LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, Wall Street Journal, 31 December 2002

Dim Lights Gain Luster at 'Nurturing' Universities

Dorothy Rabinowitz's recounting of history professor Robert David "KC" Johnson's travails at New York's Brooklyn College ("The Battle of Brooklyn," editorial page, Dec. 20) is most distressing. It reminds us about a problem of our age: what to do with marginally talented people. Institutions like Brooklyn College seem less concerned with education than with nurturing such dim lights.

It is one thing to be concerned about social, cultural and economic matters; and that a school's faculty be representative of the broadest range of views. It is quite another when toleration and encouragement of differing views comes to be more important than hiring people who have demonstrated knowledge of a useful subject and the ability to teach it. Prof. Johnson is evidently a good and knowledgeable instructor, and as such was resented by some less capable peers.

We have for too long awarded degrees based rather less upon displaying a disciplined understanding of a subject and rather more on effort, attitude and diversity. And now these people populate the faculties of our public schools, colleges and universities.

Albert B. Hall
Friday Harbor, Wash.

Updated December 31, 2002