Popular Science Monthly/Volume 81/November 1912/The Administrative Peril in Education
|THE ADMINISTRATIVE PERIL IN EDUCATION|
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
PRIVILEGES must be justified by occasion. The close of an academic service of twenty-five years is the justification; the privilege assumed is an indulgence in the use of the imperious pronoun, first person singular—a considerable liberty of expression, as it substitutes conviction for argument. In extenuation I plead that I am not speaking for myself, but, under the warrant of sympathy, for an unorganized, probably unorganizable, group, scattered geographically, exposed to varied intellectual climates, united by a community of interests, reacting similarly to common factors in experience. The only singularity is a persistent concern for my professional class—a profitless solicitude for their welfare.
Looking backward I distinguish overlapping periods of development in the higher education, of divergent tendency; nor is this a gray haired retrospect. Things move quickly in a country where each generation undertakes to make precedents, and an imitative subserviency follows the flag of heralded success. I began my career under the impulse of a quickened interest in intellectual callings, for which at the time the Johns Hopkins University was the progressive sponsor. The spirit of the movement was the emphasis upon the personality and training of those who were and were to be intellectual leaders. I found myself in an intensely alert democracy of learning. The feeling was in the air that notable men were there doing notable work; prophets were honored in their own land, the honor often echoed from abroad. My most salient impression of President Gilman was and remains that of a man with keen joy and pride in the discovery of unusual men, in facilitating their emergence, in proclaiming their achievements. Rank counted for little and quality for much.
The ambitious colleges were changing to universities, sometimes prematurely with flourishes on paper unsupported by performance; generally with a sincerity of spirit and policy. Men of my academic generation felt themselves part of this progressive movement. They gained a foothold, and, as a rule, rapid advancement. They were called upon to occupy responsible if elastic chairs, the bright prospects offsetting the shortcomings of the moment. The Ph.D.'s of the 80's and early 90's felt themselves a welcome part of the university with whose fortunes they linked their own, were themselves contributors to its growth with a reasonable singleness of purpose and sensible community of endeavor. Quite naturally their engrossment in establishing their positions kept them away from intimate concern with general policies and problems of management. Faculties were small and informal; the calls of committees not oppressive; problems of adjustment relatively simple; rival interests were not yet disturbing. It was not a golden age; nor is its color-scheme in memory due to the mellowing of years. There was an abundance of homelier metal; and the process of refinement was uncertain and tedious. Yet there was an orchestral harmony—a sense of being considered and of playing a part—that can not be referred to an insensibility to discord, or to a blissful ignorance of standards and possibilities.
The period of transition came with a rush and was hurried to its consummation. Everything grew, enlarged, expanded—grounds, buildings, plans, facilities, positions, students and duties—most of all students and duties, least of all salaries. Some of the maturer members of the guild felt the change as delayed growing pains. The adjustment involved difficulties and a stern disregard for hesitation, a brusque treatment of opposition. Size was truly a complication that must be fairly met. Competition without and rivalry within became conspicuous; the perspective of things changed notably. Administration became imperative. Correlation was urgently demanded and unflinchingly enforced. Standards and ideals were changing; whether for good or ill was far more uncertain. The success of measures became more momentous than the manner of securing them. Interests of an academic type were confronted with interests of a measurably different temper, and with the assertion of authority. Pressure from the outside, from legislatures in state universities, from alumni and the public in all, became differently insistent; dissensions complicated issues. The administration which under older conditions had stood between the board and the professor's security, came to carry the external pressure to the academic career. The professor was diverted by manifold cares beyond the class-room or laboratory or study; and found that his availability for the purpose of organization directly affected his influence, his value, preferment, his status. Academic peace became as obsolete as the cloister; privileges of one order were sacrificed for advantages of another that quite too commonly failed to appear.
And now I may find relief in the use of the present tense. It is of the actual situation and of the recent past that I speak, and that without reticence. This is not a testamentary nor yet an elegiac occasion, and by the same token not an apologetic one. I have indicated the conditions under which certain convictions have matured, slowly and confidently—convictions that carry a vital message of caution, of distrust. The one paramount danger, the most comprehensively unfavorable factor affecting ominously the prospects of the higher education—and the lower not less so, though differently—is the undue dominance of administration: in policy, in measures, in personal relations, in all the distinctive interests of education, and the welfare of ideas and ideals. What is imperiled most directly is the academic career: its worth, its service, its security, its satisfactions, its attractiveness to the higher types of men.
The professorial career is in its requirements distinctive, though not unique; it is by nature institutionalized. The professor can not very well be unattached or very much of a free lance; yet his creative energies demand a sympathetic, unhampered environment. He can not sell his birthright and remain a freeman; the institution can not place a mortgage upon his output without injury to its value. The university can best provide the collective facilities, the communal stimulus, the larger environment, in which intellectual products flourish. Institutionalism carries a menace to personality, at the worst reducing those enlisted in its service to a set of cogs in a wheel; yet the intimate association with a corporate body offers a worthy communion if worthily administered by those free to follow the wisdom that in them lies. The corporate university can be no more and should be no less than the reflex of its spirit; to express the quality we borrow the term esprit de corps—the indigenous sentiment holding that corporations have no souls. Under present conditions it is a needlessly difficult task to make the inevitable institutional quality of the professorial service a source of strength; to reduce its disabilities is the first step. American professors are not disposed to call one another "Herr College"; what he professes shapes the manner of the man above the bare fact of his profession; and thus the professor loses the solidarity of interest more readily attained in other callings. His professional sense needs stimulation. The requisites of a true profession are that its members shall authoritatively represent, advance and control its interests, as well as the qualifications for membership; each member thereof shall be subject definitively to the judgment of his peers. The profession forms a peerage in the best sense. Thus weighed, the professoriate is found sadly wanting; and until this privilege is restored or acquired for the American professor, the career must continue to suffer a serious, almost a fatal handicap. Present tendencies are aggravating this unfortunate influence; the current is set strongly in the opposite direction;
its drift is felt by those in the stream and by the onlooker alike, as the sweeping dominance of administration. That temper controls the professorial career, thwarts its development as an independent life-service. The formula of the investiture of the scholar, "with all the dignities and privileges thereunto appertaining," has come to carry a cynical flavor—the privileges often enjoyed as one is said to enjoy bad health.
