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”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1937)

Somewhere a peasant saves his broken spade for the government collector; somewhere a bride melts down her wedding ring for God and country; somewhere someone’s old family sedan goes to its great adventure. The iron we could not quite destroy will serve destruction yet. Scrap iron, scrap steel, scrap gold. Scrap life.

“Scrap Iron”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1953)

Our private feeling about newspapers is a mixed one. Surely ninety per cent of all so-called news is old stuff–some of it two and three thousand years old. And surely ninety per cent of everything we read today is discouraging stuff, whether newsy or not. So the breakfast hour is the hour when we sit munching stale discouragement along with fresh toast. Except for one thing, we could take a newspaper or leave it alone. If we felt confident that liberty was secure and that democracy would remain in good health without assistance from its many admirers, we could do without a newspaper quite handily. … Nothing much happens from day to day. … But city dwellers without newspapers breathe an ominous air, as though the smog were descending. Liberty is not secure. Democracy does not thrive unassisted. And so, for love of these, we all swallow our bulletins at breakfast along with our marmalade.

“Newspaper Strike”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1948)

Halfway down the shaft of light is a caption that says, “And a voice was heard in the land.” The question that naturally arises, of course, is whether this land wants a voice. …

Mr. Wallace has had a great deal to say about the infirmities and the unfairness of the American press, and we have taken most of his remarks lying down. He keeps saying that you can’t learn the truth from the papers. We agree. You can’t learn the truth from the papers. You can, however, buy at any newsstand a ten-cent assortment of biassed and unbiassed facts and fancies and reports and opinions, and from them you are allowed to try to assemble something that is a reasonable facsimile of the truth. And that’s the way we like it, too. … We think it entirely fair to remind the Businessmen of the most recent case where a voice was heard in a land. The voice was heard, the light came straight down from above, you could learn the Truth from the papers–and the land is now under a four-power military government.

“A Voice Heard in the Land”