that idea, so in due course you may hear of Harvard taking over some Texas scholar.
How men are investigated before they are taken into Harvard is a matter about which I happen to know from a man who underwent the ordeal. I will call my informant Professor Smith, and he was head of a department in a leading university. Appointed on a public service commission, he discovered that the local gas company was engaged in swindling the city. The facts got into the newspapers, and this public spitited professor was on the verge of being expelled by his trustees, several of whom were “in gas.” Some friends of his put the matter before President Lowell, and Lowell made inquiry, and ascertained that Smith was a liberal of the very mildest sort, well connected and affable, in every way worthy to associate with the best families, and to train their sons; so Professor Smith recieved a letter, asking him if he would come to Cambridge and make the acquaintance of President Lowell. He made the journey, and found himself a guest at a dinner party in the home of one of the interlocking directorate. President Lowell was seated next to him, and they chatted on many subjects, but only once did they touch on the subject of Smith and his qualifications.
“By the way,” said Lowell (I reproduce the
conversation from careful notes). “I understand you had some little
unpleasantness in your home city.”
So Professor Smith went home, and told a friend about the matter; the friend made him repeat it over, word for word, and then burst out laughing. “Don't you see the point?” he asked; but Smith saw no point whatever.
“Don't you know that gas companies and
electric light companies are sometimes rivals?” inquired the friend.
“You can light your house with either gas or electricity; you can cook
with either gas or electricity, you can heat with either gas or
And, sure enough, the invitation came a few days later! To complete the humor of the story, the fact of the invitation became known at once among the faculty of Professor Smith's university, and had the effect of instantly killing the talk of Professor Smith's being asked to resign!
I tell this incident as it was told to me. Standing by itself it might not mean much; but before we finish with Harvard we shall have plenty of evidence to prove that when the electric men play a tune, the Lee-Higginson university dances. President Lowell, I am told, did not know the difference between a mathematician and an astronomer; when Pickering died, he proposed to put in a mathematician, and was naively surprised when it was explained to him that modern astronomy has gone so far that an observatory cannot be run by a mathematician, however expert. But ignorant as our Boston Brahmin may be about the stars of the milky way, it is certain that he knows all about the stars of State Street, he has them carefully charted amd plotted, and neither he nor any member of his faculty ever bumps into them.
Chapter XVI. Free Speech But
We have referred to the Harvard Liberal Club, an organization formed by some graduates who sympathized with the cause of social justice. This club brought speakers to Harvard, and got itself into the newspapers several times; for example, during the anti-red hysteria they heard an address from Federal Judge Anderson, who denounced the Palmer raids as crimes against the constitution. This caused President Lowell great annoyance, but he could not control the club, because it was a graduate organization. He demanded that it abandon the name Harvard, saying it might cause people to get a wrong idea of the university. Inquiries were made to ascertain if legal measures could be taken; and when he found that such measures wouldn't work, he came to one of its meetings, very courteous and deeply interested, trying to steer it into ways of academic propriety. “We are all liberals at Harvard,” he said – an old, old formula! For a generation the British labor party has been hearing from the Tories: “We are all Socialists in England.”
Just how much of a liberal President Lowell is, of his own impulse and from his own conviction, was shown at the time that Louis D. Brandeis was nominated by President Wilson for the Supreme Court. Brandeis is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, and was a prosperous corporation lawyer in Boston; a man of European culture and charming manners, he was the darling of Harvard, in spite of the fact that he is a Jew. The Lees and the Higginsons took him up – until suddenly he ran into the New Haven railroad! Then the other crowd, the Kidders and the Peabodys, took him up – until he ran into the gas company! After that everybody dropped him, and if he had not been a man of wealth he would have been ruined. When he was proposed for the Supreme Court, a committee of lawyers, with Austen G. Fox, a Harvard man, at their head, took up the fight against him in the United States Senate. This fight didn't involve Harvard, and there was no reason for President Lowell to meddle in it; but he made it his personal fight, and a fight of the most determined and bitter character.
In 1918 there was a great strike in the Lawrence textile mills, and this made a delicate situation, because Harvard holds six hundred thousand dollars' worth of woolen mill loans and mortgages, and an equal amount of bonds and stocks. It seemed natural, therefore, to the overseers that Harvard students should go out as militiamen to crush this strike; it did not seem natural to them that members of the Liberal Club should call meetings and invite strike leaders to tell the students of the university their side of the case. But the members of the Liberal Club persisted, and when the district attorney accused the strikers of violence, they apointed a committee to interview him and get his facts. They gave a dinner, to which they invited the directors of the mills to meet the strike-leaders; they appointed a committee to consider terms of settlement, and in the end they forced a compromise.
