- Hardcover: 233 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Edition edition (March 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1573927880
- ISBN-13: 978-1573927888
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,541,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Appointment Denied : The Inquisition of Bertrand Russell Hardcover – March 1, 2000
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
Weidlich's focus is a narrow one: the controversy that swirled around the City College of New York's 1940 offer of a teaching position to Bertrand Russell. But the battle over the Russell appointment involves such a fascinating cast of characters--among them, Russell himself, the city's Episcopal bishop, Fiorello LaGuardia, Tammany Hall functionaries, Albany legislators, and professors and students of various political stripes--that this small story casts light on larger (and later) issues. The campaign against permitting the British philosopher to corrupt New York students' minds was aggressive, drawing support from religious leaders (and followers) of a number of denominations; legislators moved beyond concern about Russell to investigate subversive activity in the schools, ultimately dismissing 20 teachers (11 others resigned). Russell never did teach at CCNY (and remained bitter about the college's weak response to the campaign against him). "Another battle in religion's war on science," the Russell affair also constituted, Weidlich maintains, a serious "disagree[ment] about the role of education in a democracy." Mary Carroll
"Weidlich has shown that in its time the controversy was neither trivial nor comic; rather it was a dress rehearsal for the witch-hunts of Senator McCarthy." -- Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies, Summer 2000
"...very well-written and tells a good story...a fine example of intellectual history." -- The American Rationalist, March/April 2003
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Weidlich, a journalist and former reporter for the National Law Journal, has described in lucid detail how famed philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell was denied a position on the faculty of City College (CCNY) of the City of New York. The 1940 incident has been compared to the "monkey trial" of John Scopes. I have read widely from Russell's work as well as about Russell and find Weidlich's book is definitive about Episcopal Bishop Manning's successful efforts to gain support from Catholics and politicians to keep Russell from teaching. Also, Weidlich explains Russell's views in layman's language that is understandable and on the mark. If the Vatican can apologize for Galileo, one wonders when will the Episcopalians apologize for their egregiously narrow-minded bishop?
the historical coverage of the russell controversy itself is thorough, carefully documented and generally unimpeachable. weidlich is conscious of the story's amusing, sometimes ridiculous components, which adds to the enjoyment. the book is worth the price for that analysis alone. the treatment of the bigger themes is gravy.
It is difficult to see how anyone else could have written a clearer explanation of the embarrassing decisions made by the college's and the city's officials in denying Russell the right to express any views whatsoever on a college campus.
The index has a lot of distinguished names, including Augustine, Bruce Barton, Bismarck, Giordano Bruno, Neville Chamberlain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Euclid, Sigmund Freud, Galileo Galilei, Hegel, Werner Heisenberg, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Jefferson, James Joyce, Lenin, Martin Luther, Karl Marx, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Plato, St. Joan of Arc Holy Name Society, Socrates, Baruch de Spinoza, Stalin, Trotsky, Voltaire, Woodrow Wilson, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. There is only a single entry for the Communist Party, none for the Democratic Party, and only a few pages are cited for Young Communist League and Young People's Socialist League. I am not related in any way to the Bruce Barton whose views on religion are so well known that the president of Hunter College, George N. Shuster, a lay Catholic, could describe other Catholics as "`like a blend of' the Daughters of the American Revolution, advertising man Bruce Barton, `and a random devotee of Torquemada,' the evil medieval inquisitor. Of their moralizing, he said that Catholics could see `nothing in the universe but middle-class primness--an order to avoid shocking some imaginary schoolgirl' (these were prescient words concerning Russell's predicament)." (p. 86).
My own interest in the role of the Democratic party in this book is a result of the situation for the appointment of federal judges, now that the Democrats no longer have control of the U.S. Senate, which has the power to approve such appointments and have tried to make this seem like an important role for protecting the rights of people who think that there is more to life than just getting married and having children. Prior to the appointment of George Shuster, the president of Hunter College was Eugene Colligan, "a political hack, installed when Tammany Hall, the notorious Manhattan Democratic machine, was still running the city (though not for much longer). . . . At the college's 1935 commencement exercises, the rowdy audience held placards charging `Colligan Lives Up to Mussolini's "Order of Merit"' (the fascist leader had bestowed upon him the Italian Medal of Merit for `distinguished educational accomplishment')." (p. 11). Throughout this book, the leadership of Protestant Episcopal Bishop William T. Manning of the Diocese of New York combines with the kind of politics that Democrats have spent years using, appealing to popular animus to try to avert the kind of confusion which the future is bound to run into sooner or later.
Those who learned the most about political advantages were students who had the opportunity to promote their own interests. At the time, the student body was pretty bright. ". . . and because of the Ivy League's limits on how many Jews it would take--during this period that Russell was to teach, `the City College student body represented perhaps the purest intellectual elite in the country.' Of the eight Nobel Prize winners the college has produced (more than any other public institution), three came from the class of 1937." (p. 54). Those who were there just a few years later might have resigned themselves to the belief that being born with a brain wasn't really all that great, if this book is any indication of how the world will treat you.
In the case of the Young Communist League, who "viewed it as a case of academic freedom . . . but we don't really give a hoot about Russell and this case," (p. 55) others "begged the YCL representative on the student council to keep the Communists out of the Russell controversy so they could win it. `Everything the Communists touched was the kiss of death. . . . the Hearst papers depicted the Communists fighting to get Russell in. This contributed to an extent in keeping Russell out. The irony was that the next fall, the YCL used their fighting for Russell to recruit new members among the incoming class.'" (p. 56) Now that the U.S. Supreme Court can be anyone who the President picks, we shall see how soon the people who placed obstacles in the way of those who wanted to count ballots for his opponent can be replaced by incoming justices, using the term loosely, of course, in the time-honored manner.