Harvard signals repudiation of its history
A seemingly obscure fight among academic elites might not seem worthy of broad public concern, but a move underway at Harvard University should concern everyone. Kathryn Hinderaker reports at The College Fix:
Harvard University will delete the reference to Puritans from its alma mater song, saying the word is not inclusive.
Its Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging is now taking submissions for a new line to replace the one referencing Puritans.
The final verse of "Fair Harvard" currently reads:
Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
As the world on Truth's current glides by;
Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die.
According to the task force, the alma mater as it stands "suggests that the commitment to truth, and to being the bearer of its light, is the special province of those of Puritan stock. This is false."
The task force states it is looking for a more inclusive phrase that will appeal to all members of the community, "regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint."
This is utter nonsense, of course. Puritans founded Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony that hosted it. They dedicated the new university (originally founded to train clergy) to Truth with a capital T and phrased it in Latin on the new university's crest: Veritas.
All who have been welcomed to Harvard in the wake of this magnificent legacy can share in the quest for truth and membership in what was called "the university community" in the almost two decades I spent there as a student and faculty member. Incidentally, I have no Puritan ancestors, and never for a moment did I feel excluded by the Puritan heritage. Neither, when I drove on the Massachusetts Turnpike, did I feel excluded because of the Puritan hat symbol that was its trademark:
I always chuckled at the arrow through the hat, as a kind of acknowledgment of the truth of history. But it was already politically incorrect by the late 1980s and has been replaced with an even more emphatically and exclusively Puritan symbol:
Of course, good enough for the Turnpike Authority is not necessarily good enough for Harvard. And it appears that the change at Harvard is top-down, not a response to demands of students:
The "Purtians" line was not even a point of contention among students prior to the announcement that it will be rewritten, the Crimson reports.
Evidently, Harvard's "Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging" has unlimited powers, if it can reach into minutiae like the historic alma mater song and alter what the decades or centuries have sanctified as a tradition. Could it decide that Truth itself is now a suspicious concept, the product of white, hegemonic male culture, and this demand the rejection of Veritas as the University's motto?
The confused thinking of the Task Force is revealed in this tantalizing snippet:
In addition to changing the lyrics, the task force would also like to see the whole alma mater in new musical variants, such as "choral, spoken word, electronic, hip-hop, etc." Inspired by Hamilton, they say they have the goal of "re-inventing [their] past to meet and speak to the present moment."
Now just a damn minute here! Hip-hop may be trendy, but it fails the tests the Task Force just articulated, that the University's official songs should:
... appeal to all members of the community, "regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint."
Hip-hop is not accessible to me! I find it vulgar, repulsive, and not musical. In fact, good luck finding any lyrics or music at all that nobody could possibly object to.
The point is not that I would suppress a hip-hop rendering of a Harvard song. Far from it! Let a hundred flowers bloom, as Mao urged before the Cultural Revolution pulled the rug out from under those who followed his advice. That means leaving the alma mater song alone and composing whatever cultural expressions the current fashion dictates. And let future generations decide which traditions deserve continuation.
A wave of madness that can be compared only with China's catastrophic Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has gripped American higher education. Everything that does not meet current, rapidly changing standards of political correctness is subject to suppression. We are not at the stage of burning books and leading distinguished professors through the streets in dunce caps, as was done in China's Cultural Revolution madness, but the fever has not yet reached its peak.
Harvard has a great advantage in its history. No other school is the oldest American University. Stanford University has emerged as the most serious competitor for pre-eminence among American and world universities. Its endowment may eventually surpass Harvard's when the tech gazillionaires' wills are executed over the next few decades. But Stanford will never have the history that Harvard possesses. Discarding pieces of that history would be the dumbest move possible. The Harvard Corporation, aka The President and Fellows of Harvard University, is actually the body in charge of the university and happens to be the oldest corporation in the Western Hemisphere. It must step in and quash this nonsense before the book burners reach a full head of steam.