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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/341

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337
ACADEMIC ASPECTS OF ADMINISTRATION

These earnest words of endorsement and appeal will serve at once to make it plain that the issue upon which I speak is a most serious one, and that I look upon it with no extreme or wholly individual obliquity of vision or personal despondency. I feel, indeed, that on a small canvas, but with large import, I have ventured to sketch the one supreme educational problem of the immediate future. Believing it also to be a practical problem, to be approached in stages of progress—stages always in their essence determined by principle, though measurably shaped by expediency—I have reserved for the last some considerations of possible reform.

And first, defensively, let us not dwell unduly upon the incompetence, the conservatism, the inadequacy in practical affairs, of faculty men. It is hardly consistent to ascribe these qualities indiscriminately to the men of the academy, and then for the most part to find in this group the very persons who develop with experience into efficient administrators. As a class, professors are able to take a helpful share in the shaping and carrying out of measures conducive to educational welfare. Their practical insufficiency is a result, not an excuse, for the present system. This has not been overlooked by other writers.

We appear at present to be between the Scylla of presidential autocracy and the Charybdis of faculty and trustee incompetence. The more incompetent the faculties become, the greater is the need of executive autocracy of the president, and the greater the autocracy of the president, the more incompetent do the faculties become (Cattell).

And from another:

But was there ever a more vicious circle of argument than that which defends the persistence in a system productive of such unfortunate results by urging that the personnel of the profession has now been brought so low that the restoration of its inherent rights would entail disastrous consequences? (Dial.)

Once given their due professional responsibility, academic men will develop—as is abundantly evidenced in the conduct of laboratories and departmental affairs—the qualities requisite for the service. The ghetto into which externalism has driven them is admittedly the least suitable habitat for the nurture of the qualities which they should exhibit; but is this an argument for the retention of the barrier?

Let us hopefully, though not blindly, look forward to as adequate a management—doubtless a simpler and saner management, with less emphasis upon managerial factors—under internal as under external control. And if there are losses, as there will be, let it be borne in mind that there will be gains to offset these, endlessly more important, in the near future as in the long run, indefinitely more worthy.

If we ask next, constructively, how shall this be brought about, let me confess that I am somewhat fearful of a policy of gradual veer-