The prevalent system of university control has been called "externalism." Authority rests ultimately and so far as they choose to exert it, constantly with the governing boards of trustees or regents; it rests dominantly, and by delegation from the former, with the president, intermediately at the latter's discretion with the deans. Let it be conceded that a system often yields to, but yet more constantly determines, or reflects, the spirit of its administration. But as to the nature and effect of the system, I propose to cite others; it would indeed be strange if my conviction of so public a situation should not be shared by kindred observers. To reflect the distrustful and anxious attitude of thoughtful critics, I shall present a considerable series of views touching upon all sides of the situation. I must rely upon the earnestness of expression and the cumulative appeal to carry the full force of the protest, which is necessarily weakened by detachment from the supporting context.
The contrast of the prevailing "American" system with the practise and spirit of other countries is striking. In our allegedly democratic land "university government has assumed a form that we might have expected to see in a land accustomed to kings. European universities have a constitution that might have come from some American political theorist; American universities are as though founded and fostered in the bourne of aristocracy. . . . The polity that we might call monarchic is thus not only frequent in the new-world colleges, but it is stripping away the few lorn shreds of popular control which still remain among them" (G. M. Stratton). "Elsewhere throughout the world the university is a republic of scholars, administered by them. Here it is a business corporation" (Popular Science Monthly: editorial). It is indeed a "departure from our usual American ideas as well as from the scholarly custom elsewhere, that we should have called into existence in affairs of learning a regnant body the life activities of whose members lie outside the realm they rule" (G. M. Stratton). "The American university has become an autocracy, wholly foreign in spirit and plan to our political ideals and little short of amazing to those marvels of thoroughgoing democracy, the German universities" (J. P. Munroe). "The main ends of the university are the same in all lands, but our American presidents and boards of trustees are an indigenous product which can scarcely be regarded as essential" (J. McK. Cattell). In brief it seems that in our superficial democratic zeal we react aggressively to the show of authority and the symbol of distinction, while quite insensitive to the inner thralldom covered by specious profession. Our English exemplars accept the former naturally, gauging it at its true worth, and keenly resent any invasion of the spirit of liberty; there "the university is unconstrained in presence of its visible lord, bringing as he does, no thought of imposition, but standing forth rather as the representative and spokesman by free choice of those who are the learned guild" (G. M. Stratton). In other relations, also (witness: politics), our citizen plainness may harbor the vested interests of autocracy.
We may not be deeply concerned as to the source of this American brand of externalism, though such knowledge may temper without removing our conviction of its present unsuitableness. It has been suggested that it is a sympathetic survival of a colonial, absentee form of government—" a government that was well enough for a boy's academy in colonial times" (G. M. Stratton); also, that "the present relationship between the faculty, trustees, and president may be regarded as a haphazard growth, the result of a laissez-faire policy, affording an example of the same sufficient-to-the-day spirit and smug satisfaction" (Stewart Paton) that obtains in municipal management, in which in turn we acknowledge old-world superiority. The unsuitability of the system to needs and conditions, and the menace it harbors to interests of vital import remain the same, whatever the historical justification, or lack of it. Freely and fully admitting its points of merit, the most charitable verdict may still recognize it as an example of the partially good forming a serious obstacle to the better or the best. "The administration imposed on universities, colleges, and school systems is not needed by them, but simply represents an inconsiderate carrying over of methods current in commerce and politics" (J. McK. Cattell). "The development of our American universities is seriously handicapped by the present system of administration" (Stewart Paton). "No single thing has done more harm in higher education in America during the past quarter-century than the steady aggrandizement of the presidential office and the modelling of university administration upon the methods and ideals of the factory and the department store" (Springfield Republican: editorial). "The very idea of a university as the home of independent scholars has been obscured by the present system" (J. E. Creighton). "All experience of democracy with itself justifies the plea for more democracy in American educational administration" (Boston Herald: editorial). The disastrous effect of the system in blighting the academic career is set forth in no uncertain terms. "It is one of the most productive of the several causes which are working together to bring about 'the degradation of the professorial office'" (G. T. Ladd). "If the proper status of the faculties is to be restored, and if the proper standard of educational efficiency is to be regained, there must be a radical change in the relations of the teaching and corporate boards" (J. J. Stevenson). "Unless American college teachers can be assured that they are no longer to be looked upon as mere employees paid to do the bidding of men who, however courteous or however eminent, have not the faculty's professional knowledge of the complicated problems of education, our universities will suffer increasingly from a dearth of strong men, and teaching will remain outside the pale of the really learned professions. The problem is not one of wages; for no university can become rich enough to buy the independence of any man who is really worth purchasing" (J. P. Munroe). The prevailing system "does not attract strong men to the profession of teaching, nor does it foster a vigorous intellectual life in the universities. And occasionally a gross and tyrranical abuse of authority reminds the world how far America is behind Germany in the freedom of its university life" (Springfield Republican: editorial).
It is quite proper that the professor should be called to account for his meek submission to the situation that is oppressively thrust upon him. "Now the idea of professionalism lies at the very core of educational endeavor, and whoever engages in intellectual work fails of his purpose in just so far as he fails to assert the inherent prerogatives of his calling. He became a hireling in fact, if not in name, when he suffers, unprotesting, the deprivation of all initiative, and contentedly plays the part of a cog in a mechanism whose motions are all controlled from without" (Dial: editorial). "Young men of power and ambition scorn what should be reckoned the noblest of professions, not because that profession condemns them to poverty, but because it dooms them to a sort of servitude" (J. P. Munroe). "But there is real danger that the existing system may prove repulsive to men of the highest intelligence and character and that mediocrity and time-serving may be developed where we need the most vigorous ability and independence" (Popular Science Monthly: editorial). "The degrading tenure" of the professor is spoken of as forming a "nursery of abject cowardice" (W. C. Lawton). How oppositely the protest of the professor is met when the academician summons courage enough to protest, appears in these two comments: "Truly the academic animal is a queer beast. If he can not have something at which he can growl and snarl, he will growl and snarl at nothing at all" (Educational Review: editorial). "At any rate American professors have come to feel that their independence is imperilled and their proper influence in the university organization seriously impaired by the activities of deans, presidents, and trustees." "Whatever-organization may be necessary in a modern American university, the institution will not permanently succeed unless the faculty as a group of independent personalities practically control its operation" (J G. Schurman). And here the call to arms!" The professor must teach the nation to respect learning; he must make the nation understand the functions and the rights of the learned classes. He must do this through a willingness to speak and fight for himself" (J. J. Chapman).
