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December 31, 1936

In a lengthy letter to the editor of The New York Times, President MacCracken joined the discussion raised by, among others, Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, about the need for a “society-centered curriculum” and the questionable value in such an academic program of foreign language study. Pointing out that modern language acquisition in European countries occurred early in students’ education for very practical reasons, MacCracken asserted that “the study of modern languages is therefore with us a cultural rather than a vocational requisite. Surely at the present time, if ever, a knowledge of modern languages can be defended as essential in a society-centered curriculum….

“To sum up, modern languages are the indispensible instruments of internationalism, of comparative culture, and of the correction of chauvinism and parochialism in our national philosophy. They increase the vocabulary of thought as well as the literature of understanding.”

The Years