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Oscar Handlin
Oscar Handlin transcript
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University of Houston Libraries, Digital Services;. Oscar Handlin - Oscar Handlin transcript. February 4, 1966. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. July 29, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/jmac/item/36/show/33.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

University of Houston Libraries, Digital Services;. (February 4, 1966). Oscar Handlin - Oscar Handlin transcript. Jagdish Mehra Audio Collection. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/jmac/item/36/show/33

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

University of Houston Libraries, Digital Services;, Oscar Handlin - Oscar Handlin transcript, February 4, 1966, Jagdish Mehra Audio Collection, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed July 29, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/jmac/item/36/show/33.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Oscar Handlin
Publisher University of Houston Libraries
Date February 4, 1966
Description In the humanities lecture series of Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, Professor Handlin discusses alienation in the college. Photograph courtesy of of Brooklyn College Library Archive & Special Collections.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Historians
  • Educators
  • Immigrants
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Handlin, Oscar, 1915-2011
  • Mehra, Jagdish, 1924-2001
  • Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Genre (AAT)
  • speeches
Original Item Location Box 125, C.D. 1.1.5
Original Collection Jagdish Mehra Collection, 1924-2001 http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=142&q=mehra
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page
Item Description
Title Oscar Handlin transcript
Creator (LCNAF)
  • University of Houston Libraries, Digital Services
Publisher University of Houston Libraries, Digital Services
Date February 4, 1966
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Historians
  • Educators
  • Immigrants
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Handlin, Oscar, 1915-2011
  • Mehra, Jagdish, 1924-2001
  • Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Genre (AAT)
  • speeches
Original Item Location Box 125, C.D. 1.1.5
Original Collection Jagdish Mehra Collection, 1924-2001 http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=142&q=mehra
Digital Collection 2011-03-31
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page
File name mehra_201010_005.pdf
Transcript Jagdesh Mehra: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to tonight's lecture which is part of the second annual humanities series of SMTI. [Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, now University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth] The theme of our current series is alienation in modern society. I am Jay Mehra, a member of the Physics Department and of the Humanities Series Committee of SMTI. It gives me enormous pleasure to present tonight's speaker. Dr. Oscar Handlin is Charles Warren professor of American History and director of the Center for the Study of History of Liberty in America at Harvard University. Recently, when I visited Professor Handlin at his office he expressed a genuine interest in the problems connected with alienation. It is also a theme to which in the perspective of history, his own scholarship has been directed. Professor Handlin was born in New York City, was graduated from Brooklyn College, and went on to study history in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, where he..where he received his doctor of Philosophy degree. During his 25 years as a professor at Harvard, Dr. Handlin has become widely known as a teacher. His courses have attracted large numbers of students, and from his seminars, men and women have gone forth to teach history in many colleges throughout the United States. Professor Handlin is the author of some two dozen books, which have commanded attention and praise. He has devoted his attention primarily to the social history of the United States and to the general problems of historical interpretation. His first book, called Boston’s Immigrants examined a neglected part of America's past. Professor Handlin treated a similar subject on a wider scale in a well-known book called The Uprooted which received the Pulitzer Prize of 1951. [actually, according to the Pulitzer website, it was 1952] Professor Handlin was one of the editors of The Harvard Guide to American History and is one of the editors of the library...of The Library of American Bibliography, eighteen volumes of which have already been published. And not content with all this, he has written numerous scholarly articles on educational and historical subjects for such popular journals as The Atlantic Monthly. On occasion his wife, Mary Handlin, has collaborated with him in the prolific products of first rate scholarship which stream forth from his study. Professor Handlin has traveled widely in Europe and Asia. He has lectured frequently on a wide array of subjects, applying historical insight to present day problems. It is to address himself on such a problem that Professor Handlin is here tonight. Those of us who are associated with SMTI and the communities of Southeastern Massachusetts are honored by Professor Handlin's visit. To speak on alienation in the college, I sincerely welcome, and proudly present Oscar Handlin. [applause] Oscar