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January 15, 1958 - Image 5

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Wednesday, January 15, 1958


Pun F:il

... . L age r
Wednsda, Jnuay 15 198 T E M CHIG N D iLY MAG ZIN


IOne of his students
Pays the good model' tribute

(Continued from Page 4)
sources are always in evidence in
his teaching.
W He has constantly sought to
help his students discover the hu-
mane way of going to college. Fre-
quently when announcing that he
would give an examination to the
class, he would counsel against the
frantic, neurotic attempt to mem-
orize every detail in the book. He
encourages a working for con-
trol, for intelligibility. "Don't open
the work to the first word and try
to review hurriedly everything
you have read. Be calm. Reflect.
Keep your book closed for a while,
and try to summon up what you
know from your previous reading
of the work. Try to remember im-
portant matters first. Open your
book when you need to fill in your
whole work. Grasp the work as a
intelligible construction of the
whole and memorize details that
will contribute to an orderly ex-
planation. Many students come to
college and ruin their minds by
an obsession with unintelligible
separate parts, unrelated details.
Study sensibly. Organize and in-
tegrate your knowledge. Don't
ruin your mind."
NEVER had a conference with
Bredvold when we talked about
immediate course matters only.
He radiated a mellow, leisurely
feeling in the comfortable way he
sat in his chair and methodical-
ly lit and puffed on his pipe as he
talked. He was never a harried
academician, mechanically per-
forming chores with students. In
his office he was an 18th century
conversationalist. He had time to
tell me the long, heroic saga of
his former colleague, Hereward T.
Price, slowly and painfully making
his way back to England after
World War I, 'ia Asia and Can-
ada. Or he would tell of his own
experiences as a World War I
Army captain whose greatest tri-
als came after the war when he
had to combat the 'discharge
fever' of his men and preserve
their sanity by keeping them oc-
cupied with pretended war ma-
neuvers. "We captured one hill
about a thousand times." Or he
would share his latest evidence of
human endurance, courage, and
balance: a Polish refugee of
World War II he knew, who had
borne years of horror in Nazi con-
centration camps and emerged
without a trace of distortion and
self-pity. Or he would punch away
at the current behavioristic cant,
the Kinsey Report, and quickly
name the best humanistic cri-
tiques of it.
His robust belief in the power
of human beings to live sanely and
courageously is like that of Rob-
ert Frost, whom he has admired
in this century. And Bredvold tells
of the time when somebody work-
ing at the Michigan Union called
him to say that Frost had regis-
tered there for the night. 'I
rounded up all the graduate stu-
dents I could, and we went to the
Union and found Frost and sat
there and listened to that wise old
man for many hours." (Bredvold
is forthright about the modern
poets he does not like. "I have
never been able to read Wallace
Stevens. What doyou have to do
to read that, man? Jump out of
your skin?") The kinship of spirit
between a great 20th century
scholar and a great 20th century1
poet is evident in the statement
that Bredvold remembers from,
Frost's talk that night: "You
young people are indefensible; you
are at an indefensible age. You
must believe in something and
believe something in."
LIKE FROST, Bredvold has faith
in the potential spirituality of
the people he teaches, and he

treats morally and intellectually
lazy people with kindness and un-
derstanding even while arguing
for moral strenuousness as the
distinctive mark of man. "Nobody
has convictions about religion and
salvation of the soul today. That's
why we have tolerance. In the
17th century there were no psy-

