BECOMING ROOTLESS BY DEGREES
Lecture in the Sixth Annual Arts Lecture Series, "Roots: Intellectual and Social," University of Waterloo, 8 October 1985. Abridged versions published shortly thereafter in the UW Gazette and an Arts Faculty magazine, Past and Present. Published on the web, August 2003.
He who is a hireling and not a shepherd,
whose own the sheep are not,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.
Dear colleagues and students of the Faculty of Arts, fellow members of the University, fellow citizens:
Let me begin by sharing a reminder I give often to myself, a reminder to disclaim the hubris rampant in our civilization and in our university. The human population has reached now about 4.8 billion. To get a sense of our relative significance, it helps to think of the global population as one year of a person's life. In this one year, all of us esteemed professors in the Faculty of Arts together count for less than two seconds - the duration, more or less, of a hiccup. All the residents of our sizable city of Kitchener-Waterloo amount to not quite 35 minutes: one longish coffee break in a year. The population of all Canada, from Bonavista to Vancouver Island, counts for less than two days: one short winter weekend in a year. The empirically unavoidable conclusion is that you and I don't matter much. As God once said, in the words of George Bernard Shaw: "There's lots more where you came from."
With some justification, we attach more importance to ourselves than our number warrants, on the basis of our greater skill, technology, capital, our greater power. Here at Waterloo epithets like high-tech, world-class, state-of-the-art, and internationally renowned are passed around like amphetamines. The best high of all, ghoulish but no less sweet for that, is the heady conviction that we have now the ability—we meaning the technologically skilled civilization of which we here are part—to destroy all human life in nuclear war. This conviction, reinforced by recurrent headlines about Star Wars, cruise missiles, the anniversary of Hiroshima, and so on, not only terrifies. It also reassures. It persuades us that we do matter after all.
We should unburden ourselves of implausible beliefs. Suppose that the USA and USSR got into a nuclear war and wiped one another out, so that every person in those two enormous countries died. And suppose as could happen that in the conflict Europe was a battlefield and was utterly destroyed: France and Germany reduced to ashes, Britain, too, Italy, and all the rest. Further, imagine that nuclear winter fell upon China, and every one of the billion Chinese people perished. Canada would not escape. Suppose every last one of us was reduced to a shadow. If such a cataclysm were to occur, there would still be as many human beings left alive on this planet as there were in 1950, the year I started school.
The fact is that the human experiment is beyond the human capacity to destroy. We can indeed clear the earth of some portion of humanity. If the timing of our evil genius were right and the bombing went off without a hitch, we might even put an end to that particular little experiment defined by Western civilization. The human quest to become more than humans are would thereby be given a fresh start—and a valuable lesson. Europe, after all, easily survived the loss of half its people from plague in the fourteenth century. The process being realized upon this planet is not going to be stopped by a few million haughty tinkerers with fire in our own time. What we need to ask is not the self-flattering question, "Will humankind prevail?" but the relevant question, "If our way of life should not prevail, just how much poorer would this world be?"
This reminder of our unimportance, this demographic evidence of how little we matter in the larger scheme of things, is the beginning of wisdom on many counts, but it serves two particular purposes in the present context. First, it frees us from subservience to the demands placed on us by institutions, this university for one. By an institution I mean a structure, of concrete and steel but also of rules and procedures, that was created some time past and that now endures as a relatively fixed aspect of the shape of life. The University of Waterloo has become an institution in this sense. It was here before almost any of us came along, a structure of lecture halls and residences but also of positions like English professor and undergraduate, and of rules, like (for faculty) "Publish fast" and (for students) "Score high." We did not create our own places here; we applied for places in a structure already laid out. And in our varying positions we encountered the corresponding demands, duties, expectations, and rewards; in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, by written rules and by the facial expressions of other people, we were given to understand how things are done around here, and what we should do ourselves.
