Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Rodda Project: An introduction

It was my great privilege in 1979 to join the staff of state Senator Albert S. Rodda, a Democrat who represented the Sacramento region in the upper house of the California state legislature. I had been awarded a Senate Fellowship and Rodda's aides selected me from among the new cohort of Senate Fellows for a position in his office. Although it unfortunately turned out that Sen. Rodda would leave the state legislature at the end of 1980, I ended up continuing to work for him in various capacities for the next several years. When he took over in 1981 as executive officer of the California Commission on State Finance, an agency of the State Treasurer's Office, I was the only staff member from his State Capitol office who accompanied him (the others all had job offers!).

The drastic downsizing of the Senator's staff in that transition from dean of the State Senate to executive officer of a small state agency resulted in my becoming a useful thread of continuity between the old and the new, the keeper of many papers and files left over from his 22 years in the legislature. While the California State Archives has several feet of storage space dedicated to Senator Rodda's papers, my transitional role (together with my notorious pack-rat tendencies) has preserved a large and informal collection of the position papers and essays of Albert S. Rodda. With this posting, The Back Bench is inaugurating the Rodda Project, my modest effort to make available a trove of thoughts and writings from one of California's keenest participants in the policies and politics of a crucial quarter century. The Senator took office the year that Pat Brown was elected governor and he left the senate in Jerry Brown's second term. You may recall that in the middle somewhere was another governor named Ronald Reagan.

Albert Rodda focused on public education and state finance, in particular because he was a long-time faculty member at Sacramento City College, but he was involved in every major state issue during his more than two decades in office. Rodda was a remarkably self-effacing individual, especially considering that he rose to become chair of two vital senate committees, Education and Finance. However, it was always his nature to work quietly and without bombast. His writing style, as you will see from the postings to follow, had an academic bent, but he came by his scholarly tendencies honestly, having earned a Ph.D. from Stanford after his service in World War II.

The Rodda Project, by the way, is not in itself a scholarly endeavor, although I would be delighted if someday it were to inspire scholars of state politics. I will not be annotating the Senator's writings in any significant way, nor will I edit his words. I plan to limit my interventions to minor technical points, such as turning the underlined text of the Senator's typewritten papers into italics or correcting one of his exceedingly rare misspellings (not, however, “correcting” his sometimes idiosyncratic usage or word choices). When I have ready access to books or papers he directly quotes, I check the quotes for accuracy; as expected, departures from cited texts are both rare and minor. In some cases, I provide context with some introductory paragraphs.

As the Rodda Project slowly grows in content, I'll maintain and update a sidebar that will serve as a quick guide to the Senator's papers. I have no great overarching scheme in mind, although I plan to identify each document as specifically as possible. Since Sen. Rodda was very good about dating his papers and labeling them with the venue in which they were delivered (as speeches or position papers), it will be easy in most cases for me to include those labels in each post. As you can tell, these are the first tentative steps in a work in progress.

Albert Rodda is alive at the time of this writing, a frail and genteel man of 95 years who resides quietly in his home in Curtis Park, close to Sacramento City College and the campus administrative and classroom complex that bears his name.

The Christian and the Democratic Process (1967)

The Rodda Project: The Christian's Role in Politics

Senator Rodda delivered this speech on January 30, 1967. His audience was the School for Christian Church and Service of First Evangelical United Church.

The Christian and the Democratic Process:
“What on earth are we doing about getting good government?”

In opening a discussion of this type, it might be well to quote or paraphrase a number of the world's leading thinkers who have commented upon the nature of government and, also, the meaning of democracy. In this way, perhaps, we may establish the context in which the discussion will develop.

It is my intent this evening to discuss, as clearly as I can, the meaning of the democratic, or open society, and to relate this system of government to the individual citizen, with particular reference to the Christian.

As I reflect upon the governmental process and through it the exercise of political power, I am reminded of Plato’s “Republic,” the first instance in western history in which the nature of government was examined in a substantive and rational manner. In this work, as I recall, Plato concluded after a careful analysis that the purpose of government was the achievement of justice. And I am also reminded of a comment that is alleged to have been made by Plato's student, Aristotle, and I paraphrase him, to the effect that “all governments eventually fail because of an excessive development or implementation of the basic principle upon which they are organized.”

Since our government is thought of or usually defined as a democracy, one wonders whether the observation of Aristotle will prove relevant. In effect, one wonders whether our system will fail because of an excessive development of the democratic principle or ideal upon which it is established. One's concern is heightened when one realizes that the meaning of democracy and the way in which the democratic processes of government have been developed in this country are badly understood or poorly appreciated by many citizens. Since a meaningful discussion of the citizen's role in government presumes an understanding of its essential character, I will briefly paraphrase a number of individuals who have remarked about democracy, either by way of definition or by way of a commentary.

Carl Becker, a famous American historian who is a specialist in the 18th Century, is quoted as describing “democracy is a tremendous gamble for the highest stakes.” This epigraph conveys dramatically my feeling about democracy and my own concept of its meaning. Certainly, democracy is a gamble and it must be a gamble because of the very essential idea behind it and because of the fact that its proper implementation provides no guarantee that the best interests of the people will be served or that its finest goals will be achieved, for example, the goal of justice.

Through democracy the “good world” may be realized, but not necessarily. George Bernard Shaw who remarked that democracy is that “system of government which guarantees the people what they ought to receive” focused on the essential element of the democratic process.

Through democracy the people exercise the final control over government and the uses to which governmental power may be put. This offers some assurance that government will serve good ends, but its great virtue is that if it fails, the failure will be the result of the failure of the people. Democracy guarantees, as Shaw remarked, that whatever the people experience—good or bad—it will be their doing, their responsibility; their government will be no better or worse than the people deserve. Can free men ask for more!

Despite this characteristic of the democratic system of government, the validity of democracy is being questioned and challenged today as never before. There are many who reject the verdict of Winston Churchill, who stated that “democracy was the worst possible form of government, only that it was better than any other.”

While democracy has many detractors, it also has many friends, and frequently its friends seek to rescue democracy by developing a concept of what democracy is in order to provide a norm or standard toward which we may move. Unfortunately, in most instances in which this is attempted the norms or models selected are not a true reflection of the American democratic process. To the extent that the model is an “ersatz” one, the well-meaning intentions of the friends of democracy tend to produce more confusion and, therefore, greater hazards for democracy. A few cases of “mistaken identity” may be cited.

For example, a case is made for what is described as “democracy as the American credo.” An appeal to history for legitimacy, the concept suggests that there is in existence an American creed or faith which can be extracted from the story of American history. Actually, the historical past can help us to understand the present, but it cannot provide a concrete, specific statement of democracy as a particular institution or event of yesterday, nor can it suggest what it ought to be today. The American Revolution, for example, solved only one question—the separation from Great Britain. It did not itself lead to the establishment of institutions, which by virtue of a consensus, may be looked upon as the legitimate or authentic form in which American democracy was cast and in which it should remain for perpetuity. The government which we know today actually developed out of prolonged disagreement and controversy over fundamental issues which were extremely intense in 1776 and 1789. A disagreement over basic ideals and institutions was the focus of controversy and it has carried on down to the present. It is foolish and transitory, therefore, to think that one may find in 1776, 1789 or 1865 an idealized form or model for American democracy.

Another model is that of democracy regarded as a religious faith. From this perspective it is suggested that the traditions of the Judeo-Christian religious morality provide an appropriate basis for a delineation of life upon a theistic view of the world which stands in contrast or opposition to the communistic ideal which is predicated or established upon an atheistic cosmic view. Unfortunately, the theistic model derives, also, from a misreading of American history, since American society developed out of a conviction that government could not provide a religious faith. Our society is actually founded on a commitment to provide the fullest possible freedom of expression in matters of theology and religious belief and this, therefore, is the only sense in which one can relate American democracy to Christianity or Judaism; it cannot otherwise be regarded without the risk of a crude distortion of the facts of our historical origins.

We must, it is sometimes argued, identify democracy or the democratic system of government, with capitalism. This interpretation arises from a confusion as to the distinction between the economic and political institutions of our country. Capitalism defines or describes the basic institutions we have developed for the production and distribution of economic goods. Democracy describes our political institutions and our governmental processes. To equate democracy with capitalism, therefore, is to insist upon an identity which is totally irrelevant to reality.

