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On Seeking Out Relevance at College
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Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1965 NIGHT EDITOR: BRUCE WASSERSTEIN
Ideals vs. U' Reality
COLLEGE STUDENTS keep ask-
in eif they should quit. My
usual answer has been: Life is
not a bed of roses in or out of
college; stay if there's even-a sin-
gle subject you are really interest-
ed in and feel you are learning--
unless, of course, the routine is
bad for your health or you have
to do something dishonorable, like
faking to get by.
But I now think this is the
wrong approach. The right an-
swer is that given to the young
by Prince Kropotkin half a cen-
tury ago: Ask yourself what you
want to do with these beautiful
and useful subjects that are pre-
sumably available in the univer-
sity, and see to it that you get
what you need.
If you are in engineering, ask
what kind of community you want
to make housing, roads, or ma-
chinery for; what kind of hous-
ing, etc. such a community needs;
and how best to prepare yourself
for the task.
THE INQUIRY will certainly
lead you into sociological ques-
tions, economics and politics, and
perhaps even into political ac-
tions to make your future possi-
ble. (Maybe, at present, we need
fewer roads, and your task is to
prevent them from being built!)
If you are going for medicine,
think about health as well as
pathology, and the superiority of
preventive medicine to curative
medicine. This will give meaning
to biology, chemistry, and anat-
omy; it will certainly lead you in-
to psychosomatics and social hy-
Here again you may find your-
self in troublesome action. And
you may find that you are a mav-
erick; for instance, you may be-
gin to see the attraction of the
arduous career of general family
practice with house visits, during
which you can forestall future
chronic diseases, instead of the
present rage for specialization and
office visits, plus psychiatry when
it is late in the game.
IF YOU WILL study law, re-
member that it really deals with
the making of a just society and
defense against injustice in any
society. This will soon bring you
into problems of politics, history,
and administration. It will make
Open Letter to Prof. Sheridan Baker:
IN YOUR RECENT REPLY to Shirley
Rosick's editorials on the new distribu-
tion requirements, you defended most vig-
orously the retention of the University's
foreign language requirement.
Miss Rosick had stressed in her writ-
ings that our educational training should
be more directly concerned with learning
how to think-developing our ability to
be effectively aware of the present.
On a related basis you defended the
language requirement: "It asks that we
memorize and accumulate-and this is
work-and then it refuses to let us wipe
the slate clean at the trimester's end ...
It strains your mind into an awareness of
grammar and syntax and words, by which
thought becomes articulate." From here
you related your own experience with
Latin-how it made you aware of the
language, how it taught you to think.
I do not think that Miss Rosick or
anyone, for that matter, would argue the
basic validity of your experience. Un-
fortunately, such an experience is neith-
er offered nor encouraged by the type of
language training encountered by most
students I have met here.
While effective investigation of a for-
eign language might well be "one of the
best trainers of that linguistic facility
which is almost the very sinew of
thought," language as it is taught here
seems to me to be nothing of the sort. It
has been objected to because it is made
to seem a dull, time-consuming, irrele-
WHERE IN THE REQUIRED course is
the student offered any feeling for
"an awareness of grammar, and syntax
and words, by which thought becomes
articulate?" Two of my own courses
weren't bad-the .instructors were stim-
ulating and we dug into worthwhile lit-
erature. But still there was nothing to
stimulate a feeling for a language or lan-
guage structure as such.
It became rather a formula, a diction-
ary to text to jigsaw puzzle kind of proc-
ess that offered no insight, no meaning,
no validity beyond what we could glean,
in English, from the translation.
So if foreign language discipline has
a basic necessity, validity and relevance
I did not feel it. Though I passed French
with average grades for one and one half
semesters, your letter was my first aware-
ness of any complex of "grammar, and
syntax, and words" which holds any value
in itself beyond the necessity to learn
it for speaking and reading. If this is my
fault, it is also the fault of thousands.
Perhaps it should be up to the instruc-
tors who are assigned to teach the lan-
guage to present it in a way that will
stimulate the deep awareness of language
which you seem to have experienced.
.Maybe even just a hint to teachers would
suffice. But something! If language is
being taught in a manner that prompts
so many students to oppose its require-
ment, then something must be wrong
Please send me $17.50. I kept a couple
overnight books out of the UGLI for a
day extra, and I need the money to pay
I know that sounds rather steep. But
look at it like this: maybe they can use
the money to buy a second dozen of
those books to put on overnight reserve.
