Paul Greenberg

My staunchly Jeffersonian teacher - James L. Bugg - questioned me closely about the Federalist positions I defended. Nevertheless, he didn't just tolerate but encouraged other opinions. He even took me on as a graduate assistant. I wonder if such a thing would be possible now, in our ideologically driven day.

Now I realize how blessed I was to have encountered such teachers. At the time I took it as a matter of course. Talk about spoiled; I thought all graduate schools were like that.

I found out they weren't when I went on to an Ivy League school. Columbia University in the early 1960s was quite a step from the University of Missouri in the late 1950s. Quite a step down. At Columbia, ideology was already all. Even then education was rapidly giving way to indoctrination. Fail to toe the party line and you'd pay the price.

However devoted my teachers at Missouri were to their own carefully considered and deeply held ideas, their devotion to their students was greater. I still see their faces plain, and hear their voices clearly. And recall their exquisite tact even though half a century has gone by.

I pictured my old teachers again when I came across an article not long ago by a professor named Alan Kors. Its title: "On the Sadness of Higher Education." Why sad? Because the professor was remembering the breadth, the openness, the tolerance of his own professors many years ago, and contrasting it with the social agendas, political ultra-correctness, and general dumbing-down of the academy today.

The kind of professor Alan Kors so fondly remembers from his days at Princeton, and I remember so gratefully from Missouri, is now an endangered if not extinct species on American campuses. Hence the sadness of higher education today.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.