The system is concentrated in the president. So often uncritically the recipient of praise as the visible embodiment of the source from whom all blessings flow, he is as naturally chosen as the one on whom all curses fall. Critically temperate statements admit the enormous powers he wields to mitigate or to aggravate the evils of the system; yet we are asked to consider that "the benevolent and efficient despot is the worst kind; the cruel and incompetent despot soon disappears" (J. McK. Cattell). The educational situation is naturally subject to the unfortunate influences of the social climate. "The individual has once more been subordinated, crudely commercial standards prevail, and control has been seized by the strong and the unscrupulous" (J. McK. Cattell). The relation between the president and the professor, though not untouched by the quality of mercy, is indeed strained, quite too commonly to the breaking-point. Its vital wrong is this: it sets forth that "we exalt administrative ability above scientific insight." Universities "should be the last to typify in their own structure the thought that discovering truth and imparting the vital principle whereby others may discover it are of a dignity less than that of organizing and management" (G. M. Stratton). This is the charge; that the president "is in large measure thought of, and thinks of himself, as the master, or the foreman, or the captain, of a body of men working under his direction; and this fact has a potent influence on the whole character and spirit of academic life in America" (New York Evening Post: editorial). Presidential inaugural addresses show the drift of the current: "And there is the style of ill-concealed arrogance, expressing the personality of the man who frankly thinks of his colleagues as subordinates, and who will ride rough-shod over their rights as men and their freedom as educators whenever his masterful instincts prompt him so to do" (Dial: editorial). The president is appointed "not to elevate the institution as an educational power, but to make of it 'a big thing.' . . . The executive duties of his office render the president less and less fitted as the years go by to represent the purely educational side of the institution, yet every year strengthens his control of all the interests. This condition is not in accord with business common-sense" (J. J. Stevenson). The universities seem to drift towards or to desire "high-priced imperious management" and "low-priced docile labor" (Dial: editorial)—truly a dismal combination. The censure is at times diverted to the governing board. "Our colleges have been handled by men whose ideals were as remote from scholarship as the ideals of the New York theater managers are remote from poetry. In the meanwhile the scholars have been dumb and reticent" (J. J. Chapman). And this in extenuation: "The financial gentlemen are applying in naïve good faith, to a mechanism which they utterly fail to understand, the rules for efficiency in a bank or a department-store" (W. C. Lawton). They seem to be as unfortunate in delegating as in exercising their powers. "The present autocratic position of university executives was created for them by the acts of trustees in shifting responsibility for the performance of certain duties from their own shoulders to that of the president and deans" (Stewart Paton). The "quickest and least troublesome way to solve administrative problems is to give as free a hand as possible" to some capable man (J. P. Munroe). The ready vindication of such authority lies in that much-abused term, "efficiency." "When the wisdom of letting a man lord it over an aggregate of employees instead of conferring with a company of scholars is questioned, the answer is the efficiency with which the autocrat can get things done" (J. McK. Cattell). Efficiency undefined and unattached is either the most meaningless or the most dangerous of terms; there are efficient fools and knaves and meddlers and weather-vanes and apologists and dissemblers, and most hopelessly the class whose costly efficiency is an eruption of their callous insensibility. Even so directly a utilitarian thing as a signpost is efficient only when you know where you want to go and where not; the term should never be permitted to appear in educational discussions without a chaperone.
The relation of professor to president can not be dismissed at this point. On the one side is the irritating accountability or subserviency or worse. "To hold a Damascus blade over other men's lives, careers, reputations, may still be the fashion in Damascus. The Anglo-Saxon has had the right for uncounted centuries to a full hearing and decision by an open council of his peers" (W. C. Lawton). Given the right type of man, and it may be easy to avoid overbearing in manner or spirit; yet it seems fated to persist in the formal relations of the professor to the administration from which (for one thing) the professor is estranged by a foolish etiquette requiring him, lest he offend by lèse majesté, to accept the president as his representative. The president is thus strongly tempted to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. With the right of promotion and dismissal comes the right of life and death; to exercise it is to incur the presumption of νβρις—to the unspoiled Hellenic conscience the sin beyond pardon. The practical result is too familiar. "The president may assume superhuman responsibility, but he is after all human in his limitations. He may regard common-sense as agreement with him, common loyalty as subservience to him, respect for the opinion of mankind as deference to that small portion of mankind which has money to give" (The Popular Science Monthly: editorial). Transferred from the personal to the corporate relation, the breach in educational policy is coming to be more and more between the professors fundamentally interested in the ends of education and the president and deans dominated in their educational interests by an administrative temper or habit of mind. "The millionaire and the college president are simply middle men who transmit the pressure from the average citizen to the learned classes." "The educated man has been the grain of sand in the college machine. He has an horizon of what 'ought to be,' and he could not help putting in a word and an idea in the wrong place; and so he was thrown out of education in America as he was thrown out of politics in America" (J. J. Chapman). There is at once a conflict of aims and of ideals, thus inviting, according to the type of provocation, a guerilla warfare or a civil war. The system provokes unrest, uncertainty, distrust; it removes harmony, corporate pride, professional independence. So much is clearly to be read in and between the cited lines.
