18 / CHRONICLESnmethod for the graduating student to make money: in law,nbusiness, or some governmental bureaucracy. The coursesnare shaped so as to satisfy job requirements—or thenprofessor’s fancy-flights into some Utopia. The electivesn(themselves an anti-intellectual invention) allow for thenpicking up of a few luxury items, just adequate to drop annunexpected statement at cocktail hour but not to sustain angenuine interest.nFacing the production-line approach, this academicncash-and-carry, there are the Great Books courses, anothernway of fooling the customer. I know, I taught in suchncurricula for the chosen few. What happens is that thenunprepared, backgroundless high-school graduate meets thenpipe-chewing, tweedy professor who plunges him in texts,nthe way the mystagogue or the shaman confronts thencandidate to initiation. The latter is made at least to pass thenthreshold; the student remains bewildered.nI feel increasingly inclined to subscribe to the statementnof a stranger (it turned out he was a college professor) whomnI once met at an airport and engaged in conversation. Whynshould American students, belonging to a new world andnflexing new muscles, he asked, remain tied to curriculanborn from alien realities and formulating alien questions?nWhat can Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, Giordano Bruno,nPascal, say to him? Indeed, I have often found a measure ofndisbelief on my students’ politely listening faces whennmatters came up to which their experience and inner lifenprovided no echo whatever. Conditioned to react to novelty,nthey might produce a flicker of interest in existentialismnA BaedekernHarvard has always provided Americanwith its most eminent rightthinkingnmen, and the HarvardnGuide to Influential Books: 113nEminent Harvard Professors Discussnthe Books That Have Shaped TheirnThinking (edited by C. Maury Devine,nClaudia M. Dissel, and KimnD. Parrish, New York: Harper &nRow; $7.95) gives us a rare opportunitynto judge the state of literarynorthodoxy. Cheek by jowl withnDante and Shakespeare are thenmodern classics of fashionablenopinion: Norman Mailer (chosennby J.K. Galbraith), John Herseyn(Howard Hiatt), John Dewey andnIan McHarg (both selected by AnnenSpirn). As an indicator of complacency,nthis unique attempt at creatingnan etiquette of the mind has itsnshortcomings. For, side by side withnproper bibliographers are those, albeitnfew (Bernard Bailyn, WilliamnREVISIONSnBossart, Mary Chatfield, JamesnHodgson), who exhibit a welcomenreverence for Johnson’s dictum thatn”no man is a hypocrite in his pleasures.”nIn their praise of uncommonnreading matter, enjoyed and citednwith courage, these eminent Har­nvard professors inadvertently fallnafoul of their more prudent colleagues.nE.O. Wilson has the effronterynto list Arthur Conan Doylenand T.D. Lysenko!nWere it merely arfless, the idea ofnnnor Marxism, the names of Kafka or Brecht. Yet, not as anmovement of ideas or as a writer with roots in the past, innvital controversies with long-dead opponents, in conceptsnthat never die. Even my students at Yale, bright andnundereducated, with here and there sudden islands ofnluminous interest, were hard put to grasp as tangible thentime elapsed between Plato and Plotinus: What does influencenmean if it must cross six centuries? Or at Princeton’snDivinity School, where I found that students preparing fornthe ministry had no idea that French and German bishopsnmight entertain, and collectively proclaim, views on nuclearnwar different from those of the American hierarchy.nWith courses geared to “education for life,” the Americannstudent is sentenced to live in a time-and-spacenvacuum; neither the past nor the distance is communicatednto him as real coordinates of existence. The parts of thencurriculum which try to do so remain faceless and voiceless,nabstract entities to be piled up like old textbooks onndusty shelves. Native children in French colonial territoriesnwere made to recite, like French children in France, “Ournancestors, the Gauls …” I have the uncomfortable impressionnwhen teaching American students that “our civilizationnbegan in Athens and Rome . . . “—that they are asnincredulous as the pupils in French Africa. Not long ago,none of my students, a young woman, forgot an earliernreference to Herder and said: “You know, that Germannguy!?” I felt like answering: I know, my dear; you don’t havento. . . .ncompiling such an index would callnfor sympathy. Unfortunately, whatnwe are faced with is an exercise inncorrect thinking which reveals morenby what it conceals than otherwise.nWhether the eminent academiciansnpolled by bureaucrats-on-sabbaticalnreally believe that The Fate of thenEarth by Jonathan Schell is of criticalnimportance is immaterial. Theirnbelief in intellectual orthodoxy,nhowever, is.nThere is little to be done, onenmay suppose, about convolutions tonanticipate rewarding attitudes rathernthan verity. Yet, this disquietingndistrust, by the majority of luminariesnpolled, of their own perceptionsnbodes littie hope for their ability tonteach their students probity. Scholasticismnof desire may prove to beneven more sterile than a Sundaynschool catechism, and our survivalnas a culture may be connected withnour willingness to quote Zane Greynor Raymond Chandler. (MS)n