Historically, American society has given expression to forces supportive of capitalism and also forces which have been in opposition to it. We simply may not, therefore, equate democracy with capitalism, nor may we, on the other hand, equate socialism with totalitarianism. History does not reveal any particular mutualism between capitalism and democracy, neither does it identify collectivism or non-capitalism with totalitarianism. History records, on the contrary, that democratic processes of government are sometimes associated with socialism and that in contemporary European countries they have, when joined with a considerable amount of socialism, provided a principal defense against totalitarianism.

Moreover, capitalism, the full historical record reveals, has frequently been associated with colonialism and with political systems and structures which are anti-democratic. The hazard encountered when we equate democracy with capitalism is that we immediately place the economic status quo beyond the reaction of public opinion. Such an identification might, therefore, actually lead to the destruction of democracy itself, since any attempt to modify capitalism through the ordinary procedures of the democratic society, such as discussion of ideas and public criticism, might, because it constitutes a threat to capitalism, lead to the abandonment of democracy.

Another model is encountered in the identification of democracy with American constitutionalism. In this particular search for the real or true ideal, democracy is visualized as federalism, as the check and balance system, and as the separation of powers. Actually, these features of American constitutionalism are neither the essence of democracy nor are they essential to it, here or anywhere. Their existence in some instances has, in fact, hindered the development of democracy in America. They came into being largely as a necessity of political compromise, as a means of resolving differences peculiar to the united States. Federalism, for example, grew out of the political arrangements which were characteristic of our country's colonial history. The practice of checks and balances and the separation of powers, while an outcome of early colonial experience, was really an improvisation which was introduced into the basic elements of the government of the United States in order to thwart the popular will, or to avert what was commonly described as the tyranny of the majority. It would be improper, therefore, to hold that these characteristics of or elements in our constitutional arrangements are the essence of American democracy. Democracy can and does function effectively in other countries under institutions which certainly do not contain any of the elements of federalism, checks and balances and the separation of powers.

The identification of democracy with a faith or a credo, specific economic institutions, or certain unique features of our Constitution do a disservice to the concept. They reveal a failure to understand it. This sadly is one of the hazards which confronts our society today, because, as has been pointed out earlier, if we fail to understand what democracy really means, we certainly will be less competent to preserve it. If we struggle to realize a false image or model, we will quite likely give ourselves a directional impulse which is inimical to democracy.

We must know what democracy really is and means~ we cannot afford to act on the basis of a mistaken identity. We must know, also, that by virtue of its very essence, democracy presents a dilemma—the dilemma is how to maintain democracy despite the fact that within its essential essence may lie the seed of its own destruction.

The concept of the open society is the essence of the meaning of democracy; it, also, is the source of the democratic dilemma.

Anthropologists contend that in all societies there are certain “cultural universals.” These are the basic beliefs that hold a society together and give it meaning to its members. They are shared universally and once accepted become the embodiments of the spirit of the culture and they so permeate a society that they exclude other or alternative values. Institutions and practices tend, thus, to be opposite to or inversely related to others. This is true since they tend to implement or reflect competitive or opposite values; therefore, they are exclusive—monogamy excludes polygamy, for example.

If we are to appreciate the character of the open society, we must recognize that universals cannot be recognized as constituting such an integral part of the life of the society that they must be universally and rigorously imposed upon the people through the exercise of the political power of the government. Of course, such an admission does not carry with it the implication that a democratic society does not have or cannot rest upon a common set of values. Actually, a free or democratic society must have such values, but they must relate to the society in a different manner than those which are found in a rigorously structured society, whether extremely primitive or of a modern totalitarian character. The cement that binds a democratic society together is unique; whereas, there are no substantive universals imposed upon the citizen by law, there are certain processes to which there is universal commitment incorporated in the body politic. These can be regarded as “procedural universals,” and they are absolutely fundamental to the democratic society. They are the essential freedoms and constitutional guarantees, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary action of the government, or, in essence, due process of law.

Another universal or basic absolute, you might say, of the free society, is the integrity of the individual—the requirement that the citizen must be regarded at all times as an individual possessing fully and equally with all others the same basic rights under the Constitution and the same freedom to be involved in society.

These are the essential ideas of the free society and they are vital to the preservation of it. When they exist, it is impossible for an authoritarian or totalitarian system to come into being and it is only when they do exist that a free society can be said to be operative among people.

The general idea that derives from this condition, of course, is that there must be some common values—such as the necessity of speaking honestly, or seeking the truth, of dealing fairly with opposing views, and of acting with integrity toward the existing institutions of a country, of recognizing due process of law, and of exercising self-control or engaging in responsible personal self-government. In a free society it is essential that one is concerned about means as well as ends and that one avoids making the means the ends of society—in other words, making the control and the use of power the end of government.

Power must be exercised with the understanding that power is not absolute and that it must be used constructively—at all times with due respect for the rights of the individual. These are the essential universals of the democratic system as it pursues its search for truth and for social justice. This unending quest for truth is the thing that will make men free. While it continues there will not be a final attachment to an idea, an ideology, to a faith, or to a particular value which characterizes totalitarianism in its many forms. In its essence, the free society means that all substantive questions are open to question.

Doctors John Livingston and Robert Thompson in The Consent of the Governed have stated it as follows: “... the ideal of democracy requires that all universals be procedural rather than substantive and that all questions ... be at least potentially open ones.”

A qualification is that it is not likely or even desirable from the point-of-view of social stability “that all matters will be in dispute at all times. It is only necessary that they be potentially open“ for evaluation. This essentially is the difference between a totalitarian and democratic society—that is, “The totalitarian state operates from an authoritative all-embracing ideology which furnishes answers to all human problems and standards of taste and judgment and all human relations” at all times.

A pluralistic or open society is one “in which government does not prescribe the interests or opinions of its citizens and in which, therefore, forms of group life may flourish at the initiative and discretion of citizens.”

Having defined the democratic idea, or model, as a system of government in which the citizens are charged generally with determining who will govern them and only incidentally are engaged in the actual process of government, I will undertake to relate this system to the individual citizen.

A question that one might pose is whether the government which democracy provides is good or bad. In reflecting upon this question, one must realize that goodness is purely, in the political sense, subjective and relative.

There appear to be no objective and absolute criteria of goodness insofar as the ends of government are concerned; goodness in this context is strictly relative and a matter of opinion. As a consequence, any value judgment about the goodness or badness of government will of necessity be debatable. However, one should, in reflecting on this problem, keep in mind the obvious fact that democracy itself is not an end of government and that the existence of democracy does not of necessity result in conditions which are automatically or of necessity in conformity with the public good. A democracy is merely a method of government; it may lead to good or bad government. We, therefore, must constantly remind ourselves that democracy guarantees only one thing—that the citizens will control their government and that there is no guarantee as to the quality of the result of that government.

Whether the product of democratic government is good will depend, I suppose, on its ability to provide for the public or the general welfare. This, too, will depend, I think, upon the level of involvement of its citizens, the knowledge that the citizens have of problems of government, and the freedom that they enjoy to debate issues and to exercise the right of dissent. Such conditions are absolutely essential to the ultimate success of government by the people, they will provide, if the consensus or majority view proves inappropriate or contrary to the general welfare, a means through which change may be achieved and the minority point-of-view elevated to the level of a consensus. In this way democracy can and may provide a means for improvement and for the implementation of the good life by peaceful, evolutionary change, by revision and adjustment.

The good life probably, if it were to be defined in terms of specifics, would include the following:
  1. the preservation of the freedom of the individual to fulfill himself as a citizen;
  2. the creation of a continuing opportunity for the citizen to function within the economic system on a level commensurate with his abilities;
  3. an assurance to the individual of a position in the social system fully equal to that of any other individual, in effect status free from any form of discrimination which, deriving either from law or custom, assigns him an inferior position in society for any reason not related to his qualities or capabilities as a citizen;
  4. the protection of the independence of the state and the preservation of its sovereignty against external aggression;
  5. the creation of opportunities for the individual to develop fully the capacities of mind, spirit and body necessary for meaningful involvement in society in all of its aspects—cultural, educational, political;
  6. adequate provision for dealing with the problems which, while affecting the general well being, do not lend themselves to treatment on an individualistic basis; (examples of such a need would be that of education, elimination of air and water pollution, conservation of natural resources, community planning, national defense, and so on. Obviously, in an expanding, dynamic society such as ours, there will be an expansion of government into areas of activities which are of such a character);
  7. stabilization of the economic system in order to provide reasonably full employment, economic growth and expansion and a fairly wide diffusion of the national income among the citizens of the state;
  8. protection of the society through regulatory activities to check the abuses of monopoly or economic individualism;
  9. maintenance of law and order—the protection of property, civil order and public morals—the exercise of the police power of the state; and, finally,
  10. provision for a fair and speedy administration of justice through an honest and efficient judicial process.
Obviously, these criteria are not intended to be all inclusive, but they do, I think, offer a fairly selective and comprehensive list against which we might evaluate whether or not one's community conforms to the standards of a good society. Of course, it is apparent that any evaluation of a community or a society in terms of success or failures in these areas will be subject to disagreement, and quite possibly the principal areas of disagreement probably would center on the following:

National defense. The question which might be raised would be whether or not the government is adequately dealing with the communist menace, both as an ideology and as a form of political and economic aggression.