Things like this caused most intense annoyance to the interlocking directorate. This was voiced to a Harvard man of my acquaintance, one of the organizers of the Liberal Club, by a Harvard graduate whose father has been a Harvard overseer, and is one of Massachusett's most distinguished jurists. In the Harvard Club of Boston my friend was challenged to say what he meant by a liberal; and when his definition was not found satisfactory, the Harvard graduate exclaimed: “A liberal? I'll tell you what a liberal is! A liberal is a – – – – – – – – – – – –!'' In order to reproduce the scene you will have to fill these blanks, not with the ordinary terms of abuse used by longshoremen and lumber-jacks, but with the most obscene expletives which your imagination can invent.
Such is the present attitude of the ruling class of Harvard toward the issue of free speech. The attitude of the students was delightfully set forth by an editorial in the Harvard “Crimson,” at the time of the Liberal Club lecture of Wilfred Humphries, Y. M. C. A. worker from Russia. The “Crimson” was for Free Speech – But! What the “Crimson” wished to forbid was “propaganda”; and it made clear that by this term it meant any and all protest against things established. Said the cautious young editor: “Not prohibited by law, propaganda creeps in and is accepted by many as an almost essential part of freedom of speech!” This is as persuasive as the communications of the Harvard Union to the liberal students, barring various radicals from the platform, on the ground that the Union did not permit “partisan” speakers: the Union's idea of non-partisan speakers being such well-poised and judicious conservatives as Admiral Sims and Detective Burns! As the old saying runs: “Orthodoxy is my doxy, heterodoxy is your doxy!” there is a standing rule at Harvard barring “outside” speakers who discuss “contentious contemporaneous questions of politics or economics”; and this rule was used to bar Mrs. Pankhurst!
I tell you of these petty incidents of discrimination; and yet, if we are to keep our sense of proportion, we must state that in the totality of American universities, Harvard ranks, from the point of view of academic liberalism, among the three or four best. There was no interference with its professors during the war hysteria – and I found but one other large institution, the University of Chicago, of which this statement may be made. Also, Harvard has to its credit one post-war case, in which academic freedom was gravely involved, and in which the Harvard tradition proved itself still alive. This is a curious and dramatic story, and I will tell it in detail.
In the summer of 1918 the United States Army invaded Archangel in Northern Russia, and Vladivostok in Eastern Siberia, seizing the territory of a friendly people and killing its inhabitants without the declaration of war required by the constitution of the United States. This invasion was the blackest crime in American public history, and was denounced by many of our leading thinkers. Also it was denounced by five obscure Russian Jews, mere children in age, living in the East-side slums of New York City. Four boys and a girl printed a leaflet, asking the American people not to kill their Russian compatriots, and they distributed these leaflets in public – for which crime they were arrested, taken to prison, and beaten and tortured so severely that one of them died a few days later. The surviving four were placed on trial, and after a hideous travesty of justice were given sentences of from fifteen to twenty years in prison.
This is known as the “Abrams case,” and it stood as one of our greatest judicial scandals. Among others who protested was Professor Zechariah Chafee, Jr., of the Harvard Law School. He published in the Harvard Law Review, April, 1920, an article entitled “A Contemporary State Trial”; and subsequently he embodied this article as a chapter in his book on “Freedom of Speech.” Dean Pound of the Harvard Law School, with Professors Frankfurter, Chafee and Sayre (President Wilson's son-in-law), also the librarian of the Law School, signed a petition for executive clemency in this Abrams case. These actions excited great indignation among the interlocking directorates, and Mr. Austen G. Fox, a Harvard graduate and Wall street lawyer, drew up a protest to the Harvard board of overseers, which protest was signed by twenty prominent corporation lawyers, all Harvard men, including Mr. Peter B. Olney, a prominent Tammany politician; Mr. Beekman Winthrop, ex-governor of Porto Rico, and Mr. Joseph H. Choate, Jr., recently notorious in connection with the scandals of the Alien Property Custodian. The overseers referred the matter to the “Committee to visit the Law School,” which consists of fourteen prominent servants of the plutocracy, including a number of judges. The result was a “conference,” in reality a solemn trial, which occupied an entire day and evening, May 22, 1921, at the Harvard Club in Boston. Mr. Fox appeared, with a committee of his supporters and a mass of documents in the case; also the United States attorney and his assistant, serving as witnesses.
