Learning For Free

A Columbia professor's poli-sci class is the crack in the ivory tower that lets the neighborhood in

Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence is at the core of the way Dalton teaches and lives. Over the years, he has welcomed students to challenge his absolutist belief that violence is unjust in all circumstances, and many have, but he has never changed his mind. His Malcolm X lecture, for example, presents Malcolm's death as a great tragedy insofar as his burgeoning commitment to nonviolence was cut short, causing many to only remember his days as a more militant follower of Elijah Muhammad. Armstead feels that Dalton's got Elijah Muhammad "all wrong." They have discussed the topic every spring—when Malcolm comes up in the syllabus—for the last eight years, but remain at a respectful standstill.

Dennis Dalton, Barnard College professor of political science
photo: Filip Kwiatkowski
Dennis Dalton, Barnard College professor of political science

Armstead raises his salt-and-pepper eyebrows high and explains: "The problem is that black men don't have a chance to mature . . . they die and they die and they die. Being a black man is terrible, mostly because the white community has a continuous culture that it propagates without listening. But Dalton . . . Dalton is in the crack in the world."

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