Civil rights. The question might be whether or not the government, under certain conditions, ought or ought not to protect citizens in their constitutional rights as citizens.

Civil liberties. Another closely related area of difference might be that of civil liberties—the issue being whether or not specified government policies might constitute a substantial interference with freedom of press and speech or the exercise of those basic rights which are essential to the preservation of a free citizenship.

Economic stabilization. Here the disagreement might very well be whether the government is proceeding too far with the regulation and taxation of business and is engaging in activities of an economic character which are harmful to the economy and, therefore, inimical to the economic goals of the society.

Welfare. The question might certainly be raised as to whether the government is undermining the moral character of the people through its efforts to compensate through welfare programs for the economic inadequacies of the economy and the poverty of many citizens.

There are other areas of major differences which might be mentioned; these, I believe, are the principal ones.

The critical factor in a democracy is that government is the responsibility ultimately of the majority of the citizens. Meaningful majority rule explicitly requires that government be aware of the public well being and that it attempt to advance it to the best of its ability—acknowledging at all times, however, the limits upon its power—and, therefore, while implementing programs as a means of achieving its objectives, preserve the maximum area of freedom £or the individual.

Also, essential to the democratic ideal is the right of the minority to the exercise of those freedoms which it must possess if it is to translate into policy and program the minority position.

It is in this context that the individual citizen operates and functions in a democracy. He commits himself to it; he involves himself in it, and he, at all times, evaluates it from the standpoint of the public, as well as the private good. Whether the citizen, in his evaluation of government sees good or evil will depend, of course, on his perspective.

We might reflect briefly upon the Greek concepts of Hubris and Sophrosyne, as we undertake to render a judgment upon the outcome of the governmental processes. Hubris, excessive pride and insolence, was regarded by the Greeks as sinful behavior. Sophrosyne, a personal life which exhibited self-restraint and intelligent recognition of the needs and requirements of the community, was regarded as virtuous behavior.

A problem confronting society today derives from the fact that there are those who, because of a lack of understanding of the real character of democracy, would through an excessive display of Hubris, or through an insolent disregard of the community interests, produce a condition of social chaos. A genuine possibility is that a condition of social anarchy may be brought on through an excessive assertion of selfish individualism. A problem of a different character and dimension is that other individuals, through an over-zealous pursuit of Sophrosyne, may encourage a subservience of the citizen to the society, or its personification in the state, and, as a consequence, introduce a form of totalitarianism into America.

On this point José Ortega y Gasset commented: “there will not be found amongst all representatives of the actual period, a single group whose attitude to life is not limited to believing that it has all the rights and none of the obligations. It is indifferent whether it disguises itself as reactionary or revolutionary; actively or passively, after one or two twists, its state of mind will consist, decisively, in ignoring all obligations, and in feeling itself, without the slightest notion of why, possessed of unlimited rights. Whatever be the substance which takes the position of such a soul, it will produce the same result, and will change it into a pretext for not conforming to any concrete purpose. If it appears as reactionary or anti-liberal it will be in order to affirm that the salvation of the state establishes a right to level down all other standards, and to man-handle one's neighbor but the same happens if it decides to act the revolutionary; the apparent enthusiasm for the manual worker, for the afflicted, for social justice, serves as a mask to facilitate the refusal of all obligations.”

In a free society the relation of subject and predicate, or citizen as agent and citizen as a recipient, are interesting. In the role of subject or agent the individual, to the degree that he is involved, influences the outcome of government, or its ultimate character. The citizen, if he is displeased with society as he interprets its goals and achievement, has an obligation to undertake to change it; this is not aright, it is the responsibility and obligation of all citizens in the free society. It is especially the obligation of the Christian, and especially of the educated citizen—for he must be involved if the ends of government are to prove worthy of its ideals. So, the citizen, in his role as activist or participant, can be and must be one of the many forces which determine the end result of government. The end product of government, of course, is the experience of the citizen in his passive role in which he is the principal object or recipient of the exercise of government power and authority. He is hardly justified in criticizing the condition of his fate as a recipient, or as an object of the ends of government, if he declines to exercise the role of citizen and refuses to assume his share of the responsibility for the determination of its ends and for the implementation of those ends.

The special obligation of the Christian flows from the fact that his life is ordered and constructed upon a religious foundation and reflects, if it is a worthy life, the ideals of that faith. We may infer from history, also, that the Christian ethics rest upon values which are traditionally related to the basic values of the free society, for example, (1) the emphasis placed upon the inner character of man, his motives, will and desires, (2) the importance to the Christian of the commandment of love, (3) the view that man is under obligation to God, which gives cosmic significance to his moral life, (4) the role of Christ as an inspiration to a life of idealism, and, finally, and very significant, Christianity's emphasis upon the absolute necessity of man's spiritual and moral growth—the view of man as an end and not as a means to an end.

This latter view of man, of course, is the absolute essence of the democratic ideal of society. Democracy affirms that man and the service of man is the end of government. It rejects the view that man is a servant of the state, and, as such, is a thing to be manipulated in order to serve ends other than those related to his own dignity and personal fulfillment.

The initial encounter of the citizen in his attempt to engage in politics is one of bewilderment and confusion. He does not know how to be effective and not infrequently an inadequate understanding of government leads to discouragement and eventually to disengagement. Usually, the sense of frustration experienced by the novice results from his over optimism. His unrealistic expectations produce a disappointing encounter. This can be avoided if the expectations of the first commitment are not too ambitious. It is important also that the neophyte learn how to make his effort reasonably effectual~ otherwise, a sense of inadequacy will fortify the sense of frustration and contribute to disillusionment and withdrawal.

There are essentially two ways to be involved in government: one, is as a citizen concerned with the public well being and the other is as a member of an interest group which is organized to advance a special objective. All of us are part of the public; all of us are members of one or more special interest groups.

If we desire an involvement or commitment aimed at a fuller expression of our membership in the community, we may proceed directly to partisan politics or to involvement in an idea group trying to influence government. If we wish to serve a personal, special interest, we may act as part of or through a special interest group—a business association, a religious organization, an employee group, or an employer group.

The widespread acceptance today of the “brokerage” theory of government, which visualizes government primarily as the reconciliation of selfish or special interests, presents a serious problem to a democratic society. Most citizens have a primary commitment to special interests and mild, almost indifferent, feeling toward the general interest. The compulsion experienced by many citizens, therefore, is the powerful urge to avoid partisan politics and to be involved almost completely and sometimes quite intensely in the cause of a particular and personal special interest.

The crux of our crisis in democracy today, therefore, is found, to a significant degree, in “the attitudes of individual citizens toward politics.” There seems to be an excessive preoccupation with personal affairs, which, in the words of De Tocqueville, “saps the virtues of public life,” and a too narrow involvement of the citizen in matters of public concern.

This condition encourages the “brokerage” concept or practice of government and tends to negate the prime requirement of democracy, which is that the citizen's role is to serve the interest of the public good.

If the Christian is to be involved in a meaningful way, he must share in the processes of government and be consciously active on the determination and advancement of the public good. This aspect of his civic life must be completely subordinate to his commitment to his selfish, business, professional or workingman's interest.

There are too many individuals who do not realize that the obligation of the citizen is one which requires a commitment and an involvement in the broad arena of political strife and controversy. This, therefore, is a cardinal weakness of the free society.

The issue before us, therefore, is not whether government is evil or good; the issue before us is the failure for the average man to realize that government is a primary responsibility of the citizen and, particularly, of the Christian citizen.

The role of an active citizen is not always easy. Registering and voting are time consuming, but that is about all, and this is the simplest and most direct way in which a citizen functions in the body politic. However, an involvement beyond this level, through active identification with a political party, involves more of a commitment, more of an effort, and more distress. Such an involvement places the individual in a role which produces an experience unknown to those associated with the church, with a special interest group, with civic activities, or even with non-partisan politics. Such an involvement provides an automatic encounter with controversy and conflict; it is sometimes exhilarating, but, as I have suggested, it is more often disillusioning. However, the principal difficulty encountered in personal involvement is not in becoming accustomed to confusion, to conflict, or the intrusion of politics into one's private life; it is rather in finding a modus operandi within a pluralistic society, embracing many special interest groups, for the effective implementation of one's essential moral convictions and, at the same time, preserving and safeguarding the institutions and processes which collectively make up the democratic way of life.

