Friday, May 23, 2008

Blast from the (Harvard) past

From Bruce Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (Yale U.P., 1977), p.407:
He [i.e., A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, 1909-1933] wanted the university to open its doors to minorities in order to assimilate them. What he said of the Irish applied to many other groups: 'What we need is not to dominate...but to absorb.... Their best interests and ours are, indeed, the same in this matter. We want them to become rich, and send their sons to our colleges, to share our prosperity and our sentiments. We do not want to feel that they are among us and yet not really a part of us.' In the early 1920s, when he tried to establish a formal quota for Jews, he did so not because he felt any prejudice against the Jew per se [perish the thought--LFC], but because Harvard could not assimilate the Jews if their number became too large. One of Harvard's goals [according to Lowell] was to produce the 'pure American' Jew [citing H.A. Yeomans, Abbot Lawrence Lowell, 1850-1943, Harvard U. P., 1948]. Harvard had to give 'special consideration' to the Jews just as it did to alumni children: the nation would be strong only if both groups received Harvard socialization. Lowell's real problems came with the blacks. He wanted them to receive Harvard's educational advantages but he believed they were not socially assimilable under any circumstances. His troubled ruminations when he banned blacks from the Freshman Halls measured his limitations and his fear of cultural pluralism [not to mention his racism--LFC] : 'I wish I knew what our Saviour would think it wise to do about the Negro in America,' he confided to his wife. Cambridge could make a Jew indistinguishable from an Anglo-Saxon Protestant; but not even Harvard could make a black man white.

No comments: