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NIVERSITIES

ALLAN BLOOM

N w i m my conclusion: siudcnis in our best uni- The insatiable appetite lor freedom to live as one pleases
I versities do not believe in anything, and those uni-
versities are doing nothing about it, nor can they. An easy-
thrives on this aspect of modern democratic thought. The
expansion of the area exempt from legitimate regulation is
going American kind of nihilism has descended upon us, a effected by contracting the claims to moral and political
nihilism without terror of the abyss, The great questions knowledge. It appears that full freedom can be attained only
-God. freedom, and immortality, according to Kant—hardly when there is no such knowledge. I he elTective way to de-
touch the young. And the universities, which should encour- fang oppressors is to persuade them that they are ignorant
age the quest for the clarilication of such questions, are the of the good. There are no absolutes: freedom is absolute.
very source of the doctrine which makes that quest appear A doctrine that gives equal rights to any way of life what-
futile. soever has the double advantage of licensing one's own way
The heads of the young are stulicd with a jargon derived of life and of giving one a democratic good conscience. The
from the despair of European thinkers, gaily repackaged for very lack of morality is a morality and permits what Saul
American consumption and presented as the foundation for Bellow has called "easy virtue." a mixture of egotism and
a pluralistic society. That jargon becomes a substitute for high-mindedness. Now, in feeling as well as in speech, a large
real experiences and instinct; one suspects that modern segment of our young are open, open to every "lifestyle,"
thought has produced an artilicial soul to replace the old one But the fatal consequence of this openness has been the with-
supplied by nature, which was full of dangerous longings, ering of their belief in their own way of life and of their
loves, hates, and awes. The new soul's language consists of capacity to generate goals. The palliation ol beliefs culmi-
term;, like value, ii/eohgy. self, commifnienl, kientity—every nates in pallid belief. A soul which esteems indiscriminately
word derived from recent German philosophy, and each car- must be an artilicial soul, and that, to repeat, is what we are
rying a heavy baggage ot dubious theoretical interpretation coming near to constituting, not by some inevitable historical
of which its users are blissfully unaware, fhey take such process but by a conscious educational project. This project
language to be as unproblematic and immediate as night and masquerades as the essential democratic theory without
day. It now constitutes our peculiar common sense. which we would collapse into tyranny or the war of all
[he new language subtly injects into our system the per- prejudices against all. Its premise is that truth itself must be
spective of "do your own thing" as the only plausible way of prejudice or at least treated as such.
life. I know that sounds vaguely passe, a remnant leftover The tendency toward indiscriminateness— the currently
from the Sixties. But it is precisely the routinization of the negative connotation of the word (Uscrimination tells us
passions of the Sixties that Is the core of what is going on much- is apparently perennial in democracy. The need to
now. just as the Sixties were merely a radicalization of ear- subordinate the more reiined sensibilities to a common de-
lier tendencies, nominator and the unwillingness to order the soul's desires
Ihe American regime has always attempted to palliate according to their rank conduce to easy-goingness. The dem-
extreme beliefs that lead to civil strife, particularly religious ocratic ethos obscures the reason for Ihe desirability of such
beliefs. Ihe members of sects had to obey the laws and be selt-mastery. Ihis is the moral problem of democracy and
loyal to the Constitution: if they did so. others had to leave whv fortuitous external necessities like war or poverty seem
them alone, lo make things work, it was thought helpful
that men's beliefs be moderated. There was a conscious, if
coven, ellort to weaken religious fervor by assigning religion \tr. lilooni i.s a /iro/iWMir of rhe Commiuve on Social Thoii^hi
to the realm ol opinion as opposed to knowledge. But every- ami the College at the Univeryily of Chicago. He ha.s iran.s-
one had to have an intense belief in the right of freedom ol kirt'ti Plaio'.s Republic ami Rousseau's Emile. has wriiien
religion; the existence of that natural right was not to be extensively on Hous.seau ami Plaio. and is author of
treated as a matter of opinion. Shakespeare's Politics.

