Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
A Founding Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All the Answers: The quiz-show scandals—and the aftermath. by Charles Van Doren

I was considered well spoken, well educated, handsome—the very image of a young man that parents would like their son to be. I was also thought to be the ideal teacher, which is to say patient, thoughtful, trustworthy, caring. In addition, I was making a small fortune. And then—well, this is what happened:


  1. I read with itnerest the first person account of Mr. Charles van Doren of the Quiz Show scandal. Happenings like this especially the downfall among the hgh and the mighty and popular personalities always attract public attention. Accounts of this had been exposed in newspapers of the 50's, magazines and most recently the movie, each with their own slant. I don't know if there is any slant in Mr. van Doren's account but I applaud him for owning and standing up for his part in the Quiz Show scandal. "The bravest of man is he who accepts his defeat and admits his mistakes". I am glad that he has finally talked about it after so many years. This should not mask his other achievments(The joy of reading, History of knowledge The great treasury of western thought, his other teachings which he alluded to and to raising his family whch is much more than most of us have done/can do in our lifetime.
    Thank you to Mortimer Adler who as true friend picked him up and nurtured him back at that powest point in his life. I rmember Adlr saying that since moral virtue is the habit of doinbg good acts; the more you do it the stronger it becomnes and one misstep does not deprive one of his moral virtue.
    I don't think anyone involved ever returned the prize money or part of it. It is a small fortune for some "winners". Maybe the healing process would be shortened and the scar smaller if done. Returning the money would have wiped the slate clean. If the amount involved is $1,000.00, would it be easier to return?
    Does justice ask for the money to be requited or has justice been met by the disgrace that has befallen him/them.

  2. I read the article in the New Yorker with interest. While I was remotely aware of the quiz show scandals from the 50's, and knew the topic had been revisited recently with the release of the movie, I was not aware of Charles Van Doren's role or the circumstances surrounding his association with Mortimer Adler and the Encyclopedia Britannica publications.

    Several things came to mind as I sensed the shame that still seems to haunt Van Doren.

    First, it is much harder for one to forget past actions of which one is ashamed then it is for others to forget and forgive. The man with integrity frequently holds himself to a higher standard than what is expected from him by others.

    Secondly, we often experience the most shame and guilt over our mistakes which cause those persons whose respect we cherish to be disappointed in our actions.

    It is a tribute to Mortimer Adler that he was able to see beyond the current disgrace and recognize the talent and potential contributions Van Doren had to offer. Without Adler's foresight and courage the public may have been deprived of this voice which has encouraged many in their pursuit of a liberal education for the primary purpose of leading a richer and more fulfilled life.