January 11, 2012
STILL THE SAME: "EDUCATED CLEVERNESS IN THE SERVICE OF POPULAR IDOLS AND VULGAR ENDS"
William James, Writing 1902-1910: The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; A Pluralistic Universe; The Meaning of Truth; Some Problems of Philosophy; Essays, edited by Bruce Kuklick (New York: Library of America, 1987) (From "The True Harvard": "The old notion that book learning can be a panacea for the vices of society lies pretty well shattered to-day. I say this in spite of certain utterances of the President of this University to the teachers last year. That sanguine-hearted man seemed then to think that if the schools would only do their duty better, social vice might cease. But vice will never cease. Every level of culture breeds its own peculiar brand of it as surely as one soil breeds sugar-cane, and another soil breeds cranberries. If we were asked that disagreeable question, 'What are the bosom-vices of the level of culture which our land and day have reached?' we should be forced, I think, to give the still more disagreeable answer that they are swindling and adroitness, and the indulgence of swindling and adroitness, and cant, and sympathy with cant--natural fruits of that extraordinary idealization of 'success' in the mere outward sense 'getting there,' and getting there on as big a scale as we can, which characterizes our present generation. What was Reason given to man for, some satirist has said, except to enable him to invent reasons for what he wants to do. We might say the same for education. We see college graduates on every side of every public question. Some of Tammany's stanchest supporters are Harvard men. Harvard men defend our treatment of our Filipino allies as a masterstroke of policy and morals. Harvard men, as journalists, pride themselves on producing copy for any side that nay enlist them. There is not a public abuse for which some Harvard advocate may not be found." "In the successful sense, then, in the wordily sense, in the club sense, to be a college man, even a Harvard man, affords no sure guarantee for anything but more educated cleverness in the service of popular idols and vulgar ends. . . ." Id. at 1126, 1127-1128.).