The trouble with institutions—whether university, profession, corporation, or whatever—is that they tend to loom larger than they are. Their expectations assume undue importance in the shortened perspective we all take most of the time. The prospect of failing a course or being turned down for promotion, of losing out on a fellowship or degree, on tenure or a grant, looms as a fate worse than death, inducing excessive depression or hyperactivity, sometimes prompting the humiliating sacrifice of all one holds dear, with consequent loss of self-respect, for the sake of meeting institutional demands, fufilling institutional duties, and reaping institutional rewards. "What else can I do?" one asks, "my career is at stake."
But the point, driven home by clear evidence, is that neither your career nor mine matters much. Nor does the university. Nor does any institution. None is a fixed reality; all are but moments in the process of human becoming. The more often we remind ourselves of this, the more conscious we keep ourselves of this fundamental truth, the more free we become to do what we know we ought to do, to resist silly expectations, to say no to unreasonable demands. This is no counsel for reckless defiance. The institutions at hand are real. They will not be wished away. If there is anything more foolish than surrendering to them, it is trying to leap out of time and deny their worth. But once aware of their inconsequence, and of our own, one can take the gift of freedom and act on it, join the give and take of history, set forth some expectations of one's own while still responding to those coming from outside. In his book, Freedom and Destiny, Rollo May quotes an old proverb: "Despair and confidence both banish fear." He also quotes the young Beethoven, already aware that he was going deaf: "I will seize fate by the throat. It shall not wholly overcome me. Oh, it is so beautiful to live—to live a thousand times."
Besides bolstering our critical faculties, a reminder of our unimportance serves also to introduce the topic of this year's lecture series, namely Roots. For the same perspective that lets us see how puny we and our institutions are reveals to us also the central reality on this planet: humanly instigated change, process, becoming, difference in space and time.
Suppose you went for two weeks last summer to a cottage on a lake. On rising from sleep that first morning, you parted the curtains at the window above your bed and peered out across the wooded lawn stretching down to the waterfront. You gasped at the innocence, the wildness of the scene. A couple of rabbits were hopping about and nibbling in the grass. A couple of people were frolicking there, too, naked as the rabbits, stark, untamed. They picked berries, ate some, threw others at the wind, half played, half fought with one another the way you had seen young calves or kittens do.
You hesitated to go out and intrude your city self upon such rough beauty, but your eyes kept returning to that window as if magnetically. When you looked out the third morning, you saw two rabbits still, but now (could it be?) they had modestly covered themselves with some kind of clothes. What kind? Oh no, a human kind. On the grass beneath sun and flies lay a human being, dead apparently from poison darts the rabbits threw, and they had cut skin from the person's back and fashioned it into little dresses for themselves. You watched in horror as those rabbits cut more skin away and stretched it over pliant spruce branches to make themselves a boat, which they carried down to the lake and happily went riding in. You saw another person cowering in fear of those rabbits over behind a bush. You weren't about to go outside yourself, but neither could you turn away from the window.
By the end of your first week at the cottage the two rabbits you first saw were long dead but they had left 50 kittens (as rabbit offspring are properly called) and grandkittens, and these were writing poetry, cultivating lettuce, milking squirrels, and chiseling pebbles into square little blocks for building houses and monuments. The human component of the scene had become uninteresting. Once or twice you saw a band of rabbits dragging a bloody human corpse back from the woods and skinning it as before, but it was the rabbits that fascinated you.
During your second week, as you gazed still through the cottage window, it was as if the film of some weird science-fiction movie had been speeded up. The rabbits multiplied incessantly, the lawn was re-arranged, reshaped, transformed over and over in unrepeated ways. By the time your holiday was done and you escaped, there were a thousand rabbits inhabiting that lawn, and they were organized into incredibly diverse, often hostile warrens (that's what you call a rabbit society). You had seen some warrens prosper, to the point of conquering others and plundering their achievements, but then decline and be assimilated into other warrens. In some of them rabbits gorged on genetically engineered carrots, in others they starved on bare ground. Some rabbits soared across the lake in jet airplanes, high above others still floating along in boats of human skin. Here were rabbits watching rock videos, there manicuring their paws. In one warren the doe rabbits popped birth-control pills and the bucks gave each other vasectomies. In the shade of some bullrushes you saw a class of rabbits exercising to lose weight.
I very much doubt that you would return from your holiday lecturing on the immutable truths of the bunny world, on the enduring values in a rabbit's life, or on the timeless natural laws that govern how rabbits behave. You would feel obliged to say that there is something in rabbits that lets them transform themselves and almost everything they touch. They are creative. They innovate. They take charge. They're unlike any other animal on this earth. You might paraphrase Shelley thus: "Rabbits' yesterday may n'er be like their morrow; Nought may endure save mutability." Or perhaps Ortega: "Rabbits have no nature, only a history."
Name of the species aside, the rabbit story is altogether true, quantitatively and qualitatively. If the sun could talk, it is the story the sun would tell of humanity's increase and metamorphosis over the past 10 or 12 thousand years. If we had the eyes of the sun, we would know fully that you and I are much less real than our species, that our hard and heavy status quo is just one morning in one corner of a scene in constant change, and that the prime reality is process, not predicament.
We do see partially, and better in recent centuries as we have broadened our knowledge of other places, other times. It is by grace of this vision that we and many others of our kind have applied metaphorically to ourselves the image of growth, decay, and growth again apparent in our natural environment. Perceiving change in ourselves, individually and collectively, perceiving also that on the whole with many exceptions it is good, we describe ourselves as having roots, meaning by this term the temporal succession of events that has resulted in the way we are. In his novel and television miniseries of this name, Alex Hailey identified roots in terms of his biological ancestry in Africa and America. Harry Truman was thinking of previous political events when he wrote that "most of the problems a President has have their roots in the past." The actor Donald Sutherland meant his personal childhood when he said, "All my intensities are defined by my roots, and my roots are entirely Canadian." The word is applied also to intellectual development, as when a philosopher declares that her roots are in phenomenology. In these and other examples, there is the common connotation of change through time, of one human event leading to another, of accounting for what is in terms of what used to be. The usefulness of the metaphor of roots is the recognition it implies that things do change, and that the way to understand the way things are is to study the process by which they came to be.
Now in light of the preeminent reality of change and history, in light of the fact of roots, what is it that adults in any society ought to teach their children, those younger humans who will soon enough inherit responsibility for what happens next. Bear in mind the possibilities ahead, which range from new threshholds of excellence of life to termination of their particular society. Let me phrase the question specifically for our little moment in time and space: what ideas ought we professors here be putting into the heads of our students, the future recipients of this Canadian legacy? The answer is obvious in principle, even if elusive in detail: all we can honestly give them is history. The most we can do is acquaint students with the workings of our status quo, make them aware as best we can of how things got to be this way, present to them the alternatives of other places and times, enlighten them to the reality of change, give them our blessing and turn them loose. Our students arrive well-rooted in the way of life at hand. They've been planted here already for eighteen or nineteen years. Our purpose is to root them further, yes, but mainly to make them aware of the roots they have, thus to enable them to act responsibly and to grow.
Later this evening I will highlight some of the ways this university is indeed informing students of their roots, equipping them for the realities of life, thus achieving the highest educational goal. But first I want to do what the title of this lecture promised, namely point out some ways in which this university and others are failing, expose how we help students lose touch with their roots, so that they in fact become rootless by degrees.
Our generation is not only blessed with unprecedented awareness of change and history. It is also cursed with it. An historical consciousness not only invigorates; it also discombobulates. For if the central reality of life is process, then our own social order, our own way of life is just a fleeting moment. No bedrock then lies beneath our institutions, our laws, our selves, only the earlier institutions, laws and selves that are our roots. Awareness of history pulls the rug from under all consoling absolutes. Everything becomes relative to everything else in space and time. And you and I are revealed to be embarassingly small. To be at the top of some organization, high in income, on the leading edge of some field, on the dean's list, or distinguished in this way or that is a source of greatly diminished pleasure, once current hierarchies are seen in the context of eternal temporariness, unending impermanence, inescapable evanescence.