Handlin:Thank you, Dr. Mehra, ladies and gentlemen. What worries me most about this talk is that first word. It's such a big and dense word. Ya know, “alienation." Uh, I tried to think of what the word really means. In some ways, it's easy to understand how somebody becomes an alien, for instance if he moves from one county to another, then he's an alien, you might say, "He's alienated." But that isn't really what the word means as we talk about it now and as the framers of this series have posed the problems with which we're concerned. When they asked me to talk about alienation in the colleges, they didn't really mean what's happening to the foreigners who, or the immigrants who are now in American colleges. They were referring to something quite different as if there’s some way in which people who really live here, who are Americans, become alien, become foreign, become strange and distant and disconnected with the setting in which they live. And this is a more difficult and more subtle kind of process to describe. How can we understand what happens that makes people who stay still, who remain in Southeastern Massachusetts, who don't move, how do they become foreigners, out of place, disconnected, alienated? And that's the character of the problem about which I'd like to speak to you this evening. I'm going to talk mostly about how this process happens in the college. First of all, because that's an especially interesting form in which the process occurred. Secondly, because after all that’s what I was asked to do.[audience laughter] And ah nevertheless, I think what I have to say may have a more general and broader relevance, because the problem isn’t confined to the colleges, it exists in a widner.. wider context also. But before I'm through, perhaps what I've said may indicate why this problem has a special significance for the college and for the kind of people who are bound into the college communities. Now alienation in its scientific sense has occupied the attention of sociologists and psychologists for pretty nearly a century. But most of the time they were dealing with subjects who stood apart in a recognizable and precise way. The most obvious ones were people like immigrants, or marginal people who didn't fit in, who tended to become suicides or juvenile delinquents, or criminals, people who were at war with the society in which they lived. But these classical descriptions don't apply to the college. Most of the students in the college are neither juvenile delinquents nor criminals, nor are they derived from backgrounds which are such as to set them at war with their society or with the institutions. If we find, as I think we do, a wide sense of alienation in the colleges, it's not because this sense of separateness and detachment from the society fits the older models, but because of circumstances that come out of the special situation of higher education in the United States today. And let me begin by reminding you briefly about some of the features of collegiate education in our country that are distinctive and that really have a direct connection with the problems that worry us. This afternoon I had the pleasure of a guided tour through the new building of the Institute, a beautiful and functional structure, which I hope will provide the setting for a lot of unalienated learning in the future. But, this building is symptomatic of a process of mushrooming that is going on all over the United States. The number of students in colleges rises by 10 to 15% each year and there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the number will continue to increase in the next decade as it has in the past two decades. And I myself, suspect that by the time we reach 1975 between 80 and 90% of the people who live in the United States in the age group between 18 and 22 will be students in something that will be called a college. Now this process came suddenly, it came without forethought. It came for reasons that had little to do with education and it has been met by crash programs which have some kind of usefulness but which don't deal directly with the educational problems involved. I'm not going to argue this point, I'm just going to state it. That in the years between 1945 and 1955, when it was clear from the birth rate that these students would ultimately be banging on the doors of the colleges, nobody gave much thought to what would happen when they turned up. And as a result, there was no adequate provision, while the class of 1970 was still young, to accommodate it or to adjust our institutions to its presence. When the fact of life could no longer be evaded, when there were these 17 and 18 years old, 18-year-olds, banging at the doors of the colleges, then Americans responded in the way in which they usually do: They appropriated a lot of money. But the expenditure of this money, which has gone on and which will continue to go on, may create buildings and may provide some of the facilities for education, but it won't ask, answer, the important questions about the place of the college in the society and the place of the student in the college, that have to be answered if there is to be a meaningful connection between the college and the community. Let me spell this out by referring to three of the ways in which the very rapid, and unplanned and unreflective growth of the colleges have affected this phenomenon of alienation. First, as it hits the students themselves, second as it hits the faculty and the kind of place that a college is, and finally as it creates for the society