In the time of the Student, economic and political conditions were deteriorating all over the world. The Great Depression stressed all political systems. In Japan the military gained power and invaded Manchuria; the year was 1931; the Student was in Junior High School; the newsreels and newspapers informed him so; he felt sorry for the Chinese and now came to dislike the Japanese. Less than two years later, at the beginning of 1933, Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany; to the Student he seemed a nasty jerk, a pervert, evil, violent, a posturing loud braggart. He never dreamed that he would have to live with him for twelve long years.
In 1934 he was fourteen, and he and his friends of Lake View High School were watching the international scene and were encouraged at the failure of a Nazi putsch in Austria; Mussolini, no favorite of theirs, was given credit for saving the already authoritarian Austrian government.
They were aware of increasing discrimination against the Jews of Germany, but regarded this as possibly transient, an incident of economic depression, for they still believed that the world was progressively civilizing, and that, Nazi threats notwithstanding, pogroms didn't happen any more. They regarded German Jew-baiters as hardly a worse threat than the deplorable but scorned anti-semites of the United States, Father Coughlin the silver-tongued radio orator, and the disreputable low-brow German bund-ists. These latter marched by the thousands, wearing the uniforms and insignia of Nazis and saluting the Fuhrer; still the Students and his friends were contemptuous of them.
By the time he entered the University, matters had worsened, not so much in America as abroad. In the United States, the Roosevelt Administration and the Democratic city machines were actively supporting the poor and the intelligentsia as these had never before been helped; the opposition, reflected so sharply in the Chicago Tribune, appeared to be an ineffectual plutocracy. The Great Depression that afflicted the world continued throughout his schooling, beginning in 1930 when he was ten years old and in grammar school and moving straight on through high school, college, and university with him, until the War cancelled the Depression and took him away.
During this decade, the United States of America moved heavily toward centralization, integration and bureaucratization, politically, economically, administratively, and with the final concurrence of the Supreme Court, constitutionally. Huey Long began to build an empire from his stronghold of the State of Louisiana, and was preparing to contend for the leadership of the Democratic Party and the Presidency when an assassin pistoled him down. The USA, hitherto blessed by the smallest of armies and a weak air force, though given a two-ocean navy, began to build up its forces and arms in the face of bellicosity and warfare in Europe and Asia.
The Student's higher education began, then, with stilled factories, rusting rails, vacant stores, and empty apartment buildings, but ended amid frenzied crowds of workers, traffic jams, hundred-car trains, housing shortages, and bursting bank vaults.
As he passed through the College, a constitutional crisis struck the failing British Empire with the abdication of Edward VIII, King of England, driven out by the power elite for insisting upon marrying an American divorcee. The Student thought that this was a poor show, granted the debauched air conveyed by the King, for they knew little of the King's not-so-privately expressed contempt for his people and admiration of fascism. One is given to wonder at the ways in which important news somehow escaped the Student, whom we presume, perhaps unwarrantedly, to be better informed than most; thus the incredible Stalin-directed starvation of millions of farmers of the Ukraine and the almost continual purging of the ranks of officials, Communist Party members, and army officers did not profoundly impress the Student, possibly because he did not quite believe the press, knowing its rabid anti-communist biases, possibly, too, because of the fanatical continual denial of the facts by the secretive communist circle and its fellow-travellers at the University. He had no yet no communist friend in college, to his knowledge (he did not think to ask), but he sensed that they were in and about school. He avoided mealtimes at the Ellis Avenue and 57th Street corner cafe, though he passed it often on his way to and from the bandroom of the West Stands of Stagg Field, for it seemed to change from a cooperative to a communist to a socialist to a trotzkyite hangout continually, with intervals of drab non-affiliation. He disliked letting anyone think that he might be prone to political commitment. There would be Spring peel-off-your-sweater days and Winter come-in-out-of-the-cold evenings when he would regret as he went by that he was not a companion comfortable in the communion of the moment, especially if he saw a pretty girl through the large window.
Practically everywhere else in the world, what came to called generically Fascism took hold, in Eastern and Central Europe, in South America, and in the three key countries of Germany, Italy and Japan. Nazi Germany was already the focus of his attention. Along with Japan it had quit the League of Nations, which to the liberal young Chicagoans of Lake View High School was regarded as the logical successor to the sovereignty of the nation-states. But now the Nazis had taken to flagrant discrimination against and physical persecution of the Jews.