The list is long of the authors who have addressed the problem of living with such uncertainty. Some of you have read Crane Brinton, Franklin Baumer, or Robert Nisbet. Erich Fromm wrote a good book about how people try to escape from the freedom an historical awareness gives. Peter Berger has explained how people try to avoid facing up to modernity. Let me quote here just one scholar, the German sociologist Norbert Elias, now past 90 if he is still alive. The quote is from his book, The Loneliness of the Dying, which he wrote three years ago: "The only creatures in this universe that can set goals, who can create and give meaning, are human beings themselves. But it is no doubt still unbearable for many people to imagine that the burden of deciding which goals humanity should pursue, which plans and actions have or have not meaning for human beings, falls on themselves. They constantly seek someone to take this burden from them, someone who prescribes rules by which they should live and sets goals that make their lives worth living. What they expect is a pre-ordained meaning coming from outside; what is possible is a meaning created by themselves and ultimately by human beings together, which gives their life its direction."
There is no need to catalogue tonight all the soporific instruments by which the burden of decision is lifted from human shoulders, instruments by which a pre-ordained meaning coming from outside is handed to them. The churches furnish a prime example, as Marx noted long ago, in so far as they pretend that certain institutions and laws are given by God and thus can be assumed, taken for granted as the truth. The present pope's sense of history, for example, stops short of the roots of numerous policies of his church, notably the proscription of contraceptive birth control and of the ordination of women. He portrays these policies as coming straight from the Almighty, and to this extent he blinds his followers to the central, historical realities of life.
But let the churches not detain us. Contemporary universities in some respects compete with them in the business of dulling the historical consciousness of Canadians. Universities obscure roots in two main ways, both of them relevant to us at Waterloo. The one way is classical, having been entrenched in academic life for centuries. The other way is raw and new: Waterloo reflects it better than any university I know.
The classical way universities discourage students from learning their roots is by pretending that the bodies of knowledge developed and taught here are objectively true, transcendent of history, transculturally valid, descriptive of how things really are. Not so long ago, as an undergraduate in a Catholic college, I was handed something called the philosophia perennis, the perennial philosophy. It consisted mostly of some books written by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, I suppose excellent books for their time. But they were presented to us as compendia of timeless insights into the true nature of human existence.
Like thousands of others, I was unconvinced. Today, two decades later, the perennial philosophy has almost dwindled to extinction even in Catholic universities, though at St. Jerome's and elsewhere a few courses in it still are taught. For my part, I went off to study something else in graduate school. There I was handed a kind of sociologia perennis, consisting mainly of books written by Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Emile Durkheim in the nineteenth century and by Talcott Parsons in the twentieth. In the space of three months I leapt six or seven centuries, discovered a wildly contrasting corpus of knowledge, but a corpus endowed with just as much eternal trustworthiness as the one I had left behind.
If my experience in philosophy and sociology were unique, it would be scarcely worth mentioning. Many departments of psychology, however, teach a supposedly perennial behaviorism, promising objective truth through the language of stimulus-response. English majors are often supplied with a literatura perennis, composed of Shakespeare and other classics, who are said to be great by any standard. Aspiring economists are asked to learn so-called scientific laws governing how people everywhere behave as producers, consumers, and middlemen. Students of art and music are offered supposedly lasting criteria by which to distinguish trash from genius. And so in other fields.
Not in all courses nor from all professors do students receive promises of unchanging truth. Each of you here can decide to what extent the shoe of what Veblen called the higher learning fits the University of Waterloo. It fits at least a little. Many of our students, especially upper-year and graduate students, display such confidence and arrogance as are possible only in those who lack consciousness of history. They seem as secure in their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses do in theirs. In conversation I hear empirical evidence from our little society called upon as the sacred rule for assessing the eternal worth of an idea, much as some ayatollah's authority is cited elsewhere. Could our students be acquiring such attitudes from their professors, professors who think they have found the right track and are about to assure themselves immortality through publication of an article or book?
