Where it was poor, people were starvingrnor killing one another for bread. Wherernit was rich, it squandered its substancernon cars and houses and calories—allrnunneeded—urged on by what he saw asrndishonest advertisers using the latest scientificrnbrainwashing techniques. Andrnwhile the well-to-do spent their eveningsrnand weekends mindlessly watching television,rnor pursuing an elusive security,rnwhether of finance or of love, the poor inrnour country, while doing much the samern(though with smaller cars and houses),rnwere being taught by the producers ofrntelevised love and death to envy theirrnricher neighbors and maybe even to killrnthem.rnLasch began his academic career as arnsocialist of the “New Left,” an ill-definedrnterm even in the 60’s. However, as experiencernmounted, and the 60’s and 70’srnwore on into the 80’s and 90’s, as thernsimplicities of the socialist ideal grew everrnmore suspect, it became impossible tornplace Christopher Lasch into a neatrn”right” or “left” political camp. What hernremained was a radical, howeer; he sawrnour conventions and traditions everrnchanging for the worse, and he believedrnthat superficial solutions were not goingrnto restore the self-discipline and responsibilityrnessential to a good society. Whatrnthat radical solution might be, he neverrnquite said; he was a social critic, not arnsocial revolutionary. His home was inrnthe university, not the streets.rnYet, Puritan as were his ideals, in personrnKit Lasch was kindly and considerate.rnIf everyone in the world were likernhim (this is my belief, not his) our socialrntroubles would soon be over. The ragernyou could read in his writings camernacross only as disappointment when yournmet him in person. Mention some awfulrnstupidity in public life, the hypocrisy ofrnsome public official, say, or the selling ofrnarms to some dangerous Third Worldrnthug, and Kit Lasch would smile an embarrassedrnsmile, as if shrugging his shoulders:rn”What do you expect?” or “Isn’trnthat the way of it?” He might not haernsaid those things in so many words, butrnthe impression you carried away was resignationrnand sorrow, rather than angerrnand a program for changing the world byrnnext Tuesday.rnWhile Lasch was usually bitter inrnprint and sweet in person, there wererntimes when the two could be combined,rnand one such occasion was the retirementrnof Abraham Karp, professor of historyrnand religion and well known tornmany in our city for a long time, since hernhad been rabbi of the Conservative TemplernBeth El in a well-to-do Rochesterrnsuburb for years before coming to thernuniversity. Even at Beth El he had beenrna scholar, difficult as that was in a woridrnwhere he had to deal with boards of directorsrnand donors of funds; so that whenrna chair in religion was offered him by thernuniversity he accepted with gladness;rnand he served us well for nearly 20 years.rnIt is the custom, on the last facultyrnmeeting of the academic year, for thernchairman of the department from whichrna professor retires to read a “minute” onrnthe departing professor, an appreciationrnof his work, a sort of eulogy and farewell.rnIn 1991 Professor Karp retired andrnmoved away from Rochester, and at thernMay faculty meeting. Professor Lasch, asrnchairman of Karp’s department, rose tornspeak.rn”Abe Karp, who retires this year,” hernbegan, and we all settled back to hear thernusual recital. Fine scholarship, irreplaceablernloss, farewell; we hear it every year.rnFor a while, that’s the wav it went. “Hisrnbooks include . . . The Golden Door tornAmerica: The Jewish Immigrant Experiencernand Haven and Home. This lastrnwork, a magisterial svnthesis of Abe’s earlierrnstudies . . . ” Yes, yes, what finernthings come out of the University ofrnRochester. Aren’t we wonderful.rnBut listen to this (Lasch continuedrnspeaking): “Indeed Abe is not. . . one torndisguise his views in the language of academicrnindirection. . . . He never subscribedrnto the academic community’srnoften inflated sense of its own importance,rnor regarded university politics asrnthe earth-shaking events we often imaginernthem to be. . . . All his work at thernUniversity of Rochester testified to a profoundrnlove of learning, coupled with arnhealthy skepticism about the propositionrnthat academic institutions are alone inrntheir devotion to learning or their abilityrnto foster it. It was a growing suspicionrnthat they were losing their claim even tornpreeminence, in this regard, that reconciledrnAbe to retirement—made him lookrnforward to it, in fact, as an occasion notrnto be regretted but to be welcomed andrnsavored.”rnThe language is elegant but the judgmentrnis harsh. Karp, according to Lasch,rnhad come to believe that scholarship,rnteaching, and learning were better fostered,rnbetter accomplished, outside thernuniversities than inside. Karp would bernhappier in retirement, continuing hisrnscholarly work awav from universities,rnthan he could be in what he had come tornregard as a stifling environment at thernuniversitv’.rnNow I myself do not believe this, atrnleast not 100 percent. There is a NewrnYork Public Library and a Library ofrnCongress, yes, and one can read andrnwrite in a desk and chair there or atrnhome, but these environments are notrnsufficient to replace the scholarship thatrnwould be lost if we closed the universitiesrnor turned them into super high schoolsrndevoted to “teaching” without research.rnThe very word “college” explainsrnwhat is missing in the wodd of the solitar)’rnscholar. A college is a collection ofrnpeople, working together. For his ownrnknowledge to advance, the mathematicianrn(say) must have other mathematiciansrnto talk to day after day, and to listenrnto. And some nonmathematiciansrnas well. Books and hard work are notrnenough. The same is true of historiansrnand others, and even more so for scientistsrnwho need laboratories. From thernMiddle Ages on, the presence of studentsrnhas alwas been half the value ofrnthe collegial environment, quite apartrnfrom the “lessons” students pay to getrnfrom us. The progress of scholarship itselfrnis advanced by them as well as byrntheir masters. Developing his ideas for arngroup of students is the surest way for thernscholar to understand what he himself isrndoing, and to find out its errors. As Joubcrtrnhas written, “To teach is to learnrntwice.”rnAbe Karp understood all this very well,rnbut was so distressed at what was happeningrnin the universities in his timern(and it has been growing worse) that itrnwas a downright pleasure for him tornretire to solitary scholarship instead. KitrnLasch understood that distress, and usedrnthe occasion of Karp’s retirement tornmention it to his colleagues.rnWhen I wrote Lasch a note on hisrnobservations, he replied in typical pessimisticrnfashion: he said he believed I wasrnthe only one who had noticed. Thosernfew faculty members who were evenrnthere to hear Lasch’s speech that day hadrnprobably tuned out, hearing only whatrnthey expected to hear. It ain’t quite so,rnsaid Lasch, but he said it so mildly that Irnhad trouble believing what I had heard.rnI even sent to the Secretary of the facultyrnfor a copy of Lasch’s remarks, just tornmake sure. Yes, I had heard correctly;rnyes, hardly anyone there had paid attention.rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn