The Narrow Path of Freedom and Other Essays

By Eugene Davidson | Go to book overview

12
THE THIN COAT OF THE HIGHER LEARNING

A commencement at any time in an individual’s life is a rite de passage, of transition, and that is why it takes place at the winter or summer solstice; it is a ceremony signifying a vital change, marking the end of a term of tutelage, of formal indoctrination in books and ideas, and the beginning, one may hope, of another even more varied exposure where you are on your own in the decisions of what is valid, reasonable, and promising for you.

So this may be a proper occasion to take a look at a few of the intellectual crises students have gone through in the not too distant past. One of the most striking of these occurred in Germany in 1933 when students in the German technological schools and universities burned thousands of books that in the ordinary course of events, in a stable Germany, they would have been taught to reverence. These were books by many of the leading contemporary authors as well as those of the last century: Heinrich Heine, Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, Karl Marx, and so on—some of them consigned to the flames because their authors were Jews, others because, like Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, they ran counter to the martial spirit of the new Hitler government, or like Marx were regarded as mortal enemies of the Volksspirit. Attendance at the burning was compulsory both for faculty

Presented as a commencement address at Park College, Kansas City, Mo.,
December 18, 1977.

-95-

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The Narrow Path of Freedom and Other Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Part I - Foreign Affairs 1
  • 1 - The Nuremberg Trials and One World 3
  • 2 - Nuremberg 21
  • 3 - The United States and Europe 28
  • 4 - Visiting China 47
  • 5 - The Narrow Path of Freedom 56
  • 6 - Global Aspects of East-West Relations 62
  • 7 - The End of the Cold War? 69
  • 8 - Saddam and a New World Order 73
  • Part II - The Idea of History 77
  • 9 - History as It Really Is 79
  • 10 - Domestic Peace 84
  • 11 - Looking Backward 90
  • 12 - The Thin Coat of the Higher Learning 95
  • 13 - The Path of the West 103
  • 14 - The Further Decline of the West 110
  • Part III - Individuals 115
  • 15 - Remembrance of Uncle Charlie 117
  • 16 - Albert Speer 134
  • 17 - Ezra Pound 138
  • 18 - The Suzette Morton Davidson Gallery 146
  • Index 149
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