President Lowell's attitude on this occasion is described to me as that of “a hen protecting her brood against an old Fox.” Professor Chafee himself tells me that President Lowell stood by him all through the “conference,” and made Mr. Fox uncomfortable by well-directed inquiries. Mr. Fox's principal charge was that Professor Chafee had taken his quotations of testimony at the Abrams trial from the official record submitted to the Supreme court in the defendent's appeal, instead of going to the prosecuting attorney and getting the complete stenographic record. And lo and behold, when Mr. Fox came to confront the fourteen Harvard judges, it transpired that he himself had committed a similar blunder, only far worse! He accused the five professors at the Law School of having made false representations in their petition to President Wilson; but instead of going to the office of his friend the government prosecutor, and getting a photographic reproduction of the petition as signed by the professors, Mr. Fox presented in evidence a four-page circular, printed by the Abrams defense, containing a facsimile of the petition, with the signatures of the five professors; the statements which Mr. Fox claimed were inaccurate were printed on the reverse side of this circular. But it was easy for the professors to show that they had nothing to do with the circular or its statements. The document had been compiled by the Abrams defense some time after the professors signed the petition. Mr. Fox, champion of strict legal accuracy, had based his charge upon a piece of propaganda literature, for which the professors had been no more responsible than he!
It is interesting to note how the interlocking newspapers of Boston handled this incident. It was, as you can understand, a most sensational piece of news; but it was an “inside” story, a family dispute of the interlocking directorate. The only newspaper which gave any account of the indictment of the professors was the Hearst paper, which is to a certain extent an outlaw institution, and publishes sensational news concerning plutocracy, when the interests of Mr. Hearst and his group are not involved. But no other Boston newspaper published the news about this trial at the time that it took place; the first account was in the Boston Herald, nearly two months later, after the story was stale!
It was an amazing demonstration of the power of the Boston plutocracy; and it affords us curious evidence of the consequences of news suppression. I heard about the Chafee trial all the way from California to Massachusetts, and back again; and every time I heard it, I heard a different version – and always from some one who knew it positively, on the very best authority. These guardians of the dignity of Harvard thought that by keeping the story quiet they were helping the cause of academic freedom; but what they really did was to set loose a flood of wild rumors, for the most part discreditable to themselves. Of course, they may say that they do not care about gossip; but why is it not just as important to educate people about Harvard, as to educate them about the ancient Egyptians and Greeks?
Chapter XVII. Interference
We have seen President Lowell's behavior when a group of Wall Street lawyers attempted to dictate to his university. We have next to investigate his attitude when it is his own intimates and financial supporters who are being attacked; when it is, not Wall street, but State Street, which calls to him for help. Here again our Boston Brahmin has put himself on record, with exactly the same self-will and decisiveness – but, unfortunately, on the other side! We were promised some more evidence on the subject of Harvard in relation to Lee-Higginson and Edison Electric. Now we are to have it.
I am indebted for the details of the incident to Mr. Morris Llewellyn Cooke, an engineer of Philadelphia who was Director of Public Works under a reform administration. For a series of five years Mr. Cooke had been a regular lecturer at the Graduate School of Business Administration of Harvard University. He prepared two lectures on the public utility problem in American cities, which he gave at a number of universities, and was invited to give at Harvard. Mr. Cooke took the precaution to inquire whether he would be free “to discuss conditions exactly as they exist in the public utility field.” The reply was, in the magnificent Harvard manner: “I am desirous that your lectures be both specific and frank. I am anxious for the students to see clearly the real relation of local public utilities to the municipalities, and vice versa, and am not considering whether your remarks may hurt any one’s feelings.”
Mr. Cooke came and delivered his two lectures, and was announced to give them again; but four months later came a letter from the dean of the Graduate School, saying: “Mr. Lowell feels, and I agree with him, that in view of the use you made of your invitation to come here this last year, we cannot renew the invitation.” Mr. Cooke then wrote to President Lowell to find out what was the matter, and was told that he had violated academic ethics by giving to the press an abstract of his lectures. In answering President Lowell, Mr. Cooke pointed out that six weeks prior to giving the lectures he had written on three separate occasions to the Graduate School, giving notice of his intention to publish an abstract of his remarks, because officials in other cities wished the information on public utilities which he had accumulated. “Trusting that if this is not entirely satisfactory to you, you will so advise me at your convenience,” etc. The reply from the Business School had been: “I note that you intend to publish these two lectures, which will be perfectly satisfactory to us.”
President Lowell now condescended to explain to Mr. Cooke wherein he had offended; he had violated “academic customs . . . not in the least peculiar to Harvard, but true in all universities.” Mr. Cooke thereupon wrote to universities all over the United States; he obtained statements from a score or two of university professors, deans and presidents, showing that not only was there no such custom, but that it was a quite common custom for lecturers at universities to make abstracts of their lectures and furnish these to the press. The authorities quoted include the president of the University of Wisconsin, and a dean who is now president; Professor Dewey of Columbia, Hoxie of Chicago – and Frankfurter of President Lowell's own university! Theodore Roosevelt wrote:
Until I received your letter, I knew nothing whatever of any rule prohibiting the remarks of academic lecturers from being published in the periodical press or in other ways being quoted as material used in the lecture room.
If you really want to test the sincerity of President Lowell's statement, here is the way to do it: Imagine Theodore Roosevelt, distinguished Harvard alumnus, coming to his alma mater to deliver a lecture on “The Duties of the College Man as a Citizen,” and preparing a summary of his lecture and giving it to the press; and then imagine him receiving from President Lowell a letter rebuking him for his action, and informing him that because of it he would not again be invited to speak at Harvard!
No, we shall have to examine Mr. Cooke’s lectures, for some other reason why his career as a Harvard lecturer was so suddenly cut short. Mr. Cooke has printed the lectures in pamphlet form under the title “Snapping Cords.” On page 9 I find a statement of the over-valuation of public utilities in Philadelphia, and note that the Philadelphia Electric Company has securities to the amount of over fifty million dollars upon an actual valuation of less than twenty-five million. And this is an Edison concern, allied with Boston Edison and Lee Higginson! I turn to page 12, and learn how the National Electric Light Association, the society of electrical engineers, is being used as a dummy by the electric light interests. I turn to page 14, and find the American Electric Railway Association shown up as planning to corrupt American education, creating a financed Bureau of Public Relations for the self-stated purpose of “influencing the sources of public education particularly by (a) lectures on the Chautauqua circuit and (b) formation of a committee of prominent technical educators to promote the formation and teaching of correct principles on public service questions in technical and economic departments at American colleges, through courses of lectures and otherwise.''
The tactless Mr. Cooke goes on to examine the activities of “prominent technical educators” who have lent themselves to this program. Among the names I find – can such a thing be possible? – George F. Swain, professor of civil engineering in the Graduate School of Applied Science of Harvard University! Professor Swain, it appears, has done “valuation work” for Mr. Morgan’s New Haven Railroad – our interlocking directorate, you perceive! You may not know what “valuation work” consists of; it is the job of determining how much money you shall pay for your water, light, gas and transportation, and needless to say, the utility corporations want the valuation put as high as possible. Mr. Cooke, since the incidents here narrated, put through a rate case whereby the Philadelphia electric company collects from the city and the people of that city one million dollars less per year. So you see just what an ornery cuss Mr. Cooke is!
Professor Swain lays out “principles” for the doing of this ticklish “valuation work.”* One of his “principles” is that when anything has increased in value, the increased valuation shall be allowed the corporations, but when anything has decreased in value there shall be no corresponding decrease in the valuation! (We used to play this game when we were children; we called it “Heads I win and tails you lose.”) Another of Professor Swain's “principles” is that when states, counties or cities have helped to pay the cost of grade crossings, the railroads shall be credited with the full value of these grade crossings. (We used to play that game also when we were children; we called it “Findings is keepings.”) Needless to say, a man who is so clever as to get away with things like that regards himself as superior to the rest of us, who let him get away with it. So, as president – – – – –
*See record of hearing, May 3, 1920, at State House, Trenton, N. J., before Governor Edwards, on motion of City of Jersey City for removal of Public Service Commission. of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Professor Swain voices his distrust of democratic ideals, and informs the engineers that “present-day humanitarianism leads to race degeneracy.”
And then I turn on to page 35 of the pamphlet, and stumble on still more tactless conduct on the part of this dreadful Mr. Cooke. He tells us about Dugald C. Jackson, professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University,‡ who also does this fancy “valuation work.” Says Mr. Cooke: “Professor Jackson has never really been so much a university professor as a corporate employe giving courses in universities. While he probably receives five thousand dollars from his present teaching post he must receive at least four times this amount from his corporate clients – charging as he does one hundred dollars a day for his own time and a percentage on the time of his assistants!''
Mr. Cooke goes on to show that before taking up teaching, Professor Jackson was a chief engineer for the Edison General Electric Company. In 1910, while a professor at Harvard, he rendered a report showing that the Chicago Telephone Company was running behind over eight hundred thousand dollars per year; but two years later it was proven that the company could afford a reduction in rates of seven hundred thousand dollars per year! Again, Professor Jackson rendered a report showing that the Buffalo General Electric Company had a valuation of $4,966,000; but the state commission subsequently fixed the valuation at $3,194,000. He valued three thousand municipal arc lamps at $21.70 each, but the New York commission showed that the actual cost of these lamps was $13.53. Says Mr. Cooke:
“What constitutes being employed by a corporation? Professor Jackson is to all intents and purposes consulting engineer in chief as to rates and valuations to the entire electrical industry in the United States. He has made inventories of the Boston Edison Company and the New York Edison Company. He is now engaged in doing similar work for the Philadelphia Electric Company. These three companies have a combined gross annual income of thirty-five million dollars.”
Do you see the “nigger in the woodpile” now? If you are a mine guard or strike-breaking gunman, experienced in shooting up the tent-colonies of striking miners, the corporations will pay you five dollars a day and board for your services. If you are a “prominent technical educator,” with a string of university degrees and titles, who can enable the great corporations to swindle the public out of tens of millions of dollars every year, then you can command a salary of a hundred dollars a day, with a percentage on the time of your assistants. That is what a college education is for; and if you think that an over-cynical statement, I ask you to read the whole of this book before you decide!