Before resuming speech in the first person, it will be well to consider the rejoinder—the alleged incompetence of the faculties to play the part to which some of them aspire. "It has been said that university faculties are poor legislative bodies; if true, this would not be surprising, so long as their deliberations are confined to discussing questions such as whether they shall wear gowns at commencement, the decision being with the trustees" (J. McK. Cattell). "We appear at present to be between the Scilla 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, and the greater the autocracy of the president, the more incompetent do the faculties become" (J. McK. Cattell). "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: editorial). From this "lack of opportunity to discuss the larger problems of the university" with authority and responsibility, from this "living in cramped intellectual quarters" (Stewart Paton) there results the helpless "looking outward for (their) succor" (W. C. Lawton) that makes for resignation not born of strength, and docility not the issue of sacrificing loyalty. No one knows better than the regular attendants at faculty meetings the hesitant, dispirited, nibbling, myopic, lame and wearisome discussions that are a trial to spirit and flesh; but the reasons therefor lie in the "vicious circle" from which they can be released by converting the prisoners into the guardians of a fortress. For any believer in that oldest and perennial source of salvation, the liberation of spirit that makes freemen of slaves, knows what marvels may be accomplished by removing barriers of intellectual restraint, whether shackles, blinders or ghettos. The redemption is through the enthusiasm born of self-assertion, with responsibility as its poise. All bodies long deprived of their constitutional rights tend to become incompetent or nihilistic or restless according to temperament. If disposed to act under a sense of personal injury, they become militant; if organized and with the prospect of control, they become insurgent; if academic, they apparently become dormant. The academic situation suffers from restriction in means and neglect of ends in a confusion of peremptory demands. Reform must be directed to the illumination of ends and means, and primarily to a fitter sense of their kinship. "Administration plays a part in most of our colleges and universities altogether disproportionate to its value. Nor is the objection to this state of things merely negative. There is positive harm of the most serious kind in that submergence of self-assertive personality on the part of the professors which inevitably goes with it" (New York Evening Post: editorial). Here lies another vicious circle: we have so much governing to do because we rely so much on governmental machinery and so little on self-government. Yet externalism, however unsuitable and disturbing in itself, is yet more disastrous by reason of its by-products,—the distortion of purpose, the suppression of initiative, the false competitive standards that insinuate themselves in underhand and unforeseen ways, and so little of which is enough to contaminate the whole academic life. It is the common disaster that ensues when those who should lead are subservient to their following, either by force of circumstance or feebleness of principle. In the university above all should the ideals of a sturdy and righteous government be visibly expressed. Its spirit should be progressive. "It appears that the general course of social evolution is not towards competition. In the university it would probably be adverse to the finer traits of scholarship and character, most of all when, as under our present system, the competition would be for the favor of presidents and trustees" (J. McK. Cattell). Faculty incompetence and the restrictedness of academicism—much of which is superficial rather than deep-seated—is not the excuse for but largely the result of externalism and of living in the depressed atmosphere which it breeds.
Yet the charge of presumption recurs. Surely the cumulative wisdom that has gone into the guidance of universities would have recognized these untoward influences, would have referred them to their source, and disposed of them, if they were so real and so ominous as this arraignment sets forth. Such a view rests upon a naive faith in the insight and consistency and vertebrate intellectual integrity of able and intelligent men exposed to complex social pressure, which I can not share, and for which history furnishes uncertain warrant. The best intentioned and discriminating men are prone to worship idols or to yield to those who do; the status quo of the standpatter easily becomes an obstacle, if not an obsession. Reforms have ever been necessary and will ever be so, so long as new as well as ancient evils yield to an increasing insight or a more sensitive conscience. Favorable or tolerable situations may degenerate as they persist and grow out of helpful relation with the advancing forces that shape our ends. It is not vice alone but many another if lesser untoward influence that first endured or resisted is by familiarity cherished, through vested interests embraced. The personal equation enters; we defend what we have acquired, established, contributed; not "a poor thing, but mine own" but "a good thing because my own" is the attitude assumed toward one's house, or town, or club, or college or automobile. All this weakens the test of fact—the vapid argument that whatever is, is best—and divests radical scepticism of the charge of presumption. Experience requires critical interpretation before it yields its true meaning. It is a common enough situation to find that men progress in their endeavors despite the handicap of the means on which they depend. The successes achieved under the present system are in my judgment partly due to the compensations that lie in every system however unsuitable, yet more largely to the mitigations exercised under considerations foreign to its temper, more plainly to violations of its provisions,—to concessions and forbearance. These the reforms advocated would establish as constitutional rights, as constructive principles fertile in promise, inviting embodiment in practical measures. The gains, the trophies, the tributes are naturally in evidence and properly so; but what of the losses, the ships that have gone down at sea! Moreover bookkeeping in terms of intellectual and spiritual incomes is so difficult; values of ideas are so subject to difference of appraisal by shifting standards, that university authorities are sorely tempted to abandon the attempt and put their investments in real estate—in buildings, plants, and inventories of trade catalogues—to be pointed at with pride so long as one is blessed with an easy conscience. Yet such abandonment means the loss of the soul—an ancient but not negligible hazard. Commencement addresses may be confidently counted upon to pay adequate tribute to the gains and glories of a triumphant education, with an indulgence in fustian in inverse relation to insight. It is plain and crass folly to disregard the losses and possibilities, which however intangible are by no means unreal. The wisest men have always been influenced in their judgment by what might have been; just as the future is shaped by those capable of conceiving what may be.
Reforms return to first principles to get a fair start, and are as often called upon to retrace false steps as to project the course for the future. A university is first and foremost an educational institution ministered to by a company of scholars; it engages many and diverse activities, all contributory to its welfare. Yet no other test of value is relevant than the educational one; no sacrifice in any measure of educational to other interests can be justified; no domination or intrusion of any foreign spirit can be tolerated. These premises lead with the directness of sound logic, with the constant reward that awaits singleness of purpose, to the conclusion that the university interests must be entrusted authoritatively to those expertly conversant with their nature. The professorship must be made a position of honor and authority. The evils that now cause anxiety but corroborate the vital import of academic home-rule; they do not establish its validity; it inheres in the nature of the influence which civilization has shaped to guard the intellectual interests of the race.
It is however important to view the situation in the concrete. By way of illustration I shall survey a few significant consequences of the system, which in turn are of a nature all compact. The directive forces that determine the movement and activities of the academic life do not validly or adequately express the real intentions, demands and ideals thereof; this is the comprehensive and the woeful wrong. The rest is but a bill of particulars, the recurring item in which is that through such suppression, a usurping, distorting predominance is given to a different and an unsuitable range of influences. First is the lack of initiative,—a disqualification the more serious in a career that professes to train for leadership; along with it is the absence of an authoritative referendum. The democratic implication of the terms need not be repudiated, if safeguarded by proper qualifications. The level at which a reference to a composite expression of will is demanded in order to secure the best result—and is not this in reality the aristocratic ideal of government by the most competent?—is reached whenever the qualifications of the referees are adjusted to the issues at stake. Such aristocracy—or to avoid prejudice, let us say isocracy—obtains among the judges of a bench, each presumably qualified to serve, each with like status with the others, yet exercising to the full the qualities of his personality. It is about as appropriate to subject the decisions of a faculty to review by an external board, as it is apt to be constituted, as it would be to have the decisions of the bench reviewed (or influenced, as a suspicious journalism implies is the case) by non-commissioned captains of industry. If the members of the faculty are not qualified to decide educational measures, and to do so broadly, not with a narrow professionalism but with due regard to diversified, at times conflicting, public interests, then there is something seriously wrong about their training or the manner of their election or the influences to which their judgments are exposed. If such incapacity is inherent in the academic character, the appointment of a board of guardians is defensible. Yet initiative is paramount. The more expert judgment is always needed to see what is wanted, to frame policies, to make platforms, to raise issues; to decide whether this or that is wanted may often be referred with advantage to a wider constituency. To secure a double or a multiple basis of judgment on many-sided issues is a proper function of boards of trustees, corporations and alumni. The usual statement that educational questions are decided by the faculty and financial ones by the board is absolutely specious and is not borne out by practise. There is a group of plainly financial and a group of plainly educational questions; but most questions partake of both aspects. Instead of "hedging," the fact should be frankly met. Old-world precedents—and in favored cases our own usage—abundantly show that and how this may be done. Under the prevailing system the professors neither individually nor collectively settle the important directions in which matters are to move. They await the pleasure or fear the displeasure of the president and deans; and if they move, it is too apt to be with an eye to the man higher up, just as the president is tempted to urge not what his untrammeled judgment approves but what he considers will be approved by the board. The professor does not stand face to face with determinative issues; there is not a considerable body of men thinking of the university as a whole, not a sufficiently corporate sense of their being a whole; the system does not encourage it, distinctly discourages it. The referendum is there but is not unrestricted; it is beset with implications of accountability to another, rather with an independent responsibility. The scope of questions and policies included in the referendum is curtailed. The faculty is at times entrusted with the details of a plan on the general desirability of which it has not been consulted; it receives commissions, conducts a second-table order of deliberation, which makes a sorry feast. All of which is bad for the faculty, as duly set forth; and bad for the university as is also coming to be realized.
The crux of the matter is here reached. Is there or is there not a clash of interests? Do academic needs demand distinctive provisions, distinctive in end and distinctive in means? Are there or are there not economic, political, administrative, individual interests, external sources of pressure, irrelevant or undiscriminating judgments or motives, that conflict with academic purposes? Does the current system of university government impose such restraints and force the organism to an unwholesome existence, weakening the vitality of its expressions, distorting the ends of its being? Here the case, which I have made my case, stands or falls. The statement must be limited to conviction not unsupported by argument. If I am wrong in my primary contention, my plea is vain.
In further illustration of the view that such divergence is real and disastrous, I approach the disagreeable but unavoidable part of my task. I wish it were possible always to speak of the presidency and the professorship and forget the president and the professor; for these objective fictions are really the subjects of discussion. It is also true that in large measure the office shapes the man; yet personality persists despite the difficulty of recognizing in the glorified presidential butterfly the humble professorial worm. The unwise authority and false responsibility of the presidential office invites the incumbent to attempt impossible tasks; invites him to adopt irrelevant standards; to obscure issues by looking many ways and seeing none clearly; to lose the clear-cut distinctions that regulate well-adjusted views and wholesome leadership. A despondent colleague insists that the only type of man safely to be entrusted with the prerogatives of the presidency is one whose principles would require him to decline the office. The dismal problem of salary shows the situation at its worst. (Let me assure the reader that I shall not expose the futility of the professor's financial manipulations to the kindly scorn of an affluent public; it is so magnanimously conceded that he is grievously underpaid, that there is still hope that the grief may assume a pragmatic form.) It is the chaotic adjustment, the introduction of the methods of the auction-room and the stock-market that have totally obscured the fact that there are principles at stake. What is wrong to the core is the attempt to translate academic service into dollars by an esoteric procedure which only presidents understand and will not reveal. It is possible to recognize the sublimity of Don Quixote's courage in his grotesque ventures, or of Chanticleer's confidence in his relation to the solar system, though disturbed by a humiliating mischance; but the administrative alchemy seems only ridiculous; while the waving of the magic wand of "merit" is irritating because so specious and so futile.
