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Another School Year — What For

Let me tell you one of the earliest disasters in my career as a teacher. It was January of 1940 and I was fresh out of graduate school starting my first semester at the University of Kansas City. Part of the student body was a beanpole with hair on top who came into my class, sat down, folded his arms, and looked at me as if to say "All right, teach me something." Two weeks later we started Hamlet. Three weeks later he came into my office with his hands on his hips. "Look," he said, "I came here to be a pharmacist. Why do I have to read this stuff" And not having a book of his own to point to, he pointed to mine which was lying on the desk. New as I was to the faculty, I could have told this specimen a number of things. I could have pointed out that he had enrolled, not in a drugstore-mechanics school, but in a college and that at the end of his course meant to reach for a scroll that read Bachelor of Science. It would not read: Qualified Pill-Grinding Technician. It would certify that he had specialized in pharmacy, but it would further certify that he had been exposed to some of the ideas mankind has generated within its history. That is to say, he had not entered a technical training school but a university and in universities students enroll for both training and education.

I could have told him all this, but it was fairly obvious he wasn't going to be around long enough for it to matter.

Nevertheless, I was young and I had a high sense of duty and I tried to put it this way: "For the rest of your life," I said, "your days are going to average out to about twenty-four hours. They will be a little shorter when you are in love, and a little longer when you are out of love, but the average will tend to hold. For eight of these hours, more or less, you will be asleep." "Then for about eight hours of each working day you will, I hope, be usefully employed. Assume you have gone through pharmacy school — or engineering, or law school, or whatever — during those eight hours you will be using your professional skills. You will see to it that the cyanide stays out of the aspirin, that the bull doesn't jump the fence, or that your client doesn't go to the electric chair as a result of your incompetence. These are all useful pursuits. They involve skills every man must respect, and they can all bring you basic satisfactions. Along with everything else, they will probably be what puts food on your table, supports your wife, and rears your children. They will be your income, and may it always suffice."

"But having finished the day's work, what do you do with those other eight hours Let's say you go home to your family. What sort of family are you raising Will the children ever be exposed to a reasonably penetrating idea at home Will you be presiding over a family that maintains some contact with the great democratic intellect Will there be a book in the house Will there be a painting a reasonably sensitive man can look at without shuddering Will the kids ever get to hear Bach"

That is about what I said, but this particular pest was not interested. "Look," he said, "you professors raise your kids your way; I'll take care of my own. Me, I'm out to make money."

"I hope you make a lot of it," I told him, "because you're going to be badly stuck for something to do when you're not signing checks."

Fourteen years later I am still teaching, and I am here to tell you that the business of the college is not only to train you, but to put you in touch with what the best human minds have thought. If you have no time for Shakespeare, for a basic look at philosophy, for the continuity of the fine arts, for that lesson of man's development we call history —then you have no

business being in college. You are on your way to being that new species of mechanized savage, the push-button Neanderthal. Our colleges inevitably graduate a number of such life forms, but it cannot be said that they went to college; rather the college went through them — without making contact.

No one gets to be a human being unaided. There is not time enough in a single lifetime to invent for oneself everything one needs to know in order to be a civilized human.

Assume, for example, that you want to be a physicist. You pass the great stone halls of, say, M. I. T., and there cut into the stone are the names of the scientists. The chances are that few, if any, of you will leave your names to be cut into those stones. Yet any of you who managed to stay awake through part of a high school course in physics, knows more about physics than did many of those great scholars of the past. You know more because they left you what they knew, because you can start from what the past learned for you.

And as this is true of the techniques of mankind, so it is true of mankind's spiritual resources. Most of these resources, both technical and spiritual, are stored in books. Books are man's peculiar accomplishment. When you have read a book, you have added to your human experience. Read Homer and your mind includes a piece of Homer's mind. Through books you can acquire at least fragments of the mind and experience of Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare — the list is endless. For a great book is necessarily a gift; it offers you a life you have not the time to live yourself, and it takes you into a world you have not the time to travel in literal time. A civilized mind is, in essence, one that contains many such lives and many such worlds. If you are too much in a hurry, or too arrogantly proud of your own limitations, to accept as a gift to your humanity some pieces of the minds of Aristotle, or Chaucer, or Einstein, you are neither a developed human nor a useful citizen of a democracy.

I think it was La Rochefoucauld who said that most people would never fall in love if they hadn't read about it. He might have said that no one would ever manage to become human if they hadn't read about it.

I speak, I'm sure, for the faculty of the liberal arts college and for the faculties of the specialized schools as well, when I say that a university has no real existence and no real purpose except as it succeeds in putting you in touch, both as specialists and as humans, with those human minds your human mind needs to include. The faculty, by its very existence, says implicitly: "We have been aided by many people, and by many books, in our attempt to make ourselves some sort of storehouse of human experience. We are here to make available to you, as best we can, that expertise."


