CHAPTER IV: Freedom
Then for me came a tremendous burst of freedom. I was teaching at Notre Dame. We might suggest reasons for this feeling of liberation. I was doing something and not merely having things done to me, I was making my own decisions; these one hundred and seventy-two students were mine and I was theirs. We identified at once and I was on their side. Foreign to me was the idea that students were dubious characters wanting to get the drop on teachers; one, now and then, yes; but I assumed that they were honest and intelligent. So far as easily determinable, the glamour of "professor" and the glamour of the words Notre Dame and Rockne did not affect me.
But first I had to be ordained. On a June day in 1927, ten of us met at Notre Dame with a then new Bishop, John F. Noll; he called us to the altar, and officially that was our "vocation." Ordination had been a beacon for years, and now, in spite of great tension on my part, the day came and was gone. At that moment I was at a sort of dead stop, stupified, perhaps waiting for the rules to tell me what to do. Holy Orders did not set a fire under me.
I was always self-conceited and as if self-sufficient, unconsciously thinking about myself. Once in my life, someone up and said so; years earlier at a wedding in a country house where on a winter night we were dancing from room to room, I, the wise one, a teacher and scarecrow, a tall collar on me, my hair long, curly and woolly, put dancers through the "Virginia Reel." Two big girls, real bumpkins, sized me up. Said girl to girl, "Don't he think he's smart!" Every word was accented.
Bad as I am, I don't like adulation and when it is laid on thick I hate it. But that is what a priest gets from most people most of the time. As a priest, I now and then hear other priests' confessions and in forty years have yet to hear any priest say: "People keep flattering me, and maybe I like flattery, God help me!" People consider priests important, to be "big bugs" in the Church and at least in Catholic society. And when a group -- priests, scientists, wealthy men or movie stars -- is rated as superior, its members will be lucky if they don't come to think they are individually superior. In this country, most people stand back and let the priest go first and speak first, even do all the speaking! I have noticed that as soon as a priest is made a superior or bishop, he assumes that he should turn talk into a monologue. It was said of an American Cardinal that he was unbearably dull, but had to do all the talking.
The bishop, priest, the monk is boosted up socially; in his own eyes, he is certainly somebody. Ten to one, he came from a sort of farmer-grocer background and from uneducated people and is only two or three generations from illiteracy. Honor and respect are likely to go to his head. Like some of the people, he does not distinguish the man from the office. He is like the ass carrying the king, even his mobile ears loaded with diamonds; all the people bow down as he sways along: "What a wonderful ass I must be!"
The day we were ordained deacons, one of ours, a bit flighty and simple, thought it would be wonderful for us, new to Roman collars, to show ourselves to the city. As three of us green goslings tramped broiling D.C. streets, a man saluted me, "Howdy, Pap!" That was one of only two days in my life (the other occurred in England) when anyone meant to insult me because of "the cloth." People have asked me if the man was drunk, but I could only say he looked the sort of man who is drunk when he is sober. There, so far as I know, the man still stands in the busy street, looking somewhat disappointed; and there also went three major-order men in ill fitting clothes and a stride a generation out of step.
I had done some patchy graduate work in philosophy at Catholic University while studying theology, and after Ordination I spent an uneventful year of further study. Then I started teaching. It was not the loftiness of my position as teacher in college that made me feel happy. I liked the work and labored day and night; after sixty days and nights, Father Leo L. Ward advised me to let up and go for an occasional walk. I wasn't fussy over my classes, but students responded and the compliment sent me back to books and papers.
There was a non-serious supposition that I was a philosopher and none of us knew that a philosopher occurs only every several centuries. Father Miltner, Dean of Arts and head of philosophy, assigned me classes and left me free. Only once did he say even a word; on one point we disagreed and then proceeded, and in my many years of teaching at Notre Dame I never felt anyone dictating or snooping in regard to doctrine, nor did I try to tell anyone what to teach. My classes were mine, and when after twenty years two laymen were assigned with me to do syllabi, we procrastinated and then produced something that had to be scuttled. Were we too solicitous for the teacher's freedom?
