Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Professor's House By Willa Cather

I haven't read this book since I was 16 years old, and ten years later, I find that I get so much more (and so much that is different) from it. Keep in mind this was written in 1925, and was then very "contemporary" literature, and is about Professor Godfrey St. Peter, a professor of history at a small liberal arts college during the 1920s:

"On Monday afternoon St. Peter mounted to his study and lay down on the box-couch, tired out with his day at the university. The first few weeks of the year were very fatiguing for him; there were so many exhausting things besides his lectures and all the new students, long faculty meetings in which almost no one was ever frank, and always the old fight to keep up the standard of scholarship, to prevent the younger professors, who had a sharp eye to their own interests, from farming the whole institution out to athletics, and to the agricultural and commercial schools favoured adn fostered by the State Legislature."

"His friendship with Crane had been a stragne one. Out in the world they would almost certainly have kept clear of each other; but in the university they had fought together in a common cause. both, with all their might, had resisted the new commercialism, the aim to "show results" that was undermining and vulgarizing education. The State Legislature and the board of regents seemed determined to make a trade school of the unversity. Candidates for the degree of Bachelors of ARts were allowed credits for commercial studies; courses in book-keeping, experimental farming, domestic science, dress-making, and what not. Every year the regents tried to diminish the number of credits required in science and the humanities. The liberal appropriations, the promotions and increases in salary, all went to the professors who worked with the regents to abolish the purely cultural studies. OUt of a faculty of sixty, there were perhaps twenty men who made any serious stand for scholarship, and Robert Crane was one of the staunchest. He had lost the Deanship of the College of Science because of his uncompromising opposition to the degrading influence of politicians in university affairs. The honour went, instead, to a much younger man, head of the department of chemistry, who was willing to "give the taxpayers what they wanted."

Prescient, no?


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