Principles are as clear as practise is muddy. More significant for wise adjustment is what a man is paid for, than what he is paid. Salary represents an adjustment of resources to needs, to the composite factors of the situation viewed academically, not commercially. The folly of trying to serve two masters is as patent here as elsewhere. Those who are worried lest men of unequal merit receive like salaries reveal the commercial bent of their minds; the academic concern is rather that men of like merit may receive unequal salaries. But salaries can not be regulated on the principle that it is pleasant to receive them. Rewards of merit and Christmas stockings doubtless have their place, but in the light of the lamp of learning, they seem a bit tawdry; nor does it seem helpful to punish service that does not fulfill promise by imposing complications in settling butchers' and grocers' bills. If professors are going to scramble for incomes, they lose all claim to the partial release from the economic pressure which their prerogative claims. The whole wretched business is mismanaged and causes more needless misery than it is proper to disclose. The security of the professorship is involved; the integrity of great academic traditions is involved; the soundness and poise of the intellectual life is involved. Indeed so much is involved that the enumeration might suggest to the uncharitable that the academic nervous system finds its solar plexus in the purse. The commanding consideration is that such is not the case; and the public should be prevented from so regarding it. Salvation lies in holding fast to the plain truth that this, like all other questions, must be considered and settled as an academic one. Any system will be good—though some will be better than others—that is, framed on that principle and on no other; that holds to it steadily, come what may; that solves salary questions by preventing nine tenths of them from arising; that does not invidiously discriminate between men on a money basis; that gives a man an independent seat in an academic counsel and relegates the pay day to its proper place in the calendar. "A single university which acts in this way" [i. e., makes tenure and preferment dependent on the president's ukase] "will in the end obtain a faculty consisting of a few adventurers, a few sycophants and a crowd of mediocrities"; if all universities do so, able men will not embark "on such ill-starred ships" (J. McK. Cattell). But the world is slow to banish the money-changers from the temple of learning; and, sad to confess, the custodians of the shrine have invited the disturbance of their offices by considerations of the market. They have indeed been hard pressed; whether this condones the offence let each judge. It is the common case of advancing a good end by bad means, thus sacrificing a larger benefit for an immediate gain; yet in so doing—and that is the sacrilege of it—the integrity of the end is compromised, the worship of false gods sanctioned.
The largest field of conflict between the standards and consequent views and favored policies of the academic interests and those associated with administrative measures is that of educational provisions. It is true that the divergence is more commonly partial than total; yet cumulatively it is momentous,—a chronic if not acute ailment. It is not easy to illustrate it without becoming tedious. I shall choose a phase in which the public is interested. How does it affect the student, the manner of life which he is invited to lead; the influences to which he is exposed; the curriculum to which in theory he is subjected and in practise too commonly orders by devising a mingled à la carte and table d'hôte menu not contemplated in any well-designed European or American plan of education. His very presence in college or in a particular college may be a result in which the administrative emphasis has been a cause; for there are so many of him (or her) that are in college without due warrant of present fitness and future benefit. The bidding for numbers is part of the system that operates to the disadvantage of standards; for the size (not the quality) of the share of the annual freshman crop, when reported, affects the rating in the educational Bradstreet. Prosperity is statistically measured; hence the desire for more buildings and costly ones; for more instructors, many of them occupied in work that the college should require and not provide; and more and more students who must be attracted towards the local Athenopolis and away from the rival one. Accordingly the hills are all reduced to easy grades and new democratic (not royal) roads to learning are laid out for those who do not like the old ones. Requirements are set not to what collegians should learn but to what they will; as at the circus the strip of bunting is held ostentatiously high until the horse with its fair burden is about to jump, when it is inconspicuously accommodated to the possible performance. Still more fatal is the continuance of a like spirit within the college; competition is encouraged for large classes and big departments; each professor bids for students, and students have the air of patronage when they choose the
wares on his counter. It is difficult to have one e) r e on popularity and the other on scholarship and retain a concentrated attention. A confessional questionnaire upon the motives operative in electing studies would reveal family secrets, difficult to reconcile with the lofty provisions and disinterested opportunities of the catalogue.
Involved in this rivalry, friendly in appearance, deadly in effect, is the intrusion of over-practical, quasi-professional interests, to the disparagement of discipline and cultural ideals. It is as though the course of the ship of education were determined by consulting the passengers. Advertising looms large and boosts the bigness that brings revenues and responds to administrative ambitions. The general consequence, I contend, is that the policies pursued, the measures adopted, that determine what students do at college and how they do it, and what they fail to do, neither truly nor adequately reflect the intent, the wisdom, the influence of those to whom they rightly look for guidance. Let me concede at once that some of the above trends are within limits legitimate and helpful, and again that in considerable measure they are not wholly or predominantly due to the administrative influence. None the less the administrative emphasis must be charged with a large responsibility for the excess to which the natural derogations of youth have been permitted to expand. The administrators have held the balance of power; they have ruled by overruling; or by yielding where resistance was demanded. If theirs is the pride, theirs is also the shame.
There can be no doubt that college life is generally and severely criticized. The perspective of student activities seems to the casual as to the close observer sadly out of joint; and this extends to more than the fact that for news of the colleges one must turn to the prismatic sporting pages of enterprising dailies. The query whether the collegiate side-shows have not eclipsed the business carried on in the main tent, if carried further, may lead to similar revelations as to the altered spirit of the performance in the academic arena. The arraignment is long and severe: students have no intellectual interests, no application, no knowledge of essentials, no ability to apply what they assimilate; they are flabby, they dawdle, they fritter and frivol, they contemn the grind, they miseducate the studious, they seek proficiency in stunts, they drift to the soft and circumvent the hard; undertrained and overtaught, they are coddled and spoon-fed and served where they should be serving; and they get their degree for a quality of work which in an office would cost them their jobs. You may read it seriously and impressively set down in Mr. Flexner's "The American College"; you may read it no less forcibly if more indulgently recorded in Mr. Gayley's "Idols"; you may find it undisguised in Mr. Dooley's satire, and dramatically staged in "Stover at Yale." Parents are uneasy about the value of it all when their sons are in college (parenthetically with some one's else daughters); their worldly employers question it more pragmatically when college days are over. Alumni are divided between an indulgent retrospective loyalty and the enlightenment of maturer wisdom. All this smoke points to a constantly smouldering dissatisfaction, bursting occasionally into a flame of protest. Doubtless the causes of the situation so variously complained of, like the causes of the high rate of living, are both deep and wide. Yet it seems clear that things would not have drifted so rapidly nor so far, if the machinery of the university had been made more directly responsive to the educational sentiment. It is not so much a question of conservative or liberal, of standpatter or progressive. It is a question of a proper perspective and of the power to enforce it—of foreground and background, of what shall be put first and what second and what last.