It is not clear how and when he and his circle of friends came to feel strongly about these events, that culminated throughout the Reich in the violent scenes of the Crystal-Night of 1935. A combination of influences (and non-influences) explain somewhat his stance: rarely a word against the Jews at home; the Old Testament Gospels read as expurgated secular stories; Jewish school-friends from the sixth grade onwards, who were both smart and cordial; his father's contempt of vox populi; a pervasive sympathy for the underdog (discounting popular stereotypes of the Jews as owning and controlling everything and as aggressively assertive); a strong persona and little fear of competition; and moral exhortations in public media that were, of course, countered by anti-semitic expressions -- he had, for instance, come upon the incredibly stupid, false but profoundly influential and world-disseminated Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The University of Chicago was alerted to fascism worldwide, perhaps more than any other university in America, excepting City College of the City of New York and Brooklyn College. Still, I speak of a minority at Chicago. The fresh crunch of events arrived there from afar, in the first place, then it was subdued by a certain Midwest isolationism. Alarm and interventionism concentrated more in the college, and there in the social sciences and humanities; "concerned scientists" were as scarce as hen's teeth. But anti-fascism was attenuated still more by enclaves of anti-semitism in fraternities (reinforced perhaps by the defensive juxtaposition of Jewish fraternities; why were they needed, he wondered, not realizing that most came as commuters to the University and needed clubs, "817 Gangs" like his own). Furthermore, there persisted also a scatoma against believing the Germans could be really that bad, and this, too, on top of a residual disgust with the results of World War I felt in many quarters.
And, of course, to begin with, the Nazis were censoring ruthlessly all news going out of Germany. The worst of their barbarities did not get through to the Student as fact but as rumor, yet this was enough to set him on edge. He was committed to the use of force in a "rightful" cause, even as a freshman, enough so to ridicule the New Oxford movement that was still strong on many campuses, and scorn its oath that so many students were swearing against taking up arms under any circumstances. He was an innocent bystander to the rally of the Oath students one lunchtime in Hutchinson Court and caught an egg full on the chest; it had come from the Tower above. A Hearst Evening American reporter wrote that the Band Manager had been struck in a fracas, but the culprit was a photographer seeking a good shot, and he finally had to pay to have the Student's suit cleaned.
A Student Political Union was founded only in the Autumn Quarter of 1938 to constitute a kind of representative council of the campus, and this turned out after certain manipulations of the electorate a group of 75, composed of 37 Liberal Republicans and Democrats, 25 Conservatives of the same stripe, 7 Communists, 3 Socialists, and 3 Trotzkyites. There was in fact no political club to which he was attracted. While the Young Communist League and the Young Socialists held their meetings to denounce the forces of reaction and fascism, and these and special committees of many kinds circulated petitions, his own political activity for three years, really until he went out to ring doorbells on behalf of the candidacy of Professor Paul Douglas for Alderman of the Fifth Ward, consisted of informal discussions of politics of all kinds here, there, and everywhere.
Little of this was to be in Political Science courses proper, or in any other type of course, because it was regarded as improper at the University for professors to take up time on any but the most relevant political analysis of political ideas, political movements,and political activity. Gradually the students in the social sciences at Chicago got the impression that what was done widely in American classes, the open advocacy of political rights and causes, could not be done by a serious student of "science." He had to save all of this for out-of-class time. So the Student declaimed at mealtimes, in the corridors, and at 817 against the growing menace of fascism -- German conscription and rearmament, remilitarizing of the Rhine, and quittance of the League of Nations -- while reading Hitler and Rosenberg; against the Italian attack upon the Ethiopian Kingdom and its incorporation into the Italian Empire, and against the withdrawal of Italy from the League, around the time he was reading Mussolini's and Rossi's essays upon corporatism. Then, in 1936 and 1937 the three bandit governments signed pledges of mutual support and the infamous Axis was born. Japan thereupon seized control over Northern China, and began digesting its prey. Following a clash of arms at the Marco Polo Bridge with Chinese Nationalists in 1937, it commenced general warfare against the Chinese Nationalists and Communists, now at truce with each other so as to combat the common enemy. What had begun as scratches on his mind from the press and newsreels and hallways became deeper wounds; when he came upon Mr. Frederick Schuman's books on international politics and Nazism, he became even bloody-minded, ready to go against the enemies of mankind.
Every event at home and abroad called for his entry into politics or the military; but no one was doing so; they were politicking on campus. So he, like the rest, sounded off, ranted and raved; to be kind to them, I should say that they were more concerned and active than most Americans by far, and even that they were preparing themselves intellectually and morally for the great World War to Come!
Most perplexing to the Student was the Spanish Civil War which broke out in 1936 with a revolt of the Army in North Africa against the radical popularly chosen and legal government housed in Madrid. It was the only conflict whose antagonists did not appear sharply as good against evil. He was by no means expert on the war news out of Spain, while many other students of the left, and even liberals and a few Catholic students, were well-instructed. There seemed, too, a division of opinion among experts concerning the weight of power of the Communist Party and the Anarchist factions in the government of the Spanish Republic. He was, as always, pro-Republican, but wary and uneasy over what might be actual communist domination. He appreciated that, even if they knew the true state of affairs, his communist fellow-students would, for propagandistic reasons, not reveal it. The left was torn apart even as the Franco Falangists were knitted together and strengthened by Italian and German aid.
