magazine of their own. The reaction was immediate. Their prize money was taken from them, they were barely able to graduate, and the finest creative writing teacher I have ever known was forced to give up his chosen field and bear the brunt of economic reprisal. After laboring in alien vineyards for several years, this distinguished professor quit teaching to work for private industry. McMurtry’s Horsemen, Pass By was born from this situation, but it was a painful birth. The only creative painter there left under duress for, among other things, failure to tuck in his shirt tail. The creative potters left too. The pressure on sports was minor, or rather, on minor sports. When some enterprising students started their own fencing club and won several important contests, they were warned not to accept an invitation to fence the University of Mexico since “the name of N.T. should not be associated with a country such as Mexico.” Driven by their natural idealism, and like all youth mistaking the intensity of their ideas for their clarity, some students held a peaceful stand-in at a local theatre. The N.T. administration reacted immediately. Missing was that momentary hesitation which is the mark of rationality. Several faculty members were faced with immediate threats of firing along with economic reprisal and the other tools of coercion. The general faculty was subjected to harangues concerning its alleged incompetence and disloyalty. One of these attacks, unbelievably, came during a graduation ceremony, but the hysteria generated by this episode soon settled into a more normal pattern; a faculty which had been creative and exciting now became fearful and silent. Both my, colleagues and I felt the Athens of the Southwest lest she sin twice against Philosophy. Many others left too. When I walked across the campus a year later, I had one overwhelming feeling: Coercion had achieved its end : consensus without community. THE FORMS which the force of power took at N.T. were, unfortunately, typical of other Texas schools. They are natural deductions from the illusion of omnipotence which marks the mythical “self-made” man. But those who have read Greek tragedy know that no man can control force. All men are controlled by it, and once unleashed, it turns men into things. Criticism is not disloyalty but the severest form of flattery, for it rests on the assumption that things can be improved. To praise the status quo is merely to reinforce tribal illusions and, as Hutchins says somewhere, to perpetuate the ritual of self-adoration. True consensus cannot be achieved by elimination, only by the free and open conflict of creative ideas. Without consensus and academic freedom there can be no higher education in Texas or anywhere else. Though many men left North Texas, some good men remained, and in the lonely hours of the night I cannot help but feel that those who remained are more brave than I, more blond than you. Nor can I suppress the hope that in the long run, like Dilsey, they will not only endure, but will prevail. I hope that someday they will cease to be employees and will become a faculty once again. At least one thing is in their favor: the essential instability of power. No one can control everything always. The Charge of the Nanny-Goat Austin It was to be the greatest exhibition of them all. No one had seen the lion, but rumor had it that he was the biggest, most dynamic ever released. The fanfare was deafeningall of the state’s golden trumpets rippling in unison with tense anticipation, every executive drum beating “a violent, portentous throb. The grandstand was wedged full and an air of intense, vibrant silence pushed at the wide-eyed reporters and spectators who waited as the attendant dramatically dropped the lever and opened the chute. And out pranced a nanny-goat. Thus, Gov. John Connally’s Committee on Education Beyond the High School took the lid off its year-long study of the state’s school needs to show what they had proposed. In place of the sinew and muscle advertised for so long by its promoters, the report bleated weakly about Texas education in such barnyard terms as “excellence,” “new dimensions of knowledge,” and “in an age of growing technology . . .” There were no boos from the genteel crowd. A few of the less controlled knaves uttered a gasp or two of incredulity, but quickly thought better of it and hushed. Then the trumpets sounded with greater might than before and the drums beat out their rhythm and the report was hallowed. But from the crowd outside the grandstand came a hollow echo which made the cheers seem shrill and empty. 8 The Texas Observer CONNALLY last year named 25 men and women to study the state’s educational needs and charged the committee to bring forth a plan to make the state’s schools and universities “second to none.” He fought with the legislature and won a $175,000 appropriation for the study. H. B. Zachry, the San Antonio contractor, was chosen chairman of the group. They worked in private, barring the press and educators who were not on the committee, insisting that only in complete seclusion would they be free to debate the radical blueprint which they hoped ultimately would revolutionize institutions of higher learning in Texas. What they eventually brought forth could have been written readily by a competent public relations copywriter, and possibly was, since the committee retained Fort Worth PR man Julian Read as their spokesman and shield against publicity. Actually, the committee has not yet distributed the text of its full report, although a copy is available for examination at the governor’s office.. They did release highlights of the report to selected legislators, school presidents and the news media. The highlights are broken down into three basic sections: “Problems facing Texas regarding education beyond the high school.” “Recommendations for moving toward excellence.” “An approach to the problem of financing.” At the Driskill Hotel unveiling in Austin, chairman Zachry read the opening statement from the highlights in his dry, gasping tone: “The dramatically accelerated rate of change in Texas since World War II has focused new emphasis upon every level of education. For generations our agricultural economy and rural society supported a labor force that had only limited educational opportunities and accomplishments. Dedication to hard work and an unshakable faith in the future served the majority of our forefathers well in their struggle for success during a period when a college degree was a rarity. “The transformation that has come to our state in less than a generation is startling. Whereas, 20 years ago the majority of Texans lived in rural areas, today almost 70% live in metropolitan regions. Agriculture is now scientifically oriented and requires skilled personnel in most of its operations. Unskilled or semi-skilled laborers, who for years constituted an important economic element in the state, today find vocational opportunities extremely limited. The trends toward urban and industrial dominance are destined to intensify. As these trends continue in years ahead, better education will become the critical ingredient of accomplishment for the individual and the state.” NEXT CAME a barrage of statistics that backed up what was already an accepted fact : that Texas needs more
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