The affable Dean and I were at odds on questions of altruism. He liked "Roman" phrases and had been teaching that what he called amor amicitiae was possible to the nth degree: there could be perfect love for the other, no strings attached. I taught and still think that our love for others, even in giving up our life, always carries a touch of self-love. Students enjoyed the discrepancy. I thought straws pointed toward my qualified conclusion, and Aquinas seemed to be on my side, notably in these words:
The ultimate end of any agent (faciens) insofar as he is an agent is the agent himself . . . And if a man at any time does anything for any other end, this is referred to his own good either as useful or pleasurable or as simply good. (Contra Gentiles, Book III, c. 17)
In Aquinas the question looks closed. The Latin "the agent himself" is stronger than English can make it, a double intensifier is used -- ipsemet -- and is put in the emphatic spot in the sentence. Some of my students still refer to "the ipsemet question." But this sort of question cannot be closed, and I remember how seriously a boy stood against me, a tall, dark, personable young man, intelligent and as if born for great things.
One of my pet themes was that all are called to philosophize, to examine if they can the depth questions such as life's meaning, the phenomenon of change, what it is to be man and the riddle of how essence and existence interrelate in the whole of reality as well as in this or that thing. Jewish and Christian philosophers were the discoverers of this last question as well as of any answer yet reached. Spinoza opens his Ethics with the assumption that in God essence and existence are one and that everybody knows this. The Aquinas case for their being one in God, but not one and identical in any other, was better put by an undergrad (named Pete Royal) than by Aquinas.
I kept looking for factual material; in studying "time," we used passages from Aristotle and St. Augustine, but were pleased to find an article "Psychology of Time," on how at different periods of life or of our day, our freshness or weariness, "time" is different for us. Suppose people do shift gears like that, what does that tell us about time or about ourselves?
I used formulas to express my conviction that philosophy begins, not with books or closed definitions, but with the problems that any man might have.
1. Philosophy begins where we are.
2. The phIlosopher is always a modern man.
The first amounts to "experience asks questions." Philosophy begins with experience as Dewey was always saying and as Jacques Maritain emphasized. That is where it begins in the individual and the race. The negative statement is that it does not begin with books or professors. At last I came to see why, during years of study, both philosophy and theology had been unreal to me and possibly to others. We could not answer questions because if asked at all they were not part of our experience. "What is philosophy? What are its parts? What is the error in Plato's Theory of Ideas? Why is Descartes' starting point unacceptable? How do we know that the intellect can attain truth? Because truth is the object of intellect. Why is skepticism false? What is wrong with Kantianism?" In Catholic seminaries and colleges the `ism questions were common. Dewey was always berating what he called "the questions of the philosophers"; he said he dealt with "questions of men"; like Descartes he thought highly of his own method. But the catechecical method of answers that are no answers to questions that are no questions deserved everyone's wrath. At a Chicago meeting of philosophers, the late Professor R. C. Lodge of Manitoba University said Catholic students knew all the answers but seldom knew the questions, and other students knew the questions but not the answers.
My second simple formula was found in the history of philosophy. Problems were not set by philosophers, but by events. This was so with Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Kant, Bergson and Kierkegaard who saw the problems, as of course many non-philosophers did, but were able to give some replies that hold. The philosopher comes to problems sub specie temporis, but is able to see them and their solutions to some extent sub specie aeternitatis. As early as 1935 I said this in a published work. I had occasion to use the formula in a sub-section of the American Philosophical Association, Western Division. I was honored in being selected by a good Platonist from Illinois University (later at Pennsylvania University) to open discussion of a certain paper. The author of the paper, a conscious replica of Dewey and bound to the immediate, said students would be interested if teachers would be practical; to verify his thesis he noted how one student had said this and another had said that. My point was that the thesis was just, but could be put in terms of major Western philosophers, immersed in the basic problems of their times.