Maheegun My Brother

The year I found Maheegun, spring was late in coming. That day, I was spearing fish with my grandfather when I heard the faint crying and found the shivering wolf cub.

As I bent down, he moved weakly toward me. I picked him up and put him inside my jacket. Little Maheegun gained strength after I got the first few drops of warm milk in him. He wiggled and soon he was full and warm.

My grandfather finally agreed to let me keep him.

That year, which was my 14th, was the happiest of my life.

Not that we didn't have our troubles. Maheegun was the most mischievous wolf cub ever. He

was curious too. Like looking into Grandma's sewing basket —which he upset, scattering thread and buttons all over the floor. At such times, she would chase him out with a broom and Maheegun would poke his head around the corner, waiting for things to quiet down.

That summer Maheegun and I became hunting partners. We hunted the grasshoppers that leaped about like little rockets. And in the fall, after the first snow our games took us to the nearest meadows in search of field mice. By then, Maheegun was half grown. Gone was the puppy-wool coat. In its place was a handsome black mantle.

The winter months that came soon after were the happiest I could remember. They belonged only to Maheegun and myself. Often we would make a fire in the bushes. Maheegun would lay his head between his front paws, with his eyes on me as I told him stories.

It all served to fog my mind with pleasure so that I forgot my Grandpa's repeated warnings, and one night left Maheegun unchained. The following morning in sailed Mrs. Yesno, wild with anger, who demanded Maheegun be shot because he had killed her rooster. The next morning, my grandpa announced that we were going to take Maheegun to the north shack.

By the time we reached the lake where the trapper's shack stood, Maheegun seemed to have become restless. Often he would sit with his nose to the sky, turning his head this way and that as if to check the wind.

The warmth of the stove soon brought sleep to me. But something caused me to wake up with a start. I sat up, and in the moon-flooded cabin was my grandfather standing beside me. "Come and see, son," whispered my grandfather.

Outside the moon was full and the world looked all white with snow. He pointed to a rock that stood high at the edge of the lake. On the top was the clear outline of a great wolf sitting still, ears pointed, alert, listening.

"Maheegun," whispered my grandfather.

Slowly the wolf raised his muzzle. "Oooo-oo-wow-wowoo-oooo!"

The whole white world thrilled to that wild cry. Then after a while, from the distance came a softer call in reply. Maheegun stirred, with the deep rumble of pleasure in his throat. He slipped down the rock and headed out across the ice.

"He's gone," I said.

"Yes, he's gone to that young she-wolf." My grandfather slowly filled his pipe. "He will take her for life, hunt for her, protect her. This is the way the Creator planned life. No man can change it."

I tried to tell myself it was all for the best, but it was hard to lose my brother.

For the next two years I was as busy as a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. But once or twice when I heard wolf cries from distant hills, I would still wonder if Maheegun, in his battle for life, found time to remember me.

It was not long after that I found the answer.

Easter came early that year and during the holidays I went to visit my cousins.

My uncle was to bring me home in his truck. But he was detained by some urgent business. So I decided to come back home on my own.

A mile down the road I slipped into my snowshoes and turned into the bush. The strong sunshine had dimmed. I had not gone far before big flakes of snow began drifting down.

The snow thickened fast. I could not locate the tall pine that stood on the north slope of Little Mountain. I circled to my right and stumbled into a snow-filled creek bed. By then the snow

had made a blanket of white darkness, but I knew only too well there should have been no creek there.

I tried to travel west but only to hit the creek again. I knew I had gone in a great circle and I was lost.

There was only one thing to do. Camp for the night and hope that by morning the storm would have blown itself out. I quickly made a bed of boughs and started a fire with the bark of an old dead birch. The first night I was comfortable enough. But when the first gray light came I realized that I was in deep trouble. The storm was even worse. Everything had been smothered by the fierce whiteness.

The light of another day still saw no end to the storm. I began to get confused. I couldn't recall whether it had been storming for three or four days.

Then came the clear dawn. A great white stillness had taken over and with it, biting cold. My supply of wood was almost gone. There must be more.

Slashing off green branches with my knife, I cut my hand and blood spurted freely from my wound. It was some time before the bleeding stopped. I wrapped my hand with a piece of cloth I tore off from my shirt. After some time, my fingers grew cold and numb, so I took the bandage off and threw it away.

How long I squatted over my dying fire I don't know. But then I saw the gray shadow between the trees. It was a timber wolf. He had followed the blood spots on the snow to the blood-soaked bandage.