ROBERT JOHNSTON. Editor
LAr'RENCE KIRSHBAUM ROBERT HIPP ER
Managing Editor Editorial Director
JUDITH FIELDS ................. Personnel Director
LAUREN BAHR ........... Associate Managing Editor
JUDITH WARREN .. . ssistant Managing Editor
GAIL BL13MBERG.................. Magazine Editor
PETER SARASOHN .............. Contributing Editor
LLOYD GRAFF................ Acting Sports Editor
THIS BRINGS ME to my second point.
You state that you certainly agree
with Miss Rosick in her desire for "in-
novation, enthusiasm, groups of students
studying what interests them, relevance,
elasticity, and a meaningful education."
Yet five paragraphs later you say "Miss
Rosick is right in observing that the Cur-
riculum Committee, as now situated, will
not bring about the kinds of innovation
she wants. The committee (each man busy
to the eyeballs with his own course, com-
mittees, students, papers, research, writ-
ing, in about that order) cannot find the
impetus to go about recruiting, and then
persuading departments to take its re-
cruits and its programs."
Well, then, Prof. Baker, who will bring
about the kind of innovations everyone
seems so unanimous in wanting? How ef-
fective, indeed, is it for students to gath-
er together, for a course (not so common
an event in the first place) and petition
a professor (up to his eyeballs in pres-
ent courses, committees, students, papers,
research, and writing) to add a course to
his repertoire, and get it approved for
credit by the administration?
Students (up to their neck in reading,
papers, classes, paying for school and
staying interested) are too often simply
not stimulated enough to do this. Tooj
often a bad course will have the effectj
of deadening a student's interest rather
than stimulating him to fight for a new
Take for example the courses required
for distribution. They are generally taught
by men in their own disciplines. This, of
course, is perfectly logical and perfectly
valid. Yet how many of those teaching
courses in fields they know are outside
the main interest of their students bother
to bridge the gap between their own dis-
ciplines and those of the students?
"An educated person (is) one who
knows the literature and the history of
his culture, its music and its art . . ." This
is true, and it hurts, because how many
people in these various disciplines, on the
lower levels at least, bother to teach their
courses in the context of the world in
which they arose? None of the courses I
took previous to the Junior level was
taught in any context other than the
narrow path involved in the course's title.
Literature without history, history
without music, music without literature.
It doesn't make sense. Certainly you must
agree that when we are taught with such
a narrow outlook, our general fund of
knowledge must suffer a lack of continu-
And so it so often goes with the distri-
bution courses. Last semester I took As-
tronomy 130 with Prof. Maliville (he's
gone now). The first class period he took
a survey of the class and found nearly
all were humanities majors. From there
on he approached the course, still as a
scientist, but emphasizing its relevance to
the humanist pursuits. Thus we got a feel
for astronomy both as a science as such,
and as a shaper and a result of man's
past and present thoughts.
PERHAPS YOUR COMMITTEE, Prof.
Baker, could encourage such an ap-
proach from more faculty members. If,
as you say, "new courses come from the
man and the department," perhaps a
new outlook on the old courses could
come from your committee.
Maybe each man who teaches a course
filled predominantly with people in other
fields could be somehow encouraged to
teach that course with an eye open to
the other disciplines: art history with
the effects of political.history, rat psy-
chology with human psychology, music
literature with written literature. Per-
haps the professor, too, should act "not
primarily as a breadwinner but as a
mindwinner and integrator."
All this seems very necessary to me, but
how does one go about enacting such
changes? Perhaps your committee does
indeed need rewiring. Perhaps the whole
system-courses, departments, adminis-
trative powers and attitudes-needs a ma-
I do feel that few can take issue with
the philosophy behind the distribution
_ _,_lI" * _ c fn t_ Aro__nl . a
you a critic of legislation.
You might even have some im-
portant questions to ask in rhet-
oric and English, when you real-
ize that bureaucracies are trapped
in their routine languages and rit-
uals. Look into the admirable bail
project at NYU, manned by stu-
dents, that has saved thousands
of poor people from rotting in
Those in the humanities and
history know in their bones that,
as Arnold put it, literature is the
criticism of life, the touchstone
we hold against the actuality; as
Dewey put it, it is by appreciation
that we judge the worth of what
we're after. I doubt that the lev-
el of TV, the lies in the press, or
the campaign speches of politi-
cians can stand up under the scru-
tiny of humanists.
Also, the monuments of hu-
inanity in literature and the caus-
es of history-perhaps especially
the "lost causes"-give us other
ways of being men than the roles
and motives that seem possible in
IN GENERAL, all university
sciences and arts have theoreti-
cal and methodical parts that
are remarkable for their beauty
and ingenuity, and something is
very wrong with college teaching
if students do not come to de-
light in these things.
But besides, especially students
of physical science ought also to
ask what applications of theory
are desirable and worth looking
at. (I am surprised that some of
the contracted research in some of
our universities is not being pick-
eted by sincere students.)'
We use a high scientific tech-
nology that most of us do not un-
derstand, and these students must
become the critics and interpreters
for us of the political economy of
Needless to say, students who
stubbornly insist on getting what
they need from the university
courses, for better ends that get-
ting a degree, licence, and good
salary, are likely to clash with
the system they are in.w ith its
syllabus and departmentalization
and its academic isolation from
They will certainly clash with
authoritarian control. But then
they will have specific causes for
anger and conflict. Instead of be-
ing passive and unfulfilled, they
will be aggressive and frustrated.
This is better than simply quit-
ting in disgust, and it is certain-
ly better than empty griping.
SUCH A CHANGED student at-
titude would bring the professors
back to life. A professor would
have to prove the relevance of his
subject, and so find new relev-
ance in it. He would have students
with articulatetquestions, who are
the easiest to teach, though often
embarrassing to one's ignorance.
But most, important, in my
opinion, is that society could again
be irradiated with science and arts.
As it is at present, with all our
Knowledge Explosion and college-
going, there is very little evidence
that many people are taking
Copyright, Paul Goodman, 1965
The Story of Walter Mitty tand Mr. Hyde
By PETER McDONOUGH
W HAT FOLLOWS is a kind of
of political stag show - a
look into the culture of the bru-
tal and the lurid to which we
Americans have become accustom-
Its symbology is that of vicar-
ious sensationalism. Its psycho-
ogy, like that of the meanest
pornography, is to twist or leave
nothing to the privacy of the
It is somewhat unreal: not
exactly a bad dream come true
but one, rather, which we do not
believe in yet still cannot forget.
It is Walter Mitty become Mr.
Hyde-a Mr. Hyde who is both
"realistic" and righteous.
THE FIRST PART of this ar-
tile has to do with war comics.
The second presents some letters
-one from a newspaper editor to
a private citizen, and the rest
from private citizens to a briefly
There is not much difference
between the mentalities which
each part exhibits.
It may be mostly underground
or fringe stuff-an acceptable and
boring Grand Guignol. But there
is another demi-monde besides
the criminal and the psychopath-
ic. Its imagery expresses the com-
mon suspicions which sometime
overcome those persons who us-
ually just want to be left alone
or don't want to be bothered,
when they try to cope with ballots
and tax forms and issues. It is
conscience by default: vigilantism.
-"Guerrilla War," published by
the Dell offices, is pure, raw gore.
unmitigated by sex and relieved
only by the antics of comic side-
kicks. The hero is a blond Special
Forces officer. The villain is a
yellow-bellied jellyfish of an Ori-
ental whose dramatic ingenuity
never gets far beyond "Aiiii!! !"
THE HERO puts more English
on his Weltanschauung:
"One gold star for Strike Force
One . .. One assist for Operation
Four-Flush! Now 'fess up boys,
we started a real hootennany
down there, didn't we? Heh, hehh!
I reckon Cactus and Mike will
feel mighty bad about the shoot-
'em-up they missed! Heh, heh,
hehhhh ! !"
This is a level of Goebbeldee-
gook to which even Gomer Pyle
rarely sinks. The characters in
"Guerrilla War" communicate in
no human language, but in scram-
bled, amateurish Pentagonese.