He could not read Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon or Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, until 1940, by which time the war had ended. The Civil War of Spain, that lasted three years and cost a million lives, and ended in the death of Spanish democracy, also boosted the confidence of the Axis governments and disheartened many millions of democratic sympathizers of Western Europe as the day of reckoning neared.
Ithiel de Sola Pool, who, because he was enormously politicized as the leader of the Fourth International (the Trotskyites), was merely a nodding acquaintance of the Student in the corridors of Political Science, denounced the Communists as traitors to the Spanish Republic, and when the revolutionary alliance brought in Ralph Bates, fresh out of Spain, denounced him, too, and brought in his own man to tell the truth about Spain. Enemies to the left and enemies to the right: the conservatives brought in a rich Chicago lawyer, Donald De Witt Rogers, back from Europe, to assure the Student Union assembly that the situation was rosy in Italy, Germany and Spain. Before he could speak this nonsense, there had to occur a contretemps, because Ithiel sprang to the fore, declaring that no one, leastwise himself, should be allowed to listen to this fascist tool, whereupon, in the interests of the principles of free speech and fair play, Ithiel was evicted from the session, and the fascist permitted to deliver his message.
It disgusted the Student in turn to watch the decline and fall of the League of Nations, for what he had taught himself about it before college was reinforced at the University, that it had been the best hope for the world. President Woodrow Wilson had won the peace with the acceptance of the League; the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire could be defended and their offspring protected mainly if there were now a super-power over France, Italy, and Britain and all the rest of the nations, over Japan, too, at the other side of the world. The League, which would have assumed an avuncular oversight of the small and weak powers, was abandoned by the United States and then harried to death by each major power in turn -- France, that used it to suppress Germany, then Japan, Germany, Italy, and Britain. By the time the Soviet Union came in to give it a boot,it was already moribund.
All of this materia politica was processed through and into the Student amidst everything else. He had a broad acquaintanceship, yet never got embroiled in a hostile confrontation on campus over politics, not now, as a Junior, or in the College during the preceding two years, and in fact, never afterwards. He could not say this of even the much briefer period he would spend at the Law School of Columbia University. There was indeed, then, at Chicago a consensus over the shaping and forming of the world outside, to which he gladly acceded and may even have done his bit to develop and fortify.
The Student entered his third year in the autumn of 1937 well-introduced to the proper study of mankind, man, and quite properly scornful of the boundaries assigned to bodies of knowledge about society. He might have gone beyond this achievement and learned to be ignorant of all the confinements of knowledge. The biological and physical sciences, and the humanities, could just as well have been taught him via the case-study method, or by a "pure" philosophical system. The Faculty might as well have assembled, even chosen by lot, to address a personage of history -- Benjamin Franklin, say, or Frederick II, "Stupor Mundi," -- contributing each what was permitted him to say by his discipline, so that the lectures on electricology could be provided by the properly qualified physicist acquainted with, among other things, Franklin's experiments with lightning bolts and lightning rods, the humanist with his newspapers and autobiography, the social scientists with his religion and social attitudes and political activities, the anthropologist with his work among the Indians.
Alternatively, and also, we might have the psychologist treating of Frederick's experiment with the natural language of neonates, moving out from there into the neurology of language with the anthropologist and linguist and geographer and all the rest coming in for their turn at the immense problem of language, and then Frederick's great job of cultural assimilation of Islam to Christiandom, or the immense problem of solving the life of a person such as Frederick.
Or, for that matter, the Faculty could bear down upon some cosmological system, say of Plato, Leibnitz or Hobbes, or even Genesis, and teach the various sciences of today as they would approach such a system, dissecting it, correcting it, reconstructing it according to new paradigms, pragmatic, freudian, marxist, even those of the Faculty themselves, if they possessed any that were novel. Or if not a case or a person or a system, then a phenomenon, such as a molecule, acting and transacting: what is it? what do we think that we know about it? how do we know what we think that we know? who originated the theories, who proved it to exist, how did they develop psychologically to spend their time on such questions, how did their society provide them with their time, their money, their companions and colleagues, and what troubles did it make for the creative types once these began to make waves?
But such was not to be. Far back in the chicken coop, Aristotle still ruled the roost, even among his detractors, for he was the alpha and omega of specialization. Even Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Adler, the great integrators, professed to be his slave, not realizing the import of his having created one discipline after another, from metaphysics to rhetoric. Now it was determined that the Student, having loitered in the commons picking his wild flowers long enough, must learn what a discipline meant, and must be introduced, reintroduced, to the social sciences individually. The idea was not brilliant, but at least it still let the scope remain broad; each Department, believing it held a unique approach and data bank -- which, by the way, believing made it so -- affirmed that this had to be imparted privately, by its own priests. It wanted its special crack at the Student, to show that it had to be respected in particular, much like the buck sergeant, taking over after the top sergeant, gets in his own licks on the recruits.
He had already ingested economics in moderate dosage via its classics -- Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Malthus, J.S.Mill and Thorstein Veblen (alas, swept out some years before from the very stamping grounds of the Student) -- and current polemics, where he had learned how right was J.M. Keynes, how wrong Herbert Hoover, and how dull Wesley Mitchell, all absorbed prejudicially, but then who isn't so, the first time around? But now he had to be introduced to economics the old way, as it was taught everywhere else -- the law of supply and demand, the principle of marginal utility, Gresham's law (how titillating to think that bad money drives out good!). All piecemeal: the failed integration of the sciences on the theoretical plane was supplemented by the failed integration within the separate sciences.
And, lest you worry about wasting your time, all of this, and the passing traffic noises of warfare and crisis abroad, belongs to the biography of the Student, which biography itself helps build up the science of economics and politics, as well as of character and mental formation in the mid-Twentieth Century, insofar as he has anything to do with it as a bit of the giant puzzle of history. Surely when I inform you that his bowels were regular, that he shat whenever the urge came upon him and in privacy ( a combination typical of two-thirds of his age-cohorts of the American temperate zone) there is no question: it is biography -- but "too vulgar for words," nearly all biographers would say. I shall not argue here which is the more important kind of data, not knowing your interests.
Hence, he and his ilk began again with a set of five courses of special pleading in each field of social science, after which he would proceed into seven special courses in the field of Political Science (or Sociology or whatever would be his or another's field of concentration). You were spared the introductory course in Political Science, if, like the De Grazia Brothers, you opted to specialize in the field. So they had now to sign up for introductions to sociology, anthropology, economics, geography, and history, and for the rest of their course-work of the year could elect from practically any Department of the University that would admit them.
Psychology offered one such elective course and more; strangely it was not required of them in some form; nor did the Student think to enter upon it, why? -- because the psychologists wanted to be out of the "soft" social sciences and into the "hard" biological sciences and thus were to be found, with their stinking cages of rats and electrical shocking apparatus, in another Division of the University. I exaggerate: Leon Thurstone was there, even Head of the Department, establishing new parameters of statistical psychology for testing: he had discovered seven primary abilities of the human mind: numbers, orders, visual symbols, perception, memory, induction, and verbal reasoning. Psychiatry, not to mention psychoanalysis, was not to be considered matter for true science or of the substance of psychology except as it might be naturally extruded from neurology, clinical chemistry, or intelligence testing. A worse omission could not have occurred in the building of a general education. Though psychology as taught was little more than a naked brutal tunnel, he might have profited from its careful statistical self-consciousness and experimental designs if -- always the "if" of historical causation -- he would not have thereby ruined the basis for a later receptivity to the more philosophical types of psychology to be found in pragmatism and psychoanalysis (with apologies to Watson's and Skinner's Behaviorism).
He enjoyed the required courses: they were easy; they dished out challenging readings. The classes were too large, unfortunately, and handled by lecture, so they were unstimulating and frequently dull, and on occasion he would fall asleep, for he was altogether too active with his various jobs and sports and the need to give over much time to read, never mind the daily newspapers and the New Republic and Nation and Time, newly arrived, and whatever else came to hand, and in reading, too, he would fall asleep, but there without embarrassment; he would let his head drop for a few minutes upon the hard polished wood of the long tables of the great reading room of Harper Library, or slump in a leather chair of the Reynolds Club, or conk out at a crude pine bank of the Social Science Reading Room. No matter how hard he tried for less, he needed regularly seven hours and fifty minutes of sleep per night, and the other ten minutes sometime during the day.
Mr. James Cates in History, parchment-skinned, sharp-eyed, who had wandered down the mountains mysteriously into medieval history, had a wry sense of humor ( "Every other group has its protective lobby, but people can say whatever they please about us hill-billies.") and, by compelling a reading of a most intricate monograph investigating marketing in early England which carried abundant quotations from the incomprehensible original sources that had survived unimaginably, made you appreciate historiography. Many years later and in consequence, Mr. Cates' Student found Mr. Louis Gottschalk, in the office down the hall, to be elementary with his highly touted book on The Writing of History.
