"CONFLICT SEEMS VAGUELY UN-AMERICAN":
TEACHING THE CONFLICTS AND THE LEGACY OF COLD WAR 1
This essay was published in Review, volume 17 (1995): 155-69. Please quote from the paper version.
A hard and indelible fact of freedom is that a conformity of
always dominant....[T]he freeman's principal concern is that it
shall be a conformity that honors the values he esteems
rather than those he rejects.
--William F. Buckley and L. Brent Bozell in McCarthy and His
Saul Bellow was surely right when in May of 1994 he noted for a New Yorker writer that the culture wars of the nineties have their rhetorical and logical origins in the fifties--in the "super-charged battles between anti-Communists and anti-anti-Communists."<3> I take this cue (though little else, I'm afraid) from Mr. Bellow. He is right to imply that while so much has been said and written about political correctness in the eighties and nineties, little has been done to put the debates in the context of anticommunism. Though Bellow believes anti-anticommunists were largely influenced by Stalinism--here's where, unsurprisingly, he parts with the left--he does concede that what little anti-anticommunist resistance there was in the 1950s arose because some liberals didn't enjoy "being forced to line up" in the rush to consensus.<4> To Bellow those who in the late forties and fifties fashioned liberal anticommunism (those who did "line up"--Bellow scornfully says many indulged in "opinion- consumerism"<5>) had earlier been the not-altogether happy participants in the Popular Front, New Deal Democrats among them. More interesting is Bellow's notion that those who formed anti- anticommunism had been either outright communists earlier, or liberals whose liberalism became "liberal fanaticism" when in the 1950s they refused to participate in McCarthyism. These anti- anticommunists, Bellow suggests, are the principal forerunners of advocates of "political correctness" forty years later. Bellow sees in contemporary liberalism a radicalism of people stuck on slogans, labels and rigidified positions ("mindless...medallion- wearing...placard-bearing" folks), and evidently he deems this group more properly the inheritors of anti-anticommunist Stalinism than of anticommunist liberalism--as if the latter ideology did not have an ideology, had no slogans, bore no placards. This PC genealogy is the key, I think, to discerning the positions taken in the newest outbreak of culture wars. PC bashers inherit from the fifties the anticommunists' assumption that the most powerful anti-anticommunists are Stalinists-become-"liberal fanatics," while anti-PC bashers inherit from the fifties the anti-anticommunists' assumption that the most powerful anticommunists are liberals become more truly themselves. At issue, primarily, is which group gets to claim as its rightful heritage from the cold-war era the notion that intellectual and social culture benefit from radical dissensus, disagreement, and difference. Yet in the fifties almost every anticommunist at one point or other argued *against* dissensus for the sake of the necessarily greater disagreement with Soviet (or "world") communism (e.g. limits on the right of American communists to teach in the universities, for the sake of national security), while, even if only for strategic reasons, the anti-anticommunists were the ones incessantly arguing for the right (indeed the usefulness) of radical dissent, including that of communists.
Although Gerald Graff, as he wrote *Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education*, was surely aware of a cold-war context for his contention that, for instance, intellectual extreme opposites "need" each other to make their positions meaningful,<6> it was never his purpose to make his argument depend on that awareness. Yet *Beyond the Culture Wars* would benefit from such dependence, and since, moreover, so much has been written about Graff's book since its publication in 1992 in relation to the political correctness, canon revision and multiculturalism controversies,<7> I intend here to concentrate on restoring what I take to be the crucial though perhaps necessarily unspoken cold-war background to Graff's proposal. The fifties' relevance to what Graff nicely calls "teaching the conflicts" reveals both the value of Graff's insights about the cultural resistance to intellectual many- sidedness and the limitations of a liberal pedagogical idealism that is trying too hard to avoid the old communist-anticommunist contest. Despite what I take to be implicitly his acuity about the effects of cold-war consensus on the universities, and of red-baiting on intellectual culture at large,<8> his promotion of an argument- counterargument structure to literary education too often neglects the fact that equal-time liberalism has a cultural precondition rendering free and open colloquy not so easily made free and open. Graff would say (rightly, I think) that the precondition must itself be taught, but the resulting meta-pedagogical involution, however boldly self- conscious, is not without its own politics.