One immediately finds, when one is involved in partisan politics, that controversy is immediate, often intense, and tremendously disruptive. Often, unfortunately, it becomes quite personal. Success requires, therefore, that one view dispassionately the arena of politics when committed to it and learn, as President Johnson observed, “to disagree without being disagreeable,” and, thus, insure that a conflict of ideals does not become translated into a conflict of personalities or even destructive militancy.

Perhaps, the greatest danger of the moralist in politics is his tendency toward dogmatism—his inclination to take a black and white view on political issues, to see government as right or wrong, rather than good or bad. This propensity of the moralist produces a compulsion to become dogmatic and doctrinaire. It seriously handicaps one's ability to function effectively in an area where the preservation of relations cordial to the continuation of a dialogue is essential. Failure to exercise restraint in the context of active political involvement can produce a miasma or political sickness totally destructive of the spirit and institutions of the open society.

The fundamentalist religions, in particular, have trouble when politically committed. Absolute in the beliefs about their religion and the essential truths of their doctrine, they are unable to admit the view that society should tolerate an opposite view or to allow it to be advocated. Censorship—an appeal to the state—is the bulwark upon which they often rest their case and in so doing they advocate a course of action which, if pursued relentlessly, possesses an inherent potential for producing the final death of the free society, which of necessity must be pluralistic. Fundamentalists experience a difficulty in accepting or tolerating conditions which from their perspective are goalless, immoral and, therefore, sinful.

The truths revealed to them in their view are the ones which should be made the “established truth.” They fail to realize that in a non-democratic, non-pluralistic society, error, either of the majority or the minority, might or rather are generally permanently enthroned as “established truth.”

The Christian must, therefore, continuously remind himself that politics is not a black or white situation—especially in a free society. It is majority rule expressed with proper regard for the minority and with the guarantee of an opportunity for the minority to translate its view into a majority position. The Christian must rekindle the eternal hope that the prevailing majorities will reflect moral principles; since a society without ideals cannot achieve its true worth any more than can an individual.

Rigid adherence to the Christian ethic often generates in the believer a quality of absoluteness which also generates problems for the Christian who vigorously seeks to make that ethic viable and universal. It brings him into direct confrontation with the necessity of achieving a reconciliation between this commandment and the issues of war and peace, capital punishment, racial discrimination, social justice, and public and private morality.

The practical requirements of political life obviously produce a dichotomy or dual standard which is essentially a compromise and usually disturbing and unsatisfying to Christians. Some respond by withdrawal, even from society, and others from political life—taking the position that they can have no commitment to a political entity based upon values they reject or as operating amorally or without values. Others accept the anomaly and rationalize it—usually with the view that the democratic society through their involvement may create a morality, if it has none, or develop one more congenial to Christian idealism, if it is totally secular and materialistic. It is their hope, of course, that the separation of the spiritual and temporal power will then become less distinct and both the individual and society will be benefited.

At all times we must remember that American government is not based upon an ideology—that it tends to be non-ideological and that it is basically pragmatic. It deals with problems as they develop on a practical basis. If it has an ideology—and I doubt it appropriate to use the term in such a manner—the ideology is the concept and practice of majority rule and respect for the dissenting view of the minority. From its pluralism has come, therefore, a consensus which is an adjustment to practical problems, not an implementation of a particular ideology. In its concept and practice, the state is not given the role of protector of any orthodoxy or doctrine, whether of statism, Protestantism, atheism, communism, or racism. Its role is to preserve an opportunity for the people to develop a consensus which will produce the good life—justice to all men and respect for the dignity of man—clearly essential elements of the Christian ethics.

A corollary rule is that if there is a determination to proscribe by law a form of behavior because it is regarded as contrary to the moral precepts of Christianity or of a particular interpretation of Christian moral values, it should be established, prior to its enactment, that any such legislative proscription serves the public good by preventing a social evil and that it is not merely a prohibition of personal freedom, even if judged essential to the individual's well being. This is, it seems to me a basic principle to be recognized and observed by those citizens of an “open or free society” who understand its essential character—its pluralism.

The “closed society” can, of course, impose its will on the individual for his own good or for the good of the secular theology. In fact, it is not only appropriate to the ideology of such a society, but essential for its survival.


It would seem to me that the Christian, as an individual and as a member of a Christian fellowship, must have a special obligation to participate in politics. But, in so doing, he must be aware of the metes and bounds or the context within which his political involvement will of necessity place him. He must understand the open or democratic society; its pluralistic character; its ends and goals; its ideology and moral assumptions; and its peculiarities of structure and organization.

He must avoid being doctrinaire about his peculiar morality; he must accept the majority rule; protect the right of dissent; reconcile himself to the view that the immorality of the community—or even its amorality should be corrected by education and precept in preference to legislation. If society errs, he must remember that it is better to err and be free to change than to err permanently, once and forever.

He should remember the admonition of Michah in the Old Testament:
“Seek justice; love mercy and walk humbly in the presence of God.”
He should prefer to “light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Challenge of Higher Education (1970)

The Rodda Project: The Challenge of Higher Education

Although this paper speaks to one of Senator Rodda's abiding concerns—higher education and its role in society—it carries no indication of having been prepared as either a speech or position paper. It had the cadences one would expect in one of the Senator's spoken addresses, but it may be simply an essay he prepared and kept among his papers for future use. He returned to this topic time and again.

We note that Sen. Rodda was rather forward looking in his inclusion of bioengineering, gene manipulation, and the environment among his concerns. The date on this paper shows that it was written a few weeks before the first Earth Day.


Higher Education: The Challenge

March 6, 1970

The Greeks brought into the mainstream of Western civilization a manner of thinking which has had implications perhaps even more far-reaching for contemporary society than the Judeo-Christian religious traditions. Beginning with Greek intellectual explorations into epistemology and metaphysics, it ultimately developed into the scientific method, a fantastically effective instrument for the advancement of the frontiers of human understanding. The end-product has been the full exposure to human reason and manipulation of the most obscure phenomena of nature. A concomitant effect has been the transformation of the way in which modern man visualizes himself in relation to the cosmos, his natural environment, the earth, and God. It has produced for man a vision of himself as homo sapiens, the maker of his own destiny and the master of nature. To a rapidly growing number of individuals, however, this new image of man, alone and independent, the free agent, absent a relevant agreement on morality and ethics, is less than reassuring, more than disturbing, even frightening.

Absorbed in an intellectual interest which has focused upon the desirability of rationalizing social organization to achieve practical goals, civilized man, significantly a product of the academy of higher education, has truly become homo faber or the technical man.

Inferior to none as pragmatists and scientists, the American people may point with pride to a record of accomplishment which, judged or measured by the three criteria of economic affluence, military power, and scientific technology, is without question a success story unmatched in the history of human endeavor.

The national biography is, however, not free of significant faults, which come into view when one examines the side effects of the American success story. They are so massive that they force one to question the initial judgment which rendered the verdict of success and to apply instead the Scottish verdict of “not proven—not innocent and set free, not guilty and condemned, simply not proven.”

It does not require the formal judgment of a professional economist, for example, to establish that a steadily rising Gross National Product may be a poor indicator of a nation's economic well being—that it tells nothing about the degree of inequality in the distribution of income and the diffusion of wealth, the uneven incidence of unemployment or its devastating effect upon the individual, the baneful quality of many consumer goods, the cruel effects of inflation upon those with fixed incomes and upon the poor, or the widespread exploitation of unorganized, unskilled labor.

Obviously, our obsession with crude measurements of economic growth has blinded us to the dramatic economic realities of American life and has prevented us from utilizing our tremendous resources for the achievement of genuine economic welfare.

Imagine a nation which possesses 6% of the world's population and which produces over 50% of the world's economic goods tolerating widespread hunger and malnutrition and confessing to the world that it cannot build housing for a substantial portion of its citizens. Is this a story of success?

The existence of a thermonuclear over-kill admittedly provides the nation with the ability to destroy its enemies, but it cannot be honestly argued that it affords the nation a genuine feeling of security. It enables us to live only with the assurance that each day that passes may bring us closer to the ultimate moment in time when “civilized man” will achieve his total self-destruction.

Arthur T. Hadley, in The Nation's Safety and Arms Control, expresses the view that the “balance of power or terror” concept is useless as a formula for the achievement of peace, and he wryly comments that “technical equipment and arms have as much to do with peace as frogs with weather.”

He argues that the road to peace is not through the creation of greater military power. but through large-scale arms limitation and a significant modification in the structure and operation of the “national state system.” Unfortunately, in the present context of American thinking, his proposal is so susceptible to the charge of “unAmerican” that seriously to offer it as a viable alternative to international arms competition and proliferation is almost impossible. A potential avenue to world peace, therefore, is practically removed from meaningful consideration. And so, despite the obvious lessons of history, we blindly pursue an irrational plan for the avoidance of destruction which defines the metes and bounds of world peace in terms of megatons of nuclear power and an expanding arsenal of modern weaponry.

Our technical competency was displayed to the world when the first American walked on the moon, and we may point with pride to achievements such as a developing capability for bioengineering and genetic manipulation, the regular occurrence of human transplants, the development of fantastic computers, dramatic progress in cybernetics, and the continued probe of outer space. But these accomplishments hardly tell the full story of technical progress. There are adverse side effects which must be considered: pollution, resource depletion, crime, urban decay, drug addiction, racial warfare, hunger and malnutrition, mental disorder and widespread social alienation and disorientation, all of which seem closely related to the advancement of science.

Our mechanical marvels and our scientific knowledge leave us with the substance of material success, but also with a crippled man, who exists, but has almost ceased to experience a wholesome life. He feels alienated and, therefore, is deficient in the experience of personal fulfillment. The reality of “progress” as being significantly counterproductive is a fact of life that we have been too prone to ignore.

Dr. Willis Harmon, in a scholarly paper entitled “Contest for Education in the Seventies,” contends that the “operational values and goals” of American society, which must be inferred from the “actions taken,” are inadequate for the requirements of tomorrow. Referring to them as the “pathogenic premises and values in the culture,” Harmon insists that they must be replaced by “more constructive humane ones.”

My inclination is to agree, since I am extremely dismayed over the direction in which Western civilization is moving. I am troubled because I can see important elements of the future present here and now. We need only to project them forward, either in a magnified or diminished degree, to obtain a partial vision of our tomorrow. Admittedly, elements not now present will emerge in the future, but—if I understand our dilemma correctly—not as a matter of rational choice. Instead, they will of necessity be the response of a computerized technical society to its own self-directing mechanism rather than to the rationally conceived metaphysical and material needs of people.

The almost certain probability of the eventualization of my vision of the future, which maybe thought of as the “contextual imperatives” of the human condition, forces me to view the future quite pessimistically.

An honest extrapolation of the “Brave New World” of tomorrow would, in my view, include, although not be limited to, the following:
  1. a more destructive and costly military kill-capability;
  2. massive manipulation, pollution and destruction of the natural environment and ecology;
  3. overpopulation, mass poverty and hunger;
  4. a bioengineering and genetic manipulation capability, with a non-existent or inadequate ethic for its direction and control;
  5. racial tension and, perhaps, organized racial oppression;
  6. urban decay and rot and an urban sub-culture which spawns deviant and criminal behavior;
  7. massive reliance upon the power of institutional violence for the preservation of social order;
  8. an exaggerated functional materialism, which equates human happiness with the abundant life; and
  9. widespread alienation from and non-commitment to society.
I must admit that my look into the future is bleak and I suppose that one may ask: Is there anything better to anticipate? I can only answer affirmatively if there is a positive and constructive response to the challenge which confronts western civilization.

Arnold Toynbee in The Story of History indicts man himself as responsible for human tragedy, since civilization takes direction from human response to historical confrontation. Toynbee's thesis is that disaster results if human beings, when challenged by crisis, react unrealistically and irrationally. Toynbee sees in history, therefore, no promise of good or bad, only a challenge.

In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper reasons to essentially the same conclusion and hurls essentially the same challenge. History, he argues, has no metaphysical or philosophical significance, since it leads mankind nowhere. It has meaning only in a “pragmatic or existential sense” or to the extent that man gives it meaning through his response to crisis.

Since history has no ends or goals of its own, Popper argues that meaning for mankind may not be discovered in history. It is imparted to history by man through his freedom of choice. Mankind is not, therefore, fated to an end which is predetermined: he has the freedom to choose—the way and the end.

Like Toynbee, Popper makes no promise and no prediction for tomorrow, but he argues that man will choose well if he chooses human freedom, social justice, individual equality and peace.

In this connection, Tom Wicker of the New York Times observed in his critique of the “Report of the Eisenhower Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence” that the “greatest threat to American society is internal and not external.”

And he made the observation that the “... greatness and durability of most civilizations have been finally determined by how they responded to ... challenge from within,” and that “ours will be no exception.”

Wicker is greatly disturbed, however, by what he observes in America today because he cannot discern the presence of a national will to produce an appropriate response to the American crisis. Sadly, he predicts that the will to respond will not emerge until “... there is a move away from materialism, apathy and complacency and the vulgar know-nothingness that so often passes for common sense along Main Street ...”

If I interpret Wicker correctly, he is arguing the absolute necessity for the nation significantly to modify its operative values and goals and to adjust its institutions and behavior patterns accordingly. I am inclined strongly to agree.

Abraham Maslow in The Psychology of Being suggests that, perhaps, we are experiencing such a change. “A new vision of the possibilities of man,” he contends, “is emerging ... and its implications are many ... for our conceptions of, politics, literature, economics, religious, and even ... the non-human world.” Whatever the change may be—and Maslow thinks of it as “a new philosophy of man”—it must, I believe, induce a will to change dramatically how we behave toward each other and in our natural environment. Without a change in our purposes, individual and collective, we will continue to misuse our talents and in the end totally deny the very nature of our being.

Man will become the victim of a system of his own creation, and the underlying deterministic assumptions of Marxian and of Behaviorist psychology will have been fulfilled. Human decision-making will be primarily and simply a response to the logical imperatives of an economic system geared to mass consumption as a means to maximize profits, to a science and technology whose goals are an extension of the mathematical logic of their own structure and development, and to a political power structure totally governed by irrational and doctrinaire responses to problems affecting national security, the rights of minorities, and internal disorder and violence.

A consequence of externalizing the rationale of our lives and of adjusting them totally in response to the outward world rather than the inner man will be a depersonalization and dehumanization of ourselves and our society. We will sadly discover that we have, in the process of becoming “programmed human beings,” surrendered our capability of being self-actualizing persons or of achieving meaningful fulfillment.

Probably, at the time of the discovery, we will be functioning within a totalitarian utopia which will have emerged as the only viable social alternative in a society torn by materialism, exploitation, brutality, and a general feeling of non-fulfillment. The frustrations, tensions, and anxieties of such a social condition will certainly have produced social alienation on such a massive scale that the continuance of a political system legitimized by popular support, will of necessity have been abandoned.

Hopefully, the ability to achieve a transformation in contemporary society, which will maximize rather than minimize the opportunity for human fulfillment, is still an option open to us. There are some constructive forces which give an indication or sign that a leavening influence is at work. They are, for example:
  1. the youth revolt against materialism and-against the dehumanizing and irrational forces in contemporary society;
  2. expressions of concern among scientists about the ends served by science;
  3. the development of experimental colleges and universities and new curricula;
  4. religious ecumenicalism and a revival within churches of the importance of personal witness to the teaching of Christ;
  5. the emergence of new and powerful influences in psychology and philosophy, which jointly are altering our view of man's nature .and needs;
  6. a modest recognition by industrial and political leaders of the need for a positive response to the problems of hunger, war, environmental destruction, racial conflicts, and personal alienation.
As encouraging as these signs are, it is my view that the principal operational forces and goals in the world society remain as described by Tom Wicker and that they account for the unfortunate non-existence of a will for change.

The “establishment” is devoid of a genuine capacity for self-evaluation; the authority of the conventional wisdom remains largely unquestioned; and the propensity to apply materialistic criteria in therefore, that a will to create a more humane, person-centered society can develop into a meaningful force in contemporary society.

Incremental shifts in the premises and values of a civilization sometimes occur, but major adjustments occur seldom, if ever. And yet, if one believes that the drift of things is to make man irrelevant, one must force a dialogue which challenges the adequacy of the status quo—its values and goals.

Traditionally, it has been the responsibility of higher education to provide such a dialogue. Hopefully it will continue to do so. And, of course, if it does, the dialogue must not be mere pretense; it must be a genuine and searching analysis of basic premises, principles, goals and institutions of contemporary life.