In the Sociology course, the reading consisted of a textbook, and the Student could never thereafter be 100% contemptuous of textbooks, instructed as he was to be so and try as he might. It was a thick collection, culled with a fine discrimination by Messers Park and Burgess of the Department from the multitude of great theories and empirical investigations of the founders of the science of man, masterfully cut and tailored for brevity and comprehension.
The lectures in Sociology, like most elsewhere, functioned principally to preserve the hoary tradition that had begun in bookless ages and to let kindred students assemble to feel their community in being. The students might much better have been granted a hang-out with a badly paid brilliant proctor in around-the-clock attendance, consulting with them, handing over to them particular hypotheses, and directing them, as they ventured forth to test them in the libraries and in the field, and criticizing and evaluating them as they returned finally with the trophies of the hunt.
Geography was a simple matter of learning what crops were produced where in the world, who shipped what to whom, who was having more kids than whom, and what summers and winters were like everywhere -- the sort of knowledge that could proceed forever. The brief excursion into cartography was bound to be eternally useful since the future would confront endless misleading Mercatorial projections. Geography's female Instructor provided the Student with his solitary experience of co-ed teaching in this most advanced University of the World. No black Instructor ever did appear.
Anthropology was divided into its physical and cultural components, suavely interpreted by Mr. Fay Cooper-Cole. Among the several large errors purveyed was the nonchalant application of darwinian incrementalism and evolution to human physical and cultural evolution; a long, long ladder was extended to carry the advanced peoples up to Egypt and Mesopotamia, while the Africans faltered and the Melanesians stumbled badly (but mind you, they were all equally human, equally capable of genius, and no one had the slightest idea of why they were slothful, but already you were hearing the lullaby of relativism -- these cultures were not backward, just different and often "better".)
Then, too, the Piltdown Man was purveyed as a missing link between man and beast; for the great Hoax that combined a modern man's skull and an orangutan's jaw not yet been exposed (actually over many years before the Student's school-days, more than one voice could be heard pathetically to protest against accepting the English "find." But neither Mr. Cole nor the Student appeared to have listened.) Then again Neanderthal Man was still the lowbrow sullen retard on his way to humanization; it would be several decades before he became just like you and me, only more or less so. The time of human evolution was back in the six figures, not in the millions of years that the time-players of today have arrived at. Yet it was all fascinating and important, even when wrong (though not when bigoted), and the Student would probably not have been so impelled toward Anthropology by any other University in the world, not that he would ever take a second course in the field, but he was preserved as an amateur by just this experience, riding upon a childhood exploitation of his father's habit of garnering second-hand National Geographic Magazines. Encountering anthropologists in the small social science library and the close quarters of the Social Science Building; later on collecting gossip at the regular afternoon teas there; imitating the anthropological cast of several of the professors encountered in Political Science and Sociology -- the Lloyd Warner Human Relations team, for example, Max Rheinstein's anthropological readings in jurisprudence, again an example, the anthropological psychoanalysts in myth, language, dreams, sexology, here Nathan Leites, Harold Lasswell, the 817 Gang and so on -- all of these engendered more than a casual love affair with the field.
There appeared before the parallel large class in Economics Mr. Mintz, no great shakes as a teacher he. With him came the usual truth and twaddle that economists insist we learn, whatever the general failure of economists of every persuasion as counsellors of state or of business, such as I've already mentioned. Faced with the prospect of being absorbed into sociology if they taught comparative economic institutions, or into political science if they lectured upon comparative economic systems, or schools of business if they ventured into the practices of business, or into law (criminal as well as civil) if they were to discourse upon economic structures, they had to invent pure laws of economics that are never obeyed except in such general terms that the sole lesson from it all might have been expressed in rules of thumb to begin with, such as "Buy low and sell high," "Get out of the market when you see it going down, unless you know that it will go up," "Don't put all your eggs into one basket," "Pay your debts, especially the little ones, promptly, until you can borrow a lot from people who stand to prosper with you, " "Build your factory where labor is docile and cheap," "Join a lobbying group and plague the government for subsidies, direct and indirect," "Spend on advertising your stuff up to the point where it doesn't pay to advertise any more," "Expand until it's no longer profitable to do so," "Let other people be the pioneers and inventors, and then step in bravely over their corpses," and so on of maxims to the number of 1001.
Mr. Mintz gave an essay test, no testologist he, and the Student and Brother Sebastian received respectively B+ and A- on the test. The Student and Sebastian compared papers and decided that they were indistinguishably equal in quality, and both deserved A's. They approached Mr. Mintz for an explanation. He looked at the papers. "I couldn't tell the difference," he admitted, and as befitted a Chicago economist, not the slightest trace of embarrassment crossed his rotund countenance (matching his chunky -- read "tear-drop" -- figure), but I guess that I made a subjective judgement." (Smiling -- they all three smiled, chuckled.) As for the minus and plus, it made him feel subtle, he confessed. It occurred to the student that the principle involved was, "When things are more or less explainable, more or less equal, don't try to force the issue upon the judge of the issue. Laugh."
