Last week, I did a three-part series called “Living with History.” (Part I, Part II, and Part III.) It was spurred by the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, which is a student movement demanding the toppling of statues of Cecil Rhodes in places such as Oxford University. In my series, I go on to discuss the controversy over the John C. Calhoun residential college at Yale and sundry other things.
Readers have sent much interesting mail, and I thought I’d share part of a letter from a particularly thoughtful fellow:
My grandfather and his brother were both Rhodes Scholars (Exeter/1910 and St. Johns/1913 respectively), so I have a bit of a soft spot for both Rhodes and Oxford. To the best of my knowledge, neither of them was involved in anything having to do with colonialism or racial oppression. Furthermore, I don’t see any evidence of their being influenced towards those by their receipt of an education at Cecil Rhodes’s posthumous hand.
Totally unrelated, really, but my grandfather ended up teaching mathematics at Southwestern in Memphis, which is now called Rhodes College, although that’s named after a different Rhodes.
My father, in his turn, went to Yale. Although he was a staunch atheist, he managed to get a reasonable education while attending Jonathan Edwards College (and I assume there was a statue or at least a painting somewhere about the place). As far as I know, he was never particularly offended by the name of his college, even though I know he didn’t think very highly of its eponym.
Toleration on campus? Sound judgment? Equanimity? What strange, strange notions …