E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1949)

We think the way for school children to get both sides of a controversy is to read several books on the subject, not one. In other words, we think the Board should strive for a well-balanced library, not a well-balanced book. The greatest books are heavily slanted, by the nature of greatness.

“Selecting School Books”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1949)

A healthy university in a healthy democracy is a free society in miniature. The pesky nature of democratic life is that it has no comfortable rigidity; it always hangs by a thread, never quite submits to consolidation or solidification, is always being challenged, always being defended. The seeming insubstantiality of this thread is a matter of concern and worry to persons who naturally would prefer a more robust support for the beloved structure. … But they do not always perceive that the elasticity of democracy is its strength—like the web of a spider, which bends but holds.

“Academic Freedom”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1942)

Education is such a serious matter, we speak of it with trepidation. We remember, with sober and contrite heart, that our educational system was responsible for (among others) the group of citizens who for two years did everything in their power to prove that the war which was going on did not involve us, that nothing was happening abroad which was of any consequence in our lives, that the earth was not round. Those people—millions of them—were all educated in American schools by non-crackpots. They were brought up on American curricula. They damn near did us in. They are ready again to do us in, as soon as an opening presents itself—which will be immediately after hostilities cease. On the basis of the record, it would seem that we need what crackpots we can muster for education in our new world. We need educators who believe that character is more precious than special knowledge, that vision is not just something arrived at through a well-ground lens, and that a child is the most hopeful (and historically the most neglected) property the Republic boasts.

“No Crackpots?”


E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1957)

My experience with humans, unfortunately, was largely confined to my experience with you. But even that limited association taught me that humans have no capacity for adapting themselves to anything at all. Furthermore, they have no intention of adapting themselves. Human beings are motivated by a deeply rooted desire to change their environment and make it adapt to them. Men won’t adapt to space, space will adapt to men—and that’ll be a mess, too.

“Fred on Space”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1952)

We read a news story the other day telling about the withdrawal of a group of young atomic scientists from the world. …they vanished into the swirling mists of secrecy. It gave us quite a turn, secrecy being the slow death of science, purity its most debilitating quality. Science can’t possibly serve people well till it belongs openly to all and associates itself with wisdom and sense—those contaminating but healthful influences.

“Hot Pipes”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1969)

Like every great river and every great sea, the moon belongs to none and belongs to all. … What a pity that in our moment of triumph we did not forswear the familiar Iwo Jima scene and plant instead a device acceptable to all: a limp white handkerchief, perhaps, symbol of the common cold, which, like the moon, affects us all, unites us all.

“Moon Landing”


E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1959)

Being the friend of writers, artists, and scientists has its tense moments, but on the whole it has been a good life, and I have no regrets. I think probably it’s more fun being a friend of writers and artists in America than in the Soviet Union, because you don’t know in advance what they’re up to. It’s such fun wondering what they’re going to say next.

“Khrushchev and I”