He rather liked Mr. Mintz, the unworldly economist of sorts. He always said a cordial "hello" when they passed in the corridors of the Social Science Building. When the Student came back from the Wars (to be related below), one of the first persons he encountered upon visiting the University for the First time was Mr. Mintz, and it was precisely where he had said "hello" five years earlier, by the first floor elevator, but now he was in officer's uniform with a dazzling display of ribbons, polished paratrooper boots, and sunny brass buckles, so that Mr. Mintz, looking at him distractedly yet with a friendly air, greeted him with, "Well, it's going to be hard for you to get back to work, after doing nothing for such a long time."
Like all sciences, the individual social sciences went out in search of Pure Laws. It was an age where it was believed that pure laws existed which when discovered would enable you to be master of a field without concern with what was going on in the adjoining fields, or in the remote ones for that matter. What a bizarre selfish power-hungry wish! But there it was and you had better cooperate with the Custodians of the Wish in your Field or you would not get very far in academia and where else would you go -- to starve as a free-lance writer, to become a fakir journalist trying to write like Hemingway and Damon Runyan? No, you dedicated yourself to the Pure Law.
In this regard, Chicago was measurably better than the other Universities of the world when it came to tying together your packets of knowledge, without recourse to the medieval trivium, all too often trivia, and the haggling over Homer's "wine-red sea," and Abelard's missing member. Chicago was superior, say, to Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Berkeley, Oxford, London, Bologna, Tübingen, Berlin, Paris (The Sorbonne) and many another. Its recruitment base for students and professors was wider and its iconoclasm was of the healthiest sort, pragmatic, often naive; fewer of the faculty held to the Truth with abusive tenacity. Ratings of the College and Departments by experts from the outside world invariably placed Chicago in the top rankings, often first, an amazing achievement considering the tremendous concentration of family and institutional wealth, the connections, the access to European centers, the traditional placement in seats of power of the habitues and outthrusts of the Ivy League schools. Nor could Chicago play for vast funds upon the vanity of the State, as might the University of Wisconsin and the University of California at Berkeley. Nor might it look to the climate to seduce heliotropic genius, as could Stanford University at Palo Alto, California. Nor could it collect profits from its football team. The Chicago students knew the academic ratings and gloated over them like Knute Rockne's Notre Dame students over their football scorecards. Chicago had many mediocre professors and the University enterprise, try as Mr. Hutchins would to arrive at its definition by working his under-educated but properly disposed mind to its utmost, was not brought back to the drawing boards and rebuilt to the extent that a mediocre professor had to become a genius in spite of his true self, like say, a Roman soldier of the late Republic had to be a complete soldier no matter what he might have been if he were in another army. Comparing say Harvard and Chicago, and guessing, out of a large ignorance but not negligible awareness over half a century, I should have placed the two faculties in quartiles as follows: Harvard more numerous in the lowest quartile, less numerous in second quartile types, higher in the third quartile of professorial performance, and below Chicago proportionately in the top quartile. The third quartile is where the distinguished fat-heads preside.
I say this now in support of the Student, who, with little experience and knowledge, nevertheless believed in the superior genius of the Chicago faculty, and especially in the system and in his fellow-students. He far over-believed on the positive side and knew less of the situation and under-believed on the negative side. For in fact he was doing a lot of mislearning. He was unconscious of most of the remaining faults of the system, he was even becoming rather lazy as he became senior. He was not being asked to write enough, nor were his formulations of thoughts and evidence criticized systematically and in detail. He was not subjecting enough case studies to excruciating analysis. He was not driven to read beyond the admittedly extensive and well-chosen readings. He was not exchanging ideas with his professors, largely because there was still an improper ratio of students to professors; the impressive figure of one to seven was ridiculous, because the lecture system crowded the students and freed the professors, while implying that the student must be enjoying much personal contact with the faculty.
There were compensations in the Chicago setting not to be found elsewhere. I have mentioned some of them and will mention more of them later on, especially the system of research assistants in the social sciences: truly many of the professors at Chicago were engaged in field work and laboratory experiments and therefore drew unto themselves as laborers a number of students who elsewhere in the world might never approach a professor except perhaps at a tea. The great tutorial settings at Oxford and Harvard brought tete-a-tetes but not the more productive slave-driving. And very few of his professors were aware of the basic importance of operationism in teaching, study and research.