December 10. 1982/ N,\noNAt. RFVILW


Today a young person does not generally go off
to the university with the expectation of
having an intellectual adventure, of discovering
strange new worlds, of finding out what the
comprehensive truth about man is

to bring out the best in us. Flalo describes the natural bent at a threat to decent respect for other human beings. In the
of the democratic man tbus: Thirties this teaching was actually warring against some real
He . . . also lives along day by diiy, gratifying ihc desire thai oc- prejudices of raee, religion, or nation; but what remains now
curs lo him. at one lime dnnking and listening to the llute. at an- is mostly the means for weakening conviction when convic-
other downing water and reducing; now practicing gymnasiic^, tions have disappeared.
and again idling and neglecting everything: and sometimes spend- The doctrine of cultural relativism did not emerge from
ing his lime as though he were occupied wilh philosophy. Otten the study oi cultures. It was a philosophic doctrine that gave
he engages in poliiics and. Jumping up. says and does whatever a special interpretation of the meaning i.^\ culture and had a
chances lo eome to him; and il he ever admires any soldiers, he special political attractiveness. U could appeal to the taste
turns in thai direction; and if ii's moneymakers, in that one. And
for diversity as opposed to our principled homogeneity. All
there is neither order nor necessity in his life, hul calling this life
swecl. free, and blessed he follows il throughout. kinds of people climbed aboard disaffected Southern snobs
who had never accepted the Declaration and lhe Constitu-
This account is easily recognizable when applied to the tion anyhow, Stalinists who wanted us to love Soviet tyran-
middle-class youth who attend America's top colleges and ny without being too explicit about it, and simitar types. No
universities. But Plato's description omits a more sinister choices would have to be made. We could have the charms
element in our situation. Plato's young man believes that of old cultures, of what one now calls roots, along with
each of the lives he follows is really good, at least when he democratic liberties. All that was required was an education
tollows it. His problem is that he cannot keep his mind made making other ways attractive and disenchanting one's own.
up. Our young person, by contrast, is always plagued by a It is not so much the knowledge of other cultures that is im-
gnawing doubt as to whether the activity he undertakes is portant, but the consciousness that one loves one's own way
worth anything, whether this end is not just another "value," hecause it is one's own, not because it is good. People must
an illusion that men once believed in but which our "his- understand that they are what they are and what they believe
torical consciousness" reveals as only a cultural phenomenon. only because of accidents of time and piace.
There are a thousand and one such goals; they are not be- fhe equality of values seemed to be a decisive step in the
lieved in because they exist, they exist because one believes march of equality. So sure were our soeial scientists of the
in them. Since we now know this, we can no longer believe, truth and vigor of democracy that they did not even dimly
lhe veil of illusion has been torn away forever. The trendy perceive what Weber knew, tliat his view undermined demo-
language for this alleged experience is demystification or cracy, which stands or falls with reason. Only democracy
demythotogization. I his teaching now has the status of dog- traces all its authority to reason; other kinds of regimes can
ma. It leads to a loss of immediacy in all experience and a more or less explicitly appeal to other sources. When we talk
suspicion that every way of life is a "role." The substitution about the West's lack of conviction or lack of will, ue show
of the expression "lifestyle," which we can change at will, that we are beginning to recogni/e what has happened to us.
for the good life, the rational quest for which is the origin of Exhortations to Delieve. however, are useless. It is only by
philosophy, tells the story. Thai is what I mean by nihilism, thinking ideas througb again that we ean determine whether
and this nihilism has resulted from a questionable doetrine our reason can any longer give assent to our prineiples.
that we seem no longer able to question. But this serious reconsideration is not taking place in the
All of us who are under sixty know something about ihis universities.
doctrine and its transmission, lor since the Thirties it is what
the schools have been teaching. 1-or lifty years the only spir- II
itual substance they have been trying to eonvey is openness, Today a young person does not generally go off to the uni-
the disdain for the ethnocentric. Of course, they have also versity with the expectation of having an intellectual adven-
been teaching the three Rs, but their moral and intellectual ture, of discovering strange new worlds, of linding out what
energy has been turned almost exclusively in this direction. the comprehensive truth about man is. This is partly because
Schools once produced citizens, or gentlemen, or believers; he thinks he already knows, partly because he thinks such
now they produce the unprejudiced. A university professor truth unavailable. And the university does not try to per-
confronting entering freshmen can be almost certain that suade him that he is coming to it for the purpose of being
most of them will know that there are no absolutes and that liberally educated, at least in any meaningful sense of the
one cannot say that one culture is superior to another. They term—to study how to be free, to be able to think for him-
can scarcely believe that someone might seriously argue the self. The university has no vision, no view of what a human
contrary; the attempt to do so meets either self-satisfied being must know in order to be considered educated. Its
smiles at something so old-fashioned or outbursts of anger general purpose is lost amid the incoherent variety of spe-