And what is a college president for? A college president is paid by the interlocking directorate to take their “consulting engineers” and “valuation experts” and cover them with a mantle of respectability, enabling them to do their dirty work in the name of education and public service. And if any freak individual comes along, trying to break in and spoil the game, the function of a college president is to furnish what the college football player knows as “interference” – tripping the fellow up, slugging him, maiming him. In football there are strict rules against fouls; but in this game of plutocratic education “everything goes.”
‡ Professor Jackson, in qualifying as an expert before the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission, introduced himself by the single statement that he was “professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University.” It should be explained that he held the last two positions only ex-officio, by virtue of the affiliation of the two institutions which existed for a few years.
Chapter XVIII. The Laski Lampoon
A more recent test of Harvard University was made by Harold J. Laski, a brilliant young writer whom President Lowell in an unguarded moment admitted to teach political science. Laski holds unorthodox ideas concerning the modern capitalist state; he thinks it may not be the divinely appointed instrument which it considers itself. Laski raised this question in his Harvard classes, which caused tremendous excitement in State Street. The Harvard “drive” for sixteen millions was on, and a number of people wrote that they would give no money to Harvard while Laski was on its teaching staff. On the other hand, a Chicago lawyer wrote that his son had never taken any interest in his studies previously, but that since he had come under Laski's influence he had become a serious student; this lawyer sent fifty thousand dollars to make up the losses. The controversy got into the Boston newspapers, and President Lowell stood by Laski; no Harvard professor should be driven out because of his opinions. “Thank God we are not as Columbia!”
I asked a Cambridge friend about President Lowell's heroism, and he took a cynical view of it. Lowell is the author of a book interpreting the British constitution, and has a reputation in England based on this book; he has received an Oxford degree, and hopes some day to be ambassador. In England people really believe in free speech, and practice their beliefs; and Laski, it happens, is a Manchester Jew, his family associated with the present ruling group in England. Also, Laski himself wields a capable pen, and is not the sort of man one chooses for an enemy. If Laski were to go home and state that he had been expelled from President Lowell's university because of disbelief in the modern state, what would become of Lowell's English reputation? Said my friend: “If Laski had been a German Jew, or a Russian Jew'' – and he smiled.
As to the overseers and their handling of the case, Professor Laski writes me that they were very nice to him. “I was simply invited to a dinner at which we exchanged opinions in a friendly fashion. My only doubt there was a doubt whether the committee realized how very conservative my opinions really were in this changing social world. Like most business men, they had little or no knowledge of the results of modern social science.”
The climax came with the Boston police strike in the fall of 1919. This was a very curious illustration of the part which the Harvard plutocracy plays in the public life of Boston, so pardon me if I tell the story in some detail. You know how the cost of living doubled all over the country, while the wages of public servants increased very little. The policemen of Boston were not able to live on their wages; they begged for an increase, and the police commissioner promised them the increase if they would wait until after the war. They waited; and then the police commissioner tried to keep his promise, and the mayor and the Democratic administration worked out a settlement. But the Harvard plutocracy, which runs the government of the state, decided not to permit that settlement, but to force a strike of the policemen, so that they could smash the policemen's union. The late Murray Crane, senator and millionaire, holder of a Harvard LL. D., planned the job in the Union Club of Boston, together with Kidder, Peabody & Co., the bankers. Governor Coolidge, the tool of Crane, upset the arrangements made by the mayor of Boston, and the mayor was so furious that he “pasted the governor one in the eye”– the inside reason why Coolidge disappeared so mysteriously during the strike. But the newspapers of the interlocking directorate celebrated him as the hero of the affair, and he became vice-president of the United States on a wave of glory!
The strike came, and according to the standard American technique of strike-breaking, hoodlums were turned loose at the right moment, to throw stones and terrify the public. The whole affair was obviously stage-managed; nothing was stolen, and no real harm was done. Insiders assured me that all the time the “riots” were going on, there was a safe reserve of police locked up in the police-station, waiting in case things should go too far. The Boston policemen were represented as traitors to society, and a wave of fury swept the country – including Harvard, which holds hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Boston city bonds, also securities of Boston public service corporations. These properties must be protected; so a “Harvard Emergency Committee” was formed, headed by the professor who had first reported to the overseers Professor Laski’s too great zeal in outside activities. Needless to say, no one complained about the “outside activities” of this anti-strike professor; on the contrary, President Lowell issued a resounding call to Harvard men to help smash the policemen’s strike.
