40 / CHRONICLESnLetter From thenSouthwestnby Odie FaulknClosing the Campus FrontiernThe recent drop in the price of oil hasnbeen welcome indeed to most Americans,nfor it portends a boost of epicnproportions for the economy. However,nthe blessings of cheap petroleum donnot fall evenly across the land. InnTexas and Oklahoma, as in other oilproducingnstates, the drop from $40nto $15 a barrel has brought a budgetncrunch greater than anything experiencednduring the so-called “GreatnDepression.”nBoth these states have taxes on oilnand gas which are based on the sellingnprice of petroleum. Lower prices thusnmean lower tax collections. In Oklahoma,nfor example, every drop of onendollar in the price of a barrel of oilnmeans a direct loss of $11 million inntax revenues, and there is a rippleneffect in the economy which brings thentax shortfall to about $40 million forneach drop of one dollar in the price ofna barrel of oil. For fiscal year 1987nOklahoma will have almost $500 millionnless to spend than it had last yearndespite huge tax increases in 1984 andn1985. This means a budget cut in FYn1987 of 17 percent from the budget ofnFY 1986; the largest cut in any year innthe 1930’s was only 10 percent. To thensouth, Texas is looking at a decrease ofn$1.5 billion in state revenue.nLegislators therefore arc scramblingnfor places they can make drastic cutsn—naturally, this means cuts that willnnot reduce the income of the “goodnold boy” network. Inasmuch as morenthan 50 percent of the budget in bothnTexas and Oklahoma is spent on education,npublic and higher, there is then-temptation to make cuts in this area.nTo do so, however, would be extremelynshortsighted.nIn the two centuries since the birthnof the republic, numerous observersnhave offered theories about whv de­nCORRESPONDENCEnmocracy has thrived here. Writingnunder the name J. Hector St. John,nMichel de Crevecoeur observed inn1782 in Letters from an AmericannFarmer that the newly arrived immigrantnto American shores pushed outnto the edge of the limits of settlement;nthere he was forced to shed his Europeannmodes of thought and adoptnthose of the New World; there hendropped his old prejudices and attitudesnto form new ones. In short, itnwas the frontier which transformednhim from a Frenchman or German ornEnglishman into an American.nOne hundred and eleven years later,nFrederick Jackson Turner, a historian,nfocused his attention on the samenquestion—and arrived at the samenanswer as Crevecoeur: the frontier wasnresponsible for promoting democracynand Americanism. In 1893 the youngnProfessor Turner gave an address beforenthe American Historical Association,nentitied “The Significance of thenFrontier in American History.” Henasserted that the frontier was the decisivenfactor in welding together annAmerican nation and nationality distinctnfrom other nations and nationalities,nas well as in producing distinctiynAmerican traits.nThe frontier, to Turner, was a statenof mind as well as the area of sparsensettlement where “savagery met civilization.”nIt was the area where thendominant traits were individualism,nfreedom, inquisitiveness, ingeniousness,nmaterialism, strength, a laxnessnof business morals—and democracy.nThe frontier was a “safety valve ofnabundant resources open to him whonwould take,” meaning that the naturalnresources of the nation should benplaced in the hands of those whonwould make productive use of thesenresources.nThus the frontier produced annAmerican nationalism that favored lenientnland legislation, internal improvementsnat government expense,nand a protective tariflF. Yet, paradoxically,nit also meant a hearty dislike fornnnauthority, a belief in individual initiative,nand the free-enterprise concept.nThis new man, this American frontiersman,ngained a reputation for gettingnthings done. He excelled in thenproduction of tangibles, and thus henhad littie time for philosophizing. Henwas not known for introspection butnfor work! All the words used to describena frontiersman — independence,ncourage, self-reliance, initiative,nindividualism, industry—impliednwork. On the frontier the man whonpainted a picture or composed a symphonicnpiece had no one to view ornlisten to the result, but if he cultivatednhis fields he had food on the tablenyear-round.nThis attitude about practicality andnwork was reflected in the folk heroes ofnthe frontier. In Europe folk tales werenconcerned with princes and princesses,nwith vacant kingdoms and fairvngodmothers. The central figures ofnAmerican folk tales were Paul Bunyan,nwho could cut more timber than othernmen; Pecos Bill, the cowboy; KempnMorgan, the oil-field driller. Our heroesnwere workers]nEven our universities and collegesndeveloped along different lines fromnthose in Europe. Ours trained graduatesnto work at specific tasks—as accountants,nengineers, scientists —nwhile European universities graduatednpeople who (supposedly) could appreciatenthe arts. Only after graduationnwas the European told to look for somenpractical application for his education.nYet according to the census of 1890,na fact which Frederick Jackson Turnernnoted, the free land in the West—thenfrontier—largely was gone. No longerncould young men and women seekingna new start or older people looking fornsomewhere to start over again find freenor even inexpensive land in the West.nIf it was a frontier of free or inexpensivenland which had kept democracynalive during the first century and morenof the republic, how then was democracynto be kept alive in the yearsnahead?n