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“Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” — The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, v:3

Two hundred and two years after the foundation of this college, Hampden-Sydney is not yet decadent. That is more than we may say of America’s higher learning in general. For the most part, American university and college have become unappetizing lumps. I look to Hampden-Sydney College, and some few other colleges, to leaven these lumps.

As one of the historians of the Southside, I feel much honored to have been chosen a Hampden Fellow here at Hampden-Sydney. My politics considered, I might be still better pleased had I been appointed a Falkland Fellow or a Clarendon Fellow; yet, as Eliot puts It,

These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the Constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.
Whatever we inherit from the
We have taken from the
What they had to leave us—a
A symbol perfected in death.

So making my bow to John Hampden today, I venture to offer you some desultory observations on the state of the higher learning in America, and what may be done about that state. I confront a friendly audience, and I know Hampden-Sydney of old. When I was an eighth-grader, I learned in the pages of Scholastic magazine that Hampden-Sydney had a higher percentage of its graduates listed in Who’s Who than did any other college in the land. During my days as a graduate student at Duke University, I learned from the late Charles Sydnor, a distinguished graduate of this college, a good deal about Hampden-Sydney. Also John Randolph of Roanoke, about whom I wrote my first book, mentions this college from time to time—not always in the most cordial terms. “Your great Hampden-Sydney!” wrote Randolph, in his sardonic way, to one friend. Earlier, in 1806, when his young kinsman and ward Theodore Dudley was living at Bizarre plantation, Randolph wrote to him from Georgetown, informing Dudley that “I have determined to settle you at Winchester, unless (of which I have no expectation) I shall find Hampden-Sydney very greatly altered for the better.”

Besides, Randolph offered Dudley some advice, which may or may not remain relevant to the concerns of the young gentlemen present here this morning. “Above all things,” John Randolph instructed Dudley, “abstain from going, on any occasion, to Farmville, when you can possibly avoid it. You can meet no company there, from whom you can derive improvement of any sort; but much of an opposite description.”

Whether or not Farmville remains a sink of iniquity, I trust that Hampden-Sydney College now is altering for the better. This College, like all others, has its periods of decay and its periods of renewal. When John Leighton Stuart, long later the American ambassador to China, entered this College in 1893, he found it “in a period of decline,” the enrollment falling; there were then, less than a hundred and fifty young men enrolled here; the teaching of literature was “insufferably dull”; Leighton was happy to be graduated, and refused a fellowship which would have brought him the master’s degree.

Yes, I trust that Hampden-Sydney alters for the better nowadays. This College suffered far less than most from the educational follies of the past quarter of a century, and I am told that you move, if perhaps slowly, toward restoration of a sound traditional curriculum, with emphasis upon the classics, more required courses, and much for mind and conscience. Permit me to felicitate this College upon never having established a department of sociology. Hampden-Sydney College, I know, will do much to form the future behavior of its graduates—but not through the dull jargon of today’s “behavioral sciences.” A college is to be praised as much for what it does not do as for what it does.

I judge that Hampden-Sydney, in this year of Our Lord 1978, is not decadent. It remains, whatever its shortcomings, a men’s college with standards and traditions, an institution of humane learning, still on a humane scale. As a doctor of the oldest of the Scottish universities, St. Andrews, I believe the moral and educational principles of Hampden-Sydney’s founders to have been sound and true. St. Andrews was very old when John Hampden and Algernon Sydney were born; it is far older, indeed, than Presbyterianism; by the side of St. Andrews, this College, though the tenth oldest in these United States, is a mere baby of Academe. Yet a moral and educational continuity extends from St. Andrews to Hampden-Sydney: the Scottish university and the Southside college both stand for what Eliot called “the permanent things.” And so I call upon Hampden-Sydney to assist boldly in our present task of leavening the lump of the higher learning in America. We must arrest decadence and undertake renewal.

I choose my words here after due deliberation. What does this word “decadence” mean? My favorite definition is that by C.E.M. Joad, in his book Decadence: a Philosophical Inquiry, published in 1948. Decadence occurs, as Joad tells us, when people have “dropped the object”—that is, when they have abandoned the pursuit of real objects, aims, or ends—and have settled instead for the gratifications of mere “experience.” In society, the characteristics of decadence are luxury, skepticism, weariness, superstition; also, in Joad’s words, “a preoccupation with the self and its experiences, promoted by and promoting the subjectivist analysis of moral, aesthetic, metaphysical, and theological judgments.” By this definition, the higher learning in America is decadent, having lost object or end.