If such is to be the character of the intellectual probing of the quality of our society, the institutions of higher education must be free and independent; otherwise, their explorations will have no other capability than that of providing an intellectual reinforcement of the present arrangements.

This presents the academy of learning with two problems: first, of course, to achieve a significant degree of academic freedom, and, second, to utilize its intellectual freedom to produce a new synthesis of human understanding and aspirations.

Only if this is accomplished will higher education contribute significantly to a change in the directional movement of society, of technology, and, therefore, of the human race.

As a politician, I have a relation to the first problem—that of academic freedom; and, you in higher education, private and public, have a relation to the second—that of the integrity of the academic community.

My task, as a legislator, is to preserve the freedom of higher education to explore truth. This is a difficult assignment and its difficulty will increase with the intensity of the conflict between emergent values directed toward a restructuring of society and the “operative values” of a well established system.

Perhaps, it may not be accomplished, since it is very questionable, in my view, that the outer community or the “town” will be so permissive toward academia. Higher education appears to have become such an integral part of the status quo that it is almost nonsensical to talk of its independence or autonomy. Academic freedom can be expected, therefore, to survive in the coming critical years in form, but not in substance. Scholars may be allowed to discuss “yes-yeses,” but not “no-noes”; otherwise, budgets will be cut, faculty dismissed, personnel made subject to ideological litmus tests, which identify right from wrong thinking; the social sciences and the humanities minified within the world of learning; science and “skill and service training” given even more prestigious status; the faculty diminished in influence, and trouble-making or non-conformist students disciplined.

The “town” holds to a strong feeling of “ownership” toward academia, and the manifestations of this possessiveness are clearly set forth in a legislator's correspondence, in the character of the legislation designed to cure campus disorder, and in the posture and attitude of executive leadership at all levels of government.

The public mind evaluates the university on a scale of imperfectability inversely proportionate to its conformity to the conventional wisdom, the requirements of law and order, and the status quo. Any propensity on the part of the intellectual establishment toward a pathological diagnosis of society produces an immediate “hue and cry” for legislation designed to punish, discipline, control, and even, in extreme cases, to “shut it down.”

Against the political pressures, which are a natural concomitant of a mindless public response to “campus radicalism and divergency,” all politicians who stand for academic freedom do so at their political peril. During times of social stress, when there is a conflict between those who would use their minds and those who would not, the elected official who supports academia is considerably more expendable politically than is normally the case. And yet this is a vulnerability to which a thinking politician must submit if he is to protect his own integrity. This is a fact of political life in a democratic society derived from the vital importance of academic freedom, objective and honest dialogue, and freedom of speech to the formulation of social values and goals, and to the creation of an informed public opinion.

Obviously academic freedom is relative and it is weaker during a time of ideational conflict.

Viewed in this context, one would be irresponsible to assume that great success will accompany the efforts of those desirous of providing independence and freedom for the intellectual establishment. But to rush to the other extreme is quite possibly unjustified, also. If we assume, therefore, a reasonable degree of freedom to explore ideas, to define goals, to wrestle with problems of student unrest and campus turmoil, and to experiment with curricula, another question yet remains: Can academia respond appropriately? Can it make its freedom meaningful?

Frankly, I doubt that it can.

I cannot advise higher education what it should become. I would expect, however, that there should emerge some significant changes within higher education, for example:
  1. assurance that higher education research will not prostitute the ideals and values of academia;
  2. abandonment of the impulsive—almost neurotic—drive for professional academic success which seems more and more to separate the professor from the teacher and the teacher from the student, since the establishment of a viable teacher-student relationship seems less and less the road to success in academia;
  3. modification of the university curricula in order to relate it more closely to the spiritual, psychological and esthetic;
  4. involvement of the academic world in community service, not militant activism and confrontation, but rather in a constructive involvement to effect those ideals which will produce a society more idealistically motivated and less prone to produce anxiety, hopelessness, pessimism, alienation and deviant behavior;
  5. improved cross-fertilization of ideas and knowledge among the professionals within the various specialties;
  6. continuous and relevant process of self-evaluation within all areas of academia;
  7. exploration, through innovative curricula structures and new models for internal organization, of ways to improve the educational process, despite the fact that to experiment is to hazard the embarrassment of failure;
  8. exposure of the flaws in the institutional structure and value fabrics of Western civilization which lead to the pursuit of goals removed from relevance for the psychological and physiological well being of man.
Perhaps, it is asking too much to expect higher education to respond to the challenge of our times; yet a “critique” must be made, for civilization must have a capability for ongoing self- evaluation. Western civilization is predicated upon the assumption that science and technology will provide the means to utopia; higher education must advise us of the validity or invalidity of this premise.

Former President of the University of California, Clark Kerr, stated that the idea of the multiversity “ ... has its reality rooted in the logic of history. It is an imperative rather than a reasoned choice among elegant alternatives.”

To the extent that this is a description of the origin of the multiversity or of higher education today, as well as an historical interpretation of its development, the expectation of human fulfillment through the fulfillment of higher education is not likely to materialize.

If higher education is so much apart of what is that it may not become the creator of what ought to be, we may find it necessary to rely upon other centers of learning—those independent of the status quo, if there are any.

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka in Phenomenology and Science in Contemporary European Thought describes the dilemma of modern man as follows:

“Modern man ... has lost his innermost roots in his experience of nature, his relations with others, and his awareness of metaphysical dimensions. Technocratic man, limited to conventionalized social responses and utilitarian functions designed for mere material comfort, is infested with endemic diseases which threaten to end humanity if not human nature.”

Jonathan Swift foresaw the dilemma of modern man when he placed Gulliver on the Island of Laputa, where Gulliver encountered a people so single-mindedly devoted to pure reason that they were totally isolated from the problems of real life and existence. Gulliver fled in dismay. That we need to fly from Laputa is as obvious as it was to Gulliver; the question is: Can we fly from Laputa without crashing upon the barren desert of Nihilism or the wasteland of Caesarism, so frequently the fate of those who turn from reason and mind to emotion and heart?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Freedom: With God or without God? (1971)

The Rodda Project: Concepts of freedom in contexts of God

Albert Rodda was a lifelong Methodist who was married to a lifelong Roman Catholic. Both Albert and Clarice practiced their religions faithfully, although on close parallel paths, creating a stable mixed marriage at a time when mixed marriages were regarded more askance than they are now. Senator Rodda was thoughtful about his religion, but not doctrinaire. These remarks on human freedom relative to God were presented at the Oak Park Methodist Church in Sacramento.


To be Free: With God or Without

Oak Park Methodist Church

August 22, 1971

Senator Albert S. Rodda

Is man free, and if so, in what way is he free?

Many responses have been made to this question. This morning, I will consider three.

First, let us review the thinking of Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher.

Nietzsche made the oft-quoted statement that “God is dead!” He meant that since God was no longer a force in man’s life, God was dead—killed by man! With God dead, man was emancipated—free— free to be himself or to find his own “being.” The question which must be asked is: How did Nietzsche expect that man would use his freedom—his emancipation from God?

Nietzsche saw liberated man as one driven by a “Will to Power,” and it was through power that man would achieve his true self or his being, by becoming a superman!

This conclusion offers a frightening prospect for man. Since man has conquered nature and can unleash to his purposes the destructive energy of which reality is made, the Nietzschian view of man is disturbing. Even in the middle of the 19th Century, Nietzsche, in reflecting on the consequences of his thought, was driven to anguish and terror. Today the prospects for man, so conceived, are even more dreadful.

One can only conclude that if God is dead and man is free and freedom is expressed in a will to power, man must restore God to life; otherwise, chaos will be man's fate and the Biblical Revelation will be fulfilled!

The behavior of man in the 20th Century, as one reflects on the human condition, is not reassuring. It seems to provide more evidence to prove that Nietzsche was right than that he was wrong and the serious contemplation of the new superman described by Nietzsche evokes despair and hopelessness!

The freedom of man is viewed differently, however, by Jean-Paul Sartre; although he, too, proclaims the existence of a Godless Universe. with God dead, Sartre argues that human life is meaningless and absurd!

His is the atheistic existentialist view. There is no God; man is free; there are no values; man is absurd!

A brilliant contemporary thinker, who fought as a partisan in the French Resistance during the Nazi's occupation of France, Sartre writes bitterly of evil. He encountered evil in the Nazi occupation of France.

The evil in Hitlerism was its justification of any behavior, however depraved, as long as it resulted in power. The Nazi interpretation and application of Nietzsche's “Will to Power” led to Dachau and Auschwitz. Sartre witnessed the presence of the Nazi in France; he saw Hitler as evil; he became convinced that evil exists in the world. He concluded that evil cannot be redeemed!

