Robert Coles is a psychiatrist and writer. Until recently, he was the Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard. His many books include The Moral Intelligence of Children and Bruce Springsteen’s America: The People Listening, a Poet Singing. Coles received a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for Children of Crisis, a MacArthur Award in 1981, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, and the National Humanities Medal in 2001.

Growing Up East German

James Agee was a writer of strong talent and many interests, but when he died at forty-five he was by no means the master of his discerning, anguished intellect, not to mention his tempestuous emotions. Even at Harvard he had called attention to himself by the way he lived as …

Lost Generation

For years Ned O’Gorman, a white man, a poet, an essayist, has been working with Harlem’s young black children in a storefront nursery and children’s library he founded. He has already written two books about the nursery: The Wilderness and the Laurel Tree and The Storefront. This latest book, with …

Victims of Soviet Psychiatry: A Report from Honolulu

In the Soviet Union today, Marxist and psychiatric ideologues work together efficiently, even smoothly. This is a fairly recent development. During the power struggles of the 1920s and the mass purges of the 1930s, there was no need for the Kremlin’s self-proclaimed Marxists to summon assistance from psychiatrists. In Stalin’s …

Stricken Boston

Boston, during the past winter and spring, offered Southerners a fistful of ironies. While schools in Mississippi’s Delta or the so-called Black Belt of Alabama, just over ten years ago the bastions of segregationist resistance to the civil rights movement, have been quietly desegregated for several years, Boston’s schools have …

Children and Politics: Outsiders

How do Hopi or Pueblo boys or girls in Arizona and New Mexico regard the United States of America, its leaders, its political system, and its traditions as a democracy? As one spends time with those boys and girls it is, more often than not, hard to believe that the …

The Politics of Middle Class Children

A black child of eight, a girl who lives in southern Alabama, just above Mobile, told me in 1968 that she knew one thing for sure about who was going to be president: he’d be a white man; and as for his policies, “no matter what he said to be …

What Children Know About Politics

In her long essay “The Great Beast,” written in 1939, Simone Weil tried to understand what she called “the permanence and variability of national characteristics.” She was intent on showing that Hitlerism was indeed different from many other kinds of nationalist imperialism, but was by no means something new in …

Shrinking History—Part Two

Psychoanalysis and its various “applications” have been embraced all too ardently by the American public—and not only by its so-called “lay” segment. Sometimes that enthusiasm was for the bad: it is astonishing, for example, how many writers submitted willingly to the brutal, stupid lashings an analyst like Edmund Bergler gave …

Shrinking History—Part One

In a letter dated October 9, 1898, Freud made mention of Leonardo da Vinci: he was “perhaps the most famous left-handed individual,” and he “is not known to have had any love affairs.” The letter was one of many addressed to Wilhelm Fliess. As Freud step by step began to …

The Case of Michael Wechsler

Recovered psychiatric patients don’t usually write about their experiences in and out of the hospital, but enough of them have done so to make a tradition of sorts. One thinks of A Mind That Found Itself, written by Clifford Beers in 1907; or Fight Against Fears, Lucy Freeman’s dramatic account …

Understanding White Racists

As Hitler’s hysterically racist version of fascism year by year strengthened itself in Germany and then spread all over Europe, a generation of intellectuals, not to mention millions of ordinary men and women, had to confront some unsettling questions. Could “it” (Nazism) happen here or there or, indeed, anywhere? How …

Dialogue Underground: Inside and Outside the Church

The following is the concluding excerpt from conversations between Daniel Berrigan and Robert Coles which were held last July, two weeks before Dan Berrigan was captured on Block Island. The complete text will be published in September as The Geography of Faith. —The Editors COLES: We are now …

Dialogue Underground: II

The following is the second of three excerpts from conversations between Daniel Berrigan and Robert Coles which were held last July, two weeks before Dan Berrigan was captured on Block Island. The third excerpt will appear in the next issue. The complete text will be published in September as The …

A Dialogue Underground

In early July, 1970, I was asked by a group of young doctors and divinity students to visit Lewisburg Federal Prison, where Father Philip Berrigan and David Eberhardt were being held in solitary confinement after they had undertaken a fast to protest a series of alleged harassments and restrictions which …