an irritating and apparently necessary kind of institution which isn't quite understood by the society which nevertheless supports it. In each case we'll see that the effects of sudden, unreflective, and unplanned growth are to create a strangeness, a sense of separateness between many of the most sensitive and creative people in the college community and the society in which they live. I say college community because we must remember that down until the explosion of which I've spoken, the college was a very special kind of community in American life. It was small. It catered to a minority of the population, primarily to an upper class minority, and it was designed to preserve, for better or worse, certain kinds of elite values and skills, which were connected with professional life and the preservation of the culture of the uppermost groups in our society. We still see a few vestigial institutions which remain small, which retain that character and which are becoming less and less characteristic of American higher education. Colleges, it has become, as a result of the explosion of the past decades, is large, it's universal, that is it[s] draws its students from across the whole social gamut, and it isn't dedicated to any particular set of values or type of culture, and serves in an eclectic and often non-discrimining..nating way. All sorts of interests and pressures that are brought upon. Now the transition has affected the students who are in the college in a very significant and sometimes disturbing manner. We tend to think of college students as kinds of adolescents, this is part of a whole tradition of ways of understanding the college student which goes back to the nineteenth century and earlier. Goes back to a period when students were adolescents in the college, that is, they came between the ages of say 14 and 19, and were dedicated to the fun and games that were the staple part of the all-American college boy of the period before 1918. What we disregard if we hold on to this image of the sort of Frank Merriwell type college student is the fact that in the 1960s, students in the American college grown up. They are largely, primarily drawn between the ages of 18 and 22. And it's only in our society that people of that age are not considered grown-up. They're not considered grown-up because they are not self-supporting, but in terms of their emotional and physical characteristics, in terms of their.. gen.. the general needs of their age, they are at the level which in other societies would have them married, beginning to raise families, if not well into the process, and self-supporting. Now there are two interesting features about the situations, situation of students at this age group. First is the pressure under which they operate, pressure which emerges from the fact that while in terms of actual age, they are mature and have the characteristics of adults, in terms of their role in the college and the attitude of society toward them, they are treated as dependent. And that creates a kind of running tension, conflict which can be covered over sometime, but which I believe is always there and expresses itself in various ways. The second feature is equally important and that comes if we ask the question, "What are these people?" Now I'm going to call them people, not students. "What are these people doing in college? Why are they in this institution?" Now as I've said, physically, intellectually, emotionally, they ought to be in a position to be conducting their lives independently, having their own household. What is it that brings them within the walls of the college? Now, it's too easy to point to rational motives. If you ask an individual why he's attending college, he can find some reason that seems plausible and is usually connected with a higher income expectancy in his future life. This is not altogether convincing to me. There were times when the road to fame and fortune did not pass through college doors. The great achievers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were not people who spent the most active years of their life sitting in college classrooms, and even today it would be hard to assess the actual cash value of a college education. The social terms I think that the answer is much simpler and much more less rational, much more comprehensible, however. And that is, that in the development of our society, there is a high incentive to keeping as large a part of the young age group out of the labor market as possible. Put it in its simplest terms, these people are mostly in college and will continue to go to college in ever greater numbers as time goes on, because there is no other use for them in our society. They can't find the jobs at the age of 18, not because they are less qualified, but because the way in which our economy has developed demands the withholding of this part of the labor force from the labor market as long as possible. And it is, therefore, not incredible to imagine that one way or another, in the next decade, the social organization in the United States will arrange itself in such a way as to make it unlikely that many people, before the age of 22 will begin to earn their incomes, and socially the most acceptable way of doing so is to funnel them into institutions which are called colleges. Now, this situation, I think, combined with the first, that is the discrepancy between adulthood and dependence, creates a great deal of tension and uncertainty in the student bodies. There is a whole set of beliefs that they are expected to hold about why they