chiatrists who could make big
money saving souls. Society pro-
vides a way for you to make a
jouriney to Detroit. Nobody pro-
vides for your way through life,
though. Every man can go to hell
in his own way. We have rules to
help people get to Detroit, rules
that are enforced by authority
that we recognize and accept for
our own good. But in education we
let children experiment. We don't
permit children to experiment in
crossing the street, to touch pass-
ing wheels as dogs do. But we al-
low them to touch the wheels of
evil principles in their schooling.
The principle of authority is as
vital and necessary as that of
liberty. The two must be har-
monized. Tradition and the
church give you ideas, and ideas
are indispensable to the humaniz-
ing process. Milton said that
where there is much thinking
there are many opinions, and
where you have opinions you have
truth in the making. But he was
talking about good men."
Humanists have seen education
fall on evil days, enormous growth
to serve superficial ends. "Ameri-
can people believe with a super-
stitious fervor in going to school,
not in education; the only place
in modern education where fun-
damentals are stressed and where
we are successful is athletics."
Bredvold makes this uncomprom-
ising attack, yet his remarkable
faith and patience in his own
teaching are revealed in the story
he tells of the woman who as-
serted in class at the beginning
of his 18th century course, "The
18th century is artificial." Bred-
vold asked what had led her to
this conclusion. "The people wore
wigs," she announced tartly. "This
lady," Bredvold adds, "had her
own hair arranged in the shape
of cherries hanging along her

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lege who had written an article'
thirty years ago, he said, "My
memory is leaving me." To grad-
uatestudents whose questions
about his own writings would have
afforded him a good chance to
display his learning in class, he
would say, "Read my books and
articles. That's where I have said
what I know as carefully and as
well as I could." Leo Rockas will
testify to Bredvold's radiant ad-
miration during Austin Warren's
versatile performance for the
English Department readings. But
probably the story that best sums
up the humble perspective of this
humanist in a technician's era is
this: As a young instructor at
Michigan he went to the dental
clinic to have a tooth filled. A
student dentist labored all after-
noon with that filling. At last it
seemed to be finished, but as
Bredvold started to get up. the
student asked him to wait anoth-
er moment until he summoned
his instructor. The instructor re-
turned with the boy, peered into
Bredvold's mouth, and said, "D."
[ CHECKED throughout a long
period of lectures before I an-
nounced my theory that there is
a correlation between Bredvold's
hunching of his right shoulder
and his ability to find the precise
word he has paused for. Some lec-
turers fill these hiatuses with
voiced sounds. But not Bredvold.
He pauses, hunches his shoulder,
and at the end of the hunch the
right word comes out.
We who have loved and revered
this great teacher and wise man
will not speak of Michigan's re-
placing him on the English fac-
ulty. Somebody else will be teach-
ing the 18th century, merely. All
people, but teachers especially, re-
quire good models to keep them
doing their best. One of mine will
always be Louis Bredvold.



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BREDVOLD found much to ap-
prove of in Montaigne, but when
the master slipped on an import-
ant issue, Bredvold knew it. In his
essay on education Montaigne
says, "Let the students alone;
they'll be all right." Bredvold says,
"This is a good essaw.for a teach-
er to read on Friday when he is
tired. Boileau and J o h n s o n,
though, have moral muscle and
intellectual msuccle. Read them
during the week."
Education for Bredvold means,
ultimately, learning how to live
well according to human stand-
ards. And even though, like Jere-
my Taylor, Swift, and Johnson,
he knows that without moral
working man can be "a vessel of
dung," he does notbmake exorbi-
tant demands. He disapproves of
a morbid self-reproach for sins of
the flesh. "The unforgivable sin,"
says Hredvold, "is hardness of
heart. Don't lacerateyourself for
physical sins, but spiritual ones."
Anyone who sets up as a moral-
tst courts the sin of pride. The
dilemma of human life is that we
have to seek knowledge and wis-
dom to live by. but when we think
we have some we are in danger of
complacency. All his life Bredvold
has continued to improve his own
understanding. It was a humble
high school teacher who bought
some works of Kierkegaard with
his first pay check. I have always
marveled at Bredvold's amazing
bibliographical knowledge, auth-
ors and titles of countless books
and articles that he can summon
up instantaneously; yet one day
when he could not remember the'
name of a man at Wooster Col-
Prof. Bredvold, a reknon'ned
scholar and teacher, retired last
June fron the English faculty,
after receiving the University's
highest honor-the Henry Rus-
sell lectureship. He will return
periodically to give guest lec-
Thornton Parsons is working
on his Ph. D. in English here,
and teaches at Central Michigan
College in Ypsilanti.


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