Duke University Alumni Magazine

Please limit letters to no more than 300 words. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Include full name, address, and class year. Our fax number is (919) 684-1659 and our internet address --for Forum and class notes only--is: dukemag@duke.edu



    I write in response to the news that the director of the Duke art museum hung a show of covers of "romance novels," not to be confused with novels form the English romantic era or novels written in the Romance languages ["Burnishing the Golden Age of Art," January-February 1999].

    Having been attacked these days as a "reactionary grammarian" for insisting that "graduate" is a intransitive verb, I risk calumny once again to insist that Duke maintain the exemplary standard. I thought we had resolved this issue in 1968 when we resolved to be the best university in the world. Except in the arts, we have moved along that continuum quite nicely, in spite of the alumni who read popular magazines and are influenced by those standards.

    Efforts at "democratizing" art to the point that someone would deign to hang a show of "romance novels" covers in Duke's art museum began at the beginning of the twentieth century with the revolutionary workers movement. Theorists for the revolution thought that the demise of the bourgeois/feudal state apparatus would liberate the masses to be creativein the arts. What they did not understand is that true art eludes rational intellect. We cannot will great art any more than we can define great art except to say it lasts.

    If we are going to be the best university in the world, we have got to have the best university art museum in the world. All hail Raymond Nasher for donating money for the building. Now let us find a museum director who can see to fill it with great art.

David M. Henderson '68
Tyler, Texas



    I read "Making Gains in Hiring"["Update," May-June 1999] and could not believe that Duke was once again embarking on a discriminatory faculty hiring program. It appears form general reading that affirmative action programs have been thoroughly discredited, but evidently the powers that be at duke don't read the same things.

    Duke has a need-blind undergraduate admissions program that is a model of everything right. Why do you not have a color-blind faculty-hiring program? What the university is doing damages the students by creating the possibility that they might not be studying with the best available. You are unfair to hard-working professors who might lose a position for which they are qualified because they are not the right color, and I am amazed if one of them does not sue the university and win.

    I am color-blind racially and appreciate what you are trying to do, but you cannot do it this way. You can make it known that you are seeking minority professors and will give them every chance, but you cannot in fairness refuse any best-qualified candidate in favor of a less-qualified person of a preferred race. I am ashamed of the university for trying.

Fred Dennerline '48
Palm City, Florida



    Having just read "Making the Foreign Familiar" [May-June 1999] regarding the new emphasis on teaching foreign languages at Duke, I am reminded of "The Emperor's New Clothes." This sounds like some foreign-language bureaucrats have sold a bill of goods to the students at Duke.

    Does anyone really think that the students who otherwise would not have elected a foreign language are going to learn a foreign language with sufficient proficiency to converse with a foreigner in their language? A few catch phrases may be learned, a few questions such as "How much does it cost?" and "Where do I find the bathroom?" may be achieved. But nothing of any greater significance. In fact the "foreigners" will want to speak English. Not only are they more proficient in English, but they want to practice their English.

    It is hoped that Ingeborg Walther [dirctor of the German language program] is not to be taken seriously with the quote attributed to her that "Americans are kind of laughed at by many Europeans as being superficial and ignorant" because they do not speak a foreign language. Those non-Americans have learned a foreign language due to their close proximity to other counries; and, second, their foreign language of choice is English. Hearing Americans stumble over a few foreign phrases is not going to make these non-Americans now consider Americans to be educated and cultured.

    If a foreign language must be taught at all for those students who are not drafted into the course should be taught only in the present tense so that the student has a chance to learn the "gist" of foreign conversation. Certainly this type of program will not be favored by the foreign-language bureaucras. No doubt it would result in less employment for them, although the studens might actually have a better chance of making some use of the foreign language.

    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the emperor does look better without any clothes.

Carle A. Felton Jr. '70
Jacksonville, Florida


    I applaud the direction of the new Curriculum 2000 and its accompanying return to the foreign-language requirement. New challenges in undergraduate education are certainly necessary as our high-school graduates today are entering college with more knowledge, more skills, and more varied and exciting experiences than ever before. However, before Dr. [Clare] Tufts and her language task force get carried away with their "new advances" in second-language learning, let me bring up some history that got missed in their shallow background checks.

    In Cleveland, Ohio, in the early 1920s or before, the public schools, in conjunction with (then) Western Reserve University, brought in a renowned French educator named Emile de Sauzé, who changed the whole approach to teaching foreign languages. When students entered a French classroom, for example, the teacher might say, pleasantly, "Fermez la porte, s'il vous plaît." And from that moment, only French could be spoken. Yes, learning became fun under the guidance of trained teachers. Yes, the texts introduced the fundamentals of pronunciation along with grammar. Yes, we spent many hours conjugating verbs-and had fun doing them. Yes, we learned French culture, French jokes (bon mots), French history, French heroes, French geography. Where did [Provost Peter] Lange and Dr. Tufts learn their languages? Was Cleveland that far away?

    I began the program late-in the seventh grade, in an immigrant, inner-city school, not in an affluent suburb. In the summertime, some of us got to participate in demonstration classes at Western Reserve, where teachers from all over the U.S. and Canada came to study the "Cleveland Plan." By the tenth grade, I was reading Les Miserables (abridged, of course) and Cyrano de Bergerac. (Nevertheless, when I came to Duke in 1939, I chose to continue my Latin studies, taught differently, but no less enjoyably, by the most beloved teacher in our school. Nor was my Duke professor, Dr. Rose, boring; he made the Comedies of Terence almost modern-almost.) Too often in the field of education, we keep reinventing wheels. But that is the result both of constant societal changes and of incomplete research. Even at Duke.

Irving J. Edelman '43, A.M. '47
Charlotte, North Carolina

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