Showing posts with label Christopher Columbus Langdell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christopher Columbus Langdell. Show all posts

Thursday, June 11, 2020

LSU removes Middleton's name from university library--good. But let's expose all the famous bigots in American higher education--including the ones at Harvard, Stanford, and M.I.T.

Louisiana State University announced that it is changing the name of the university's main library. The library was named after Troy H. Middleton, a genuine hero of World War II and L.S.U.'s president from 1951 to 1962. Unfortunately, by present-day standards, Mr. Middleton was a racist. Mr. Middleton was a bit like Nicholas II, Russia's last czar, who didn't get the memo from the Bolsheviks.

L.S.U.'s current interim president, Tom Galligan, explained the reasons for the change. "Our goal is to erase symbols of things that exemplify a racist past," Galligan stated.
Any student, or particularly a student of color, that has to go into any building which bears the name of someone not identified with progress and [instead] with racist traditions is to inhibit their education. They won't feel safe in that building.
President Galligan is right. It is simply unacceptable to require African Americans to study in buildings that were named after prominent racists.  But I think America's education leaders should widen their examination of our nation's chauvinistic past and expose all famous people in American history who were prejudiced against not only African Americans but Catholics and eastern Europeans as well.

As Thomas Leonard revealed in his book Illiberal Reformers, almost all American intellectuals and political leaders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were eugenicists. By definition, these people supported efforts to reduce so-called inferior racial strains from America's predominately white, Anglo-Saxon population.

Francis A. Walker, president of M.I.T. (1881-1897), was a eugenicist who was prejudiced against eastern and southern Europeans. Anderson Dixon White, president of Cornell  University(1866-1885), portrayed European immigrants as barbarian invaders. David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford from 1891 to 1913, held similar views.

Moreover, American intellectuals during this period were almost universally prejudiced against Catholics. For example, Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School (1870-1895), refused to admit graduates from Catholic colleges to Harvard Law School.

Harvard's president, Charles William Eliot, supported Langdell's bigoted policy, claiming it was based on the inferior quality of Catholic colleges and not prejudice. Was President Eliot himself an anti-Catholic bigot?  You bet. On a trip to Europe in the mid-1860s, he wrote: "I hate Catholicism as I do poison, and all the pomp and power of the Church is depressing and mortifying me."

Racial and religious prejudice among American intellectuals during the Progressive era is well documented, and yet we are not renaming buildings that were named after prominent bigots.  Harvard's law library is still named after Dean Langdell.  Stanford still has a campus building named after David Starr Jordan. Walker Memorial at M.I.T. still honors its eugenicist president.

So here is my plea to American higher education. Yes, scrub the names of racists from campus buildings. But don't settle for outing Confederates and relatively obscure guys like Mr. Middleton.  Change the names of buildings that honor prominent eugenicists and religious bigots, including the buildings at Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, and M.I.T.

That's a big job, so you better get started.

Christopher Columbus Langdell: Bigot-in-Chief at Harvard Law School (1870-1895)





Monday, August 8, 2016

University of Wisconsin at Stout removes historic paintings that might make some students "feel bad": We don't need no stinkin' art!

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell

In the latest incident of  higher education silliness, the University of Wisconsin at Stout removed two historical paintings from the common areas of Harvey Hall to more obscure locations.  The paintings seem inoffensive enough. One depicts French fur traders and Native Americans canoeing the Red Cedar River, and the other shows a French palisade fort.

Robert M. Meyer
Chancellor of UW Stout
Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering
But UW Stout's Chancellor, Robert M. Meyer, wanted the paintings moved. "There's a segment of Native American students, that when they look at the art, to them it symbolizes an era of their history where land and possessions were taken away from them, and they feel bad when they look at them," Meyer explained.

What a stupid thing to do! Both paintings were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. Painted by Wisconsin artist Cal Peters,these works form part of our national heritage of public art that was created during the Great Depression. As I child, I recall seeing WPA murals in the post office of my home town in Oklahoma--depictions of Plains Indians painted by a Native American artist. When I grew older, I realized how privileged I was to have a daily opportunity to see great and historic art every time I visited my local post office.

Are our universities really going to remove historic art because it might make a few people feel bad? I felt bad when I viewed Picasso's Guernica in Madrid, and I felt really bad after visiting the Rothko Chapel in Houston, where I gazed upon a a room full of  Mark Rothko's dark canvasses.  But I would never demand that  a particular piece of art be banished from a public place simply because it makes me uncomfortable.

Perhaps Chancellor Meyer's bizarre move can be explained by the fact that he does not have a liberal arts background. Meyer received his bachelor's degree in industrial education and his Ph.D. in industrial engineering. He may know nothing about the WPA art program; in fact, he may know nothing about art.

But Meyer's politically correct perspective on art and history is shared by people who really should know better.  All over the United States, college administrators are changing the names of buildings and removing campus statuary to expunge the record of historical figures whose views are now politically inconvenient.

In fact, our college presidents have become the modern-day incarnation of Winston Smith, the lead character in George Orwell's 1984. Smith worked in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, where he continuously rewrote the historical record of events to fit the ideology of  Big Brother.

But of course, this politically correct scrubbing of historical figures and events is selective. Jefferson Davis'  statue is consigned to obscurity at the University of Texas because he was president of the Confederacy. But Harvard Law School will never change the name of Langdell Library, in spite of the fact that the building was named for Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell, a nineteenth century anti-Catholic bigot who refused to admit any law-school applicant who had received an undergraduate degree from a Catholic college.

Little by little, and day by day, the intellectual atmosphere of American colleges and universities is descending into a culture of paranoia, cowardice and deception reminiscent of Stalinist Russia. Universities are no longer the guardians of our common culture and shared values. Instead, they are merely the shrill enforcers of the shifting prejudices of postmodern nihilism.

And yet our American university presidents still arrogantly believe that they offer educational experiences that are so valuable that young people should borrow thousands of dollars to get a college education.  What a crock!

This painting makes some people feel bad.

References

Rich Kremer. UW-Stout Moves Controversial 80-year-old Murals. Wisconsin Public Radio, August 5, 2016. Accessible at http://www.wpr.org/uw-stout-moves-controversial-80-year-old-murals