1538 . REVtEw / December 10, 1982


The old books are still around, but one "knows"
that they contain mere opinions, no better
than any others. The result is true Philistinism,
a withering of taste and a conformity to what
is prevalent in the present

cial purposes that have accreted within it. Such a general est, least funded, most dispirited part of the university. The
purpose may be vague and undemonslrablc. but for just this humanities are the repository of the books that are at the
reason it requires the most study. The meaning of life is un- foundation of our religion, our philosophy, our politics, our
clear, but that is why we must spend our lives clarilying it science, as well as our art. Here, if anywhere, one ought to
rather than letting the question go. Ihe university's function find the means to doubt what seems most certain. Only here
is to remind students of the importance and urgency of the are the questions about knowledge, about the good life,
question and give them the means to pursue it. Universities about God and love and death, at home in the university.
do have other responsibilities, but this should be their high- If, however, one looks at the humanistic side of the campus,
est priority. one Hnds a hodgepodge of disciplines, not integrally related
They have, however, been so battered by modern doctrines, with one another and without much sense of common pur-
social demands, the requirements oi" the emancipated special- pose. The hooks are divided up among language depart-
ties, that they have tacitly agreed not to open [*andora's ments, according to the largely accidental fact of the language
box and start a civil war. They provide a general framework in which they were written. Such departments have as their
that keeps the peace but they lack a goal of their own. prmiary responsibility the teaching ol the language in ques-
When the arriving student surveys the scene, he sees a be- tion (a very depressing responsibility now that languages
wildering variety of choices. The professional schools beck- have fallen into particular disfavor with students).
on him by providing him with an immediate motive: a Humanists in general arc the guardians of great books,
lucrative and prestigious livelihood guaranteed by simply but rarely take seriously the naivL- notion that these books
staying in the university to the conclusion ol training. Medi- might contain the truth which has escaped us. Yet without the
cine and law were always such po.ssibilities; with the recent beliel that from Plato one might learn how to live or that
addition of the MBA, the temptation has radically increased. from Shakespeare one might get the deepest insight into the
If the student decides to take this route, liberal education passions and the virtues, no one who is not professionally
is practically over lor him. obligated will take them seriously. Try as they may, the hu-
H he lirst turns his eye to what was traditionally thought manities will fail to interest if they do not teach ihe rruih,
to be the center ol the university, he wili confront- aside even as natural and social science are supposed to do. To
from a few hot programs like black studies, native studies, present the great writers and artists as representatives of cul-
women's studies, which are largely exercises in consciousness- tures or examples of the way thought is related to society,
raising the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the or in any of the other modes common today, is to render
humanities. them uninteresting to the healthy intellect. The comprehen-
Ihe natural sciences thrive, full ot good conscience and sive questions have their natural home in the humanities,
good works. But they are ever more specialized and ever but it is there that the hi.storical-cultural doubt about the
more separate from the rest of the university; they have no possibility of answering them is most acute. Prolcssors of
need of it. They don't object to liberal education, if it doesn't humanities more than any others wonder whether they have
get in the way of their research and training. And they have a truth to tell.
nothing to say. even about themselves or their role in the Philosophy should, of course, provide the focus for the
whole human picture, let alone about the kinds of questions most needful study. But it is just one department among
that agitated Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz. Their results many and, in the democracy of the specialties, it no longer
speak lor themselves, but they do not say quite enough. has the will to insist that it is the queen of the sciences. More-
lhe sociiil sciences are the source ot much useful research over, in most philosophy departments the study of the class-
and information, but they are long past the lirst elfervescence ic texts is not central. Professors "do" their own philosophy
of their Marxist-Freudian-Weberian period, Then they ex- and do not try to pose the questions as they were posed by
pected to lind a new and more scientific way to answer the the old writers. I his is especially the case for the dominant
old questions ol philosophy. Such hopes and claims quietly school ot thought in the United States, the Oxford school.
disappeared Irom the scene during the past 15 years. Their Of all university members, humanists have the least self-
solid reasons for existence are In specialized study o( interest conlidence. The students are abandoning them, and they
rates. Iranian politics, or urban trends. Practically no econ- have dilliculty speaking to the concerns of the age. Ihey fear
omist conceives of doing what Adam Smith did, and the they may have to huckster it they are not already doing so
few who try produce petty and trivial stuff, lhe case is pret- in order to keep atloat. In their heart ol hearts many
ty much the same lor the other social sciences. They are doubt that they have much to say. After all, most of the
theoretically barren, and the literature read and used by writers they promote can be convicted of elitism and sexism.
them is mostly ephemera of the last fifty years. the paramount sins of the day.
The remainder is to be found in the humanities, the small- There are, to be sure, many dedicated individuals in the

