Letters: February 7, 1996
Your profile of Frank Broderick '43 (Going Back, December 20) broadened my appreciation of a teacher I once knew at the Phillips Exeter Academy. I never had Broderick as a teacher, but he made an indelible impression on me when he spoke on various occasions to the assembled student body. In discussing obscure events in far-off and little-known Laos, he introduced the notion that America had limited influence in that part of the world and that it should not place too much of a stake in political developments in Southeast Asia. Another time, he read passages from John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle in a way that showed his passion for social justice had not dimmed since his years at Princeton.
When I was at Exeter, Frank Broderick inspired my interest in American history. Because Princeton could produce a man like him, I wanted to go there. I wrote my thesis in American history, and his book W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis (Stanford, 1959) is still on my bookcase.
Writer Dan Klein '92 pays tribute to a man who never lost his sense of mission to the underprivileged. After teaching at Exeter and the University of Iowa, Frank Broderick served in the Peace Corps in Africa. Then, before moving to the University of Massachusetts, he was dean of the college at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin. He made staff appointments at Lawrence that facilitated the kind of changes in admissions that he had called for at Princeton. With his encouragement and the energy of his wife, Barbara, and their friends, the city of Appleton established a chapter of A Better Chance, a national program for the education of disadvantaged young people.
We entered Princeton a few years too late to know Frank Broderick. But as members of the Princeton Liberal Union, founded to provide an outlet for liberal political views at the end of World War II, we set about making a reality of the university's professions of nondiscrimination by seeking the enrollment of qualified black students. We talked to the administration and sought the assistance of the United Negro College Fund. We surveyed undergraduates to determine the degree to which black students would be accepted on campus. Subsequently, we wrote to selected high schools and prep schools asking them to encourage their qualified black students to apply. As a direct result of our efforts, four black students were admitted to the Class of 1953, three of whom arrived on the campus in September 1949.
Dan Klein's piece on the attempt to integrate Princeton in the early 1940s states that Frank Broderick was "a man ahead of his time." Wouldn't it would be more accurate to say that Princeton was woefully, even shamefully, behind the times?
My version of the story differs from Klein's in one respect. A glance at the Prince masthead of those days would probably show that three members of the Class of 1943, not two, were in the forefront of the campaign to integrate Princeton. Along with Frank Broderick and Editorial Cochairman "Whitey" Whitehead was the other editorial cochairman, Phil Quigg. Working closely with Broderick, Quigg (later the editor of paw and managing editor of Foreign Affairs), in fact did most of the writing of the editorials mentioned by Klein.
Your December 6 cover story on admissions and its dean, Fred Hargadon, put a human face on a mysterious tribal ritual. I have a problem, however, with the article's summary of achievements expected of applicants who earn the top level in preliminary ratings, which include taking "five or six solid courses a semester during sophomore and junior years" of secondary school. Why, after the admission office requires aspirant Princetonians to achieve so much, does the university require them to do so much less once they get in? Freshmen and sophomores, as a norm, take only four courses a semester, down from five in earlier times; upperclassmen, as before, drop one course in accordance with independent projects. At Princeton what were formerly 13-week semesters have become 10 weeks long. No matter how you run the figures, the typical nonengineer today has about 60 percent of the class assignments that faced previous generations of undergraduates. Unless professors have increased the average size of assignments by 40 percent over those given in the past, Princeton's overachieving applicants can expect a pretty pleasant breather once enrolled. Do we have the right to under-challenge all that admirable talent?
Is it true, as writer Bill Paul '70 states, that "At Princeton, there is literally no room to take chances"? In this increasingly fast-changing world, extreme risk avoidance is the riskiest strategy of all. I submit that if Princeton, in continuance of a long tradition, wishes to produce leaders for the 21st century, it needs to take at least a few "chances" among today's 18-year-olds.
Your article on admissions contains one fascinating and shocking piece of information: out of 14,000 applicants in 1995, only 424 were sons or daughters of alumni. Either alumni have a low opinion of their university, or they believe it's hopeless for their children to apply.
In your admissions piece I found the following sentence: His [Hargadon's] father was a first-generation Irish immigrant." What on earth is a first-generation immigrant, Irish or otherwise?
Shame on Admiral William Crowe *65 for his remark "Don't you know diplomats are paid to lie for their country?"-and shame on the editors for perpetuating this base canard (paw, December 6). The one thing diplomats may never do is lie. Truthfulness, as Sir Harold Nicolson pointed out in his classic Diplomacy, is the first requisite for his "ideal diplomatist."
Recent communications from the university, including holiday greetings from President and Mrs. Shapiro, have reduced the motto "Dei sub numine viget" to the single word "Viget" ("She flourishes") as a sort of logo.