But, concluded Sartre, man, who lives in a Godless world of evil and of absurdity, possesses at least his freedom! It, however, is only a limited freedom—the freedom to say “no!” This is the ultimate freedom through which man fulfills himself or achieves his Being as a Man! The freedom to say “no!”

Sartre sees the essence of life as negative—the freedom to confront evil and to say “no”; man may say: “I will not accept an evil that cannot be redeemed.”

Strangely, this Sartrean view—of a universe, empty of God and pervaded with evil—produced a conviction in Sartre which ultimately developed a close kinship with the “Will to Power” of Frederick Nietzsche. To Sartre the practical meaning of life was the struggle to overcome Evil; in this struggle man fulfilled himself; outside the struggle there was no true being or opportunity for human fulfillment.

The logic of this reasoning can be disturbing, however, since the freedom to say “no” may lead to a Nietzschean “Will to Power.” He who must say “no” might say “no” against his own nature. William Barrett in The Irrational Man reasons that the freedom to say “no” to evil in a context of life void of God and values might be a “rootless freedom”—a “demonical freedom!”

Sartre is a genuine humanitarian—a liberal revolutionary and a man of action; he can be trusted with the exercise of the freedom to resist evil—to say “no!” But the same freedom which he affirms could be experienced by a man of evil will. One can visualize the consequence. Absent a God and eternal ethical values—what is the assurance that freedom will not be abused? Sartre's view of man may merge into nothing more than a Nietzschean “Will to Power!” which produces a race of evil supermen!

Something better is required to respond to the needs of man! The consequences inherent in the proposition that God is dead, killed by man, and that man is free, are not reassuring.

Frankly, the atheism of these men is so stark and the consequences are so disturbing that its contemplation must turn one toward religion and God. This leap to God brings to mind the thinking of Soren Kierkegaard, an early 19th Century Dane, who viewed the mystery of human existence quite differently.

In contrast to Nietzsche, Kierkegaard chose to be a Christian. God, in his view, was not dead and throughout his life he constantly struggled to affirm his personal faith with all of his passion and being. His sole objective in life became that of realizing the “truth of Christ in his own life.”

His primary objective, as a writer, was to define what is meant to be a Christian. His primary purpose, in his personal life, was to “be a Christian.” For Kierkegaard, it was the only way of being a man or of becoming fulfilled.

Desirous of contributing to the betterment of mankind, he speculated as follows:
“So there I sat and smoked my cigar until I lapsed into thought. Among other thoughts I remember these:

“You are going on,” I said to myself, “to become an old man, without being anything, and without really undertaking to do anything.

“On the other hand, wherever you look about you, in literature and in life, you see the celebrated names and figures, the precious and much heralded men who are coming into prominence and are much talked about, the many benefactors of the age who know how to benefit mankind by making life easier and easier. And what are you doing?”

Here my soliloquy was interrupted, for my cigar was smoked out and a new one had to be lit. So I smoked again, and then suddenly this thought flashed through my mind:

“You must do something, but inasmuch as with your limited capacities it will be impossible to make anything easier than it has become, you must, with the same humanitarian enthusiasm as the others, undertake to make something harder.”

This notion pleased me immensely... For when all combine in every way to make everything easier, there remains only one possible danger, namely, that the ease becomes so great that it becomes altogether too great; then there is only one want left, though it is not yet a felt want, when people will want difficulty.

Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and moved by genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I conceived it as my task to create difficulties.
Pursuant to his determination to make a contribution by creating difficulties, Kierkegaard wrote penetratingly about human behavior, which he categorized into three types: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious.

The aesthetic life was one devoted to the enjoyment of the pleasure of the moment and to the avoidance of the unpleasant. The child is the perfect and complete aesthete, existing always in the immediacy and simplicity of the moment. Some adults retain this childlike mode of behavior and never mature. They respond to life simply and live for the moment. In the end their lives sink into despair, as the flowers that delight their lives fade.

Materialists and hedonists share this existence, as do purely abstract thinkers and speculators, who are absorbed in developing systems of philosophy and theology.

The former are consumers of things and events; the latter are analysts and abstractionists. Both are only spectators—observers of life who are detached from genuine life experience.

The aesthetic quality of living is shared by all, but some never advance beyond it—remaining childlike and uninvolved.

When one becomes involved in a choice between values, one advances to the ethical life. By the courageous act of reaching a decision, one begins to live ethically, and with a potential for living authentically!

Since ethics involves abstract reasoning about good and bad, and right and wrong, it can remain outside of life—it can be and often is merely the description of philosophical or theological systems and nothing more.

A philosopher or a theologian can succeed in constructing a complete and logical system of values and yet carry on life in a childish manner, living for the moment. Kierkegaard held that an ethical system without decision or commitment was sheer paper currency without backing. For him, the meaningful life was in living beyond the ethical. It was the religious life, the life that is involved in the uniqueness of the individual—you and I— our singleness in the world. It goes beyond mere abstraction. It is a life that is real in the sense that it transcends the easy and mechanical observance of a morality, simply because it is socially desirable—or socially approved or traditional.

The genuinely religious man must on occasion, in “fear and trembling,” break with the ordinary moral code. If we recall, Nietzsche affirmed the right of the superman to break any moral rule in order to achieve power. Kierkegaard, however, differed dramatically. The individual, he argued, must break with the ethical, but not for the reason of a callous, arrogant seeking for power.

Kierkegaard justified the religious act of moral transgression on the grounds of only one principle. The one justification, which was the core to his Christian faith, was that the individual is higher than the universal principle or the collective morality. The abstract principle cannot, he reasoned, comprehend the uniqueness of the one—the individual, in his concreteness. There are occasions, therefore, when the individual must act alone—in a kind of solitary “suspension of the ethical.”

The average person faces the necessity of making the difficult choice only occasionally and since/whatever the decision, some evil will result, most individuals avoid the necessity of choosing, or of deciding for themselves. They embrace a principle—a moral code—and by applying it rigorously and with inflexibility, escape the real moment of truth in their lives. The rigorous observance of the ethics of the day or of the crowd may provide a convenient cop-out, for no moral blueprint covers all of life's circumstances. There are times when we must choose in “fear and trembling” from within ourselves, not from outside ourselves. Those are the occasions when we stand alone.

The Bible states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

The “fear and trembling” of modern man in choosing is the beginning of self and of self-actualization. And eventually all human beings must cope with the despair which embraces life when ultimately they confront the absurdity of existence.

Kierkegaard believed that at the moment of confrontation of the absurdity of life any response other than the religious was inadequate at best and at worst demonical.

A subjective thinker, Kierkegaard saw truth as inward! The true religion he argued was not simply a system of theology, which possessed the logic of a geometric theorem. To him, religion meant “to be religious.”

Religion must penetrate and permeate our existence, or it is nothing.

A theologian may know theology, but if in his heart God may have never lived or may have died, he cannot be regarded as religious.

An illiterate peasant, unable to state a simple religious creed, may be deeply religious. If he “is in the truth,” people will clearly recognize it simply because of his way of life—his living! A religious person is not a “sorter of creeds”—he is a whole man. His living is the truth—it is the way of the spirit. Kierkegaard reasoned, therefore, that the true Christian follows the law of his being, which is the “way of Christ.”

He argued that without Christ the Christian religion is empty and evil.

Christianity, he vigorously insisted, must concern the individual himself—not pure doctrine, creed, and theological abstraction.

Kierkegaard's thought remains a challenge to secular society, to institutionalized religion, and to the atheistic existential charge that life is absurd!

Christians, through faith in Christ, through living the Christian life in the context of the scriptures, can transform their own lives and influence the lives of those about him.

The difficulty that Kierkegaard created was the challenge of the Christian to be a true Christian—a religious man! There can be no greater difficulty; it goes beyond living for the moment or living according to the code of the day.

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to work humbly with your God?”

When two Christians meet, a field of spirituality must come into existence; it if does not, one must ask: Are they truly Christians?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tuition at the University of California (1970)

The Rodda Project: Paying for a university education

Ronald Reagan insisted on two things upon taking office as governor of California. One was the head of Clark Kerr, president of the University of California. The second was the imposition of tuition on UC students. Kerr was soon gone, replaced by Charles Hitch. The Regents of the University of California also agreed to impose education fees for the first time on the university's students. Excuses were made that the new fees were not really the adoption of tuition, but Senator Rodda insisted that the fees were exactly that—a violation of the university's long history of tuition-free public education. Tuition meant payment for education, while student fees were presumably payment for incidentals. The line between the two concepts was being blurred—or even erased.