1544 NATIONAL REVIEW / December 10. 1982


humanities who know what needs to be Give.
done and can draw students' attention
to the impoverished state of their expe-
rience and show them that great texts
address their concerns. But the endeavor
of these professors is a lonely one with
little corporate resonance. The students
are not reading the same books and
addressing the same questions, so that
their common social life cannot be af-
fected by a common intellectual life.
It should be added that the human-
ities are also the center of some of the
fastest selling intellectual items of the
day - structuralism, deconstructionism,
and Marxist humanism. The members
of these schools particularly rampant
in comparative literature do read books
Andtqke.
and talk big ideas. In thai sense they are
the closest thing to what the university
should be about. The problem with
them, and all of them are alike in this
respect, is that the books are not taken
seriously on their own grounds hut are
used as vile bodies lor the sake of" dem-
onstrating theses brought to them by
the interpreters. They know what they
are looking for before they begin. Iheir
approaches are ultimately derived from
Marx or Nietzsche, whose teachings are
tacitly taken to be true.
It is small wonder that the student is
bewildered about what it means to be
educated, lhe new liberal education re-
quirements some universities are insti-
tuting are little more than tours of what
Is being done in the various workshops,
lo be sure, they always add on a course
requirement, in a non-Western civiliza-
tion or culture, but that is just another
bit of demagogy serving the indoctrina-
(ion of openness. Serious physicists
would never require a course in non-
Western physics. Culture and civiliza-
tion are irrelevant to the truth. One
linds it where one can. Only if truth is
relative to culture does this make sense.
But. once again, this is our dogma, ac-
cepted for covert political reasons. This
dogma is the greatest enemy of liberal
education. It undermines the unity of
man, our common humanity in the in-
tellect, which makes the university pos-
sible and permits it to treat man as sim-
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but they are the result of long observation of. and careful guage. It is a music that moves the young powerfully and
listening to, young people in our better universities by one immediately. Its beat goes to the depth of their souls and in-
wbo is intensely interested in their real openness, their open- articulately expresses their inarticulate longings. Those long-
ness to higher learning. ings are sexual, and the beat appeals almost exclusively to
1. Books. They are no longer an important part of the that. It caters to kiddy sexuality, at best to puppy love, I he
lives of students. "Information" is important, but profound first untutored leelings of adolescents are taken over hy this
and beautiful books are not where they go for it. They have music and given a form and a satisfaction, lhe words make
no books that are companions and friends to which they little difference; they may be explicitly sexual, or sermons
look for counsel, companionship, inspiration, or pleasure. in favor ol nuclear disarmament, or even religious - the
They do not expect to lind in them sympathy for, or clarili- motor of it all is eroticism, lhe youngsters know this perfect-
eation of. their inmost desires and experiences. The link be- ly well, even if their parents do not.
tween the classic books and the young, which persisted for Rock music caused a great evolution in the relations be-
so long and in so many circumstances, and is the only means tween parents and children. Its success was the result of an