Fifties-style obliviousness abounds among anti-PC partisans. When John Silber recently celebrated Boston University's success in "resist[ing] relativism" and, in its English department, having "not allowed the structuralists or the deconstructionists to take over," while claiming that Western culture invented multiculturalism (thereby, evidently, freeing B.U. from having ever to engage in it),<9> he was borrowing heavily from the nationalist, counter- imperialist rhetoric of 1950s anticommunism (despite his claims of libertarianism). Similarly, Bellow's remarks for the *New Yorker* on New York's cultural decline in 1994--"walking up and down Broadway is like strolling through some foreign writer's invention of an American slum"--re-express his bitter satire of 1951 against the multiculturalist imagination in "Looking for Mr. Green," a short story that originally appeared in *Commentary*,<10> in which an over- qualified deliverer of welfare checks (an unemployed university professor) is duped by his liberalism into thinking that a Chicago slum isn't as foreign and impenetrable as deepest, darkest Africa. What useful intellectual purpose could possibly be served by an academic's foolish desire to know this outlandish place as an American place? What appalling multiculturalism would then or now insist, despite the utter truth about cultural centrality, that all of us, even those who abhor this professor's craving for culture-crossing, be forced against our wills to certify as legitimate cultural expression what's now along Broadway? My point is that Graff in *Beyond the Culture Wars* does very much want to certify it, and yet because he is so keen to stand reasonably in the middle, beckoning opposite academic sides to instructive colloquy about what constitutes culture, he tends to underemphasize his own passionately held position against Bellow's. As Bellow's is an exclusivist concept, it is built to defy inclusion. The "politically independent" Bellow who shrewdly summons up the anticommunist years when he speaks about the folly of the multiculturalists is the same urban lyricist who is disgusted by Broadway's cultural melange--is the very same PC basher who has challenged the contemporary literary-critical left to show him the Tolstoy of the Zulus.<12> Graff is taking an inclusivist position
|The "politically independent" Bellow who shrewdly summons up the anticommunist years when he speaks about the folly of the multiculturalists is the same urban lyricist who is disgusted by Broadway's cultural melange--is the very same PC basher who has challenged the contemporary literary-critical left to show him the Tolstoy of the Zulus.|
To be sure, *Beyond the Culture Wars* expends its greatest efforts making a lucid, positive case for the value of serious-minded conflict, and this is its important aspect. If American students have been socialized to agree, then a pedagogical structure based on disagreement provides a means by which they can gain a sense of what is at stake in the cultural controversies raging around them. He is right that the alternative is ignorance in the name of "the basics." If, as Graff puts it, "such conflict seems vaguely un-American" (p. 5)--a nice and apt recollection of fifties rhetoric--then a pedagogy serving as a reminder, so simple as to seem unnecessary, that democratic traditions include debate about values most dearly held seems warranted. To leave our students out of unresolved discussions of these controversies is to foster an unreality Graff properly decries, an unreality that, especially in literature courses, causes an unfortunate association between great books and wholly resolved problems. One mistake of traditional pedagogy was to conceive of schools as places where disagreements about the curriculum were already resolved before the opening class bell rang, which was the moment when disagreement ended and agreement began. "The history of higher education is a succession of stormy conflicts that have produced the curriculum but are rarely addressed in it" (p. 125). In Graff's meta-pedagogy, teaching these disagreements themselves can disclose for students the not-so-mystical process by which culture is made, sustained, challenged, and recreated. It is hard to know (Graff supplies only personal middle-class recollection) if Americans overall have been harmed by the traditional mode in which they are presented with the results of their teachers' conflicts rather than given a chance to participate in resolving them (p. 12); anyway, critics of this orientation to process are surely wrong to argue that it entails unproductive disrespect for cultural achievements. Teaching in the way Graff recommends does not in itself encourage educational impasse. We do no honor to the literary classics "by protecting them from disrespect" (p. 48) and, similarly, we do no honor to our students by shielding them from our own contentious positions.