are spending these four years of their lives in college. Those beliefs don't actually square with the realities of what they actually do from day to day, and this plants a seed in many of them, of that phenomenon of alienation, of distance at least, between what they are actually doing and what the myths of their society tell them they are doing. And certainly for those of our young people who seek some active kind of expression of that tension, a large part of that motivation comes from the desire to put some kind of reality into the formal act of being students through which they have been living. Now a second feature of the effects of this rapid expansion of the faculties and the universities themselves is equally important because of what it has done to these institutions and because of the effect it has had upon the student body. Now, one way of the describing the nature of the change of the past decade or so is simply in numerical terms. That is, the way in which the number of colleges has grown, the way in which the size of the colleges has grown, the increasing complexity of function that goes on, that is loaded upon the university and even college in our own generation. It's hard to believe that sixty years ago, the president of a university like Harvard was expected to know each student in the University by sight and by name, and usually had each one in his home for tea or something or other in the course of the academic year. This of course, is gone, even at a private institution like Harvard. How much more is it gone in the great state universities, where the numbers have grown even more rapidly, and the impersonality, and distance between various parts of the community have also vanished. I need hardly say that when you have a university with 40,000 students or even with 20,000 students, it's quite a different kind of place. But more significant, I think, than the simple increase in numbers is the diverse kinds of functions while have been pooled together in the colleges of the United States. Now remember t hat, well, not even a century ago, seventy-five years ago, all colleges were pretty much the same, and they were pretty much the same in a very narrow way. They taught the same subjects, the subject they thought… taught were traditional, well defined, the same thing that the faculty itself had been taught, and its medieval roots very clearly exposed. Now, in our time, not only have the colleges grown in size, but they have become what Clark Kerr has called multiversities. Even the little colleges have become in that sense a kinds of holding companies, taking in all sorts of different subjects without any clear definition of what gives each an appropriate place in the curriculum or the subject of research of the college. I was asked earlier this afternoon, how one defended the teaching of history. The same way you defend the teaching of any of the subjects that find their place in the college curriculum. By the combination of sort of political pressure, cultural inertia, and personal blackmail [audience laughter] that give each department its own weight in this complex. Why you should have certain subjects in some institutions and not the other is not the product of any rational plan or thought-out scheme, but of the different combinations inside the university and outside that play upon it, and give it its character. And this is comprehensible, if you had, as you did just a century ago, only 2% of the population of the age group going to college. It made sense to say that this elite group ought to have Greek and Latin, and those good old staple subjects. But when you have, as you do now, more than half the age group, and as you will presently, perhaps 80% of it, to conceive of all these students and the variety of their abilities and of their backgrounds and interests, taking the same subjects, finding some kind of common, unifying element is delusive and in the sense of the college or university would be even less effective than it is now if it hadn't eclectically accommodated itself to the variety of interests and types that pass through their walls. And the possession of a single degree, or the imitation of a common degree-granting process ought not to mislead us about the extent to which the universities and colleges have developed their own characteristics as they have grown and expanded, and have done so in response to the pressure of the kinds of students and the kinds of communities in which they exist. Now this change, I feel, has had a marked impact both on the faculties of these institutions and on the students, and in both cases, it has created a sense of distance between students and faculty and the institution and the society in which it's located. In the case of the faculty, I think the easiest measure is a great and sudden mobility, which college faculties have acquired in the past ten years. The characteristic image of a college professor before the war was of someone who was immobile, and [snort] maybe that I'm the last representative of that ancient breed.