Once the fees were in place, it naturally followed that the Regents could not resist raising them periodically. In this paper, prepared by Sen. Rodda to provide information to his Democratic colleagues, the Senator refers to a pending proposal to set student fees at $600 per year by 1971-72. By way of comparison, University of California undergraduate fees were $8129 in 2005-06.

Sen. Rodda also refers to the community college system in this paper. Tuition was later imposed on community college students, an explicit tuition system based on a payment per academic unit. Tuition-free higher education in California belongs to history, not the present. Rodda was prescient in his warning.


Tuition: Considerations of Interest to Democratic Legislators

March 1, 1970

The escalation of the tuition by the Regents on February 20, dramatically reveals that we are now in what I have described as the “era of the politics of tuition.” It is no longer possible semantically to argue that we have not adopted the tuition principle in California because of the Regents' action and we can expect tuition consistently to be more a matter of budgetary consideration in the future and we can expect, I suppose, an even greater escalation in tuition.

The following figures are rather interesting: In 1956 the fee at the University of California for a semester was $42 or $84 a year; in 1957 the fee went to $50 per semester or $100 a year; in 1958 it went to $60 a semester or $120 a year; in 1962 it went to $75 a semester or $150 a year; in 1964 it went to $110 a semester or $220 per year: and in 1968 it went to $107 a quarter or $160 a semester for a total of $320 per year.

Fees, as between 1957 and 1970, increased, therefore, from $84 to $320, which means that they have increased four hundred percent, which is certainly much greater than inflationary increases over that period of time.

The Regents acted on February 20 to provide for an increase in the admission fee for 1970-71 over present levels in the amount of $150 a year or $50 a quarter, which means that the fee will be $320 plus $150—about $470 per year. In 1971-72 the fees will go up an additional $150 and reach the neighborhood of $600, having doubled over a two-year period. This is for undergraduates. Because of Reagan amendments to the modified Hitch proposal, graduate students will pay an additional amount which will be $180 the first year and $360 more the second year, which means grad students will be paying in 1970-71 about $480 per year and in 1971-72 about $660 per year.

Incidentally, no provision, as a consequence of the action taken by the Regents, was made with regard to low-income students, although the increase in revenues which will amount to about $7 million, as I understand it, will go to the University to be used for the purposes determined by the University.

Statements were made to the effect that every effort would be taken to utilize current scholarship and fellowship funds to take care of needy students. But, no specific action was taken, and, of course, this means that the students must take a means test. to obtain the additional money necessary to attend State College.

A $200 tuition increase produces $9 million. Since the University increased the tuition to $150, the state will be saved about $7 million. With a California population of 20,000,000 that is about 459 per person per year. The increase, however, will adversely affect the ability of students to attend because they must project the increased costs into the future. A student contemplating entering the University this year, who financially is a marginal student, will have to have $150 more income next year, $300 in 1971-72, and if there is no increase thereafter an additional $300 for two years in order to achieve an AB degree. This means that his increased expenses will be $1,050 over four years.

If the recent history of the tuition increases mean anything, a student can be assured that the tuition will be in excess of this amount by 1972-73 because the tuition, which is now a matter of budgetary politics, will, I am certain, be escalated.

A critical fact that is important is that Section 23753 of the Education Code provides that State Colleges may not levy a tuition in excess of $25 per year or $12.50 per semester. Out-of-State residents and foreign students pay tuition fees. They also pay the regular fees which the resident student pays.

The difference between a fee and a tuition fee is that a fee is used for non-instructional purposes—it is for student services such as parking, materials, medical health care, etc. It also is for student association buildings and things of that nature. There is every reason to think that the State Colleges, which now have combined fees of $158 a year, are in violation of the law. Certainly, if the State Colleges raise the fee to match the University's increase in tuition, the State Colleges, in my view will be in violation of the law because some of that money will certainly be used for educational purposes.

The point that I am making is that before the State Colleges can increase the State College tuition to match the level of the University's increase, the language in the Education Code will have to be changed. This will take an urgency clause if it is going to be put into effect for 1970-71. If this change is not achieved, it seem to me that there will be an immeasurable diversion of students from the University to the State Colleges next year. There is quite possibly likely to be, therefore, another crisis in enrollment, at the State Colleges, because we probably will budget adequately to take care of the University of California enrollments, but we will underestimate and under-budget the State Colleges.

The critical factor at the State Colleges is instructional staffing. In a couple of years the problem will be one of building—libraries, cafeterias, faculty offices, and things of that nature. Right now it is primarily a matter of staffing.

The Governor does not want lines of students denied admission to the State Colleges or the University next year. Every effort will be made to stop this, but I think that it will be very difficult to accomplish such a goal because of the confused picture with regard to tuition.

Incidentally, if students are diverted from the University, many will go to the community colleges as well as to State Colleges.

The community colleges, under the law, must accept all students with a high school diploma and all who are 18 years of age or over who can benefit from an education. This is the open-door policy and, of course, the law imposes the non-tuition principle on the community colleges.

The community college situation is interesting.

At the time the Master Plan was developed, the community colleges were funded by the State at about 29% of educational costs, or 29¢ out of a dollar. The Master Plan provided that, by 1975, 50,000 students who normally would attend the University and the State Colleges would be diverted to the community colleges. In order to assist the community colleges in funding this increased enrollment, it was agreed that state financial support of the community colleges would be established at 45% and that there would be state contribution to capital outlay.

Today the state has met its commitment with regard to capital outlay and 50% of community college construction, statewide, is paid for by the State. A state bond issue, which I authored in 1968, provided $60 million for community colleges. About $45 million of the bond issue is still available, although the bonds cannot be sold because of the bond market.

Additional money was provided for capital outlay in Assembly Bill 606, 1969 General Session, for community colleges. With regard to the educational expense, however, the state has increased its level of support for community colleges only to about 33%—well below the 45% level of the Master Plan. sixty-seven percent of the statewide education costs of community colleges are borne by the taxpayer.

Many community colleges are at or near their tax ceiling and it is very difficult for a community college to pass an override tax. This means that if the Governor does not substantially increase the support level for community colleges in 1970, the State's contribution will drop probably to the neighborhood of 30%. Local support will, thus, increase to the neighborhood of 70%.

Remember that the community colleges must enroll all of those students who are qualified who offer themselves for enrollment. This fact of law quite possibly could lead to serious difficulties if districts are not successful in passing overrides, or at least it may bring many up to their maximum tax ceilings. It will definitely produce a crisis in community college education and will shift an increasing burden of higher education on to the community colleges and the local taxpayer.

In summary, the thing that must be pointed out is that the principle of no tuition was abandoned by the Board of Regents in spite of the fact that they describe the increase as a fee. The increase was so substantive that the semantics of language cannot conceal the fact that a University tuition is in effect. We now are in the era of tuition. We have abandoned a 101-year tradition which has been supported by fourteen Republican Governors and seven Democratic Governors. The Regents no longer have a principle of no-tuition to stand on. They will have to bargain on the tuition question and tuition will now become a part of the budgetary debates and deliberations each year. These are some statistics on education: In 1968 out of 1,000 students who entered school, 800 will graduate from high school and of the 800, 540 will enroll in some institution of higher education as freshmen, of the 540 who enroll as freshmen, 250 will complete more than the first year. Of these 250, 100 will obtain baccalaureate degrees.

Obviously we need to increase the persistence rate in the field of higher education, since our society requires a higher quality of education on the part of its citizens. Anything which increases the cost of education tends to lower the persistence rate. This is one adverse effect of tuition.

Incidentally, only 10% of the students complete sixteen years of education or achieve the AB without interruption. Tuition will further prolong the time required for an education through the AB.

One-half of the families in this state have incomes below $8,000; 23% of the University of California students have family incomes below $8,000; 14% of the State College students have family incomes below $6,000, and 4% below $4,000. Unless student financial aids are increased, the increased tuition will cause poor students to drop out of college:

10% of the nation's population is in California, but California has received 40% of the research money from the federal government. This statistic indicates the importance of higher education in California to our economy.

Arguments against tuition:
  1. Adversely affects low-income families, therefore, has a more drastic impact on the minorities.
  2. Will shift a greater portion of the cost of higher education to the local property tax, because of a transfer of students to community colleges.
  3. Will reduce the access to education in graduate areas exclusively assigned to the University (medicine, law, architecture, and veterinary medicine and doctoral programs in all subject matter disciplines).
  4. Will adversely affect California's competitive position in higher education which has made the State outstanding in technology and research.