Incidentally, Harvard men smashed Harold J. Laski, who had the temerity to interject himself into this class war. Laski went to Boston and made a speech to the strikers’ wives, expressing sympathy with their cause; whereat all Boston raged. “I would like to ask you something, Mr. Laski,” said President Lowell, at a dinner party. “Why did you make that speech?” “Why, Mr. Lowell,” said Laski, smiling, “I made it because there is a general impression throughout the labor world that Harvard is a capitalistic institution, and I wanted to show that it is not true.” Laski was only twenty-six years old at the time, and it took some nerve, you must admit. How to get this young incendiary out of Harvard was the next job of the interlocking directorate.
Meet Mr. James Thomas Williams, Jr., of Boston. Mr. Williams was graduated from Columbia University in the same year that I quit it; he then joined the Associated Press, and now serves the interlocking directorate as editor of the Boston “Evening Transcript,” the paper which is read by every Tory in New England. You may learn more about this paper by consulting pages 284, 306, 307 and 379 of “The Brass Check.” Also, perhaps I should tell you a little incident which happened after “The Brass Check” came out. Desiring to test the capitalist newspapers, I made up a dignified advertisement of the book – nothing abusive or sensational, merely opinions from leading journals of Europe. I sent this advertisement, with a perfectly good check, to the Boston “Evening Transcript,” and the check was returned to me, with the statement that the “Transcript” thought it best not to publish the advertisement, because of the possibility of being sued for libel.
I was puzzled at first, wondering what paper might sue the Boston “Evening Transcript” for publishing an advertisement of “The Brass Check.” Then I remembered that in the book I had accused a Boston newspaper of having shared in the slush funds of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad; also of having suppressed reports of Justice Brandeis’ exposures of the Boston Gas Company, at the same time publishing page advertisements from this gas company; also of having published advertisements of “Harvard Beer, 1,000 Pure,” at the same time suppressing news of the fact that the federal government was prosecuting the manufacturers of Harvard Beer for violation of the pure food laws. So I understood that the Boston “Evening Transcript” was afraid of being sued by the Boston “Evening Transcript.”
Now behold the editor of this fine old Tory newspaper rushing to the defense of his interlocking directorate. Mr. Laski must be driven from Harvard, and Mr. Willians knows exactly how to do it. He interviews the editors of the Harvard “Crimson” and “Advocate;” finally in the editors of the “Lampoon,” he finds a group who will carry out his ideas. The result is an issue of that paper, January 16, 1920, known to history as the “Laski Lampoon.” If ever there was a fouler product of class venom, it has not yet come under my eye.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Harold J. Laski, but I form an idea of him from a score of pictures in this publication. From a painting on the cover I gather he is a short, thin, naked young skeleton with a paunch; he wears large glasses, and has a fringe of whiskers, or long hair, and a red dawn behind him, serving as a halo. From another picture, a piece of clay modelling, I am puzzled about the whiskers, or hairs, because I do not know whether they are little worms or pieces of spaghetti. From other cartoons I gather that Professor Laski sometimes wears clothes, and does not wear them entirely in the Harvard manner; that is, his clothes do not fit him, and his hat has too broad a brim, and is not worn entirely straight on his head. I gather that he sometimes smokes cigarettes, a vice entirely unknown in refined undergraduate circles.
Also Mr. Laski is described to me in a hundred or so sketches, verses and witticisms. He is “the great indoor agitator”; he is “a member of the firm of Lenin, Trotski and Laski.” This evil young man, you must understand, holds the idea that the people of Russia should be permitted to work out their own revolution in their own way, and that American troops should not be sent in to attack them in Archangel and Siberia without a declaration of war. This makes him a “Bolshevik”; this makes him “Laski de Lenin,” and “Ivan Itchykoff,” and the author of “The Constitution of the Russian Itchocracy,” and of the “Autobiographia Laskivia.” “Love had to go. One love was bad enough, but thirty or forty were insupportable. I had tried it and I knew.” He is invited to “sing a song of Bolsheviks,” and he tells us that “Comrade Lenin has a hundred and forty-eight motor cars, and Comrade Trotsky has fifty-two.” He is “Cataline,” and again he is “Professor Moses Smartelikoff” – the “Moses” meaning that he is a Jew, and the rest that he thinks differently from Harvard. Such thinking must not be allowed to get a start, say our cautious young undergraduates:
Stop infection early; kick the first one out.
And here are more verses, addressed to our unpopular professor:
With your skillful tongue awag,
As your piping voice grows louder,
Preaching Socialistic gag –
Stop a moment, let us warn you,
That we loathe you and we scorn you,
Harold Laski was scheduled to give a lecture at Yale, and when he got there he found this copy of the “Lampoon” on sale all over town, together with a reprint of an editorial in the “Transcript” denouncing him. He was young, and rather sensitive, and naturally it occurred to him that he was wasting his talents upon Harvard. He would be allowed to stay there, he told a friend of mine, but he would never be promoted, he would have no career. On the other hand, the University of London offered him a full professorship at a higher salary, in a part of the world where men may think what they please about the capitalist state. Laski resigned; and so cleverly the job had been managed – he had quit of his own free will, and the great university could go on boasting that its professors are not forced out because of their opinions! As a commentary on this story, I am sure you will be interested in an extract from a letter from Laski, dated August 16, 1922:
The results of the American atmosphere are quite clear.