of connecting the here and the now with the always, this link ama/ing cooperation among lust, art. and commercial shrewd-
has been broken. The Bible and Plutarch have ceased to be a ness. Without parents realizing it. their children were lib-
part of the soul's furniture, an incalculable loss of fullness erated from them. The children had money to spend. The
and awareness of which the victims are unaware. record companies recognized as much and sold them music
lhe loss of the taste for reading has been blamed on tele- appealing to their secret desires. Never before was a form ol
vision, the universal villain of social critics. But lack of art (however questionable) directed to so young an audience.
reverence for antiquity and contempt for tradition are demo- This art gave children's feelings public respectability, lhe ed-
cratic tendencies. It should be the university's business to ucation of children bad escaped their parents, no matter how
provide a corrective to these tendencies; however, I believe hard they tried to prevent it. lhe most powerful formative
that the universities are most to blame for them. After all, inlluence on children hetween 12 and IS is not the school,
they taught the schoolteachers. Vox a very long time now the not the church, not the home, but rock music and all that
universities have been preoccupied with abstract modern goes with it. It is not an elevating but a leveling influence.
schools of thought that were understood to have surpassed The children have as their heroes banal, drug- and sex-rid-
all earlier thought and rendered it obsolete. And their den guttersnipes who foment rebellion not only against par-
primary concern has been to indoctrinate social attitudes, ents but against all nt>ble sentiments. This is the emotion-
to "socialize." rather than to educate, lhe old books are still al nourishment they ingest in these precious years. It is the
around, but one "knows" that they contain mere opinions, real junk food.
no better than any others. The result is true philistinism, a One thing 1 have no difficulty teaching students today is
withering of taste and a conformity to what is prevalent in the passage in the Republic where Socrates explains that
the present. It means the young have no heroes, no objects control over music is control over character and thai the
of aspiration. It is all both relaxing and boring, a soft im- rhythm and the melody are more powerlul than the words.
prisonment, Ihey do not especially like Socrates's views on music, but
2. Music. While I am not certain about tbe effects of tele- they understand perfectly what he is about and the impor-
vision, I am quite certain about those of music. Many stu- tance of the issue.
dents do not watch much television while in college, but they 3. Sex. No change has been so rapid, so great, and so sur-
do listen lo music, Krom the lime ol puberty, and earlier, prising as the change in the last twenty years concerning sex
music has been the food of their souls. This is the audio gen- and the relations between the sexes. Young people of col-
eration. And classical music is dead, at least as a common lege age are very much affected by the sexual passion and
taste. Rock is all there is. preoccupied with love, marriage, and the family (to use an
I here is now one culture for everyone, in music as in lan- old formula that is now painfully inadequate to what is real-

1546 NATIONAL REVIHW / December 10. 19H2


Men and women are together in what is supposed
to be an easy camaraderie. If coupling
takes place, it must not disturb the smooth
surface of human endeavor. Above all:
no courtship or courtliness