Well, from what has the American higher learning fallen away? What object did we drop? Strange though it may seem, time was when certain ends, classical and Christian, were acknowledged generally in American college and university. From the first, such colleges as Hampden-Sydney prepared young men for certain professions; yet this training for a vocation was not itself the end of the higher learning.

Rather, those ends or objects had been Plato’s in the first Academy. According to Plato, the ends of education are wisdom and virtue.

It is true that no one institution ever perfectly attained these ends, and that there has been much shoddiness on various campuses for a great while. Still, the existence of ends was recognized generally, once upon a time, and that recognition lingers certainly at Hampden-Sydney. You have not forgotten altogether that this College was founded to impart some measure of wisdom and virtue.

Thus the higher learning in this land was commenced as an intellectual means to ethical objects. The disciplines of college and university were intended to develop a philosophical habit of mind, in John Henry Newman’s phrase, “of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom.”

It was the expectation of Patrick Henry, James Madison, and the other founders of Hampden-Sydney that this college would work upon both mind and character. From Hampden-Sydney, they believed, would be graduated a number of Christian gentlemen, on the Virginian and the British model, who would become leaders in many walks of life, in this commonwealth and this nation. Without such a class of persons among the rising generation, the founders of Hampden-Sydney knew, the new republic could not long endure. The need for such a class of young men has not diminished today.

With this high aspiration, the founders of Hampden-Sydney and the other early American colleges mingled a large element of professional training, for the ministry, medicine, the bar, teaching, and sometimes other vocations. But it was assumed that the ethical and intellectual disciplines must inform such professions, and that mastery of arts and sciences was not inconsonant with mastery of an occupation. The founders of those early colleges took it for granted that wisdom is objective, and that virtue is objective, and that the mission of the higher learning is to pursue these objects, whether through humane studies or through the learned professions.

It is otherwise today. I am not implying that we Americans began to neglect these ends merely in very recent years. Of course the process of falling away commenced before anyone here was born: my point is that we have suffered the practical consequences of dropping the object, quite recently. The old pattern was beginning to fall apart at Harvard seven decades ago, when Irving Babbitt published his first book, Literature and the American College. Babbitt’s defense of academic leisure, in the final chapter of that slim book, suggests the understanding of learning’s ends as they were perceived before the First World War—and as they still are perceived by some of us here.

“Some of the duties that Plato assigns to his ideal ruler would seem to belong in our day to the higher institutions of learning,” Babbitt wrote in 1908. “Our colleges and universities could render no greater service than to oppose to the worship of energy and the frantic eagerness for action an atmosphere of leisure and reflection. . . . We should make large allowance in our lives for ‘the eventual element of calm,’ if they are not to degenerate into the furious and feverish pursuit of mechanical efficiency. . . . The tendency of an industrial democracy that took joy in work alone would be to live in a perpetual devil’s Sabbath of whirling machinery and call it progress. . . . The present situation especially is not one that will be saved—if it is to be saved at all—by what we have called humanitarian hustling. . . . If we ourselves ventured on an exhortation to the American people, it would be rather that of Demosthenes to the Athenians: ‘In God’s name, I beg of you to think.’ Of action we shall have plenty in any case; but it is only by a more humane reflection that we can escape the penalties sure to be exacted from any country that tries to dispense in its national life with the principle of leisure.”

By “leisure,” Babbitt meant opportunity for serious contemplation and discussion. On the campuses of 1978 there is opportunity aplenty for hustling or for idleness, but the claims of true academic leisure seem forgotten. Much more has been forgotten, too, especially the notion of the philosophical habit of mind.

At the end of the Second World War, university and college fell into ways from which they have not recovered. They were flooded with military veterans encouraged, regardless of talents, to make themselves bachelors of arts or something better. By 1953, for the first time in the country’s history, the number of students enrolled in state universities and colleges came to exceed the number enrolled in independent institutions. That was in the green tree; now we are in the dry.

Nowadays, a quarter of a century later, with campus enrollments generally static or declining, disillusion with the learning allegedly higher has become widespread—among students, among professors, among the general public. What went amiss? I am about to suggest to you, tentatively, certain principal afflictions of America’s higher education during the past quarter of a century. I perceive four ills that have loomed especially large.