I had joined the American Philosophical Association, a devilish step for a priest to take; no one from Notre Dame and few from other Catholic schools had belonged; in the Midwest Division which embraced Canada and the United States from Pittsburgh to Denver, for ten years following the death in 1938 of that relevant thinker, Father Virgil Michel, I was the only Catholic taking an active part. I had boldly assaulted a room full of Association philosophers at Chicago University. At the door stood another lean and hungry looking fellow, the already famous T. V. Smith, who said gently and unsuspiciously that I might enter. "Why not? Do you want to be a member?" A good deal scared I said, "Yes." He was unimpressed by my qualifications until I said he was looking at the translator of Gilson's Ethics. It took two to induct one. Whom did I know in the group besides the formidable T. V.? "Nobody?" he said. "Oh, you do. Here is D. S. Robinson from Indiana. You know him." I did not, but that day I was made a member and started a long trek to meetings and to many pleasant friendships.
What had led me to that fatal door? I think the twin ideas vaguely felt that Catholics committed to philosophy can learn something and presumably have something to teach. They have no right to be 100% isolationist or to a wallflower presence. It is untrue to say that I had started a movement toward the Association. But in time I was being asked to lead discussion of papers: program committees could not think what other member could discuss "Catholic" papers; I submitted papers and read them at the annual sessions, and one year was on the program committee. Catholic philosophers, several from Notre Dame, began taking part in the Association. All I would say is that, sink or swim, American philosophers of whatever brand from Thomism to analytical Marxism, must learn to give and take. Living philosophy is always in the age of dialogue. My old priest boss at Notre Dame, the "Provincial," was highly pleased that I wanted to attend; he wanted priests to have a professional sense as educators.
As a philosopher bearding T. V. Smith,.I was a babe in the woods. Far more than I guessed, I was a gawky country boy; and a priest told me one day what he and another had said of my stride across the campus. They said that sometimes it was plow-horse and sometimes meditative and like a scholar's; and maybe afterwards I tried to affect the latter. But you can take the farmer off the farm, but you can't take the farm off the farmer.
Asked to teach metaphysics I was running from pillar to post to find materials and problems palatable to ordinary mortals and yet qualifying as "metaphysics." We used Coffey's Ontology, useful though no classic; as supplement, we read Balmez of a century earlier and more like inquiry and research; and I picked up articles from philosophical magazines and passages out of a new book by John F. McCormick, a Jesuit metaphysician, a book given me by a neighbor priest.
The next day he laid a weighty document on my desk: "All the priests are signing this." A battle had been brewing: What was to be the status of priests and that of brothers -- "the brothers," as the language went. Should all be one body or should there be "separation"? Soon the superior, in whose house I lived, caught me; a good psychologist, he wanted to get rid of the problem by having each man make a pro or con declaration: "Which side do you take, for or against?" I am not a party man, and I said, "Neither." He replied, "I'll put you down against," and was taken back when I repeated, "Neither." I disregarded the politiking in the making. For several reasons: I am against politiking above all in priests and monks; my job was with students and classes; I did not want an office for myself or to do either pro or con compaigning. My neighbor returned for his document but was offended that it was unread. In a few minutes he knocked again: "Where is that book I loaned you?" There went my John F. McCormick, Volume One, the price of independence.
From that hour I was outside Holy Cross and University politics, and to this day some are likely to consider me either "anti" or afraid to go near the water. Wise politiking people wanting votes and wanting high places have simply and without thinking left me alone and free. Can the independent and the politiking party man ever understand each other?
Every day I selected three or four students and got them talking; from then on, each was a marked man. I corrected their papers, several hundred a semester, and returned papers the next class day, made comments on particular good or bad passages, read out the best paragraph done on that assignment and said who did it or had the student read it. Taking sides publicly against a student is fatal: students are therefore for him and against the teacher. It should seldom be necessary for a teacher to jack up a student, and if necessary it should be done in good humor, students then falling in with the teacher. The day after the Senior Ball a well liked boy, intelligent, a fair student and a fumbling football player, came into class five minutes before the close. I knew the seventy in the class, but sure of many absences that day, I brought my red book, and said I would call the names of empty seats, and called him out as if he was not there. "Here, I'm here, I had a flat tire downtown." I said, "We all know you have a flat tire downtown. You had her all year." Two or three years later, a fellow shouted at me on the golf course, "Hey! We've got a little flat tire at our house."
It rarely pays to try to get ahead of forty or fifty students. A priest, suspicious and trying to scare boys, said a boy was a criminal type; fortunately the boy and his friends, including me, laughed at him. Once as I was lecturing volubly on the metaphysics of ethics, up went a hand: "How about the ethics of nudism?" A nudist colony was being launched in the area and I was as ready for the question as a ponderous fellow can be. We discussed the relativity of clothes, the problem of the fig leaf, Soloviev's saying in Justification of the Good that man is the only species with a sense of shame, other animals copulating in public; and we considered an incident that occurred in India where a Holy Cross priest at Mass, turning to say "Dominus vobiscum," was answered by a nude boy; the priest told him to go out and put on some clothes, and at the next response the boy had a hat on.
I attended classes with two famous teachers; one, a priest, did too much of the students' work, the other ran around too much in the classroom. What was evident was that each loved his subject and had great respect for students. Either a negative or a condescending approach is bad. A priest used to say, "You youngsters, if you just appreciated poetry and if you just knew some theology and two or three languages." He died wondering wily students would not respond.
Since philosophy is inquiry, it is well to start with some of its bigger and more interesting questions. Undergrads have the good sense not to be concerned about method. Go ahead and use your method and in a week or two any sophomore engineer will be able to see that the method has to be different from that in his science. A senior pre-med student, a long time now a doctor, pointed out that whereas in professional studies boys were told to eat the book, in philosophy the method was to raise questions and examine positions. On the other hand, science students said that my course was like science.
I was teaching only a couple of weeks when an innocent boy said to a priest, "Say, give us the dope on this guy Ward," a somewhat unphilosophical inquiry which meant: How do you get by in his course? I was given good advice by a medical doctor: "Don't think you can make philosophers out of all those boys."
Dozens of them were good students and my good friends. As St. John said, to cite all would fill the world with books. But some incidents may be mentioned. Our classes were covering passages in great books, and a chuffy-looking senior, too full in the middle said: "Why didn't we see these things in our freshman year and there would have been something to fill up the bull sessions." A red-faced Irishman found out by repeating a philosophy course that here was the subject he really liked; he had to repeat because a beloved teacher had told a freshman class that the philosopher is a blindfolded blind man searching in a dark cellar for a black cat that is not there; and yet this student happily came to understand that man the philosopher is, if anything, blinded by too much light. A boy who was a good prize fighter and a lover of poetry was not surprised when he failed my course. "My own fault," he said, "I didn't work." He came back for summer school and in September dittoed his report: "Flunked. My own fault. I didn't work." The poor fellow took quite a beating in World War II. Another honest man -- there were plenty of honest men, poor students -- told me he was sick and tired of hearing three times over the same rigmarole and the same flat jokes. Once he had "cut out" once been bounced out of school.
In my class a little while one year, a boy reappeared the next. To a newcomer asking what sort of prof this was, an unpretentious student's reply was adequate: "Dry as hell." This boy, named McLaughlin, was a fairly good student, a basketeer before the days of the seven-foot pros; he was a "phyedder" at the time when our "phyed" boys were abominable students. Later, our "phyed" work was put on an academic level; when people sympathized with my inheriting "phyed" boys, I said that if I could not teach them some philosophy, I was not a good teacher; in fact I would match one "phyed" group (1947-48) against science and pre-law students.
A football player falling in love simultaneously with metaphysics and a girl, asked if I didn't think he could teach the girl "some of this metaphysics." Here was a chance to get good diffused. After the foray I had to accost him. He replied, "Girls can't learn metaphysics!" Working with the Vice Squad in Detroit, that boy long ago disappeared. A minor football player read Plato's Symposium as his chosen assignment and in oral exam turned to examine me: "How was it Socrates could stay sober when all the rest got drunk?" I made him answer that question.
Compliments turn up though not every day or every year. After Mass in a Montana church, a man came to tell me: "I was in your class nineteen years ago and what I remember best was how fair you were to people you disagreed with." This was a bonus not provided in any syllabus. Looking at the title of a course assigned to me, the President of the University once said: "What are you going to teach in that course?" I confessed, "What I have always taught." His just reply: "That's what I thought." At least in philosophy a professor gets to teaching much the same content, whatever the course's title. What he teaches is largely himself, his theory of life and of how to teach. As we finished a stepped-up course during the war, I overheard a student's remarks: "We didn't learn anything in that course." The answer: "We did. We got a method for meeting problems." Notre Dame had some forty-four hundred Navy students, real life-savers, and I must say that, facing bombs and submarines, they did better in philosophy than would have been predicted. A Lutheran boy said that in Introduction to Modern Philosophy I was unfair to Luther, and I was glad to help him into some other course. Another Protestant said I was very fair in religious matters; this was a mature student who returned for post war studies and who became an Oak Ridge scientist and distinguished citizen. When a student asked what good are celibacy and virginity, I asked where anyone ever got the idea that they are any good. No one hazarded a reply. A Christian Reform boy had a Bible, and a Catholic boy had a New Testament. They brought their copies the next day and I brought the original text along with a King James; the latter made St. Paul squeamish as compared with the original and the Catholic and the Dutch Reform versions. The boy with Holland background promised to bring his girl friend to see me; he has not yet done so, but I'd be happy if someday he would.
A student told his landlady that although I looked sour I was really gentle. Of course, crooks turn up; the law of averages has to be honored; it is best to disregard them and proceed with honest men of which the world is full.
We wrestled with "assumption," tried to read in terms of matters possibly taken. for granted by an author; the things he doesn't say, is unaware of and likely to be decisive for what he does say. T. E. Hulme, a young English philosopher killed in World War I, was our best reference in his work called Speculations. Think of the returns I got: an old student, ten years in a law office, reappeared with his bride and the two said: "Did you see that article by John Doe last month in Harper's -- the things he takes for granted!" As a junior, a short red-faced boy took my course, and going past my door during exams a year later he came in and wrote a page or two just for fun. Think also of a handsome, really sharp Irishman unwilling to work, but meriting 100% on his exam, and his mother saying at Commencement, "I'd like to see the exam Gerry got 100 on!" That was in 1934 and all I ever heard of them again was that Gerry, working wherever a man could get work, was drowned in Lake Erie trying to save a mate.
We were studying together and playing together and hoping to get an introduction to Occidental wisdom and to how young people are to learn to think about inevitable questions. Were we becoming mature and free? When I meet those men and their wives now, people from twenty-five to sixty-five, I feel that they got something out of college and out of philosophy. As a part of their inner resources they generally have a habit of making better judgments on many human things than if they had worked or soldiered or had not gone to college; better judgments on money and work, leisure, art, social changes and revolutions, economics and political parties and movements. If liberal in the 'thirties they are now tight conservatives, and when in later years students raised ructions I said to leave them alone and in ten years they would be pure Goldwater.
I am far from sure that those old "grads" or the products of colleges generally do more freely and competently than others judge crucial issues such as those of race and non-privileged nations. They have gone socialist, but that word is still evil in the U.S.A. These friends of mine do not make better judgments than do noncollege folks on some extremely human things such as pain, suffering, life and death. College and graduate studies do not give us useful introduction to these; libraries and laboratories have a limited usefulness in this regard. When we face tragedy and catastrophe, a professor-and-book knowledge is no match for a lived knowledge. Likewise in regard to judging moral good and evil. The point I am making is embodied in many philosophers in the Orient and in Plato, in Aristotle who says that a man who lives an evil life cannot have the basic principle of morals immediately on tap; it is in Aquinas who says that only those living a chaste life can understand the good of chastity; and in some anthropologists, for example the late Robert Redfield of Chicago University, who said he found himself admiring certain virtues in his beloved Yucatani. The hoi polloi master great lessons through a lived learning. On this point Sartre and Marcel are well justified.
Dewey's "learning by doing" is perfectly valid, and I only complain that he overworked the idea, tending to say that all learning occurs only by getting out of trapped situations. Born in 1859 along with the Origin of Species, he made much of evolution when he caught up with it in the 'eighties and made much of Darwin's theory of biological evolution by the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. He assumed that some animal got into a tight place and could not get out unless it developed a "mind" and what we understand as the human traits; it developed them ad hoc, to get out, it got out and here we are. Perhaps I am oversimplifying. But this teaching has seemed to me to be at least implied in Dewey's How We Think, a new edition of which came to my desk in 1933 and helped to keep me off dead center. Dewey was not the only one to like formulas. I am sure old students from my classes can explain the notion that man's mind is an ad hoc adaptation to environment.
By and large and allowing for a margin of sentiment, I would say "the wonderful students." The way I worked with them and went with them -- well, the teacher who does so will lose now and then, but on balance he will be a winner. Here are some "pointers": 1. Be on the students' side; never in opposition or neutral.
2. Trust students, keep free of suspicion and of any desire to "get" any of them.
3. Recognize that forty students can size up a teacher more quickly than he can size them up.
4. Respect their questions and ideas.
5. Come if possible to know them personally.
6. Be fair toward those you disagree with.
7. Take them as adults.
8. Correct their papers and return them with comment.
9. Be available to students who want to work.
If a bit sentimental, a good teacher has to be realistic, too. It seems to me that it was realistic, right and good and beyond reproach for me to stand with a kind of simple simon whom idlers were teasing; it was right to respect his questions in class -- "That is a good question, Mr. Smith" -- to be his friend against all comers. It seems to me right and realistic that I went to good students' rooms in the evening to discuss problems with them. Did other teachers do this? I did not ask or care. Did anyone frown on my doing this? I did not think about this, either. My business was my business. A student thought I had the ulterior motive of possible reform and conversion. I merely knew that he was a superior student, mature enough to ask good questions; I liked him and still like him and his wife and children. Eventually he wrote to me: "You have got me convinced of all the moral teaching of the Church. Now if you convince me of her dogma, I'll be back In the Church." His "in" or "out" status was news to me.
A teacher has a right to some sentimentality and unrealism in relation to his friends. Because I was not "prefecting," i.e., acting as a sort of house mother in residence halls, I was named to a five-man board of discipline, the court of last resort; if a boy was being bounced, he still might appear before us. The board was fair and objective; we knew the situation before the boy entered; then the chairman said, "You know the charge against you?"
"You know the rule?"
"Do you think of any reason why the rule should not be enforced in this instance?"
The boys were smart, soon knew that Brother Alphonsus, more expert on birds than on boys, and I were the soft spots, and during those three years, they would come beforehand to see how to state their case. They already had the best approach; they were honest. The board scolded a too-tough prefect, saying we would not meet every other day to humor gripers. Father J. Hugh O'Donnell, the top disciplinarian, sent us three innocent boys to scare them; on the contrary, he insulted them, and he too got a stiff note. The boss of Sorin Hall was called "The King"; just once he sent us a man; if the King condemned him, so did we. Another rector, sensitive about his bald pate, was troubled by unruly boys, one of whom was urged by his co-terrorists: "As ring leader, go in and apologize." He did: "Father, I know I have been getting in your hair." The boy survived.
More felt and sensed than reasoned, my aim was to help the boy, be one with him. I expected him to work and be honest. Athletes had to make the grade as others did. I had a good load of athletes my first year, but never again had more than an occasional stray, and him minus his monogram; and although I had a sabbatical from '34 to '36, my evil ways evidently were on record: "Never again" was the reply of The Establishment.
Crookedness was worse in my book than laziness. At the first half-semester exams, eight of my one hundred and seventy-two boys were reported deficient for cheating in exam; only six others were reported in the University. Was I too tough, after all? Afterwards I had few occasions for such reports. Out of several thousand students some will know how to get by, but it is bad business to aid and comfort that type.
Notre Dame had a system of "cuts," so many allowed per student per semester. A certain boy took nineteen and all these were excused by a priest who was easily bought off. Facing my students, I could not in conscience suggest that I agreed. "The exams will be in this room at ten o'clock on Friday and all are eligible to take them except Mr. John Johnson." Then a higher official met me; it was at the foot of the Faculty Stairs. "This boy Johnson," he said, "the cuts were excused, we have to give him an exam and whether he sinks or swims" -- "He has not submitted himself to the course of instruction."
"How's that? Say that again. That sounds like a line out of a book. I'll stick with you on that." I outlined a course for the delinquent who jauntily said he'd return in three weeks to take the exam. I advised three months. He tried various tricks; he would show me how to get out of sand traps; he had a big job waiting for him -- nobody then had -- though on condition, etc., etc. He never returned to take the exam.
But Notre Dame's President, subject to spells, let the boy weep on the President's shoulder, and the boy graduated with becoming honors. Colleagues said: "You see! It did you a lot of good!" My response was that the University was welcome, so long as it did not try to teach my classes, to give degrees to anyone. Priests then told me: This boy had a reputation, had successfully operated rackets, "and it had to be lugubrious Ward that caught up with him!" I don't congratulate myself or the boy.
My vocation was to help boys toward a certain balanced judgment, to see things in perspective, see man and pleasure, aches and pains, youth and age in perspective. In general, they wanted an introduction to the verities and beauty and the values available to them. Those who were crooked were harder to help, and I was abrupt with them.
In spite of ultimatums at various times, the student is happy to be a youth. I wouldn't have appreciated premature adults. One depression year many seniors bypassed the Senior Ball. Two in my class, no shekels jangling in their pockets and no girl friends in sight, managed to participate. One got dressed up as a girl and for a little while was received in that role. During a class lecture I coasted up to their story and then coasted away, it was their day and their fun.
There are several ways to see students' relation to professors and the University. They are our bread and butter; they have a claim in justice on teachers, as an administrator pointed out; they are our guests; they are our friends, and when teachers and prefects took students as enemies I saw the attitude as all wrong. A line in a hymn then much used at Notre Dame and elsewhere says that the Blessed Mother is "Our Life, Our Sweetness and Our Hope." Would students fall into these categories?
June 1934 was the closing of a chapter. I was given a sabbatical to study Aristotle at Oxford and felt the loss of my students. I recall where I said congratulations and good bye to a boy and his sister and the spot where I encountered another and his entourage, a big family, and where I met a boy's mother: she must have found it incredible that this grandson of County Mayo was graduating from college. I never heard from him or the mother again. But I insisted on hearing from some, and lavished a week that summer making up a bibliography of readings in philosophy and sent copies of it to nearly two hundred of my best students, 1928-1934. Did I do this for self-aggrandizement? Perhaps the action took the wind out of the sails of my "ipsemet" thesis. Or was I wanting to run the University? Yes, in a sense. Because during my long tenure at Notre Dame, I wanted to build up students' academic life and teachers' morale and professional life.
As a French liner (sunk in World War II) took off from New York, a boy who had graduated in '32 and had worked that year on a Swede's dairy farm in Minnesota for his board and smokes, stood in a pouring rain to shout "Bon Voyage." That is also my salute to him and his family and to some thousands like them.
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