[audience laughter] I don't know of anyone else of my age who is lived in the same house since 1940. Yet, in the generation before mine, this was a characteristic thing. Someone began teaching at Ohio State, or California, or Wisconsin, he probably would stay there the rest of his life. For one thing, there wasn't that much difference between condition in one university or another. But for another, there were certain kinds of links between the college community and the faculty member, that had some binding effect on him and tended to keep him where he was. I went to visit the History department of a well-known state university, not a new one, founded in 1858, 80% of the members of which had not been there more than two years, and this, I think is a very radical change. It illustrates the dilution of a connection between the individual member of the faculty and his institution. And part of that dilution comes from the fact that it's more difficult to feel a tie to a holding company than it is to a community. Since all these blocks of learning are not intimately connected with one another, and have no direct or functional relationship to the place. A man can pick himself up one lecture platform in the Middle-West and transfer himself to another one on the Pacific Coast, and you know, really hardly miss the turn of a page, as he continues [audience laughter] to lecture. And this transformation in the character of the community, certainly creates a sense of distance and detachment between the faculty member and his institution. It also affects the students. I'm no great admirer of the sort of old Mr. Chips kind of teacher, the old sort of fellow that t he old grads keep thinking about when they come back from reunions, but his existence was a symptom of some importance. He showed that as a personality he made an impact on someone who sat in front and listened to him. Maybe they didn't remember much geology, or chemistry, or whatever he taught them, but they suffered some kind of influence that established a relationship between him and them that endured through the years, long after they forgot the stuff they had memorized for his examinations. Now I think it's symptomatic that this kind of connection, also, is disappearing. And I don't mean only in the kind…the places in which examinations are graded by machines in which there's a picture that talks to the classroom from the wall, but simply in the nature of the kind of college which has a rapidly circulating faculty that keeps moving all the time, and in which there is very little communication across the whole institution, so that personalities don't get established, that connections don't get formed between students and faculty, and they meet each other , as it were, impersonally in the simple direct business of trading facts and informations in return for grades. Now I think when the young people at Berkley last year were protesting about impersonality, it was some such sense of grievance at what the university had become that worried them. And I think, although the protest took an extreme and exaggerated form, nevertheless, it expressed the kind of distance between the protesters and their community, that we could call alienation, and to which these changes in the college have certainly contributed. And finally just let me say a word about the connection between the college and the society in which it exists and its effects upon that same sense of distance. Now, here we have a wonderful paradox. In one way, society cares more about education than any period in the past. That one way is simple and easily measured, and that’s money. We spend more money on education than ever before, I suppose in a way it's the biggest growth industry in United States in the 19 60s. And that must mean mu..something because it means, well at least in most states of the union that people are willing to be taxed and to contribute directly to the maintenance of these institutions, or else to pay the fees, which are now very sizable, to support the private ones. And yet, this willingness to expend funds is not matched by a clear understanding of what these institutions are for or about. And there's a vague sense that college is a good thing, and research is useful because it gives us television and sends people to the moon, and has all sorts of similar developmental results. But there is also a kind of suspicion and uneasiness about what is going on in these rather uncontrolled and unpredictable institutions that the society nevertheless supports. And this paradox of combination of willingness to maintain, and yet an uneasiness about what’s going on in the colleges, I think, is characteristic of the connection between the community and the institutions of higher education in our society. Now, there's a significant change here in the 1930s, at least as late as the 1930s. I think professor was a sort of figure of fun, if he appeared in the cartoon it was as a comic character, and one of the ways in which the New Deal was attacked, for instance, was to associate it with professors. And the cap and gown were a sign of a kind of harmless eccentricity, was a well-known label in American thinking. Now no one thinks of the professor in that sense any more. And quite a different picture has been developed of him. A professor is respected, he's paid much more than he used to be, and he operates on a style of life and position in the community that shows genuine respect, and yet he isn't quite trusted. He isn't quite trusted and therefore, while he's respected, that respect is mixed with a measure of resentment and certainly of suspicion. So here we have a paradoxical condition in which the society sup..devotes a great deal of effort, considerable amounts of money, to the maintenance and development of institutions run by kinds of people who may or may not be quite trustworthy, and also is entrusting to the care of these people of the upbringing of the whole generation as it moves from the state of adolescence to the state of adulthood. Now I think that this is a very symptomatic and significant set of