However, such potential advantages, which were not lent to most students and were sometimes abused by Professors, were almost entirely for graduate students. But they would filter down through acquaintanceships among students, where perhaps most learning occurred. The Student, believing that his Faculty had fixed nobly and large its sense of mission, had only the vaguest conception of the Epitome of Teaching: imparting both to the student and society an expert methodical control of the input and output of knowledge and also the objectification of this process, so that one might be able to separate reality momentarily from his equally important education in the policy or application process, that is from the ideals of humankind which themselves need to be formulated in such a manner that they can descend like the lightning of Yahweh upon the sacrificial lamb of reality, whereupon, in the heady ozone-like smell of the clash of lightning with the aether, there is brought about a new social situation, an improved human activity. Still, even here few of his professors were aware of how basic was this kind of operationism to teaching, study and research. Nor do the faculties, any faculties, today, a half century later. To repeat, every real event has three prongs: the fact, the ideal, and the application of the ideal to the fact. Most professors, hence students, find it most convenient to abandon the ideal, and therefore the application, on the justification that as scientists they are interested only in the facts and this is what reality consists of. (Significantly, this has become the ordinary credo of the journalist, too, who was produced out of the science of communications developed in great part by the University of Chicago political scientists and their associates from other departments, such as the Library School.) Gone then the highest purposes and greatest utilities of science and education. Yet the Student and his professors were pleased and cocky, knowing that what they had achieved had been always blocked before and now was being brought into sharp relief.
This vision was being intimated mistily here and there in the world, disconnectedly, by a score of small voices, and they could be audited in the recesses and classes of the University of Chicago campus in the nineteen thirties. Still, it would take a long time, if ever, before the Student and his confreres could speak up in the new language and act effectively in accord with its messages.
The third year and its movement into the social sciences marked an official end to his formal studies in the humanities and natural sciences. The change was needless and counter-productive. He might have gained more by continual studies in literature and art, applying the rapidly developing methodology of social science to humanistic materials and situations. Rather, he now took for granted the inapplicability of scientific method to the humanities; an enormous mass of human behavior floated off his scopes like a giant cloud. Here was, he thought, only fun and games, a titillating confusion, a setting where the irrelevant was relevant, where analysis was on the level of the bouncing ball in the "sing together" of the silver screen that told you when to voice the syllables in tune with the music.
The humanists could not help him. The field of content analysis would develop soon from political science and his circle would be involved in it. The systematic study of personal lives, too, would begin soon in social science; here, also, he would be working with the new tools.
The humanists themselves were frightened and repelled by both natural and social sciences and the new stress upon method and objectivity. To the student it appeared that somehow they could write better than the social and natural scientists. He knew that those who majored in the humanities had already a personal history of successful composition. Still, when it came down to it, perhaps this apparent superiority was owed to their freedom to confound and confuse facts and values in an attractive but meaningless mess. While the sciences tended toward repetitive jargon and statistical formulations, they might use an abundance of words ever more freely in ever more wild syntactical contexts. The mind of the Student was penetrated insidiously from both sides to the effect that humanists need not care for truth but only exclamation; at the same time, they arrogated history to themselves, though this was the basis for most of social science; and was, in fact, placed physically within the social sciences at Chicago; one might think that history profited from the freedom given it as a humanistic discipline, by the great scope lent it in the special histories of culture and art, and that vast strides would be experienced in its method: not at all; the type of Ferdinand Braudel, of systematic history using social science materials and method, was to come much later and from France. Nor was social history, marxist or otherwise, flourishing at Chicago. Ms Bessie Pierce was taking forever to write what was exacting traditional history about the City of Chicago.
Too the systematic analysis of poetry and prose in the manner of Kenneth Burke, and the works of Ogden and Richards on the meaning of meaning in literature were to come from afar and strike the student only in the later phases of his education. But they did hit him fast, one can argue, even if they had not come flying out of Chicago. Fifty years later, though, the humanities still have not learned the lessons of their work.
In musicology he was well prepared to learn at least what had for long been known about the structure of music, its mathematics of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" sound, harmony, the construction of musical instruments (hardly touched upon in "Instrumentation" however). We know that he learned some on his own account, but the dance, the ballet, folk-dancing (at International House), square-dancing (at Ida Noyes Hall) were quite extra-curricular. The creation and production of graphics, from the "fine arts" to the cartoon and the motion picture, were to be found neither in the curriculum nor in University spaces regularly allotted to the amateurs. Mrs. Maude Hutchins was probably a better poet and artist than her husband a philosopher. Yet no one thought that she should be given a professorship and classes to teach, which might have made cured her neuroses and benefitted the University.