-A variant is the "All-Ameri-
can Men of War" series. The ap-
peal of Lt. Steve Savage - "The
Ace of Sudden Death,' 'and blond,
too-stems from a bravery that
amounts to nothing more than a
compulsion to kill. He is the Faust
"Other men had learnin' . . . or
skills . . . or family ... or money!
I had only one thing-and I
could use it only in a war! I'm
the gun! I'm the gun! I'm the
ALMOST as an afterthought,
the inside back cover carries an
ad for the "G.I. Joe Club":
"From now till Christmas, your
television set will bring you big
news about G.I. Joe-watch for
the wonderful new equipment. If
you haven't started your own G.I.
Three 'Blazing Combat' Panels: From green, frightened kid to a hardened soldier-who in the story's end loses his sanity.
Joe collection, let your folks know
what you want for Christmas!
It's also a way of life. For fifty
cents, Hassenfeld Bros., Inc., will
supply "six membership extras":
1) an identification card for your
wallet, 2) a membership certifi-
cate for your wall, 3) an iron-
on insignia for your T-shirt, 4)
a dog-tag for your neck, 5) month-
ly copies of the "Command Post
News," and 6) a catalogue of G.I.
.IT'S A LIVING, too.
-The "Our Fighting Forces"
series expands on these motifs.
The hero-Lt. Larry Rock-is best
characterized in one of those
"The 'Fighting Devil Dog' looks
like a real winner to me and all
my friends. The idea of a Marine
fighting to go on fighting with a
steel splinter in his head threat-
ening to go off like a time bomb
at any moment is pure inspira-
To which the editor replies:
"Dear Nat, Bill, Ralph, Al, Nick,
Sam, Tommy-Lt. Larry Rock is
different because he is based on
a real Marine .. There were only
two after-effects of this Marine's
wounds that I could tell. He us-
ually said hot for cold, or sour
for sweet, saying the reverse of
what he thought. And he loved
nothing better than to try to out-
flank a German dog who belonged
to the owner of, a mountain camp
where he had met...."
The angle of -"Fighting Devil
Dog" is physicaldisability team-
ed with sex. Everytime Lt. Rock's
head starts to hurt, the cartoon
panels go purple. These corres-
pond to the flashbacks which
haunt the misunderstood Lt. Sav-
age. The big-hearted bully is real-
ly a latent neurasthenic.
The plot develops from Lt.
Rock's goings-on with a native of
the opposite sex and race. Every-
time they clinch, technicolor re-
turns. The gooks capture Lohina,
tie her to a stake, point a firing
squad and a tank at her. But she
comes through like Gunga Din:
"I will never help you trap my
Larr-ee! Aloha, Larr-ee!"
THE ENDING-after an incom-
prehensible rescue--is Biblical in
Larry: "Where to, Lohina?"
Lohina: "Wherever you go, Lar-
r-ee, I go! This is the custom of
Larry: "This is going to be some
Dagwood should have it so
-"Blazing Combat" advertises
a "New Trend in Action Stories."
The cover shows a G.I. chomping
on a cigar and reaming out a
Nazi with his bayonet. He's getting
even for his buddy who lies starry-
eyed in the foreground with a
smoking hole in his head.
The first story is about a neu-
tralist Asian peasant. After seven
pages of soul-searching ("Saigon
is bad . . . Hanoi is good . . . but
are they so different? Who can
say?") syncopated with "Brann-
nng!" and "Ka-Chow!" and like
that, he gets it with a "Pweeeng!"
through the heart. You think you
ACTUALLY, "Blazing Combat"
is an oddity among war comics.
At one extreme, there's "Guerrilla
WVar"-just blood-and- guts. Then
in the middle are the sickies-Lts.
Savage and Rock. But "Blazing
Combat" is put together by some
refugees from "Mad," and they
are relatively hip.
In a story about theRevolution-
ary War ,for instance, one Negro
soldier resolutely keeps reappear-
ing. In a story about the Spanish-
American War, the hero says: "Oh
God! He's going to kill me ... un-
less I kill him first!" So he bashes
a Cuban's face in with a rock,
and returns in a disenchanted
stupor to camp.