I read with interest Caroline Moseley's article on the atomic bomb (paw, June 7) and the subsequent letters concerning it. To mark the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings, I participated in the International Peace Ultramarathon from Hiroshima to Nagasaki, a distance of 280 miles. Each runner was required to cover the complete distance (close to 11 marathons) in a four-day race between August 6 and 9, 1995.
I was stationed in Pearl Harbor when I learned of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. My first reaction was one of happiness, for the submarine I served on was being refitted for the planned invasion of Japan. But reflection upon the effects of that bomb and the subsequent one dropped on Nagasaki included the knowledge that we had already succeeded in isolating Japan. Why didn't we just continue the blockade until the Japanese surrendered? Half a century later, whenever I mention my ambivalence, there is no dialogue. People seem to think the bombings were either necessary or unnecessary.
I was disappointed but not surprised to see the November 22 letters in response to Edward Tenner '65's October 25 article on Karl Marx. Although Marx (with Freud) is generally acknowledged to be the greatest thinker of the 19th century and unarguably one of the most important influences, whether for good or evil, on our time, these alumni don't see the need for this leviathan to be openly discussed. I thought such discussion was the purpose of a first-rate university.
I have nothing against Marx, even though he never matriculated or lectured at Princeton and would have submitted our admission policies to the rule of the proletariat. Please avoid future temptations to make paw into a scholarly journal. Otherwise, I may submit my articles on Maltese philately.
Marx's letters to Engels reveal a mean, bitter, petty man who neglected and exploited his family and friends; a vicious racist and antisemite who despised homosexuals and viewed women as inferior; a man who never held a job and never once visited his supposedly beloved factory workers. The image of Marx as a decent but misunderstood hero is as deceptive a myth as his "earthly paradise."
Tenner points out Marx's radical democracy, which, long after his death, was corrupted by the Communist regimes of Russia, China, and elsewhere. Still, Marxism-not Stalinism-appeals to the oppressed for whom migration to Western democracies is not an option.
Your article has nothing to say about Marx's statement "Religion is the opiate of the masses." The nearest it comes to the subject of Marx and religion is a mention of Engels's concept of "false consciousness," which Tenner calls "the human capacity for selfdeception about identity and interests, and the power of illusion in sustaining human life." Are we to assume that the teachings of Moses, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, and other sages have no transcendental validity? Woodrow Wilson, in an article titled "The Road away from Revolution," published in The Atlantic Monthly a few months before his death, conceded that the Marxian criticism of the capitalist economic system had valid points. Wilson concluded that the only answer to Marxism was a moral and spiritual revolution.
Tenner might reflect on America's cycles of socialist popularity. In the 1840s we had Brook Farm and dozens of other socialist-oriented communities, followed by the Oneida community in upstate New York. The Socialist Party under Eugene Debs and later Norman Thomas '05 was influential in the first third of this century. Marx was not their inspiration. Instead, as Irving Howe has written, it was "an impulse to moral generosity, a readiness to stake their hopes on some goal other than personal success. It was an impulse that drew its strength from an uncomplicated belief in freedom and fraternity, or to use an almost obsolete word, goodness." Stalin's infamous trials and his 1939 pact with Hitler eradicated any lingering faith in a benign state fashioned from Marxist ideology. Yet the "impulse" that Howe cites is not altogether moribund and may be a factor in the 1996 elections for those appalled by the cutbacks in our social safety net.
In Russia and the rest of the Soviet bloc, ordinary people deserted Marxist-Leninism not for "the promise of Hollywood interiors," as Tenner states, but because the task of "building communism" and living lives of fear became too burdensome to endure for a promise that was never more than an intellectual's theory of how a totally rationalized society ought to look. Marx was wrong about evil being concentrated in a property-owning class-it is much more of a human problem than that. One sees in the history of the USSR what happens when all wealth is owned by "the people," whose ownership is safeguarded by political zealots who claim to know what is best for mankind.
S. M. Moore's October 25 letter regarding your June 7 First Person on the "killing fields" of Rwanda trod a wellworn path. Her list of slaughter by Westerners included only those committed by Fascists and capitalists. Ignored was the far greater number of people put to death between 1917 and 1986 by Socialists and Communists like Bela Kun, Lenin, Pol Pot, Nyerere, Mengisto, Trotsky, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Stalin, Tito, et al.
In her November 22 review of Pearson Marx '86's novel On the Way to the Venus de Milo, Andrea Gollin '88 states that the author is "afflicted . . . with sesquipedalianism. Of the 33 words I was sure I had never seen before, my dictionary had only 13. For example, osculate means to kiss. And a paladin is a knight." She considers trisyllabic words sesquipedalian? Maybe she means arcane; but if so, what about "osculate" and "paladin"? Your reviewer is a Princeton graduate? Please, at least, tell me she wasn't a liberal-arts major.