The Changes at Yale

In his first book, God and Man at Yale, WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR., has declared that the net impact of Yale education is collectivist and agnostic. His book was severely criticized by .McGeorge Bundy in the November Atlantic; now Mr. Buckley has the floor. A graduate of the class of 1950’ he was described by his class historian in these words: The most outspoken News chairman in 70 years, [he] neatly undercut tolerance, tomfoolery, and everything to the left of Senator Taft.”


IT IS once and for all clear that to be an associate professor has nothing necessarily to do with the ability to (a) read a book, and to then (b) talk about it as though one had read it. Whatever else his attributes, McGeorge Bundy, Yale 1940, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, member of the faculty, Harvard University, has demonstrated this deficiency in his review of my book, God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions ofAcademic Freedom ” in last month’s Atlantic. Mr. Bundy’s intemperate performance is not important or even interesting save for the fact that he has clearly been singled out by the Administration of Yale to deliver the counterattack—and along lines determined upon several months ago, before anyone officially associated with Yale had seen the manuscript. Mr. Bundy’s review wouldn’t have read loo differently if he had written it at that time.

If our patience holds and we arc willing to cut through the dross of his frantic and unreasoned apologia pro alma matre sua, we arrive at his most serious charges against my book, which have to do with the alleged superficiality of my research, the unobjective use of facts, and the unfair concealment of personal prejudices.

Let us test Mr. Bundy’s own reliability by reviewing a few examples, more or less at random: —

He [I] asserts the ineffectiveness of the saintly man who is Yale’s chaplain.”

My book says: “Mr. Lovett’s personal interest in religion can be, and frequently has been, quietly contagious. Through the years, many students, impressed by his faith and goodness, have sought out religion on their own. And some of these have ended up at divinity schools” (p. 6).

Again: “... no outsider can readily cheek the context in which the statements were made.”

My book gives the publisher-aulhor-page references for every q olation T make, and I can think of no greater accommodation to t he inquiring reader short of presenting him with a miniature library with each copy of God and Man at. Yale.

And again: “. . . he omits . . . quotations, from the same book [the economics text in question], in which the over-all success of the American economic system is bluntly and rigorously asserted.

My book: “ ‘. . . capitalist, or dominantly freeenterprise economics have succeeded very well in the Western World in raising tremendously the volume of production . . . there are both economic and non-economic reasons for preserving a dominantly wide area of free enterprise.’ “ These and other quotations laudatory of the free enterprise system, and extracted from the book in question, are quoted on page 49.

And on and on: “An inspection of the books [the economies texts reviewed] shows that not one of the authors supports a full leveling of incomes.”

I never state or imply that any of the economists in question advocates any such thing. In tact, I know of no Stalinist or Fabian who does. But then (as Mr. Bundy may know), I don’t believe one has to advocate a “full leveling” of income to qualify as a collectivist, which is the label I attach to the economists whose egalitarian leanings are unequivocally evidenced in their textbooks.

“Mr. Buckley has the appalling effrontery to urge that only those who will support his basic position should be allowed to teach subjects that relate to religion and economics at Yale.”

I wrote: “If the alumni wish secular and collectivist influences to prevail at Yale, that is their privilege” (p. 114). I repeat this time and again in ensuing pages.

“. . . he [ I ] . . . never does any Yale defender of [academic freedom] the justice of an accurate statement of his position.”

I quote Charles Seymour, whom I unembarrasseclly consider a “ Yale defender,” at some length, and I devote many passages to his eloquent definition of academic freedom (pp. 173-181).

“He never considers the generally agreed opinion . . . that Yale is more religious than the rest of Protestant America and more religious than it was a generation ago.”

I do. In some detail. See Foreword, page xv, pages 37-38, and pages 220-222.

“He makes no mention of the fact that not one of the ministers or chaplains at Yale, of any faith, agrees with his analysis

Let them speak for themselves. On February 21 of this year, I read the first draft of my chapter on religion to an assembly at which were present every minister (of every faith) associated with Yale, and a half dozen Yale Divinity School students who act as “denominational counselors” to Yale undergraduates.

I asked everyone present to point up errors, exaggerations, injustices, or omissions. Four were mentioned. All of them were corrected to the satisfaction of the critics.

Mr. Bundy arrives, then, at the astounding conclusion that as a Catholic I am by the nature of things incompetent, to understand, analyze, or appraise a religious tradition that is Protestant. (This is one criticism, interestingly, that I have never heard a Catholic raise against Paul Blanshard where the situation is reversed.)