attitudes. There are, after all, other ways in which the society could have taken care of this inconvenient age group. It could, for instance have put them all in uniform, and called them an army instead of a college. It could have enlisted them as it once did in CCC camps or something of a sort. I could impart various kinds of skills to them in other ways. But it doesn't. It insists that the most useful way, the way which has the greatest utility is to put them together in these institutions under the supervision and subject to the influence of a class of men who are not quite trusted, and who have in common only the presumed possession of certain kinds of learning, which aren't quite understood, either, [audience laughter]uh but nevertheless are supposed to be a good thing. Now I think this is significant. And I think it points to a very meaningful characteristic in the nature of American society, and t therefore to a very meaningful relationship between the college and the society. Our society is viewed by Europeans and usually as viewed by ourselves is commonly conceived of as one which is primarily dedicated to material values, not only success and the earning of money, but the whole set of achievements which were connected with building a continent and developing industry, and being able to turn out more and more material goods year after year. And certainly there is an element of truth to that characterization. And yet our society has also had other kinds of aspirations, about which we've been more hesitant and less certain, and yet which have had a binding, compelling quality, as much so in their own way as the impulses toward material achievement. Lets just for the sake of abbreviation refer to these as spiritual values. I can't make that more precise, because it's part of the characteristic of our society that we don't like to define just what these values are, that all we do is say is that somehow there exists a whole range of other things than the material goods of our lives which are also worth cherishing. And maybe because in our times the pressures toward the achievement in a material sense are so great, maybe because the changes that are transpiring in our world are so imposing. Maybe because out of some lingering and not fully understood attachment to those values. For whatever reason, there is a continuing and growing insistence that there ought to be a place in the society where these values are safeguarded and developed, and transmitted from generation to generation. Now all of this, I know, sounds very confused, and the answer is that it is confused. And that people don't have a precise sense of what these values are. That they don't have answers, they have questions. But somehow in a way they don't fully understand, they connect those values with the learning that they hope is incorporated in the college, and uh... entrust their children to these institutions, dubious as they are, because that is one of the few places in their society where they think these values can be preserved. And here you see, I suppose, the most pervasive kind of alienation of all. That is that which extends through many ranges of the whole society and divorces people from the professed goals and objectives of their society. Last February I was talking to a well-to-do father and mother in Philadelphia who were greatly concerned about whether their young son would be admitted to a neighboring small, very selective college, the character of which you can guess. And these are very conservative people. And partly to uh… well just partly because it was interesting, I started to say, "Look, this boy will go there, he'll become radical, he'll start growing a beard, [audience laughter] he'll go marching. Why are you beating your brains out and trying to use all sorts of influence to get him into a place, in which from your point of view, the whole effort of the institution will be to uh… corrupt him?" [audience laughter] And in a way, it hadn't occurred to them, although they continued to hope that he would go there. [audience laughter] And in a way it was because they felt in this ambiguous and confused way that their son ought not to simply move on to the path that they themselves had taken without having been exposed to these forms of corruption. And I think, there you see, in a simple and specific, but a not unrepresentative case, a an expression of the kinds of alienation between the college and the society to which I've been referring. Well now, you will have gathered from the course of these remarks that not only is alienation a complex thing, but it’s also one that can have beneficial as well as deleterious effects. Sure it can lead to all sorts of eccentricities, and to wild and uncontrolled dissipation of energies, and certainly it is hard upon the people who are alienated. It's much easier at every level to feel the comfortable. sense of routine, belonging, that can sweep one from incident to incident in life without much anxiety. But I would suggest that the trials of alienation, painful, confusing, wasteful, and sometimes damaging as they are, nevertheless have creative potential, for they offer within the context of college for those who chose to do so, the opportunity on the part of students and the faculty for standing apart from the dominant trends of their times, for looking at themselves and the setting in which they operate, with the view other than that which is established by the society and in a sense [cough] because the society not only tolerates but encourages these institutions, creates in