Woodrow Wilson on Culture and Democracy
A letter from the future president.
To THE EDITOR OF THE NATION:
SIR: I do not need to tell you that the reports of my recent address in Pittsburgh have, by piecemeal quotation, conveyed an entirely false impression. You yourself have made allowance for this distortion in your kind editorial of this week. The criticism embodied in that editorial is quite just, if the speech be interpreted as you have interpreted it; and I most say I cannot blame you for the misinterpretation. Unfortunately, my mind is a one-track affair on which I can run only one through train at a time. Some of the trains are scheduled in the newspapers because they seem to contain sensational matter. The rest are ignored. I can only assure you, therefore, that I entirely agree with the views of your editorial. It would be inexcusable for any man responsible for the administration of a university to overlook the value of culture and of all that quiet and deeper development of the mind which displays itself in personal poise, in quiet insight, in the finer forms of intellectual power, rather than in public service and material achievement. I can agree with your editorial, because I am not guilty as charged.
If culture be the intimate and sensitive appreciation of moral, intellectual,and aesthetic values, I heartily agree with you that the production of men capable of those deeper insights is one of the things most to be desired in the life and influence of a university. My difficulty is on the side of organisation. For, after all, culture is not a thing produced in classrooms, but by the subtler influences of life and association among men of the finer sort of taste and the higher kind of learning. I wish very much that from some quarter, light might be thrown upon the processes by which a university may produce those subtle atmospheric influences in which culture thrives, while the spirit of service and of achievement is not dampened or slackened.
I beg that you will not believe that because I seem incapable of stating more than one side of a question in any one speech, I do not know and appreciate the other side.
Princeton University, April 21.