At the same meeting with the religious counselors of Yale, I asked everyone present (only two ministers were non-Protestants) whether as much as a sentence or an innuendo in my analysis was distinguishably Catholic. Every member present openly affirmed that nothing in the section was traceable to Catholic thought, and that I had used no criteria unacceptable to Christians of any denomination— “with the possible exception of Unitarians.” In the circumstances, I did not consider it necessary to digress, as Mr. Bundy would have had me do, into a biographical statement of my own denomination. What is more, the three students to whom I am most indebted for assistance in preparing and checking my chapter on religion were undergraduate majors in the social sciences at Yale and, at the time I consulted with them, students at the Yale Divinity School. None of them had — or has, to my knowledge — drunk a drop of Papist wine. Nor has Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, or the members of the World Council of Churches or the Federal Council of Churches, whose definitions of Christianity, along with Webster’s, I willingly accepted as the basis for evaluating religion at Yale (p. 8).

If nothing else, Mr. Bundy’s review was courageous.1

And so the story goes. Mr. Bundy makes a great deal of the fact that economically I am out of sight. Why, he points out, I even disagree with recommendations of the Committee for Economic Development, and with some policy suggestions of Paul Hoffman, Robert Taft, and Beardsley Ruml! These observations are distinguished not so much for their superficiality as for their pointlessness.

At the outset of my analysis of the state of individualism at Yale, I emphasize that collectivism means some things to some people and other things to others. For example, I believe various policies of the New Deal to be collectivist, and Mr. Bundy does not, which is of no concern to me. (I doubt if Mr. Bundy and I would agree on any definitions. The publishers of his forthcoming book quote him to the effect that the “morality” of Acheson’s foreign policy rests on his having tried to get along with Stalin!) I believe the British Labor Government to be markedly collectivist, while the professor at Yale who teaches the only course on comparative economic systems considers it only “mildly collectivist”; 1 believe Mr. Bundy’s “distinctly capitalist” Lord Ivcynes to have prescribed in his General Theory essentially collectivist remedies for cyclical economic disturbances, and it is a matter of consuming indifference to me whether Paul Hoffman or others share my view — and I so state in at least half a dozen passages in my book.

My concern is with alumni opinion on what is being taught at Yale. Mr. Bundy has never learned very much about, method, else he would have understood the purpose of my book, which is very simply to say to the alumni of Yale, Look: this is what is being taught. I call it collectivism and my classification of it as such is backed by some of the most eminent students of economics who believe that confiscatory taxes, controlled currencies, continual inflation, federal welfarism, and the rest are hallmarks of the collectivist state. Mine is a seasoned definition, but this is important only in that it doesn’t make an aberrant of me. Whatever you wish to call what is being taught at Yale — New Dealism, Welfarism, Socialism, Collectivism, or Bundyism — if you don’t like it, you’ve got a right and a duty to do something about it. You need pay no heed to the mystical hocus-pocus that tells you you’ve got to support schools that inculcate values you oppose. If, on the other hand, you do approve what is being taught, why then I’ve got nothing more to say.

There are numerous other statements in Mr. Bundy’s review that betray his appalling insincerity. But I’ve been allowed 1700 words, and while I am grateful for them, I am also restricted to them. Of vital significance, it seems to me, is that Mr. Bundy took a couple of weeks to review a book about a Yale from which he had graduated six years before I matriculated. It took him a couple of weeks or less to indict a book about the Yale scene (1946-1951) with which he has only passing familiarity, a book which I wrote after lour years of personal experience as an undergraduate interested in the issues discussed, and after another nine months devoted exclusively to a study ol the problem. It is this book which, from his office in Cambridge, he writes of as a “pretended firsthand report.”

The arrogance with which Mr. Uundy sets about to attempt to discredit this sort of research is not unexpected from a man who actually comes out and says that the alumni as a body have no “right or duty or capacity to set the educational policies of the college.” “Fascist has been used carelessly to describe persons and points of view; but it fits with unusual precision Mr. Bundy’s advocacy of irresponsible, irreproachable education by an academic elite.

Mr. Bundy ends by predicting that my “crusade” will come to naught, and he may very well be right. I stated in the foreword to my book that “my greatest anguish is not in contemplation of the antagonism that this essay will evoke from many quarters, but rather from the knowledge that they are winning and we are losing.” My “crusade” will most probably come to naught, and precisely because the United States is peopled with thinkers like Mr. Bundy, and it is too late to re-educate them. The ascendancy of “academic freedom, cherished by theese haughty totalitarians who refuse to permit the American people to supervise their own destiny, is as certain as the inexorable advance of ibis country towards collectivism. And I am un-Christian enough to confess to some solace from the knowledge that Mr. Bundy will probably live, alongside of me and others ol our generation, to suffer its ravages — even from his privileged position of minor Court Hatchet-Man, which will undoubtedly be awarded him in recognition of natural talents and services rendered.

  1. Mr. Bundy does not confine himself to misrepresenting the material in the book: “It is reported Mr. Buckley’ s jat her is sending a copy to every Yale alumnus” (43,000). The best refutation of this (my father purchased 75) would come out of Mr. Bundy’s effort, as an alumnus, to get a free copy. But then, on the other hand, he maybe deluged with free copies, from people who have read his review and simply refuse to believe that he has read the book