"Yap... yap... yap... yoooo!" The howl seemed to freeze the world with fear.

It was the food cry. He was calling, "Come, brothers, I have found meat." And I was the meat! Soon his hunting partner came to join him. Any time now, I thought, their teeth would pierce my bones.

Suddenly the world exploded in snarls. I was thrown against the branches of the shelter. But I felt no pain. And a great silence had come. Slowly I worked my way out of the snow and raised my head. There, about 50 feet away, crouched my two attackers with their tails between their legs. Then I heard a noise to my side and turned my head. There stood a giant black wolf. It was Maheegun, and he had driven off the others.

"Maheegun... Maheegun...," I sobbed, as I moved through the snow toward him. "My brother, my brother," I said, giving him my hand. He reached out and licked at the dried blood.

I got my little fire going again, and as I squatted by it, I started to cry. Maybe it was relief or weakness or both — I don't know. Maheegun whimpered too.

Maheegun stayed with me through the long night, watching me with those big eyes. The cold and loss of blood were taking their toll.

The sun was midway across the sky when I noticed how restless Maheegun had become. He would run away a few paces — head up, listening — then run back to me. Then I heard. It was dogs. It was the searching party! I put the last of my birch bark on the fire and fanned it into life.

The sound of the dogs grew louder. Then the voices of men. Suddenly, as if by magic, the police dog team came up out of the creek bed, and a man came running toward my fire. It was my grandfather.

The old hunter stopped suddenly when he saw the wolf. He raised his rifle. "Don't shoot!" I screamed and ran toward him, falling through the snow. "It's Maheegun. Don't shoot!"

He lowered his rifle. Then I fell forward on my face, into the snow.

I woke up in my bedroom. It was quite some time before my eyes came into focus enough to see my grandfather sitting by my bed.

"You have slept three days," he said softly. "The doc says you will be all right in a week or two." "And Maheegun" I asked weakly.

"He should be fine. He is with his own kind."


More Crime and Less Punishment

If you are looking for an explanation of why we don't get tough with criminals, you need only look at the numbers. Each year almost a third of the households in America are victims of violence or theft. This amounts to more than 41 million crimes, many more than we are able to punish. There are also too many criminals. The best estimates suggest that 36 million to 40 million people (16 to 18 percent of the U. S. population) have arrest records for nontraffic offenses. We already have 2. 4 million people under some form of correctional supervision, 412, 000 of them locked away in a prison cell. We don't have room for any more!

The painful fact is that the more crime there is the less we are able to punish it. This is why the certainty and severity of punishment must go down when the crime rate goes up. Countries like Saudi Arabia can afford to give out harsh punishments precisely because they have so little crime. But can we afford to cut off the hands of those who committed more than 35 million property crimes each year Can we send them to prison Can we execute more than 22,000 murderers

We need to think about the relationship between punishment and crime in a new way. A decade of careful research has failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that the threat of punishment reduces crime. We think that punishment deters crime, but it just might be the other way around. It just might be that crime deters punishment: that there is so much crime that it simply cannot be punished.

This is the situation we find ourselves in today. Just as the decline in the number of high-school graduates has made it easier to gain admission to the college of one's choice, the gradual increase in the criminal population has made it more difficult to get into prison. While elite colleges and universities still have high standards of admissions, some of the most "exclusive" prisons now require about five prior serious crimes before an inmate is accepted into their correctional program. Our current crop of prisoners is an elite group, on the whole much more serious offenders than those who were once imprisoned in Alcatraz.

These features show that it makes little sense to blame the police, judges or correctional personnel for being soft on criminals. There is not much else they can do. The police can't find most criminals and those they do find are difficult and costly to convict. Those convicted can't all be sent to prison. The society demands that we do everything we can against crime. The practical reality is that there is very little the police, courts or prisons can do about the crime problem. The criminal justice system must then become as powerless as a parent who has charge of hundreds of teenage children and who is nonetheless expected to answer the TV message: "It's 10 o'clock! Do you know where your children are"

A few statistics from the Justice Department's recent "Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice" illustrate my point. Of every 100 serious crimes committed in America, only 33 are

actually reported to the police. Of the 33 reported, about six lead to arrest. Of the six arrested, only three are prosecuted and convicted. The others are rejected or dismissed due to evidence or witness problems or are sent elsewhere for medical treatment instead of punishment. Of the three convicted, only one is sent to prison. The other two are allowed to live in their community under supervision. Of the select few sent to prison, more than half receive a maximum sentence of five years. The average inmate, however, leaves prison in about two years. Most prisoners gain early release not because parole boards are too easy on crime, but because it is much cheaper to supervise a criminal in the community. And, of course, prison officials must make room for the new prisoners sent almost daily from the courts.