First, purposelessness: loss of the objects of wisdom and virtue, the old ends of formal education. The place of these was usurped by confused conflicting claims and hopes: college as mere socialization and sociability (“an introduction to middle-class conviviality and middlebrow culture,” Christopher Jencks puts it); college as a boring means to job-certification; college as temporary sanctuary for the aimless and the neurotic; college as a huge repository of “facts” and specialized undertakings; college, presently, as refuge from military conscription; college as an alleged instrument for elevating the “culturally deprived” or “minorities”; college and university simply as an industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people at good salaries, supplying “research” services to the state or to private industry, furnishing public entertainment through quasi-professional sports and other diversions.

Second, intellectual disorder: all integration and order of knowledge in flux; the cafeteria-style curriculum, presently becoming the “open” curriculum; “discipline” reduced to a devil-term; the swelling empire of Educationism, formerly called pedagogy, with its frequent contempt for “subject matter”; the popularity of soft and often shallow “social science” degrees; the repudiation, by a growing number of professors and students, of the traditions of civility and of all concepts not born yesterday; the compartmentalizing of knowledge, leading at best to the development of elites unable to communicate one with another; the retreat of able or clever professors into “research,” as distinguished from teaching; the substitution of ideological infatuation for the old philosophical habit of mind, particularly in the Sixties; and Joad’s “preoccupation with the self and its experiences,” by contrast with the old concern for order in the soul and order in the commonwealth.

Third, gigantism in scale: the Lonely Crowd on the campus of Behemoth University. “It is not good to be educated in a crowd,” wrote Lord Percy of Newcastle, about 1953—and he was thinking of English schools with a few hundred pupils. A crowd readily bored becomes a mob. Culturally rootless, anonymous, bewildered, bored, badly prepared for higher studies, other-directed, prey to fad and foible, presently duped by almost any unscrupulous or self-deceived ideologue, a great many of the students at Behemoth University came to feel defrauded and lost; only the more stupid did not suspect that anything was wrong with their condition. “We don’t want to be IBM numbers!” was the cry of the first wave of rioters at the University of California, the “multiversity.” Impersonal dormitories like slum tenements, blaring with television sets and hi-fis, became teen-age ghettos, the worst possible places for Babbitt’s “atmosphere of leisure and reflection.”

Fourth, the enfeeblement of primary and secondary schooling, so that the typical freshman came to enter college wretchedly prepared for the abstractions with which college and university necessarily are concerned. The level of even functional literacy has been declining from a variety of causes, among them the triumph (now being undone, slowly) of “look-say” methods of reading-instruction over phonetic teaching, the supplanting of books and periodicals by the boob-tube of television, and the proclivity of federal judges for converting schools into long-distance sociological experiments. An affluent society, luxurious, skeptical, weary, and superstitious, preoccupied with the self, victim of subjectivist analysis, no longer expected very much from public instruction except sociability and night basketball games.

With this drift coincided the ascendancy of the Instrumentalist theories of John Dewey and his colleagues in Educationalism, concerned chiefly with adjustment for some future egalitarian society, contemptuous both of oldfangled right reason and of prescriptive ways. The average teacher of the public-school apparatus had been badly taught himself, in high school and in teachers’ college, and his pupils were automatically promoted and graduated. Despite the brummagem product of the schools of the ‘Fifties, for the past quarter of a century most colleges and even universities have been ready enough to accept high-school graduates with a “C” average—and few questions asked; while America’s general prosperity has made it possible for a far larger proportion of young men and women, or their parents, to bear the increasing costs of spending some years on a campus—a phenomenon of mass enrollment in higher education never encountered anywhere before. Lest anyone be passed over for lack of money, presently governmental grants and loans were offered lavishly to practically any young person whose parents could meet, or evade, a means test. In its infinite wisdom, the Senate of these United States just now proposes to extend such largesse to the children of middle-class affluence.

Thus, in the prophetic rhetoric of Edmund Burke (so much reproached by Tom Paine for this), learning came to be trampled under the hooves of the swinish multitude. It is not possible to make scholars of teen-agers who have no proper foundation of school learning and who, often enough, feel understandably an aversion to classrooms, after thirteen years of compulsory attendance; it is difficult enough for a college to make of them even potentially useful employees.

Hampden-Sydney, I repeat, has suffered far less than most colleges from some of these afflictions; therefore I hope for some leavening of the lump by this College’s graduates.

