VIEWSnAnother Part of the ForestnJust after receiving an invitation from the editor ofnChronicles to write about the college humanities curriculum,nI received a letter from a friend and ally in educationnreform. It expressed alarm that “I had gone over to the othernside” — an opinion that started, according to his letter, whennI declined to label myself a conservative in a WilliamsnCollege symposium on the humanities. My reluctance wasnreported as craven apostasy by Roger Kimball in the NewnCriterion, and reprinted in his book Tenured Radicals: HownPolitics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education. My friend’sncomment about the “other side” indicates succinctly thenembattled mind-set in which the great curriculum wars overnthe preservation of our culture are now being fought. In thisnwartime atmosphere, declining to be labeled a conservativenand “going over to the other side” are synonymous acts.nWithin the space of a few weeks I was attacked from bothnsides of the battle lines with equal vigor, by BarbaranHerrnstein Smith (a full-fledged “tenured radical” at DukenUniversity) and by Roger Kimball (the bane of tenurednradicals). The former scorned me as a conservative, thenlatter as an apostate and coward — possibly morally worsenthan the tenured radicals themselves. A special place in hellnis reserved for trimmers.nIn the current debate over the humanities curriculum,nwhat is at stake may not be salvation but complexity. I freelyngrant that there comes a moment in political and intellectualnaflPairs when complex and hesitant middle positions arenunacceptable, and one has to choose sides in a shooting war.nBut it is a grave mistake to believe we have reached thatnpoint in the cultural debates in this country. Moreover, fromnE.D. Hirsch, jr. is a professor of English at the Universitynof Virginia, Charlottesville, and author of CulturalnLiteracy: What Every American Needs to Know.n18/CHRONICLESnby E.D. Hirsch, Jr.nnnthe standpoint of education reform, which is my mainnconcern, this polarization of positions, if persisted in, couldndeny the conservative point of view any substantive influencenover the course that reform will take, as I shallnmomentarily explain.nBut first I wish to deal with the connection betweennpolitical polarization and apostasy. The subtext of mynfriend’s letter was: “He who is not with me is against me,nand he who was with me (as I thought), but denies it, is ankind of Judas.” In this either/or atmosphere, the firstncasualties are subtlety and complexity. For example, takenMr. Kimball’s description of my apostasy in the ideologicallynuncharged sphere of interpretation theory. It was mynsupposed “recantation” at Williams, as reported by Kimball,nthat has made my friend and others believe that then”pressure” has gotten to me, and I have gone over to then”other” side.nKimball’s account ran this way. I used to be an honorablendefender of rationality and objectivity in literary scholarship.nBut now, to avoid unpopularity and the C-word, and toncurry favor with the tenured radicals, I have abandoned mynearlier positions and claim to hold views about interpretationnthat are scarcely to be distinguished from those of thentenured radicals themselves. Thus Kimball (in his book):nFor someone as desperate as Professor Hirsch tondisencumber himself from the label conservative, itnmust have been galling to be reminded of hisnformer sins — especially by Derrida, an enormouslyncelebrated writer whose entire oeuvre stands in thenmost glaring contradiction to Professor Hirsch’s ownnearlier ideas. Poor Professor Hirsch declared thatnpeople had once again been wrong to see him as anconservative, and then favored us with a littien