To the extent that we shackle otherwise worthwhile ideas with the chains of objectivity, to the extent that we imagine ourselves to be in touch with eternal verities, the university becomes no less an escape from history than the churches academics often scorn. For once a person thinks that certain theories, findings, methods or underlying principles accord with how things really are, the impulse to search their roots dissappears. Once you're in paradise, it's not really important how you got there. You can afford to forget what you and your society used to be. You have no travel plans. This point applies, moveover, even if—as in contemporary positivist science—you live in an unfinished paradise, one in which further research still needs to be done. Recall any of those diverse rabbit warrens you saw from the cottage window. See the magisterial professors acquainting elite young rabbits with the local and current brand of truth. See the proud kittens absorbing it. You smile, for you can see the other warrens, you remember yesterday, and you know that nothing lasts but mutability.
Relative to other universities, our own shows blessedly little of the classic academic cop-out from history. It is principally in the older arts disciplines, which are here a beleaguered minority, that one still finds vestiges of the ivory tower around which whole universities used to be built. Here at Waterloo the hoary ethic of truth for truth's sake is present but feebly so. The major reason is the composition of the student body. Study of eternal verities is for people of independent means. It is a waste of time, and this, as Veblen pointed out, is precisely its appeal: it proves one's ability to afford such waste and thus one's superiority over working people. That is what universities in great part used to be about, when they were funded mainly by tuition fees and populated mainly by children of the rich.
The dominant character of our own newfangled university reflects both a different niche in scholastic organization and the new shape of the Canadian economy. There are still super-rich Canadians, the people Peter Newman celebrates, but Waterloo was not founded for their children. They can find more polish for their sterling qualities at Queen's, Trent, or other more genteel academies. But neither is Waterloo for the children of small-scale capitalists, the independent farmers, shopkeepers, store-owners and artisans who a century ago were the majority of the Canadian labour-force. This old middle class has all but disappeared, as capital has become steadily more concentrated in ever-larger corporations. Waterloo was designed for children of the new middle class, kids who come from the homes of up-scale employees, but who will not inherit capital enough to go into business on their own. The future of these young men and women lies on the labour market. They can't afford to waste time. Soon enough they will need jobs. Most have grown up accustomed to an above-average share of the commodities by which the good life in our little rabbit warren is defined. They crave spots on payrolls that will maintain such advantage. Others are of poorer parentage and are intent on moving up. Whoever wants to understand Waterloo need only go to the basement of Needles Hall and study the eager, anxious faces of co-op students lined up to try to sell themselves in job interviews. Those faces define what this university is about.
By serving prospective corporate employees, Waterloo serves also the corporations, the new lords of the Canadian economy. To be a matchmaker between them was indeed the founding inspiration of this institution, if we can believe Chris Redmond's recent interview with Gerald Hagey. Hagey was an advertising manager at B.F. Goodrich. He wanted a door-to-door survey done for market research, but couldn't afford to hire the personnel. Chairing at the time the board of Waterloo College, he conceived the idea of using students to do the work, and thus the dream was born. Surely no university has even been founded for reasons so mundane. The corporations don't mind. Not only have they embraced the co-op programmes, but Waterloo has become a prime beneficiary of their largesse. Some universities are endowed by real, very wealthy persons. Ours is endowed by corporate persons in law, who are less real but wealthier.
It is not Waterloo's priority on occupational skills that is to blame for the unconcern here with roots, for the neglect here of an historical consciousness. One enters history, after all, mainly through work. In the nineteenth-century form of Canadian education, job skills were given high priority. Fathers taught them to their sons, mothers to their daughters. But as a matter of course parents also gave their children a sense of how things used to be done, they read to their children from bibles inscribed with the family lineage, they talked of the old country and of how things had changed. They did this because they knew, as many a father told many a son, "Some day this will be yours," and as mothers cautioned their daughters, "One day you must run a household on your own." Unsystematic, sexist and otherwise flawed as it was, such was the effort of elder proprietors to imbue their heirs with an ethic of responsible stewardship.