These lamentations of mine have been only some stanzas of the Iliad of our educational woes. The phenomena just now described have been consequences of deep-seated misunderstandings of what the higher learning is all about. Permit me to describe, then, two large fallacies in theory, which have led us astray in our time.

Fallacy I is the notion that the principal function of college and university—if not the only really justifiable function—is to promote utilitarian efficiency. The institutions of higher learning, according to this doctrine, are to be so many intellectual factories, delivering to society tolerably-trained young persons who will help to turn the great wheel of circulation, producing goods and services. For what is man but a producing and consuming animal? Modern society has a formidable burden of “welfare” cases: very well, let the college produce more masters and doctors of “social work.” Modern states require nuclear weapons of terrible power: very well, let college and university produce more specialized technicians and “research scientists.” Why this archaic muttering about “wisdom” and “virtue “—mere words? Who needs moral imagination? We won’t buy that. Thus college and university grow more scientistic, rather than more scientific.

John Henry Newman encountered this mentality in the university before the middle of the nineteenth century. “The various busy world, spread out before our eyes, is physical, but it is more than physical,” Newman said in reply to a pedant who would have expunged the spiritual and the humane from the higher learning; “and, in making its actual system identical with his scientific analysis, such a Professor as I have imagined was betraying a want of philosophical depth, and an ignorance of what a University Teaching ought to be. He was no longer a teacher of liberal knowledge, but a narrow-minded Bigot.” Amen to that; yet the Benthamite concept of the university has borne down most opposition.

To the masters of the modern nation-state, this utilitarian notion of the higher learning is particularly attractive: the university and the college exist “to serve society” or “to serve the people”—that is, to labor as bondservants to the political apparatus, whether in Soviet Russia or in these United States. Dante’s exaltation of the university as a third authority in the world, equal to imperial power and to papacy, is forgotten except so far as it is utilized by ideologues who mean to use the university as an instrument for preparing their own path to political dominion.

Also this utilitarian notion seems congenial to the greater part of the modern public: for it promises practical success, good salaries and preferment for offspring, social mobility, the allurements of the snob-degree and the country club. Only when these promises go unfulfilled do the majority of citizens question the utilitarian hypothesis. The “service university” steadily has grown more servile.

Fallacy II is the notion that everybody, or practically everybody, ought to attend college. This misconception grows up from what Henry Adams and Brooks Adams called “the degradation of the democratic dogmas”—the extension of political forms to the realm of spirit and intellect. If higher education is a good thing, like lobster or air-conditioning, for some folk, then why isn’t it a good thing for all folk? Why isn’t the higher learning a natural right? Why isn’t it free to all? There even have been recommendations by educationists that the higher learning, or at least two years thereof (sometimes styled “the thirteenth and fourteenth grades”) should be made compulsory.

This fallacy is bound up with what Ernest van den Haag calls “America’s Pelagian heresy.” In the fifth century, Pelagius argued that all mankind would be saved eventually, through natural goodness, without the operation of divine grace. The modern American, Professor van den Haag suggests, believes that all his countrymen will be redeemed soon, through formal schooling, without the operation of thought.

This illusion has propelled into college masses of young people who have little notion of why they are present. To cope with these crowds of bored and unqualified “students,” colleges must stoop low indeed: they must make large concessions to the “counter-culture,” many or most of their charges manifesting small interest in real culture. Sham courses and sham curricula are introduced, as busy-work—not very demanding busy-work—to suit the meager aptitudes of the pseudo-students who will not study anything that challenges their intellects; for, as Aristotle wrote, true learning always is painful.

Standards for admission and for graduation are lowered extravagantly, so that no one who bothers to enter a classroom occasionally will be excluded from the benefits of this learning allegedly higher; “grade inflation” plagues even reputable old colleges, for isn’t one student as good as another, or maybe a little better? The true student and the true professor are submerged in this academic barbarism, but the only escape for most of them would be to abjure the Academy altogether. Then what would they do with their lives, and how subsist? For both the political bureaucracy and the bureaucracy of business and industry demand a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s, or a doctor’s, as prerequisite for the more satisfactory forms of regular employment.

Thus nearly half of the mass of American high-school graduates proceed to a year or more of “higher” education; nearly a quarter of the rising generation obtain, eventually, some sort of college diploma. A great many are schooled; very few are educated. And who recalls Alexander Pope’s admonition that a little learning is a dangerous thing?