So Graff reasonably and rightly wants his students to see that everyone, even (or especially) their teachers, is of necessity a side- taker. The trouble is--and Graff is mostly aware of it as he describes the problems and possibilities of pedagogical subjectivity-- one side usually delineates the sides, leaving the other side to argue its side *as well as* against the delineation of the sides. Thus, again, by virtue of his very argument about positions (against which William F. Buckley might well say: "Does he mean there are *sides* to take on Shakespeare's greatness? This seems a waste of time"), Graff implicitly concedes what his book might have made clearer with a glance back to the origins of this dispute: the sides have been drawn by the right as descendents of the first anticommunist intellectuals, the same participants in the debate who once deemed the idea that there were *sides* in discussions of American democracy a form of treason and who then and now would similarly deny the very relevance of side-taking in, say, the study of great books. One of the few weaknesses of anti-anticommunist Robert Maynard Hutchins--but this weakness was enough to render him mostly powerless--was that he did not discern this basic strength of anticommunism. Scholars of Hutchins's fascinating career as university president, think-tank impresario, educational reformer, tend to ascribe this to a temperamental naivete, but that's just my worry: the inadequacy of Hutchins's conversation about the Great Conversation, his position on position-taking, was intrinsic to his situation as a liberal. At the University of Chicago and then at the Fund for the Republic, Hutchins truly thought that by advocating advocacy he was in a position to redraw the lines (and terms) of the debate. For most anticommunists of the fifties, Hutchins's ardent promotion of dialogue and "conversation"--the interanimations of a variety of positions, as in Hutchins's Great Books program--meant little more or less than communism, or at the very least a submission to communism, which was in effect communism. Volunteer anticommunist operatives sent professional red-baiters reports on Great Books discussion groups from across the country. One women from Tulsa, having infiltrated a group there, described a session on "The Declaration of Independence," alarmed that the group operated like a communist cell (they picked apart the text line by line, and "Only the leader could ask questions but he himself could not be questioned"). "Through it all," she wrote, "the seed of World Government was cleverly planted.... It was all very confusing--purposely done, of course."<13> What really unnerved anticommunists yearning to see red in Hutchins was his refutation of the idea that teachers know and give answers, and his promotion of lively discussion in which "sharp differences of opinion lends interest to everyone"--a point (which in context was once thus an anti-anticommunist one) essential to Graff. The reactionary columnist Fulton Lewis, preparing an attack on Great Books, marked (in red) the following statements in a Great Books pamphlet advising discussion leaders: "Never Answer, Never Tell, Never Lecture, Never Sum Up--Never!" and "A good discussion is always on the edge of chaos." The anticommunist backlash against lively discussion (when, as with the "Declaration," straight answers seemed to do just fine) is only one indication that during the cold war the lexicon of side- taking in the United States changed--and changed, I would suggest, in a way that is still with us forty years later. Although the anticommunist rhetoric of opposition required self-conscious positioning against an alien ideology (and thus against ideology itself), the anticommunist side held two-thirds of the ground. In a speech of 1950, George E. Sokolsky, a reactionary columnist, described Marxism as "[t]he principal problem that faces most men today" and asked: "Shall we be for it? Shall we oppose it? Shall we make compromise with it?" Sokolsky meant of course that to compromise with it was the same as being for it. For decent folks the only position remaining was opposition, and it was actually no position at all but the utter truth, the only place worth standing. In such a sense of "opposition," nothing of the interplay and understanding between ideas was actually being urged (in spite of momentary deference to the rhetoric of "for...against...