Troubled Universities

Troubled Universities

As a former geography professor who became disenchanted with academe many years ago, I must say that the two articles under 'What's Wrong with the American University?" [WQ, Winter '961 are more than poignant. They should be made required reading for all univer- sity administrators and professors.John Duncklee Oracle, Ariz.So former education bureaucrats Chester Finn and Bruno Manno say American universi- ties have too many unworthy students who could be taught more creatively. This kind...

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Troubled Universities

As a former geography professor who became disenchanted with academe many years ago, I must say that the two articles under 'What's Wrong with the American University?" [WQ, Winter '961 are more than poignant. They should be made required reading for all univer- sity administrators and professors.

John Duncklee Oracle, Ariz.

So former education bureaucrats Chester Finn and Bruno Manno say American universi- ties have too many unworthy students who could be taught more creatively. This kind of finding predates Knute Rockne's first winning season. But if Finn and Manno truly think that the rightward-leaning foundations (which sup port their studies) and their business-oriented clienteles want the universities they denigrate to de-emphasize careerism in favor of more selec- tive admissions, great books, and critical think- ing, they are being astonishingly naive. More diverse student populations notwithstanding, current practices in higher education reflect the wishes of upper- middle-class suburban parents rather than the inclinations of an allegedly radi- cal professoriate.

Alan Posner

Michigan State University

East Lansing, Mich.

Revisiting the Barnburners

James Henretta has written an interesting and informative essay ["The First Contract with America," WQ, Winter '961 on the augmenta- tion of federalism that took place after the Panic of 1837. The reform of state governments which took place in those years involved princi- ples that our state governments today could well learn from. But to identify Michael Hoffman and the Barnburners Revolution as a precedent for Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America does a disservice to the Barnbumers and elevates the Gingrich contract to a level it does not deserve.

The Jacksonian era established a precedent for public involvement in reform that the Bam- burners carried on. By contrast, 62 percent of Americans of voting age did not vote in the 1994 midterm election, which was supposed to have centered on Gingrich and his contract. Of the 38 percent minority who cast their ballots, only 51 percent voted Republican. Of those who voted Republican, 83 percent had never heard of the Contract with America. So much for the propa- ganda that Gingrich is the voice of the people.

N. B. (Tad) Martin Visalia, Calif.

James A. Henretta suggests that the Barnburners of the 1840s demonstrated a "political courage all too rare in our own time." When the Panic of 1837 forced some state gov- ernments into bankruptcy, the Barnburners managed to produce a new constitution for New York by 1846, one that required the state to "balance the budget and pay off the debt." The work of these believers in the "Jeffersonian Republican philosophy of limited government" set an example that is wholly applicable to the budgetary battles now engulfing the federal gov- ernment.

Without exploring the Barnburner argu- ments that Henretta seemingly approves (the federal government should not be ~errnitted to build roads and canals; the debt burden must be removed from future generations), I mention two pieces of history that should be considered:

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Correspondence 143

1. Henretta fails to mention that the Panic Jefferson for his espousal of "limited govem- of 1837, one of the six major depressions of ment," but his position should not be treated

U.S. history, immediately followed a systemat- as wholly abstract and completely divorced ic 99.7 percent reduction in the national debt from the politics of the time. over 14 consecutive years (1823-36). Indeed, Frederick C.Thayer Andrew Jackson often is praised these days for The George Washington University having wiped out the debt (technically, it was Washington, D.C. $38,000). In referring to another downturn, in 1857, one that encouraged hidden state deficit Setting the Record Straight spending, Henretta says nothing about the fact As the Wilson Quarterly celebrates its that this major depression had also been 20th year by getting better and better, it is immediately preceded by a 59 percent nation- worth noting that the magazine's basic con- al debt reduction, 1852 through 1857. The cept was shaped in 1975-76 by James H. four other major collapses (1819, 1873, 1893, Billington, then the Wilson Center's direc- 1929) also followed periods of sustained debt tor and now the Librarian of Congress. The reductions. The batting average is perfect: six WQ, he said, was to be a magazine edited by sustained periods of debt reductions, six major journalists to bring scholars' new ideas and depressions. There has been no new depres- information to a wider audience of intelli- sion since the Great Depression, the longest gent lay readers. Billington's decision to such period in history and a period of chronic launch the WQ was backed by the Wilson deficit spending. This pattern doubtless Center's board and, notably, by its chair- appears wholly coincidental to many analysts, man, the late William J. Baroody, Sr. Both but this is not a good enough reason to keep men helped to raise the necessary start-up quiet about it. funds. S. Dillon Ripley, the secretary of the

2. In Jefferson's time, Virginia had 200,000 Smithsonian Institution, gave his blessing, or more slaves, more than double the number and Smithsonian magazine generously lent in any other state, and about 40 percent of the its mailing list and its considerable business state's total population. Understandably, slave-talent to the new enterprise. Such strong owners had a vested interest in preventing the support made all else possible. formation of a national government that Peter Braestrup might become interested in how slaves were Founding Editor, Wilson Quarterly treated. There is no need to condemn Washington, D.C.