Further illustration would encroach upon complex scholastic matters. One group of issues centers about the manner in which the university ideal is to be maintained while meeting and yet resisting the public pressure, or directing it to fruitful channels; for the university should be at once responsive and responsible. The several legitimate influences bearing upon educational provisions, whether publicly or privately supported, should have avenues of expression and of enforcement. Their adjustment is a delicate matter in which the representation of opinion and the disposition of authority will be both just and wise if the several factors are given due order of precedence. It is a question requiring argument, but must here be dismissed with the conviction that the academic representation is far too slight and unauthoritative, that the evils developed and others in the making are largely due to the overshadowing of academic by administrative interests. All this is but natural. Let any one of a group of interacting factors gain a headway, and the acquired momentum accumulates about it further aggrandizement unless opposed by rival forces. This type of greatness comes both by birthright of office, is achieved by set purpose, and is thrust upon the conspicuous recipient. Add to this the natural heedlessness exemplified in a prosperous and expanding environment—so pointedly shown in the exploitation of natural resources, now checked by the movement for conservation—and it becomes clear how sound policy has been sacrificed to temporary expediency, to the desire to get things done, to the neglect of the criterion of quality that in the end makes or mars. Think of the superfluous ease with which colleges and universities have been sprinkled over the land, and the misguided zeal of local ambition, and the passion for quick returns; and how inevitably must academic interests suffer under such pressure, how inevitable that administrators should seize and hold the reign of government to the retirement of the calmer, sober claims of sound education! So far as youth and the frontier is the excuse, it no longer obtains. We are of age; nor is it so much a matter of age as of tradition. It is the survival of an unwholesome tradition into a state of affairs in which it becomes a hindrance and not a help, that constitutes the administrative peril.
A retrospect suggests the prospect and foreshadows it. I find some difficulty in attaining the degree of despondency which the outlook demands. There are many signs of a reaction against the system; while, as I have repeatedly noted, the spirit of the academic relations has steadily improved, and will, I am confident, lead in the directions of the reforms so urgently desired. The ability, earnestness, and eagerness to cooperate, on the part of governing boards, is itself a sufficient assurance. They are becoming sensitive to their externalism, and recognize the unwisdom of snapshot judgments of momentous issues, concerning the pros and cons of which they are increasingly reluctant to accept the president's view as representative. The retrospective contrast is indeed amazing. It falls just beyond my experience to have members of the faculty addressed by a member of the board as "You men whom we hire." It is within my experience to have professors summoned inquisitorially before a committee of the board to give an account of themselves, the interview conducted by the chairman with his feet on the table, and displaying a salivary agility that needs no further description. Such reminiscences carry no sting; they are merely amusing because now so impossible. The} r are instructive as showing how quickly the products of a world-culture follow upon the receding frontier. It lies in the power of governing boards to restore the academic prerogative. A movement in this direction would lie in accord with the tendency in public affairs to correct national weaknesses and to revise cruder codes of procedure.
Returning some years ago from a prolonged sojourn abroad, I was on the watch for the first convincing incident that would reflect the American trait. Emerging from the attentions of the customs officials, who lost no time in showing me my place in their scheme of existence, I was accosted at the gates of liberty by a foreign urchin with the breezy offer: "Carry your bags, Boss?"—in his own land it would have been "Signor." I recognized the title as the proper address for the returning American citizen. But now the boss, political, industrial, or educational, is no longer in such high repute as to make the term an unquestioned compliment. Methods are coming to be scrutinized, policies challenged, rights and wrongs as well as successes considered, and ethical and social as well as economical balance-sheets demanded. All this makes for a refinement in the adjustment of means to ends which is sympathetic with my plea. It is natural that the men of affairs chosen for posts of honor, so many of them of the high-principled classes responsive to the higher standards, should become sensitive to the autocracy in educational administration and look upon it with distrust. They understand, if they do not embrace, the cause of academic insurgency. They may be few in number, even exceptional; they are growing in influence. But the professor must not look passively for relief from without; he must find it within his guild. The clouds of promise though small are visible above the horizon. Protests are growing and are no longer received as dangerous or pardonable idiosyncrasies. The class of men from which presidents are recruited shows a considerable group alert to the evils of the system which they are called upon to administer. Programs of reform have been proposed: advisory bodies to offset presidential autocracy and make the position representative; the election of the president by the faculty together with the determination by the faculty of the powers which he is to exercise; the abolition of the office altogether. Speaking some years ago in a conciliatory mood, I favored the gradual elimination by reformatory measures of the most serious administrative evils, and trusted to the spirit thus awakened to carry the movement to a fitting consummation. I confess that the logic of the abolitionist position is growing upon me. It seems in so many ways disturbing to have a commanding figure in the academic horizon; the foolish and increasing pomp and circumstance of each presidential inaugural deepens the impression. Yet I still believe that the presidential office, shorn of its unwise and unsafe authority, of its aloofness in salary and lime-light conspicuousness, of the prerogatives which it has assumed because unclaimed (or, in the vernacular, because not securely nailed down), could be adjusted to accomplish all the essential desiderata. I believe this mainly because I believe that the position thus reconstructed would attract a different type of man—one who would desire to be no more and no less than an academic leader serving by the warrant of election and of constitutional support by the body which he serves. Clashes of policy must be avoided by the fusion of interests, not by the imposition of an external authority. The rectification of the greatest loss constitutes the restoration of the greatest gain. The independence of the academic career as embodied in the status of the professor remains the noeud vital of the educational system. Untoward conditions affect the intellectual economy unfavorably from its lowest to its highest ramifications. The blight of the blossoms is often caused by the impoverished soil at the roots. It is at the upper levels of fruition where growth is most sensitive to climatic influences that the hazard is greatest. In acknowledging the honorary degree which Harvard University conferred upon William James to make him yet more distinctively her own, he offered in return the concentrated expression of his academic experience. "The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself least lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed." In reminding the alumni of Harvard that "our undisciplinables are our proudest product" he gave expression to a memorable reflection. The administrative temper breeds an atmosphere peculiarly noxious to the finer, freer issues of learning. The inner quality so precious to the function of leadership in intellectual callings, dependent as they are on the delicate nurture of the creative gift, is precisely that which recedes at the first harsh touch of imposed restraint. There is a temperamental disposition involved, fraught with difficulty of adjustment under the most favorable circumstances, beset with hazard throughout its uncertain maturing at all levels. Unless the academic life is made helpful to its purpose, the course of which it must so largely be free to set for itself, the ships that bear our most valued cargoes will be storm-tossed and needlessly discouraged in their efforts to reach their sighted harbors: and some of them will mutely and ingloriously go down at sea. It is because the prevalent administrative system is so deadly to "our proudest product," that it appears to me, through the vista of a quarter century, as the supreme peril of the educational seas.