Fallacy I and Fallacy II, allied and intertwined, arise naturally, if banefully, from the soil of twentieth-century industrial democracy. The true higher learning is a garden plant, requiring nurture and protection. But if the Garden is not cultivated, soon we find ourselves in the parched Waste Land. May the Garden of intellect and imagination be refreshed, or the lump leavened?

At this point in my harangue, had I a different audience, some auditor might cry out indignantly, “An Elitist!” Living as we do in an age of ideology, nearly all of us are tempted to believe that if we have clapped a quasi-political label to an expression of opinion, we have blessed or damned it; we need not examine that expression on its own merits. In educationist circles, “elitism” is a devil-term, for isn’t everybody just like everybody else, except for undeserved privilege? Aye, the degradation of the democratic dogma thus is fixed upon the mind.

But actually, I am an anti-elitist. I share wholeheartedly my old friend T. S. Eliot’s objection to Karl Mannheim’s theory of modern elites. I object especially to schemes for the governance of society by formally-trained specialized technological elites. One of my principal criticisms of current tendencies in the higher learning is that, despite much cant about democratic colleges, really our educational apparatus has been raising up not a class of liberally educated young men of humane outlook, but rather a series of degree-dignified elites, an alleged “meritocracy” of confined views and dubious intellectual and moral credentials, afflicted by presumption, puffed up by that little learning which is a dangerous thing. We see such elites at their worst in “emergent” Africa and Asia, from Mozambique to Cambodia, where the ignorant are oppressed by the quarter-schooled; increasingly, if less ferociously, comparable elites govern us even in America—through the political structures, through the media of communication, through the public-school empire, through the very churches.

Such folk were in George Orwell’s mind when he described the ruling elite of 1984: “made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians. These people, whose origins lay in the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class, had been shaped and brought together by the barren world of monopoly industry and centralized government.”

It is not at all my desire that university and college should train up such elites. What I am recommending is a mode of higher education, which can leaven the lump of modern civilization—which might give us a tolerable number of people in many walks of life who possess some share of right reason and moral imagination; who may not know the price of everything, but may know the value of something; who have been schooled in wisdom and virtue.

I am suggesting that college ought not to be a degree-mill: that it ought to be a center for genuinely humane and genuinely scientific studies, attended by young men of healthy intellectual curiosity who actually possess some interest in the development of mind and conscience. I am saying that the higher learning is meant to develop order in the commonwealth, for the republic’s sake. I am arguing that a system of higher education, which has forgotten these ends, is decadent; but that decay may be arrested, and that reform and renewal still are conceivable.

The more men we have who are liberally educated and scientifically minded, the better. But the more people we have who are half-educated or quarter-educated, the worse for them and for the republic. Really educated men, rather than forming presumptuous elites, will permeate society, leavening the lump through their professions, their teaching, their preaching, their participation in commerce and industry, their public offices at every level of the commonwealth. And being educated, they will know that they do not know everything; and that there exist objects in life besides power and money and sensual gratification; they will take long views; they will look backward to ancestors and forward to posterity. For them, education will not terminate on commencement day.

We have a hard row to hoe. Not long ago I spoke at a reputable liberal-arts college on the subject of the order and integration of knowledge. There came up to me after my lecture two well-spoken, well-dressed, civil graduating seniors of that college; probably they were ‘A’ students, perhaps with honors. They told me that until they had heard my talk, they had been unable to discover any pattern or purpose in the college education which they had endured for four years. Late had they found me! Where might they learn more?

I suggested that they turn, first of all, to C. S. Lewis’ little book The Abolition of Man; then to Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge and to William Oliver Martin’s Order and Integration of Knowledge. Off they went in quest of wisdom and virtue, of which they had heard little at their college, and I have not beheld them since. I trust that they have read those good books and have become members of that unknowable Remnant (obscure but influential as Dicey ‘s real shapers of public opinion) which scourges the educational follies of our time.

There are no lost causes because there are no gained causes, T. S. Eliot tells us. Like the Seven against Thebes, we educational renewers may be avenged by our children. In the realm of ideas, an Object that has been dropped may not be lost irrevocably.

Any society depends for the mere mechanics of its functioning, as for much else, upon the maintenance of a high level of imagination and integrity among the people who make decisions, small or great. And any society depends for the foundation and scaffolding of its intellectual life, as for much else, upon the accumulated wisdom of our intellectual and moral patrimony. The decay of the higher learning among us has diminished that imagination and our understanding of that patrimony.

