Work and Days

Back to the Future?

I am teaching at Hillsdale College for a month in rural Michigan, and feel, in the positive sense, transported back to the 1950s. The students are well-dressed and polite — gone are the lunatic screaming and free-speech antics of the California campus where I taught for 20 years.

Arguments are conducted politely; there is no controversy any more about the value of the therapeutic curriculum of ethnic studies, women’s studies, black studies, or the leisured courses dealing with cartoons, pornography, sit-coms, Star-Trek, etc. There simply are no classes here like that: Politics, History, hard science, Classics, literatures, English, Math, and economics, are felt to encompass about all one needs to know.

Life is slow in Hillsdale; people say hello; the weather (raining for a near week) is awful, and all the while the visitor from California is reminded that the interiors of this country are the sinews of America that keep the entire experiment going. Hillsdale is an atoll, and it will be interesting in the next few decades to see if whether it becomes a museum of an America now lost, or a beacon for lost wayfarers to find their way back home.