We could, of course, get tough with the people we already have in prison and keep them locked up for longer periods of time. Yet when measured against the lower crime rates this would probably produce, longer prison sentences are not worth the cost to state and local governments. Besides, those states that have tried to gain voters' approval for bonds to build new prisons often discover that the public is unwilling to pay for prison construction.

And if it were willing to pay, long prison sentences may not be effective in reducing crime. In 1981, 124,000 convicts were released from prison. If we had kept them in jail for an additional year, how many crimes would have been prevented While it is not possible to know the true amount of crime committed by people released from prison in any given year, we do know the extent to which those under parole are jailed again for major crime convictions. This number is a surprisingly low 6 percent (after three years it rises to only 11 percent). Even if released prisoners commit an average of two crimes each, this would amount to only 15,000 crimes prevented: a drop in the bucket when measured against the 41 million crimes committed each year.

More time spent in prison is also more expensive. The best estimates are that it costs an average of $13,000 to keep a person in prison for one year. If we had a place to keep the 124,000 released prisoners, it would have cost us $1.6 billion to prevent 15,000 crimes. This works out to more than $100,000 per crime prevented. But there is more. With the average cost of prison construction running around $50,000 per bed, it would cost more than $6 billion to build the necessary cells. The first-year operating cost would be $150,000 per crime prevented, worth it if the victim were you or me, but much too expensive to be feasible as a national policy.

Faced with the reality of the numbers, I will not be so foolish as to suggest a solution to the crime problem. My contribution to the public debate begins and ends with this simple observation: getting tough with criminals is not the answer.


The Nightingale and the Rose

"She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses," cried the young Student, "but in all my garden there is no red rose."

From her nest in the oak tree the Nightingale heard him and she looked out through the leaves and wondered.

"No red rose in all my garden!" he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. "Ah, I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose my life is made wretched."

"Here at last is a true lover," said the Nightingale. "Night after night have I sung of him, and now I see him.

"The Prince gives a ball tomorrow night," murmured the young Student, "and my love will be there. If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn. I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder. But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely and my heart will break."

"Here, indeed, is the true lover," said the Nightingale. Surely love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds and opals.

"The musicians will play upon their stringed instruments," said the young Student, "and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor. But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her," and he flung himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.

"Why is he weeping" asked a green Lizard, as he ran past him with his tail in the air.

"Why, indeed" said a Butterfly, who was fluttering about after a sunbeam.

"Why, indeed" whispered a Daisy to his neighbor, in a soft, low voice.

"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.

"For a red rose" they cried, "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright. But the Nightingale understood the Student's sorrow, and sat silent in the Oak-tree.

Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She passed through the grove like a shadow and like a shadow she sailed across the garden.

In the centre of the grass-plot stood a beautiful Rose-tree, and when she saw it she flew over to it. "Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."

But the Tree shook its head.

"My roses are white," it answered, "as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow upon the mountain. But go to my brother who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you what you want."

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round the old sun-dial.

"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song." But the Tree shook its head.

"My roses are yellow," it answered, "as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms In the meadow. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student's window, and perhaps he will give you what you want."

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing beneath the Student's window. "Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song." But the Tree shook its head.

"My roses are red," it answered, "as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the great fans of coral. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this year."

"One red rose is all that I want," cried the Nightingale, "only one red rose! Is there no way by which I can get it"

"There is a way," answered the Tree, "but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you."

"Tell it to me," said the Nightingale, "I am not afraid."

"If you want a red rose," said the Tree, "you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain

it with your own heart's blood.

You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine."

"Death is a great price to pay for a red rose," cried the Nightingale, "and life is very dear to all. Yet love is better than life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man"

So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She swept over the garden like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed through the grove.

The young Student was still lying on the grass, and the tears were not yet dry in his beautiful eyes. "Be happy," cried the Nightingale, "be happy, you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart's blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover."

The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him. But the Oak-tree understood and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale. "Sing me one last song," he whispered. "I shall feel lonely when you are gone."

So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar. When she had finished her song, the Student got up.

"She has form," he said to himself, as he walked away. "That cannot be denied. But has she got feeling I am afraid not. In fact, like most artists, she is all style without any sincerity." And he went to his room, and lay down on his bed, and after a time, he fell asleep.

And when the Moon shone in the heaven, the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her.

She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. And on the topmost spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvelous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart so the rose's heart remained white.

And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb. And the marvelous rose became crimson. Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as ruby was the heart.

But the Nightingale's voice grew fainter and a film came over her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.

Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and

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