We have succeeded quantitatively, perhaps; but not at all qualitatively, in the higher learning. The times demand more than mediocrity. Our failure to quicken imagination accounts for many of our national difficulties, now formidable. Our public men tend to lack moral imagination and strength of will; our cities turn ugly and violent because vision and courage are lacking. Mediocrity in a pattern of education may not be ruinous in itself, and yet it must contribute gradually to private and public decadence.

Despite our prodigious expenditure of energy and money upon schooling, we have accomplished little toward clearing the way for the human potential in America; nay, we have obstructed that way in our higher learning. In this argument I am reinforced by W. T. Couch’s serious book The Human Potential, published four years ago by the Duke University Press. (This study has been ignored by most of the book-review media, most reviewers being themselves lamentably ill-schooled.) Mr. Couch describes our present precarious and complacent state:

“There is a functional relation between universities and the societies in which they exist that neither the societies nor the universities can safely ignore. Once the great institutions of society begin making caricatures of their functions, or even give the public the impression that in crucial ways they are failing, they and their society are in grave danger…. The time has come in human history when the cultivation of the human potential in ways that serve both the best interests of the individual and the general welfare is necessary if the level of human life is to be raised rather than lowered. There is no possibility that the present level will cease to move; and it can go down as well as up.”

Amen to that. W. T. Couch would endeavor to improve general education in the United States through “new institutions”: first, a special independent institute for general education in a free society; second, a new encyclopedia of ordered and integrated knowledge, capable of being a real instrument for the dissemination of learning. (The institute, among other endeavors, would develop the encyclopedia—which might become as influential as the eighteenth-century French Encyclopedia, though by no means framed on identical intellectual principles.)

Short of the new institutions which Couch outlines—and as yet nobody has done anything to bring them into existence—we must make what we can of present establishments. Who at Behemoth State University aspires to any such abstract ends as wisdom and virtue? Yet if those with power in the education establishment remain unconcerned for wisdom and virtue, the ethos of sociability and material aggrandizement must evaporate, perhaps, quite swiftly—leaving a vacuum to be filled, conceivably, for force and a master. Hampden-Sydney College is small, and far from centers of power; but is has counted for something substantial in the past, and may count for as much in the future. Someone must begin to leaven the lump.

Livy, a great historian in a decadent time, once was much read in Virginia and in America generally. “Of late years,” Livy wrote of the perishing Roman Republic, “wealth has made us greedy, and self-indulgence has brought us, through every form of sensual excess, to be—if I may put it so—in love with death, both individual and collective.”

Close parallels may be drawn with our age, and sometimes the death-wish seems to be operating in the American higher education. Yet even as Livy wrote that sentence, the Augustan age of renewal was taking form about him, and would carry on the civilizing mission of Rome for some centuries.

So it may come to pass with us in America. From causes in part explicable, in part mysterious, sometimes civilizations are reinvigorated. We Americans possess the resources for such a fullness of the higher learning as bloomed in the age of Augustus, and for more than that. Either we will become Augustans in the dawning age, I suspect, or else we will take the road to Avernus.

It may be that Americans are not addressed to vanity, but instead are meant to strive imaginatively toward the human potential. If, pulling down our vanity, we are to make ourselves Augustans—why, an urgent necessity, not to be denied, is the recovery of the higher learning. We commence by brightening the corner where we are: and Hampden-Sydney is as hopeful a corner as any I know.

Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. This essay originally appeared in The Record. (V. 55, Winter 1979)

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Published: Feb 9, 2014
Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk (1918-1994) was the author of some thirty-two books, hundreds of periodical essays, and many short stories. Both Time and Newsweek have described him as one of America’s leading thinkers, and The New York Times acknowledged the scale of his influence when in 1998 it wrote that Kirk’s 1953 book The Conservative Mind “gave American conservatives an identity and a genealogy and catalyzed the postwar movement.”
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2 replies to this post
  1. Decadence is a relative term. Francis Schaeffer, the Protestant scholar, attended Hampden-Sydney in the 1920s and spent a lot of time helping and rescuing drunken undergraduates.

  2. The rec and citation of Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge, William Oliver Martin’s Order and Integration of Knowledge, and Couch’s The Human Potential are duly noted…

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