The effort was misinformed. They might more accurately have said, "One day this will belong to some larger enterprise, and you'll be sending out resumés." Very few of our students will be proprietors. They will be hirelings. This is the new reality, and our university responds to it with unrivalled shamelessness. Our favoured sin is not of commission: filling students' minds with false absolutes. It is a sin of omission: truncating education, limiting it to marketable job skills, reducing university degrees to certificates of employability. Our priority is low on educating youth for autonomy, responsibility, the wise making of history. Technical expertise is what counts, along with such general literacy and analytic ability as corporations will pay for. Let our students find meaning for their lives on their own time and wherever they happen upon it—from within or from without. Their value judgments are their private business. What matters is that they be saleable as employees.
To learn the extent to which a hireling mentality dominates this university one need but page through the calendar and count the programmes defined solely in terms of occupational skill, programmes that barely pay lip service to questions of where we are coming from or going to. Let us not single out engineering or optometry, statistics or computer science. Look at the success stories in the Faculty of Arts over the past decade: not classics or philosophy but accounting, and co-op programmes targeted on jobs. Even in our promising new Applied Studies Co-op, students need not take a single history course, although three courses in accounting are required, and computer science, too.
Last summer I came across the 1937 calendar of the University of Western Ontario, of which Waterloo College was then part. What struck me was how much history was taught then outside the History Department. The list of courses in English was dominated by historical ones: nineteenth-century literature, English literature before Chaucer, and so on. So in philosophy: the history of philosophy. So in economics and political science: economic history, the history of political thought. The current UW calendar lists courses like these still, but they are vastly outnumbered by courses which, though some professors may inject history into them, are defined ahistorically. Not just technical courses outside the Faculty of Arts. Nor only courses in newer fields like psychology, sociology and accounting. But thematic courses in English: The Hero, The Rebel, Isolation and Alienation. Technical courses in economics: the theory of this or that. Topical courses in politics: Citizen Participation in Canada, Mass Political Violence. And the same in philosophy: Philosophy of Games, Philosophy of Women, Love.
Our Arts Faculty gets little publicity, but one way it has won some recently has been the work here of computerizing the Oxford English Dictionary—a worthwhile project undoubtedly. But reading the press reports I have remembered another much publicized dictionary project, finished in 1982 at another university where I was teaching that year. It was the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, compiled at Memorial University in St. John's. Professors there took the native tongue, traced it back 400 years, and for the first time ever gave Newfoundlanders a book that shows where they have come from linguistically and where they are. Do you ever get a sense that Waterloo is a Mr.-Fix-It kind of school, one that takes other people's goals and contrives means of achieving them, one that excels in know-how and goes blank at questions of know-what?
The critique I've just made is hardly new, nor does it apply only to Waterloo. The growing priority of employment skills over humane learning has provoked an outcry, as you know, in universities across Canada and beyond. We should not be surprised. The basic economic process, the steady concentration of capital in large corporations, with consequent pressure on youth to find jobs in them, is occurring throughout the Western World. What is different about Waterloo is just the zeal and skillfulness of our pandering to the prevailing trend. Last summer's article in the Toronto Star began: "While most Ontario universities insist they exist mainly to improve the student's mind, to teach young people to think for themselves and to challenge conventional thought, there's not much of that airy-fairy stuff" at Waterloo—in response to which President Wright was quoted as saying, "not too unfair."
Contemporary debate, however, is often framed by the wrong two alternatives. On the one hand is mere job training. On the other is the cult of useless obscurities, the quest of truth for truth's sake. My purpose tonight is to throw a plague on both these houses and to vote for a third alternative: practical education, but practical for living life dynamically, creatively, critically, wisely, in its entirety. Our students are indeed future employees but they are more. They are heirs to this whole human experiment called Canada. We cannot now predict, much less programme, the jobs they will take, the relationships they will form, the marriages and divorces they will be party to, the kind of children they will raise, the choices they will face, the goals they will think up. Our students will not be gods. They will die and be forgotten just as even sooner their professors will. Isn't this the best reason to try to make them aware of the flux that is life?