Probably the President and Faculty were snooty about the purity of art, retarded in their appreciation of the visual arts, film-making especially. More pedestrian schools like New York University were well ahead in the teaching of film-work. Too, you would see students stalking about with cameras but never with easels; if you asked one of them,"Who paints?" he would ponder and come up only with "there's Maude Hutchins," pointing to the stocky greystone house across from the Social Science Building where the elusive character might be discovered. A Christmas card drawn by her of a nude child holding a candle (her daughter was reported to be its model) was reproduced and sent out to friends. Instead of receiving their praise, she shocked a lot of people addicted to snowy cottage and reindeer scenes or pictures of creches on this holiday. Franja, the model, was so pestered by her schoolmates at the University of Chicago's High School that she transferred out to a school far away. Maude did more; she quarreled regularly with Robert; she went nervously off the deep end on occasion; with Mortimer Adler she gave a multi-media recital of poetry and slide drawings at Mandel Hall to an uncomprehending audience; the Student did not attend to it or her, nor was he of any opinion about her; she was altogether avantgarde, unsympathetic to the university crowd and students, and yet marvelously tolerated by her small circle and her husband, who appears feminine and masochistic in his sufferance of her bitchiness. Up to a point, but of that, later.
So the false distinction between the great divisions of knowledge cost the Student something. How much cannot be said, and much was made up later on in life. Intellectual costs are hardly sensed. Not only are they concealed by the egotistic rulers of a field, but also they belong to that highly important list of costs that the miserable science of economics has practically eliminated from private and public morals, like the insidious costs of long-term tobacco usage, of environmental destruction, of military "preparedness," and of raising an infant badly.
This is to a fair degree true also of the natural sciences, especially physiology, biology, and psychology. Or are we becoming absurd in expecting that he could have had time for all of this or even a smattering of it beyond his earlier exposure? Not quite. The fact was that he had left the natural sciences and humanities too early. Of the many gaps, I cite here one that was not only true of himself but even of the students in the natural sciences: that was the absence of a full history of science, which chasm broke away the sciences from their human, cultural, ideological, and ultimately of their logical and empirical contexts. already become underemployed in the social sciences. He was repeating himself willy-nilly and sometimes was bored. He could have handled more closely organized and theoretically directed work in all of these fields at the same time. And what went for him could have made sense for the others. Mr. Hutchins seemed to be the only one around who believed that you could know everything and they all thought he was joking. He said that the simple operations of a businessman could be learned quickly enough on the job, and everybody laughed as they fussed over spreadsheets and tax laws. He did not go far enough, actually. Between a butcher and a surgeon the incision that divides is not so deep. Or so the Little Corporal put it, in every common soldier's knapsack was a marshal's baton. And probably Hutchins did not truly know the way, how to do it, how to know everything, for while a grand democratic snob, his snobbery was in great demand for the raising of funds for the University.
At this time, while the Student was learning of cultural anthropology, Hutchins was enticing his former classmate at Yale, the prodigious advertising and public relations millionaire, William Benton, to cut back his income by a half million dollars or so down to $10,000 per annum, the top pay of a professor, to develop the public relations of the University in a way to facilitate the recruitment of students and the solicitation of gifts. Benton came and never thereafter became unstuck from Hutchins and the University. Promptly upon arrival, he produced a report on the "major causes of sales resistance" to the University of Chicago. Hutchins liked it and sent it around to the trustees, who liked it too, if for no other reasons than that it spoke the language of what is nowadays called "the bottom line," and its author had made a lot of money.
The biggest PR problems of the University, said Mr. Benton, were its reputation for radicalism, for being "red," for creating a dangerous environment for the students, for tolerating instead of disciplining naughty professors who had no respect for tradition. He recommended more of what was already the case, that Mr. Hutchins should expose himself even more vigorously to gatherings of all kinds where his bon mots, amusing banter, and elegant appearance could reassure the public and the media of the conservative foundations of the University. This hardly pleased Hutchins who hated the chicken croquette and water jog circuit and had very little time to teach and learn and play about the campus as he would do. But the recommendation gave the impression of practicality. As for the disciplinary and censorious implications of the report, Mr. Hutchins was naturally the best man in the nation to defeat them.
So all went on as before but Mr.Benton proved to be a great asset to the University. He went to school in a way, and enjoyed himself. He got involved in intellectual and cultural projects far beyond his prior experiences. He tied the patronage and profits of the Encyclopedia Britannica into the University. He consoled Mr.Hutchins about his personal problems and, later on, helped greatly with his personal finances. Mr. Hutchins already was restless at his work and looking about for a new job, a better job. By 1938 he was feeling desperate to get out from under the Presidency. Meanwhile the Student slept soundly on the creaky bed of the flat at 817 East 58th Street, serene in the belief that the Great Leader's morale was as high as his own and that his intentions were certain, his loyalty perfect. As were those of the Student.