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January 28, 1962

Speaking in the Chapel, progressive educator Harold Taylor, president emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, and William F. Buckley, Jr., editor of the conservative journal The National Review and author of God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom’ (1951), presented liberal versus conservative viewpoints on education in the year’s first event in the Student Lecture Series. Taylor held, as the first sentence of a 1961 essay in The New York Times Magazine declared, that “each generation has its own style and its own truth, having lived through a particular expanse of time which belongs to it and to no other.” “The only difference between the liberal and conservative in education,” he told his Vassar audience, according to The Miscellany News, “is that the first encorages the student to use his own intellect, the second does not.” Claiming that his main interest in Taylor was “pathological, rather than intellectual,” Buckley directed attention to the “immutable truths, which the educator has a duty to pass on to his students. He attacked any concept of academic freedom which would constrain the teacher to present all points of view at the expense of presenting one truth.”

“Tempers grew progressively shorter, and insults grew progressively longer….” The debate, said The Misc. “was originally intended to center on the liberal-conservative views on education, but soon developed into a more general squabble.” Discussion about the confrontation continued on campus for weeks to follow.

The two men were frequent disputants on the subject of education. Taylor also appeared on Buckley’s popular television program, “Firing Line.”

The Years