In the same interview with Dr. Hagey cited earlier, he was said to have explained the early success of co-op here as follows: "Faculty who were hired came expecting co-op; if they didn't like the idea, they didn't come." In this comment lies much insight into how institutions work. Their founding character acts as a screen that retains likeminded persons, while those with contrary views pass through. Nonetheless, growth was so rapid here that some professors were hired who reflected poorly the original ethos. For reasons of their own, often family or ethnic ties in Kitchener-Waterloo, many of them stayed, got tenure, and moved to implement alternative visions of what a university should be. Moreover, a Catholic college with century-old traditions of its own federated with Waterloo, and soon three more church colleges stood on the campus periphery. It is also the case that professors, being human (and having benefit of sabbaticals), sometimes grow intellectually and come up with ideas that defy institutional expectations. For all these reasons, the University of Waterloo includes at the age of 28 quite a few programmes and professors that depart from the founding character, however dominant this remains.
Lots of people here are labouring mightily, despite contrary pressures within and outside the university, to imbue their work with a sense of history, to grapple with the fact of change, and to give students an appreciation of their rootedness in the past, thus to set students free. The church colleges deserve grateful mention: Conrad Grebel, St. Jerome's, St. Paul's, Renison. One must be wary of educational institutions affiliated with churches, but no warier than of those affiliated with private-profit corporations. Let me urge the students here who have not already done so to venture across the bridge. The far side of Laurel Creek is the closest thing to a Left Bank we have here. You need not worry that they'll try to convert you. A lot of the professors over there wouldn't know quite what to convert you to, except to awareness of history and growth. The Faculty of Environmental Studies deserves appreciative citation here as well. It is a local centre of awareness of change, and it seems to combine with remarkable coherence training for a job and education for life.
In our own Faculty of Arts, between purveyors of pristine impracticalities on the one hand and servants of labour markets on the other, work also many professors who try to rescue students from their rootlessness and put them in touch with the processual realities of life. We have still a Department of History. Ten years ago I sat on the Arts Third Decade Planning Committee. A major issue then was co-op: should we join up or not? The submission from the History Department said yes, but it argued for designing our co-op programmes as preparation not just for employment but for life. It proposed that co-op students should be "working in virtually any job in a distant place, where perhaps a foreign language is necessary, or working at a job in industry or some governmental agency...that would be calculated to give the student insight into the elements of historical development."
The kind of co-op envisioned by the History Department did not, of course, materialize. Instead the History Department shrank. It is also the case that most of the programmes I have cited here approvingly are relatively small, and unable to set high admission standards. These times drive a hard bargain.
But we here are parties to the bargain, too. We are members of the university. Let me conclude by offering three principles, for stimulating discussion and debate about how we can make our university more truly educational.
First, whoever believes in liberal education, education for freedom, has to work toward reversing the ongoing concentration of capital and power in private-profit corporations, as also in the state. Only to the extent that youth are lifted from prostration on tight job markets,and are allowed to plan realistically on lives of autonomy and property ownership, will most of them be willing to study roots, to cultivate wisdom, and to assume the responsibility of inheritors. Without decentralization of the economy, humane education has no future worth mentioning.
The second and related principle is that to live up to the expectations of employers is too limited, too easy a goal for us at Waterloo. We serve history, not just corporations; people, not just hirelings. Our business is rooting youth in human life, not uprooting them for careers in employment. The only worthy goal for us as teachers is to help our students exceed the qualifications of the jobs they will take, become more than the institutions of our time expect them to become.
Third and finally, a university is defined not by optional activities and nontechnical electives, but by the requirements imposed on professors and students in their respective roles. A University as large as ours is now can allow many windows to be dressed in broadly human ways while the actual demands within remain as narrow as the founding ethos. That, of course, will not do.
It remains only to thank Dean Banks for his patronage of this lecture series, Dean Kerton for his introduction, Professor Patterson for the poster, the Arts Lecture Committee for its invitation, you for the critical responses you make to all this, and to repeat the line from Beethoven: "I will seize fate by the throat. It shall not wholly overcome me. Oh, it is so beautiful to live - to live a thousand times."