Credits: Page 7, Excerpted from Washingtoon. Copyright @ 1985 by Mark Alan Stamaty. Reprinted with permission of the artist;

  • p. 11, Walter Hopps, Hopps, Hopps (1959) by Ed Kienholz. Susan Einstein/Collection Lannan Foundation, Los Angela; pp. 12-1 3, Hughie Lee-Smith: Impedimenta, 1958. The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, N.Y. Clark Collection. Photo Credit: David Preston; p. 17, M. ShostakIAnthro-Photo; p. 19, From The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, ed. American Heritage: The Magazine of History, Copyright @ 1961, American Heritage Publishing Company, Inc.; p. 20, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania; p. 23, ReutersICorbis-Bethann; p. 24, From American Manners 6Morals: APicture History ofHow We Behaved and Misbehaved, by Mary Cable and The Editors of American Heritage: The Magazine of History, Copyright 01969, American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.; p. 27, Publicity photograph; p. 29, Copyright @ 1995 Wayne Miller, Magnum Photos, Inc.; p. 31, Copyright @ 1996 Greg Foster; p. 33, Courtesy June Kelly Gallery, Inc.; pp. 36-37, Courtesy Holly Solomon Gallery, New York; p. 40, Detail from Muto(Scape) (1992) by Christopher Burnett; pp. 46-47, The Museum of Modem Art/Film Stills Archive; pp. 48, 53 top, 63, 68, Copyright 0Gordon Sander; p. 49, Herbert Fristedt. Courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden; p. 50 top, Ola Torkelsson/Pressens Bild AB, Sweden (4601); p. 50 bottom, Tobias RostlundPressens Bild AB, Sweden (1014); p. 51, Eason and Associates, Washington, D.C.; p. 53 bottom, Kungl BibliotekettThe Royal Library of Sweden; pp. 55,56,57, Copyright @ LarsCenterstam; pp. 58,71, Reportagebild/F'hotoreporters,Inc.; p. 61, Bench Kwai. Honorary men- tion in Excellent Swedish Design 1995.Seat in oiled oak. Powdered coated steel base. Design: Eero Koivisto. Manufactured by Nola Industier AB. Box 17701, S-118 93 Stockholm, Sweden. fax 96 8 702 19 62; p. 62, Jan Collsioo/Pressens Bild AB, Sweden;
  • p. 65, Copyright @ Pressens Bild ABIKenneth Jonasson; p. 72, Drawing by David Levie. Reprinted with permission from The New York Review of Books. Copyright 01978 Nyrev, Inc.; p. 77, Collection of Tim Page; p. 80, Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library, The Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia; pp. 83, 96, 97, 123, Corbis-Bethann; pp. 85, 87, The Betimann Archive; p. 89, Archive PhotosDavid Lees; p. 99, From The Mexican War. Was It Manifest Destiny?, ed. Ram611 Eduardo Ruiz, Copyright @ 1963, Holt, Rinehart and Winston; p. 103, The Granger Collection; p.105, From Incidents and Sufferings in the Mexican War (1847). Taken from To the Halls of the Montezumas, by Robert W. Johannsen, Copyright 0 1985, Oxford University Press; p. 109, Reproduced with permission from: J. Johnson, Travels (1763), in Aberdeen University Library: MS 123; p. 110, AlihariIArt Resource, N.Y.; p. 112, Erich LessingIArt Resource; p. 11 3, National Museum ofAmerican Art, Smithsonian Institution. Transfer from the U.S. Capitol; p. 115, Photo Ulstein Bilderdienst; p. 118, by permission of Doug Marietta and Creators Syndicate; p. 120, Courtesy of Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital; p. 128, Courtesy of Wellesley College; p. 133, UPIhIettmann; p. 135, Photograph by N.L. Stebbins, Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities; p. 138, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Lillian S. Timken, 1959. (60.71.16); p. 141, Copyright@ Steve McCuny/Magnum Photos, Inc.
  • 144 WQ Spring 1996