[or] make compromise"). One side had truth (Sokolsky's title was "The Peace of Truth: The Bulwark against Marxism") and the other side lured one into evil mediation, negotiation, "compromise." The proof, he suggested, was to be found not just in the arguments of communists but also in "endorsements [by others] *relating* to Communist *objectives*" (emphasis added) where one found "distinguished names" of noncommunists making "compromise" with communism and thus aiding its spread. So mediation was not a position. It is no accident that Sokolsky's speech was so brazenly anti-intellectual ("The man whose instinct is for learning and for truth needs no university at all"), and I would suggest that its occasion--the raising of St. Bonaventure College to the status of a University--was precisely what caused Sokolsky to insist that the rhetoric of intellectual exploration of opposites is a sham.<16>
Given this history of anti-positionality (and a parallel history of anti-intellectualism), Graff's proposals for pedagogical position- taking, while sound in particular aspects, can strike one as not likely to "Revitalize American Education" in the sense he means. Graff suggests repeatedly that in the classroom (as elsewhere) an effort to present the pros and cons on any controversial question is itself always some measure of relief from indoctrination. (As an avid though sometimes very doubtful teacher-of-the-conflicts myself, I do feel I provide such relief, but my keenest students remind me that it's possible to be indoctrinated to differ and disagree, having been liberated from accord and agreement.) Again the raising of consensus to the highest plane of values in the fifties might have taught us that there are sides and there are sides; Graff's notion too trustingly, I think, assumes of all parties a liberal-centrist conscientiousness in the very definition of what constitutes "the other side" of a question--an intellectual fairmindedness that had been lost or in any case was absent during the previous era of McCarthyism. One of the most relentlessly reactionary magazines of that time was Dan Smoot's *Facts Forum* of Dallas, funded by the billionaire anticommunist H. L. Hunt. Smoot's magazine published nothing that did not shore up one and only one side of the communist question (which was the defining question), and yet Smoot's general appeal used the rhetoric of teaching the conflicts, superficially much like Graff's. Like any hear-both-sides liberal, the reactionary Smoot--a Harvard PhD in English literature, and lit instructor-turned- FBI agent--argued that an informed citizenry is a more powerful weapon than even "the army" in the defense of cultural values held dearly. But what constitutes being informed, and indeed what constitutes information? Another way of formulating the question gets at the heart of Graff's proposal: how far from one's own side must one go before one can be deemed fairly presenting the other? In a letter of 1952 addressed "Dear Americans," Smoot noted, "The Facts Forum News will carry a summary of pro and con arguments on current questions from the Facts Forum polls."<15> But having read the whole run of *Facts Forum*, I well understand, as Smoot's conservative readership surely did, the specifically limited sense of "con" here--a sense that did not need to be articulated to be understood. If "pro" meant, for example, firing immediately and without a hearing all public school and public university teachers whose ideas happened to coincide with the communists', "con" might mean firing immediately and without a hearing only those who are identified as card-carrying communists while permitting the fellow-travellers maybe a little time to assemble a legal defense.