them at least the potential for self-examination and self-awareness, that would not exist in any other way. Thank you. [applause] Jagdesh Merha: I am very happy to note that our audience is so completely unalienated. [audience laughter] Professor Handlin has agreed to entertain questions, so if there are some questions, now is the time. Yes, please. Audience member: During the fifties we had a college population that was disinterested in anything else but their own security, and their future ability to make a living. During the sixties we now have a population that seems to be interested in other problems beside their own. And this we have labeled alienation. This, to me, seems to be identification with society, not alienation from society. Oscar Handlin: Well, there are different ways in which people can deal with or protest against or criticize or attack the problems of their society. Even in the …period of relative calm, you'll find wide variations of this sort. Now I'd say that that it is possible to protest against some features of institutions of the society without being alienated from the society and in the past I think this was characteristic of American reform, but I think also that in this generation we are seeing kinds of protest which are not simply continuations of the reform, radical, or progressive movements of the past. And if you look at the character of these protests, I think you'll find that they do represent a kind of that they do represent alienation, they do represent a rejection of the society and a desire to detach oneself from it. This particularly true in the case of the students. And one can find that they are that often there is an effort to, as it were, to create a separate kind of student nationality that would be different from the Americans, not only in dress and ways of behavior but even in style of life and so on. This doesn't always last very long, sometimes it washes off, combs out or gets married, [audience laughter] and that's the end of it. But nevertheless the impulse is there, you see, to to show in some clear way that they are not really identified with the whole society. And part of this may take a very constructive form, it may lead them to go to work in the civil rights movement, or do something like this. But the impulse comes from the desire to demonstrate that somehow they don't belong to the whole society, that they belong to a group of their own. Mehra: Dr. Nicolai Audience member: You've discussed alienation on the part of the [inaudible] in terms of the changing aspects of the university in the last twenty years. Actually is this alienation of the campus different than the alienation of the generation, is that different from the alienation of the high school or in the non-college but of the same age group? Is this a national and generational problem or is it unique to the university? Oscar Handlin: Well, of course, in a way that's almost unfair, since I was just going to talk about the colleges, but I'll throw this in. [audience laugher] I think that it is more general, but it takes different forms in other groups, in say the age group from 14 to 18 it it is different, though the sense of alienation expresses itself in a different way from the way it does in the age group from 18 to 22. I think there are social and economic differences. It expresses itself differently in the well-to-do suburbs from the way it does in the poverty-stricken slums and so on. And the forms of that alienation takes therefore vary from group to group, however the groups are defined. But the fact that it is so characteristic in so many different ways shows that it is related to certain general features in our society. Mehra: yes, please Audience member: Following up Dr. Nicholai's question, do you see the alienation of these various groups as as being symptomatic and that this might possibly lead to some sort pops.. apocalyptic view of the society, let's say, a whole [inaudible] that the whole society would become alienated? Oscar Handlin: Well, I'd rather say that many different kinds of groups feel a sense of alienation, and they grow… go all the way from Paul Goodman to Barry Goldwater, [audience laughter] I mean, Goldwater in a sort of memorable speech in 1964 said, you know "What kind of society have we become?" and it was quite obvious in a very touching way, actually, that there are certain parts of the country and a majority of parts of the country where he felt a foreigner, and just didn't understand what was going on. Well I think you can find numerous pockets of the nation in which people feel this way about some aspect or other of our life. I don't think it adds up to an apocalypse or disaster. It could be a very healthy thing. It depends on what we make of it. And if alienation just leads to disorganization and disorientation and various kinds of delinquency, it will be a disaster, but if it leads to an ability to see ourselves critically and creatively to do something about it, it can be a very healthy thing. Jagdesh Mehra: Any more questions, please? Well thank you very much, Dr. Handlin. I have two announcements. Our Speaker next week will be Dr. Margaret Mead, the well-known anthropologist. Her lecture, alienation in modern society will take place on Friday, February 11th, at 8:30 pm at this auditorium. You are all cordially invited and bring your friends. Second, the activities committee of SMTI has organized some coffee and discussion at the Rendezvous Restaurant following the program here. All interes…all interested people are invited, Thank you. [applause]