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About Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 4, 1951)
Morals of Present
■Day College Students
- First in Series
By Max Lerner
On one of the college campuses where
I happened to be lecturing a few weeks
ago, I got into a dinner conversation with
a group of girls and boys.
The girls especially talked with candor
about the problem of dating—about the
claims, urgencies, and expectations of the
boys, and how they assumed that every
date would automatically turn into a pet
Suddenly a girl on the margin of the
group asked, “May I say something?”
We had hardly noticed her until then.
She seemed scarcely turned 17, and there
was a mixture of sharpness and innocence
n her look. “Of course,” I said, “go ahead.”
“Well,” she said, “all the upper-class
men here go on calmly talking about pet
ting and necking as if they were quite or
dinary things. They talk of them in a bor
ed and sophisticated way.”
Everyone was looking at her curiously
now. “Me,” she went on, “—I’m not bored
or sophisticated. I’ve just come here as a
freshman, and I’m frank tto say I’m shock
ed by what I’ve already seen on this camp
There was derisive but muffled ap
plause from several of the boys. “What
have you seen?” I asked her.
"Plenty,” she said. "But it isn’t just
what you see. It’s what everyone takes
for granted. When I got here the first two
or three boys I went out with were sur
prised and angry that I didn’t pet. They
said all the girls did, and I’d be thought
queer if I didn’t.”
“That’s always their Hne,” said one of
the girls, a Junfor wise with two years of
college experience. “Don’t tell me you fell
“I don’t know,” said the little freshman.
‘Maybe It was just a line. But I’ve kept
my eyes open, and others seem to have
fallen for it too. I don’t mind telling you
It shocked me. This wasn’t what I thought
college would be like. And it wasn’t what
we did at high school.”
Three or four of the girls laughed in dis
The 'Who's Who' on Author Max Lerner
The college student of today-—his outlook on life, his moral code and be
havior, his changing standards. . .
That’s the subject of this article, which is the first of a series of eight by
Max Lerner, American authority on sociology and politics. The series ran
this fall in the New York Post, and will be reprinted in full in the Emerald.
What of this man Max Lerner ? .
He has been close to the college student for many years, having taught at
Sarah Lawrence, Wellesley, Harvard, and Williams colleges.
He was assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, lias written
at least four books, and spent three years as editor of Nation.
“My political convictions are on the left, although I belong to no party,
Lerner has declared. “I feel that my energies must lie with the movement
toward a democratic socialism.”
I- ■' -
belief. “You couldn’t have come from a
high school like the one I went to,” said
“How big a town did you come from?”
I asked the freshman.
“Four thousand,” she said.
“I come from Cleveland,” said the junior.
“And I was shocked at the age of four.”
“I’m writing to my mother,” said the
freshman, “and I’m going to tell her what’s
“TeH her to come down here herself and
enroll,” said one of the girls. “It will do
you both some good.”
Scenes like the above are being enacted
on campuses all over the country, as new
and old students meet and maneuver and
test each other out, and boast a bit, and
perhaps feel lonely and a bit grim.
This is the season of the parents’ dis
content, when mothers (and fathers too)
start worrying about college manners and
morals, about Johnny’s pursuit of happi
ness on the campus, and perhaps happi
ness’s pursuit of Susy on the campus.
From my own impressions, and with the
help of a New York Post reporter who in
vaded a half dozen diverse college camp
uses in and around New York, asking
questions and interviewing students and
faculty, I want to give an unscientific pre
liminary report on what the student of
1950 talks about and thinks about, how
he behaves morally, and what is new about
him and what is old and unchanging.
I write not only as a newspaperman, but
also as a teacher and a parent. I have
taught college youngsters over a longer
period than I care to remember, and I
now have one daughter finishing her col
lege career and a second daughter who
has just entered college. I have, I suppose,
the usual anxieties of a parent, but they
are tempered by my experience as teacher.
* * *
The first fact I can report has to do
with the mood and morale of students,
which underlies their morals. We have al
ways said—and I hope we believe it—that
the America of tomorrow is being shaped
in the mind and faith of the college boy
and girl of today. If we have a future, this
is going to be it.
By every rule of logic, in an era of war
tensions, with the shadow of a possible
Third World War ahead, you would think
that the students would be carrying
around with them a what-the-hell-tomor
The big fact to report is that this has
not proved true. Except for a couple of
years right after the war, when campuses
were filled with returned soldiers study
ing hard on the OX Bill, it is hard to recall
a time when students were taking their
Work and their world more seriously and
soberly than they are doing this year. '
I have checked my own impressions with
those of other teachers. A Princeton so
cial science professor says: "Before I re
turned this fall I was afraid I would find
that the outbreak of the war had made
the students much less interested in their
work. I figured their studies would be ter
rible, and that( I would have a lot of trouble
"What I found kind of knocked the pins
out from under me. They’re more eager to
learn than ever before—and almost every
one of them is subject to the draft.”