Chapter XIX. Raking the Dust-Heaps
We have studied the “Laski Lampoon” to see what we can learn about Professor Laski. Let us now examine it to see what we can learn about Harvard. You remember the student who was compelled to button his collar; so you would expect to find Harvard objecting to a radical professor who did not wear the right kind of tie, and did not get his clothes from the right tailor. The “Lampoon” refers again and again to this, both in verse and drawings; it speaks of Laski’s “creed of charming untidiness” and if you want to know about Harvard’s creed of charming tidiness, turn to the advertising portions of this paper. One cannot publish an American magazine without advertisements, and the “Laski Lampoon” is almost up to the standard of the “Saturday Evening Post” – it has fifteen pages of reading matter and thirty-nine of advertisements!
Some of this matter we may assume was contributed as a means of helping to save our alma mater from Bolshevism; for example, the page of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and the page of the United Shoe Machinery Company, and the quarter-page of the Boston “Evening Transcript,” telling us: “This paper stands unflinchingly at home and abroad for ‘straight Americanism,’ for the cultivation of ‘an American character,’ which the First American called ‘the Cement that binds the Union.’” But the rest are the advertisements of concerns which expect to sell things; and as they spend enormous sums in this way, they make it their business to get the returns, and know how to appeal to each group. So here we learn what Harvard men like, and why they did not like Professor Laski! “Follow the Arrow and you follow the style in collars,” we are told, and on another page: “Correctness dominates the style policies of these stores.” Here are the usual handsome, haughty young men in “the Kuppenheimer clothes,” and here is the specially proper “Brogue Boot.”
Wishing to see just what Harvard men spend their money for, I take the trouble to classify this advertising. There are seven and one-half pages devoted to clothing, three and three-fourths devoted to luxurious hotels, three and one-half devoted to automobiles, and three and one-half to investments of the interlocking directorate, including an invitation to gamble in German marks. One and one-half pages are given to tobacco, one and one-fourth to candy, and and one-fourth to games and sporting goods, one to jewels, one to movies, three-fourths to music, one-fourth to the “Transcript,” one-fourth to art, and one-fourth to books. From the above we may reckon that Harvard students spend thirty times as much on clothes as they spend on books, and fourteen times as much on motor cars as on art. Such is the state of “culture” when teaching is dominated by a vested class, which fears ideas, and forbids all thinking save what is certified to be harmless.
It is a truism in the affairs of the mind, that when you bar one truth, you bar all; and when you refuse to permit students to use their minds, when you withdraw from them the vital stimulus of intellectual conflict – then they go off and get drunk. The last “senior picnic” at Harvard was “a glorified booze party,” so I was told by several who attended. There was a ball game, and certain prominent residents of the “Gold Coast” amused themselves by circulating among the crowd, making filthy remarks to girls. Some of the students became indignant, and wished to take the matter up, knowing that the remedy for such evils lies in publicity. But Mr. Frederick J. Allen, secretary to the Corporation – the same gentleman who made the tactful inquiry about the Wilfred Humphries lecture – pleaded with them to spare the good name of the university. So of course there will be another “glorified booze party” next year; and, needless to say, there will be the useful efforts to make certain that Harvard men do not think any new or vital thought about the issues which are shaping the mind of the world.
Class ignorance, class fear, and class repression are written over the modern curricula at Harvard, as at all other American universities. It proclaims that it opens its doors to all classes of the community, and sets forth statistics to prove that it is not a rich man’s affair; yet it has among its thirty overseers only three or four educators, not one woman, not one representative of agriculture, and not one of labor! The modern revolutionary movement is not explained to the students; and so they go out, ready to believe the grotesque falsehoods which are served up to them in the Boston “Evening Transcript” and the Providence “Journal”; ready to be led into any sort of lynching bee by the hundred per cent profiteers.
There was one young graduate of Harvard who managed to chop his way out of this glacier of cultured prejudice, and went over to Russia and gave his life for the revolution. His generous spirit will wipe out in Russian history the infamies committed by American capitalist government against the workers of Russia. He is in every way as beautiful and inspiring a figure as Lafayette, and he will live in the imaginations of the Russian people, precisely as Lafayette lives in ours. A hundred years from now he will be Harvard’s proudest product; but what has Harvard snobbery to say about him today? During the endowment drive for sixteen million dollars, carried on three years ago, Harvard boasted of its “hundred per cent record” for patriotism – but adding three words, for which it will blush to the end of history: “EXCEPT JOHN REED.”
