|Back to May Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 208||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MAY 2003|
|Unabomber: Made, Not Born? |
Remember Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber? Many would consider his story "old news" and write him off as that crazy guy who lived alone and built bombs in a cabin in the Montana woods. And didn't he write some weird manifesto?
Recently (3-3-03), the New York Times reviewed a new book about the Unabomber entitled Harvard and the Una-bomber: The Education of an American Terrorist by Alston Chase. This book offers a new perspective on what may have shaped Kaczynski's brand of terrorism. The review states that Chase "argues forcefully, if at times repetitively, that the educational philosophy prevalent during this killer's college years laid the groundwork for an all-too-epidemic brand of antisocial rage."
Suggesting that this killer could have been made rather than born, the author bases his argument on the change in science philosophy after World War II and the release of an influential Harvard report called General Education in a Free Society. According to the Times, "By 1958 when Mr. Kaczynksi arrived at Harvard as an undergraduate, the Cold War had created covert new links between research and government, links calling for moral blinders that rendered traditional scientific ethics all but obsolete." According to Chase, the Harvard report also created a hopeless view among undergraduates that became known as "the culture of despair."
Harvard and the Unabomber explains Kaczynski's Harvard experience as "a mixture of emasculation, snobbery and ethical confusion" that "would have lifelong effects." The book describes experiments Kaczynski was involved in during his education in which he was humiliated, ridiculed, and secretly photographed.
Author Chase further suggests that Kaczynski's theories were a reflection of his educational experience and should be examined for their origins, if not for the ideas these theories actually contained. He writes that Kaczinsky's manifesto "is neither brilliant nor a symptom of mental illness. It is a compendium of philosophical and environmental clichés that expresses concerns shared by millions of Americans."
In closing its review, the Times notes: "But it would help, he [Chase] argues, if students as bright as the Harvard-era Ted Kaczynski were prized rather than ostracized, and if their work were assessed in terms of absolute morality, rather than the relativism that can so easily be rejected, subverted, or ignored."