A sociologist at CCNY says: "Despite
the war threat and all other pressures,
they are working harder than ever, and
they are thinking ahead more than ever to
a career and future.”
Part of the answer, of course, lies in the
promise that General Hershey has made.,
to the university officials of America that
students of high standing will get draft
deferments. This has given an incalculable
lift to student morale on every college
Well, then, what about that conversa^
tion I started with, and the freshman’s
sense of shock at the attitudes and as
sumptions she found among the students ?
How does that jibe with the mood of hard
work and high seriousness I have just de
The answer is that college students are
groping toward maturity. While they are
working hard, they are also experiment
ing with various moral attitudes, looking
for a code they can stick by, a faith they
can believe in, an inner security that will
be a fortress in a crumbling world..
It is to their bewilderment and their
fumbling for a code, a faith, and a sense
of security, that the rest of this series will
(Next: Moral Code and Actual
The Oregon Daily Ej
except Oct. 30; Dec. 5 throuc
after May 24, with isues on Nu«. -r -—-- c , . -
of Oregon. Entered as second class matter at the postoffice, Eugene, Oregon. Subscription
rates: $5 per school year; $2 per term.
A-nita Hoimer, Editor
Don Thompson, Business Manager \
I.ORNA I.arson, Managing Editor
Shirlky Hillard, Harbara Williams, Assts. to Business Manager
1957—A Time of Crisis on Earth
The New Year, 1951.
Rod Communists launch a full-scale offensive in South Ko
rea with 300,000 men on the front lines. The House of Repre
sentatives holds a session for the first time in its long history.
And vacationing students pull themselves together for a hasty
return to their studies. These are indices of the times—times
that are marked by a penetrating soberness—and everyone
wonders whether there will be any celebrations at all on the
first day of 1952.
The New Year, 1901.
Great Britain and the Boers struggle for supremacy in South
Africa; the former are defeated at Helvetia. The nation re
laxes for a while as the kidnapper of the son of a well known
mid-western family is tracked down. In Eugene, sham kings
and princes prepare to attend a masquerade ball in the armory,
and citizen John Jlandsaker is bed-ridden with the measles.
There is an air of expectancy as the new cehtury opens up on
this day fifty days ago.
The New Year, 1851.
George Thompson, the uncompromising anti-slavery Abo
litionist from England, is charged by die-hard Southerners with
trying to disrupt the Union as he stumps around opposing the
fugitive slave bill. But John Quincy Adams says that “to call a
government including slavery a democracy is to insult the
understanding of mankind,” and radicals join him to shout that
the "Constitution is a covenant with death and an agreement
with hell.” America is still attempting to adjust itself during
the days of one hundred years ago.
And now—come back to the New Year, 1951. Yes, it is a
New Year, and not merely Another Year. 1851 found America
facing one of its greatest crises; 1901 found two nations and
then the World come to grasps with many more of them. And
today, 1951, finds the people of all nations and the world fac
ng what is certainly the greatest of them all.—T.K.
Sky’s The Limit
The Educational System:
It's Floundering at Sea
By Sam Fidman
Now that final examinations,
along with a nearly adequate
period of rest, are safely past, it
seems appropriate to make a
comment on, and analysis of, the
American educational system.
Unfortunately, the grasp of
this physically rapturous Pacific
Northwest, on matters that even
hint of change, is stodgy and
stagnant. To pour out an idea in
this section is not unlike deliver
ing an oration in an empty mea
dow, or to a majestic brace of
Issues and ideas are snubbed
and ignored. But then, an ora
tion delivered to the trees is at
least good practice for the time
when it may be expounded be
fore more understanding and
With no more authority than
that of being a senior in an Amer
ican university, I believe that
the American educational sys
tem, with emphasis on the high
er level, has missed the boat, and
is presently floundering about in
Why has it missed the boat?
Because that stinker In our so
cial setting, which is often call
ed the profit motive, has been
brought down to the education
al level and deposited, like so
much garbage wrapped In gold
foil and tinsel.
The profit motive in our edu
cation is the grade. It is the
pivot point of the major pursuit,
and is so designed as to be the
ultimate goal in the scholastic
* No sane educator will admit
that a grade is all he expects or
wants his students to take with
them from his lecture. And not
many sane educators will defend
the grade system as it stands.
Consequently, without malice
to the shell-like conservative ear
of Oregon, why not establish a
committee within the state sys
tem, or at the university to inves
tigate the matter, and examine
various suggestions for—pardon
the sinful expression—change.
THE DAILY 'f* ..
goes to Alpha Xi Delta so
rority for topping the fall
term GPA list for living
organizations with a heal
thy house accumulative of
2.89. With this “E” goes
another to all Oregon wo
men. Their grades again
averaged above the men’s.
THE OREGON LEMON ....
to Stan Ray hall for finish
ing 64th and last on the
same list with a deplorable
GPA of 1.95.
It Could Be Oregon