My point is that in the earlier era of culture-warring, reactionaries and other cultural transcendentalists rarely spoke against the idea of hearing all sides of a debate on contemporary issues; some did, to be sure, but most did not, believing themselves to be advocates, in the schools and universities, of the *fully* informed student. Yet it didn't take much before the same anticommunists who urged, in their own terms, the equivalent of teaching the conflicts, cried foul against ideological opposites, latter-day anti-anticommunists like Graff--those who took the right's rhetoric of free debate seriously and zealously called for the same. Luella Mundel, an untenured professor of Art History at Fairmont State College, who was *not* a communist (before being red-baited she had been almost wholly apolitical), was called a Red and then dismissed from her job pretty obviously because she was an outspoken single modern woman teaching modern ideas in a small college town--because of her urban manner and the appreciation for modern art she conveyed in her art history classes. Mundel's attorney, Horace Meldahl, made the dreadful mistake of saying in a newspaper interview published just before the beginning of Mundel's trial that he hoped she would get a fair hearing, that the idea of free association and speech would be upheld, and that he shared with most Americans the desire to air both sides of the debate about communism. This assertion was, as a chronicler of the Mundel affair has noted, "about as subversive as a high-school civics text," but nonetheless Mundel's detractors at Fairmont State, and the local citizens of Fairmont, went wild with fury. A fair trial for Professor Luella Mundel became an impossibility in a community of enraged anticommunists after her attorney publicly advocated teaching the conflicts.<17>
Graff does worry about the political insularity of his proposed reforms, and here is where his book is at its best. In a section on "The Course Fetish" he describes the damaging myth of the course as a haven from the mundane, bureaucratic aspects of big university (and even small college) existence, "a garden occupying a redemptive space," "a realm of unity and presence in a world otherwise given over to endless difference, conflict, competition, and factionalism" (pp. 116-17). Obviously he wants to provide an intellectual field of indefinite boundaries where that very disunity and conflict can become necessarily part of the university's intellectual and not just its bureaucratic life--which might have the effect of intellectualizing the bureacracy a bit, and may also allow the university's bureaucratic culture to permeate the course. (That Graff would not mind the latter effect sets him apart from most of those fighting the culture wars.) Graff is arguing strongly for the integration of what goes on in the classroom and what goes on everywhere else at the university. Put in this way, his integrationist notion is not in itself likely to be much disputed--indeed it sounds like the liberal-artsy lesson about "living and learning" to be drawn from college catalogue covers. But since Graff makes this argument specifically in the context of his refutation of the conservative's (inexpensive) idea "that there is nothing wrong with today's education that cannot be cured by getting good teachers together and simply turning them loose" (an education wonk's truism from the Reagan years), it is very contentious indeed, for it powerfully contradicts the vision of the great teacher offering singular redemption in a removed, redemptive space, and is in effect a call to teachers-of-the-conflicts to expose values under construction around the university just as in the classroom (pp. 116-17). This more than anything else in *Beyond the Culture Wars* raises what the intellectual right sees as the spectre of leftist professors imposing their Zulu Tolstoys in "dialogue with" Tolstoy on unsuspecting "nonpolitical" professors just trying to teach Tolstoy by himself. Graff's position is more fervently *one* of the positions than his argument about positionality permits him at most points to reveal. When he does not reveal it, his book is less directly and less forcefully an argument against its culture-wars forebearers, such as Felix Wittmer's *Conquest of the American Mind: Comments on Collectivism in Education* (1956), E. Merrill Root's *Collectivism on the Campus: The Battle for the Mind in American Colleges* (1955), and Buckley's *God and Man at Yale* (1951), the last a less well-argued book than Graff's but in odd ways similar. Buckley, too, "dissociated myself from the school of thought . . . that believes teachers ought to be 'at all times neutral'"--so as to enable his argument that Yale ought to repudiate its relativist, secularist and "collectivist" curriculum, which it pretended was non-ideological.<18> To break what he saw in 1951 as the liberal orthodoxy at the university--an extraordinary and nearly paranoid vision--Buckley knew he could depend on a politically honest pedagogy that would "Let the student and citizen witness the struggle" and "Let the struggle take place in their minds." And note that Buckley means these principles *not* to "justify laissez-faire education" but rather to foster an activist one that would instigate curricular cross-comparisons (which for him inevitably meant the refutation of any discipline not absolutist).<19> When "[t]he wife of a prominent professor" told young Buckley that "Yale ought to have a course on Communism, and this course should be taught by a man who is neither pro-Communist [n]or anti-Communist," Buckley found this anti-positionality dishonest and was instantly reminded of Richard Weaver's definition of a liberal as "someone who doubts his premises even while he is acting upon them."<20> Though in truth Buckley would have been the first to decry a course at Yale on communism taught by a "pro-Communist"--indeed, he would have reported it, as he did much else, directly to the FBI<21>--the point of *God and Man at Yale* was nonetheless that universities should *not* fear confirmed pedagogical position-taking ("Let the student witness the struggle") and should avoid the liberal allure of both- sidedness. At its weakest Graff's book paints a picture of an innovative teacher confirming Weaver's image of liberalism; at its strongest it substantiates that the endless fights against conformity at universities will be waged by people with contending notions of conformity, but now, perhaps, in the name of permitting in the classroom itself the other side's say. This to me is a prospect much less hopeful than Graff would want to suggest in his otherwise optimistic book, and unfortunately similar to Buckley's cold-war axiom about conformity being an indelible fact of freedom.