ly meant). It is an age of excitement and uncertainty, and The possibility of separation is not a neutral fact, allowing
much of the motivation for study and rellection of a broader people to stay or go; it encourages separation because it es-
sort comes from the will to adorn and clarify erotic long- tablishes a psychology of separateness.
ings. The result is inevitably egotism, not because the individ-
It is. however, in this domain that the listless, nihilistic uals are evil or naturally more prone to selfishness than
mood has its practical expression and most affects the life those of another era. if there is no other thing to be attached
of the students, lhe prevailing atmosphere deprives sex of to, the desires concerning ourselves are ever present. This
seriousness as well as of charm. And, what is more, it makes tendency is particularly pronounced in an age when political
it very difficult to think about sex. ln a permissive era, when ties are weak. People can hardly be blamed lor not being at-
it is almost respectable to think and even do the deeds of tached when there Is nothing that calls forth attachment.
Oedipus, shame and guilt have taken refuge in a new re- iliere can be no doubt that the sexual revolution plays a
doubt and made certain things unthinkable. Terror grips great role in dissolving the bonds founded on sexual rela-
man at the thought he might be sexist. For all other tastes tionships. What is not sufficiently understood is that in mod-
there is sympathy and support in universities. Sexism, what- ern soeiety there is little else that can be the basis for moral
ever it may mean, is unpardonable. association. There is a repulsive lack of self-knowledge in
The great change in sexual behavior has taken place in those who attack the "nuclear family" and are rhapsodic
two stages. The lirst is what was called the sexual revolu- about the "extended family" and real "community," Loose-
tion. This meant simply that pre- and extra-marital ,sex be- ness is thus made into an ethical critique of our society. The
came much more common, and the various penalties for "extended family" is no more possible in our time or conso-
promiscuity were either much reduced or disappeared. In nant with our principles than is feudalism, while the "nu-
the middle Sixties I noticed that very nice students who pre- clear family" is still a viable alternative, but one that needs
viously would have hidden their affairs abandoned all pre- support in theory and practice. It provides a natural basis
tense. They would invite their professors to dine in apart- for connectedness. One can give it up, but one has to know
ments where they lived together and not hesitate to give the price. There is simply nothing else that is generally op-
expression to physical intimacy in a way that even married erative in society at large.
couples would rarely do before their peers. But even more powerful than all of the above changes are
This kind of change, of course, implied a very different the effects of feminism, which is still early in its career of re-
way of thinking about things. Desire always existed, but it form and is the second stage of the great change of which I
used to war with conscience, shame, and modesty, Ihese now am speaking. Ihe theme is too vast to treat properly, but
had to be deprecated as prejudices, as pointing to nothing one can say that it. much more than the sexual revolution,
beyond themselves. Religious and philosophic moral teach- takes place on the level of thought rather than that of in-
ings that supported such sentiments became old hat. and a stinct. Consciousness must be altered. Women have been ex-
certain materialism which justified bodily satisfaction seemed ploited and misused throughout tbe entire past, and only
more plausible. now can one find out their real potential. We are on the
The world looks very different than it once did to young threshold of a whole new world and a whole new understand-
people entering college, lhe kinds of questions they ask. and ing. And Right and Left are in large measure united on tbe
the sensitivities they bring to these fresh circumstances, are issue. There is an almost universal agreement, among those
vastly altered. The tension of high expectation has been re- who count for university students, that feminism is simply
laxed; there is much they no longer have to lind out. A signif- justified as is.
icant minority of students couple off very early and live The degree of common agreement comes home to me when
together throughout college with full awareness that they in- I teach the Socrates fantasy in the Republic about the abo-
tend to go their separate ways afterward. I hey are just tak- lition of the difference between the sexes. Twenty years ago
ing care of certain needs in a sensible way. There is. for a it was an occasion of laughter, and my problem was to get
member of an older generation, an incomprehensible slack- students to take it seriously. Today it seems perfectly com-
ness of soul in all this. Certainly the advemurousness of monplace, and students take it all too seriously, failmg to
such people, who are half-married but without the moral catch the irony. They do not note the degree to which Soc-
benefits of responsibility, is lamed. There is nothing wild. rates acts as though men and women have no bodies and
Dionysian, searching, in our promiscuity. It has a dull, ster- lightly give up all the things that are one's own, particularly
ilized, scientific character. those one loves parents, spouses, children. All of them are
One must add that an increasing number of students come connected with the bisexuality of the species. In doing this.
from divorced families and include in their calculation the Socrates shows the ambiguity of our nature and the degree
possibility or the likelihood of divorce in their own future. of tension between our common humanity and our sexual