"Guerrilla War" scarcely pro-
motes tragic catharsis. It may,
however, get across some kind of
exorcism, or therapeutic sadism. It
is certainly anti-hero, and by im-
plication perhaps, anti-war. In
contrast to the other comics, the
"Guerrilla War" stories do not
end happily. Like real war, one
-The New York "Daily News"
has the biggest circulation of any
paper in the country. Part of its
audience is so right-wing that
Steve Allen used to broadcast their
letters-to-the-editor when his own
jokes were falling flat.
THIS SUMMER, the "Daily
News" ran an editorial about the
late Senator McCarthy. It con-
"What with the U.S. Commu-
nists growing fat and impudent
once more-particularly on many
a college or university campus-
one could wish that a new Joseph
R. McCarthy would rise up in the
land and take to fighting the do-
mestic Communists as did the first
one. He knew that the only good
Communist is a dead Communist
-a fact of which we're convinced
Americans should be reminded fre-
quently and forcefully."
A friend of mine sat down and
wrote an indignant letter, to which
the chief editorial writer replied:
"Thank you for your letter of
June 21, but har-de-har-har, we
meant every word of the editorial
on Senator McCarthy.
"Incidentally, are you now, or
have you ever been, a member
of the Communist Party? I pause
-Stan Nadel is the chairman of
the Committee to Aid the Vietna-
mese at the University .of Michi-
gan. This year he has collected
about $90 to buy medical supplies
for the Viet Cong by selling Na-
tional Liberation front stamps and
Taken as propaganda, the ac-
tivity aroused quite a bit of con-
troversy. The Associated Press cir-
culated Nadel's photograph, to-
gether with a story, throughout
ABOUT HALF of 'his mail has
been friendly or inquisitive. The
rest has been what we customarily
label kook or hate hail:
From Ann Arbor:
"Go to Hell!!! I am a senior at
an area high school. Although my
knowledge is extremely limited, I
can see that your campaign to
aid the Viet Cong is the most
treasonous, socialistic debasement
of your citizenship and your coun-
trymen . . . I honestly and truly
get sick to my stomach when I
rear about people like you. God
"I have your picture at home.
and drawn around your neck is
a strong rope, and I promise you
that I'm going to put one there.
You have probably got loaus of
threatening letters, well this one's
for real, I'm going to kill you.
See you at the necktie party."
AND THIS, from someone in
Massachusetts who signs himself
"Sincerely, Michael Bloomberg"
"I have always said, it's too
bad the Germans -ever shut down
those steam baths! Why you Ju-
das, selling your country out ...
"Yes Stanley, your face shows
that you were among the lucky
ones to escape Hitler and his gas
-Most of the people who sup-
port to one degree or another the
government's policies in Viet Nam
do not talk or think like this, And
those who object to the govern-
ment's policies have a variety of
opinions and motivations. More-
over, there is some genuine heart-
break even in the squalor of Lt.
Savage and Michael Bloomberg.
THE SOCIAL scientist Samuel
Stouffer once wrote:
"It requires no public opinion
survey to suggest that most Amer-
icans, being decent on the whole,
subscribe to certain values which
they - have learned from earliest
childhood. One is a basic sense of
fair play . . Second is a respect
for the truth and for the right to
hear the truth spoken.
"Third is a concern not to be
played for a sucker. Fourth is a
deep patriotism which motivates
the public to oppose policies when
convinced that such policies would
"But the American people have
not been as yet sufficiently moti-
vated by responsible leaders of
public opinion to give 'sober sec-
ond thought' to the broader and
long-range consequences of specif-
ic limitations of freedom."
It's probably about time that
we became so motivated. But it
may be too late or too utopian. If
we really we could see. we might
tear out our eyes.
"Hello. Hanoi? Did You Place A Call
To The U.S.? Hanoi? Hello?
Schtze 's Corner: The Clerk
.. p. .
i * * .
"MERRY CHRISTMAS and a
very happiest New Year," the
ugly old man behind the counter
chirped at me. "Can I 'be of as-
sistance? If you'll pardon my say-
inz sn sir. on have thaf 'T'm
I explained. "He's a fag."
"Oh," the clerk bounced back
after a slight pause. "Well, we
have a nifty thrifty giftie for men
from one to 50. It's called 'merry
jingle tingle Yule fuel'." He held1
"WHAT DO YOU do during the
rest of the year," I asked, "when
it isn't Christmas?''
He put his finger to his lip and
stared strangely at the floor for
a while "Well" he stammered. "T