And what of the classroom as sacred, redemptive space? Is this false redemption offered only by the traditional great teacher using traditional concepts of pedagogy and of the university? In courses taught effectively by teachers of the conflicts, is there no chance of producing a space equally redemptive in its way? A realm of unity based on the agreement to disunite for the sake of invigorated, engaged learning? This may well lead to an ironic psychic doubling of the course fetish. A revitalizing myth of unity based on the preeminence of the values of unity, consensus, and undividededness-- fifties-style--is not *necessarily* more honest than a revitalizing myth of nineties-style unity based on the preeminence of disunity, dissensus, and fragmentation.
1. I am grateful for permission from the following archives to quote from unpublished materials: The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University (for material in the *National Republic* Papers); Special Collections Department at William R. Perkins Library, Duke University (for material in the J. B. Matthews Papers); and George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University (for materials in the Fulton Lewis Sr. Papers).
2. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, p. 120.
3. The phrase is not Bellow's but a *New Yorker* writer's paraphrase of a point made during an interview ("Mr. Bellow's Planet," *New Yorker*, May 23, 1994, p. 35).
4. Bellow phrase ("Mr. Bellow's Planet," p. 35).
5. Saul Bellow, "Writers, Intellectuals, Politics: Mainly Reminiscence," *The National Interest* 31 (Spring 1993), p. 130.
6. Gerald Graff, *Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education* (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), p. 52.
7. Among these responses are Michael Berube's review-essay in *Contemporary Literature* 35, 1 (Spring 1994), pp. 212-27; Ronald Takaki's survey of PC contestants, "Multiculturalism--Battleground or Meeting Ground," *Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science* 530 (November 1993), pp. 109-21; John Sutherland's review in *TLS* 4704 (May 28, 1993), pp. 11-12; Kenneth Warren's review in the *Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association* 26, 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 75-81; and Alan Ryan's "Invasion of the Mind Snatchers," *New York Review of Books* 40, 4 (February 11, 1993), pp. 13-15.
8. In *Professing Literature: An Institutional History* (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987), Graff does not directly describe the effect of anticommunist investigating committees on English department faculty and programs, although it would have nicely paralleled his point--one repeated in *Beyond the Culture Wars* (p. 153)--that patriotism during World War I aided the rise of Great Books, said later by many of its adherents to be founded on the eternal verities. In the following passage Graff makes it clear that his narrative of the rise of American Studies in the 1950s gives very little credence indeed to leftists' claims against the "American Renaissance" concept as delimited by cold war:
Whatever the[. . .] political failings [of cold-war-era Americanists], there is something misplaced in the recent tendency to assimilate the postwar theories of American literature...to a "social control" model that makes Cold War ideology, "disciplinary power," and "surveillance" so pervasive that it empties these concepts of useful content. In a curious kind of academic competition in which each critic tries to establish himself by "out-lefting" all others, the very concept of an "American Renaissance" is reread as a mere rationalization of the Cold War..., the interpretation of *Moby Dick* "in which Ishmael's freedom is opposed to Ahab's totalitarianism" is interpreted as an apology for American anticommunism.... (p. 223)
This unfairly insinuates that those who read the many democratic narratives of the period as shaped by the strong cold-war consensus are invariably allegiant to Foucault--and thus the imposition of a latter-day "neo"-left theory upon the earlier left-to-right succession is thought merely to continue the old endless fight of left versus right. Thus here as elsewhere Graff's work implies a saner middle ground. For a full study of the damage done by anticommunism at the universities, see Ellen Schrecker, *No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism & the Universities* (1986). Though Schrecker covers all academic disciplines, her work with university archives points to as-yet unanalyzed evidence suggesting distortions in the English curriculum as one result of red-baiting. See also Lionel S. Lewis, *Cold War on Campus: A Study of the Politics of Organizational Control* (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988).