December 10. 1982 / NATIONAL REVIEW 1547


separateness. lhe balance between the two is always fraught mutual respect, communication; realism without foolish fabu-
with dilliculties. One must decide which has primacy; and lation or hopes. One wonders what primal feelings and de-
this decision must be made in full awareness of the loss en- sires are pushed down beneath the pat uniformity of the
tailed by it. Our students no longer understand this. speech they almost all use. a self-congratulatory speech which
It is here that a great diflerence between the situation of affirms that they are the tirst to have discovered how lo
women and that of men comes to light. Women tixlay have, relate to other people.
to use our new talk, an agenda. They want to have tbe op- This conviction has as its first consequence that all old
portunity to pursue careers, and they want to find ways to books are no longer relevant, because their authors were sex-
reconcile this goal with having families. Also, it is their move- ists (it they happened to be women, they were maimed by
ment, so they are involved and excited, have much to talk living in sexist society). There is little need of the commissars
about. The men. on the other hand, are waiting to be told who are popping up all over the place to make the point that
what is on the agenda and ready to conform to its demands. Eve. Cleopatra. Emma Bovary. and Anna Karenina are
There is little inclination to resist. All the principles have parts of male chauvinist propaganda. The students have got-
been accepted; it only remains to see how to tive by them. ten the point. These figures can't move their imaginations
Women are to have careers just as do men and, if there is to because their situations have nothing to do with situations
be marriage, the wife's career is not to be sacrificed to the in which students expect to find themselves. They need no
man's; home and children are a shared responsibility; when inquisition to root out sexist heresies although they will get
and if there are to be children is up to the woman, and the one. And in the absence (temporary, of course) of a litera-
decision to terminate or complete a pregnancy is a woman's ture produced by feminism to rival the literature of Sopho-
right. Above all, women are not to have a "role" imposed on cles, Shakespeare, Racine, and Stendhal, students are with-
them. They have a right of self-definition. The women were out literary inspiration. Teaching romantic novels to
the victims and must be the leaders in their recovery from vic- university students (in spite of the healthy perseverance of
timization, Ihe men. as they themselves see it. have to be this genre, as indicated by the success of the Harlequin
understanding and llexible. There are no guidelines; each romances-1 find one free in every box of Hefty garbage
case is individual. One can't know what to expect. Openness, bags 1 buy these days) is a quasi-impossihitity. Students are
again, is the virtue. either not interested or use it as grist for their ideological
The result is a desexuali7iition of life, all the while that a mill. Such books do not cause them to wonder whether they
lot of sexual activity is going on, and a reduction of the dif- are missing something. All that passion seems pointless.

^ = .FEMINISM^—:

ferences between the sexes. Anger and spiritedness are defin- Notwithstanding all our relativism, there are certain things
itely out. Men and women in universities frequently share we know and which cannot be doubted. These are the tenets
common dwellings and common facilities. Sex is all right, of the egalitarian creed, and today its primary tenet is that
but it creates a problem. There are no forms in which it is to the past was sexist. This means that all the doubts which trad-
express itself, and it is a reminder of differentiation where ition should inspire in us in order to liberate us from the
there is supposed to be none. It is difficult to shift from the prejudices of our time are in principle closed to us. This is
mode of sameness into that of romance. Therefore advances the source of the contentless certainty that is the hallmark
are tentative, nobody is quite sure where they are to begin, ol the young. Ihis is what a teacher faces today. I do not say
and men's fear of stereotyping women is ever-present. It is that the situation is impossible or worse than it ever was.
love that is being sacrificed, for it makes woman into an The human condition is always beset hy problems. But these
object to be possessed. Dating is almost a thing of the past. are our problems, and we must face them clearly. They con-
Men and women are together in what is supposed to be an stitute a crisis for humane learning but also reaffirm the need
easy camaraderie. If coupling takes place, it must not dis- for it. Ihe bleak picture is often relieved by the rays of na-
turb the smooth surface of common human endeavor. Above tural curiosity about a better way: it can happen any time a
all: no courtship or courtliness. Now there is friendship. student confronts a great book. n

1548 NAIIONAI. REVttw / December 10. 1982