The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 643
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1970. Fate plays cruel tricks on men and sometimes places them where
they are compelled to oppose with their entire being what amounts to
an alien culture. Silber a citizen of the same state as Teddy Kennedy
and Michael Dukakis? The thought is laughable. But I doubt that there
could have been any better apprenticeship for the nastiness of Massa-
chusetts politics than the nastiness of academic politics on the Forty
Acres during the wild 196os: Vietnam, non-negotiable demands, re-
gent Frank Erwin.
Silber's book begins with America in a lot of trouble: drugs, the de-
cline of the family and of education, loss of the national nerve, and a
passionate listlessness of the collective spirit. He does not pretend to
have solutions to all of our problems, but he has a lot to say about most
of them: education, of course, both higher and secondary; teenage un-
employment; our rights and responsibilities in assuring peace and sta-
bility in the Western hemisphere; television; lawyers; and ethics.
Silber's solutions to the problems of America tend to be "neo-," as in
"neo-liberal" and "neo-conservative." If those tags mean anything any-
more-and I doubt that they do-it is that the solutions offered are
neither doctrinaire nor commonplace. Pragmatic yes, visionary some-
times, realistic, but never party line and usually new and unexpected.
The common threads through all his solutions are an insistence on
moral reasoning and moral choice, the importance of community, the
value of risk, and why individuals matter.
Silber's solutions are like Silber himself: you either like him and what
he stands for, or you hate him and what he stands for. I happen to like
most of his solutions, especially his ideas on such things as tenure and
paying the cost of a college education. Silber is unquestionably the most
forceful innovator in American higher education since Robert May-
To put the proposition philosophically, the world is divided into two
groups: pessimists like Spengler and Toynbee and optimists like Kant.
Nothing is easier in today's society than to succumb to what German
historians call Fatalismus der Geschichte (the "fatalism of history"). Noth-
ing is harder than resisting it.
Silber is one who resists, and that is a good thing. I for one am glad to
know that there still exist committed Kantian optimists out there who
believe that knowledge and analysis will help us improve our national
life, and whose domain and ability to influence events extend far be-
yond the ivory towers of academe.
Humanities Research Center, ROBERT D. KING
University of Texas at Austin
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/721/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.