|HELLO MR. CHIPS|
May 18, 2000
GROUCHO MARX: (Film Scene) Tomorrow we start tearing down the college.
ACTORS: But Professor, where will the students sleep?
GROUCHO MARX: Where they always sleep-- in the classroom.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Well, it certainly sounds promising, but I worry about all those traditions being lost. I refer to the recent report that Michael Saylor, a 35-year- old software billionaire, though dwindling, still plans to spend $100 million to create an online university to compete with institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Bob Jones. It will have teachers on video and will be offered free of charge. Some people were excited by the announcement; some dismayed. My own concern is what will be forfeited if Saylor's venture is successful-- those elements of college life that have come to characterize so much of American culture. I don't wish to sound 20th century about this, but can the country survive the eclipse, nay the elimination, the following?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: One: The undergraduate love affair between two people from two oh so-different, different worlds, and yet, it just might work. How will cyberspace university retrieve "the way we were?" Who will struggle through their love story? Who will call whom "preppy"?"
ACTRESS: ("Love Story") Listen, preppy, I know you've got at least few brains.
OLDER ACTOR: Will you let yourself out, my boy? I'm a little tired.
CHILD ACTOR: Yes, of course, sir. Thanks awfully.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Two: The stock fire of the "crusty, yet lovable professor." Will silicon chips for us to say..
CHILD ACTOR: Good-bye, Mr. Chips.
ACTOR: Loudly, Nr. Hart. Fill this room with your intelligence.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Or good-bye to the crusty, unlovable professor -- without paper, how can you have a paper chase? Three, the sympathetic, sensitive, with-it college course: In an online education, who will teach "Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 101," gay, female, Korean and living: Where is the love?" Who will teach "social protest and profit, "capitalist swine," "how to apply for government grants"?
ACTOR: (singing) I gave my love a cherry...
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Four: What will happen fraternity parties and a that good, clean, John Belushi fun?
ACTOR: (singing) I give ... (John Belushi breaking guitar).
MUSIC IN BACKGROUND: Twisting the night away
JOHN BELUSHI: Sorry.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Five: Where will one find the local Matt Damon, who proves to be 10 times smarter than all the Nobel Prize winners on the MIT faculty?
ACTOR: Boy, oh, boy -- we're in business!
ROGER ROSENBLATT: How will Joe Pesci get into Harvard? Six: Who will fill out blue books in crowded halls, writing the answer to the essay question? It is unthinkable, perhaps, to imagine the disappearance of a genre, which having so much to support it-- as Hegel, or was it Schlegel, pointed out, perhaps-- represents problems both in the general and specific, yet has ample room for doubt on both sides. Schopenhauer's no less than Eisenhower's perhaps. And so much more -- the racially offensive college nickname. Faculty whining, backbiting and petty betrayals. The boy and girl network-- how will anybody expect to get a job, especially in journalism? The tawdry, yet elevating professor-student affair ---- appearance, will it still not be reality, or will virtual appearance not virtual reality? Discuss. The undergraduate novel of painful self discovery. The undergraduate poem. To eliminate undergraduate haiku stinks like dead horse. Finally, the 1960'S.
(STREISAND SINGING MEMORIES)
ROGER ROSENBLATT: What will become of the 1960's-- the most sensitive, politically aware, moral, caring decade in American history? The most dangerous thing about an online university is that may allow for, indeed encourage, opinions other than those cultivated in the 1960's. Who came up with this idea -- fascists?
STREISAND: (singing) The way we were
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I'm Roger Rosenblatt