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The Militant, 28 February 1949

Ruth Johnson

Teachers with “Conviction”

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 9, 28 February 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


College teachers aren’t what they ought to be, according to a man who should know – Dr. Harry J. Carman, dean of Columbia College. Addressing a forum of 300 educators on Feb. 17, he explained that most teachers don’t know how to teach, are dull and uninspiring, and “suffer from mental inertia.”

All of these charges will be confirmed heartily by hundreds of thousands of students who struggle to keep awake during dull and fruitless lectures. But they won’t learn from Carman just why they find the faculty seats full of incompetents, or what can be done to improve the situation.

We can find the answer though, in the qualifications that Carman lists: “integrity and responsibility,” and “breadth of training, a sound foundation of general education and an understanding of society as a whole.” Carman especially emphasized that to be a good professor a man must have “conviction.” That is, “he should be one who, without recourse to propaganda, can stimulate the student to formulate for himself an intelligent and satisfying philosophy of life.”

But how can a man or woman who answers these needs continue to teach in the face of the national witch-hunts? The red-baiting hysteria on the campuses has already picked off a mildly reformist leader of the Socialist Party in Michigan, and six professors in Seattle suspected of being friendly to Stalinism. Several states are preparing laws to deprive any suspected radical of the right to teach in public universities. The capitalists want teachers with only one “conviction” – the conviction that “free enterprise” is the holy of holies.

That can’t be reconciled with Carman’s requirement of “an understanding of society as a whole.” No one can understand society today without a study of Marxism, the science of political economy. To try to explain economics or politics with-Marxism is like trying to explain atomic energy without nuclear physics.

Nor can a teacher stimulate “an intelligent and satisfying philosophy of life,” without exposing the ruthless practices of capitalism that make cynics and opportunists of all its adherents.

The sharp sword of dismissal hovers over any professor who dares to point out the nature of capitalism and the need for a new economic order based on the needs of mankind. The school system from grade school to university, is based not on the welfare of students, but on the aims sought by the ruling class. Text books are written, lectures tailored and policy determined with one idea only: to glorify and preserve imperialism and justify World War III.

The only “men of conviction” welcomed in this world of Wall Street academics, are men with the “conviction” that their future depends on being intellectual yes-men of capitalism.

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