9. John Silber, "President's Report to the Trustees," April 15, 1993 ("Excerpts of Silber's Remarks," *Boston Globe*, November 24, 1993, p. 17).
10. Collected in *Mosby's Memories and Other Stories* (NY: Penguin, 1984), pp. 85-109.
11. The challenge is cited by Carlin Romano in "His Mouth, His Foot," *Nation*, August 8/15, 1994, p. 168.
12. The challenge is cited by Carlin Romano in "His Mouth, His Foot," *Nation*, August 8/15, 1994, p. 168.
13. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, *National Republic* Papers, Box 154; letter from Elizabeth McKelvey, Feb. 6, 1953.
14. George Arents Library, Syracuse University, Fulton Lewis Sr. Papers, "Great Books" folder. The files gathered by anticommunist investigators working for the *National Republic* magazine include a great deal of material intended to prove that the Great Books Program was communist-allied or -inspired (Hoover Institute). The FBI built similar files. J. B. Matthews, a professional anticommunist witness, submitted a report to the FBI noting that *The Daily Worker* "has approvingly featured Dr. Hutchins['s] views on education several times" (Special Collections, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, Matthews Papers, Box 612, Hutchins folder, "Robert M. Hutchins," October 30, 1953).
Through his (and Mortimer Adler's) Great Books Program, Hutchins could prominently insist on the idea that social and political progress would come only through an understanding of differences arrived at through "conversation" (one of his favorite words)--a position that was interpreted by anticommunists as a sell-out to the communists, tantamount to "peaceful coexistence." That Hutchins could suggest the Great Books as a way in which American citizens could teach themselves the skills necessary for doing what American diplomats were *not* doing abroad--namely reaching, through intercultural "conversation," a "minimum understanding" with those whose ideology we find abhorrent--was itself an irritant to anticommunists. The exploration of differences through the playing off against one another of opposing positions was the theoretical basis (for Hutchins if not as happily for Adler) of the program Hutchins outlined in *The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education* (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), a work meant both as a handbook for Great Books discussion leaders and as a manifesto for an idealistic liberal pedagogy Hutchins mostly failed to bring even to his own University of Chicago. "The liberally educated man" had above all to be able to discern "distinctions and interrelations" between various positions (p. 3); to achieve this, he (or she--despite Hutchins's habitual use of the male pronoun, Great Books discussion groups were designed to and did include many women) must learn to see how culture is strengthened and reconstructed (though not originally constructed) through dialogue. Ours might ideally be a "Civilization of the Dialogue," argued Hutchins, if it weren't for certain "citizens [he meant anticommunist congressmen] constantly demanding the suppression of freedom of speech in the interest of national security" (p. 61).
15. Dan Smoot, "Facts Forum, Information and Enlightenment," December 18, 1952 (George Arents Library, Syracuse University: Fulton Lewis Sr. Papers, Box 3).
16. George E. Sokolsky, "The Peace of Truth: The Bulwark against Marxism," *Vital Speeches* 17, 2 (November 1, 1950), pp. 45-7; speech at St. Bonaventure University, October 4, 1950.
17. Charles H. McCormack, *This Nest of Vipers: McCarthyism and Higher Education in the Mundel Affair, 1951-52* (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), p. 127.
18. William F. Buckley, Jr., *God and Man at Yale* (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1951), p. 181.
19. Buckley, *God and Man at Yale*, p. 156.
20. Buckley, *God and Man at Yale*, p. 176.
21. See Sigmund Diamond, Compromised Campus: The Collaboration of Universities with the Intelligence Community, 1945-1955 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 151-66.
Last modified: Tuesday, 22-Aug-2000 18:04:40 EDT