- The danger of externalism—the theme of the present discourse—to the public school-system is looked upon by Mr. J. F Munroe ("New Demands in Education, 1912") as a potent factor in the comprehensively unsatisfactory character of our educational system, methods and product. He regards the limitation of the authority of school boards and the establishment of school faculties with authority over educational matters as essential steps to permanent improvement. The present system wastes the intellectual force and enthusiasm of good teachers; it deadens initiative and cultivates prudent acquiescence. In its place a true professionalism would advance the status of teaching and teachers more effectively than any other single measure, and would bring with it the benefits now sought for in vain by petition and complaint.
- It is worth foot-noting that the Carnegie Foundation which is ostensibly devoted "to the Advancement of Teaching" (yet is governed by a board of college presidents with no representative of the teaching profession) sponsored a report on efficiency in academic affairs, which brought forth the following comment from a journal technically expert to judge the article: "Its whole tenor was to lay emphasis upon the destruction of the academic freedom and initiative that is necessary to the advancement of human intelligence, and to promote that kind of organization which under the guise of uniformity and system effectively suppresses progress" (Electrical World and Engineer). And this from a worldly source: "What efficiency experts sometimes forget is that there is a type of ability that can be found and retained better by the offer of a secure and dignified post than by the flourishing of money" (Springfield Republican: Editorial). An efficiency primer might well set forth as its first axiom, that it consists in adapting means to ends; its second, that different ends require different means; its third that expertness in means grows out of loyalty to ends. Beyond this, matters are too complex for those who use primers—even for the intelligent and benevolent laity of mature years.
- The appeal to experience is curiously partial. If the larger experience of the old world be considered, the burden of proof falls the other way. Externalism does not obtain there in the same manner or temper; presidential autocracy has not been found necessary or desirable; faculty control exists in variable yet always satisfactory measure; and the evils that flourish in American institutions are minimized. It has not been shown that our educational requirements are so wholly peculiar as to demand opposite provisions; it is fairly established that the democratic traditions of the old-world are responsible for some of the mitigations and concessions which have prevented the system of imposed authority from developing its direst possibilities.
- It is clear that I am not reviewing the salary question, but am touching only on one phase of the principles affecting its solution. The question was discussed five years ago by an association, composed of the presidents and deans of a score of the foremost universities, which is sufficiently naive or presuming to call itself "The Association of American Universities." Only one protagonist stood out against his associates for an uncompromisingly academic adjustment. Let me record my optimism in my belief that he would not stand alone to-day. I am not in the least unaware of the many difficulties that beset the practical adjustment of salaries to condition; nor do I forget that at some stage a modus vivendi between academic and economic demands must be arranged. This does not in the least excuse the reply of a president to a plea for the academic adjustment: "I have never been able to manage a university" (note the language) on that plan. That statement is a confession of unfitness. It would be invidious to point out how this or that institution has admirably solved one or another phase of the problem. There is sufficient proof that a reasonable solution can be reached even under present conditions. I also offer the two-edged philosophic consolation that since salary can not possibly reflect merit, it does a man no good and no harm to receive more or less of it than do his colleagues. Perhaps this truth should be kept for home consumption; to offer it to the public may lead to complications.
- Since writing these words Mr. Owen Johnston has set forth in no uncertain temper the "Shame of the Colleges" in terms of undergraduate dissipation, not as ominous in its physical extravagance as in its intellectual waste. It is the undergraduate distortion of perspective that is the source of despair, and for which the academic authorities must accept a considerable responsibility.
- Since this article was written, Professor Cattell has made known the results of his inquiry in regard to the opinions of professors upon the desirability and acceptability of the present system of academic control. (See Science, May 24 and 31, 1912). Speaking generally the inquiry, which was conducted upon a wide basis and presumably a frank one, reveals the astonishing conclusion that 85 per cent, of the replies are unfavorable to the system in vogue—the system here criticized. It is even more significant that a large majority advocate a very decided and radical reconstruction to bring about an urgently needed reform. The variety of points of view from which the dominant system is attacked is also suggestive. Knowing as I did from the many letters of endorsement of my own utterances, that there was a wide-spread sympathy with this position, I was yet entirely unprepared to find so general an expression of dissatisfaction. It would appear that the professors constitute a fairly unanimous army of insurgents, with a peculiar reticence in announcing their cause, and a reluctance to enlist in any active operations. None the less the statistical result is a cause for congratulation; and the academic world owes a debt to Professor Cattell the nature of which the future will more clearly reveal. Of the several constructive suggestions those advanced by Professor Cattell must now be accorded the preferred position, since it is with reference to them that a representative referendum of the academic profession has been taken. When it is realized that a considerable majority favors an extensive reconstruction of the system as established, and that the professors as a body find themselves dispirited and not inspired by the provisions supposed to ensure their efficiency, it is hardly probable that boards of management will fail to respond to this convincing and notable evidence that there is something out of joint in the academic situation. In my opinion Professor Cattell has indicated a workable, flexible program. As a platform its stability will depend not so directly upon this or that plank which is inserted or omitted or trimmed to local requirements, as upon its finding a solid support in the sentiments and judgments of those whose business and privilege it will be to direct its construction, as at once a visible and a spiritual reality.