No, the modern revolutionary movement is not interpreted at the university of Lee-Higginson. What is interpreted? I have a list of some of the titles of “theses in English,” accepted for the Ph.D. degree by Harvard University in the last ten years, and representing Harvard's view of general culture. Slaves in Boston's great department store, in which Harvard University owns twenty-five hundred shares of stock, be reconciled to your long hours and low wages and sentence to die of tuberculosis – because upon the wealth which you produce some learned person has prepared for mankind full data on “The Strong Verb in Chaucer.” Policemen who have had your strike smashed by Harvard students, rest content with your starvation wages – because one of these students has enlightened mankind on “The Syntax of the Infinitive in Shakespeare.” Girls who work in the textile mills, who walk the streets of the “she-towns” of New England and part with your virtue for the price of a sandwich, be rejoiced – because you have made it possible for humanity to be informed concerning “The Subjunctive in Layamon’s ‘Brut.’” Men who slave twelve hours a day in front of blazing white furnaces of Bethlehem, Midvale and Illinois Steel, cheer up and take a fresh grip on your shovels – you are making it possible for mankind to acquire exact knowledge concerning “The Beginnings of the Epistolary Novel in the Romance Languages.” Miners, who toil in the bowels of the earth in hourly danger of maiming and suffocation, be reconciled to the failure of a great university to install safety devices to protect your lives – because that money has gone to the collecting and editing of “Political Ballads Issued During the Administration of Sir Robert Walpole.” Peons, who quiver under the lash of the masters’ whip beneath tropic suns in Central America, be docile – because your labors helped to pay off the bonds of the United Fruit Company, so that a Harvard scholar might win a teaching position by compiling “Chapters in the History of Literary Patronage from Chaucer to Caxton.”
Note added January 19, 1995 —G.S., Martin, South Dakota.
It's now more than twenty years since I assembled the original version of this handout, June 23, 1974. The greater part of it by far is the material from Upton Sinclair’s The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education. My enthusiasm for Sinclair remains now as it was then. His searing exposé of the control exercised by the dominant corporate interests over American education is, so far as I know, without equal, still timely now, seventy years after he wrote it.
When I put the handout together, it was for use in this course at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. The idea that I would ever be offering the course at a tribally-chartered Indian-run college never crossed my mind. I didn’t know there were any Indian colleges. I did know a bit about the siege of Wounded Knee by the F.B.I. and other government (and government-deputized) would-be killers. Bill Zimmerman, formerly a fellow activist in Science for the People, flew a small plane and dropped supplies to the besieged occupants, was captured on landing and arrested by the F.B.I. I admired him for that action, though his feat was disparaged by one of the “heavies” in Science for the People as being “adventuristic.” Bill later worked with the group Medical Aid for El Salvador, and still does, I think. Still fighting to help oppressed people. That’s what this handout, and this whole course is supposed to be about – humane survival for all people. The question is: does the handout have any relevance for Oglala Lakota College (OLC)?
Conditions here at OLC are so enormously different from those at any of the wealthy universities mentioned in the reprinted items that at first glance it might seem of no practical concern to familiarize ourselves with the details of how those institutions are controlled. However, I think that idea would be mistaken. There is a common thread that runs through each account; the goal in every case is to force the institution to support the status quo – as Sinclair might say, “The universities are agents of the ruling plutocracy.” Sometimes the pressure is blatantly from the outside, as in the news item from the New York Times, where the chairman of Hewlett-Packard Company called on corporations to give support only to university activities which “also contribute in some specific way to our individual companies, or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.” Oftentimes the pressure, though just as blatant, comes from university administrators who “know which side their institutional bread is buttered on.”
I know of no college or university which claims to be self supporting, basing its operation entirely on its income from students’ tuition payments. Such a college could be largely independent, so long as its student body remained large enough. Whenever continued operation depends upon outside funding, whether it be from foundations, corporations, wealthy donors, or governmental agencies, the college or university is vulnerable to outside pressures. This is of course the condition in which OLC operates.
Its dependency on outside funding puts constraints on what OLC can do, and on how it can develop. What it ought to be depends on what the Oglala Lakota people want it to be. The effort to shape it in that direction will likely continue as long as the college exists, hopefully for many, many years. Despite the overall constraints, there are still many options. I hope this handout will help us understand how controls are exercised to maintain the status quo. That's the first step in changing it.
Note added January 31, 2005, —G.S., Oaxaca, Oax. Mexico.
In preparing this internet version of the handout I tried to be as true to the text of the 1994 version as possible. There may remain a few errors (aside from typos, that should be obvious) caused by the fact that I do not have a copy of Sinclair’s The Goose Step available in Oaxaca, and had to work from the 1994 text, which I have here only as a Signature file, without either the program or documentation, all of which is in Cambridge. Chapter XVII of the book may have Sinclair’s footnotes somewhat misplaced.
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