An Offering to the Summer Muse
The End of an Order
by Robbie McClintock
Length: 8,400 words
During the summer of 1968, I wrote "End of an Order" as the middle part of a larger reflection on the events at Columbia that spring, particularly as they appeared to me, a new faculty member at Teachers College. It seemed as the events of May passed into summer that efforts to institute significant changes were going to flag in the coming academic year, and I wrote in the hope of initiating a more organized effort to promote reforms to culminate in the spring 1969.
I thought I had made a strong case for reasoning collaboratively about needed changes in setting academic goals and processes, anticipating that implementing my ideas would start for real in the Spring of 1969. As a first step, seeking high-level cooperation in getting this process going, I sent "An Offering to the Summer Muse" to Frank Jennings, the influential Secretary of Teachers College, for he had the ear of the administration, trustees, and senior faculty. His response was unexpected and discouraging. As part of his responsibilities, he was editor of Perspectives on Education. He thanked me for the manuscript; said nothing about what it proposed; and asked whether he might publish the middle part, "The End of an Order," as a free-standing essay. I took that to be a consolation for a junior assistant professor who otherwise was overreaching. In Jennings' judgment, the first and last parts might rekindle recent controversies at Teachers College without leading to much of substance. What I was proposing was better left alone. Disappointed, I put on a happy face, recognizing that he meant his prudence, at lest in part, as a supportive gesture on my behalf.
Here is the full essay with "The End of an Order" reinserted between the beginning and the end. The controversies, such as they were, which the full text threatened to reignite, have passed benignly; institutional inertia still stands securely in control; and the three parts can safely appear together, shorn of all but a residue of historical value.
An Offering to the Summer Muse
But you . . . , listen to right and do not foster violence; for violence is bad for a poor man. Even the prosperous cannot easily bear its burden, but is weighed down under it when he has fallen into delusion. The better path is to go by on the other side towards justice; for Justice beats Outrage when she comes at length to the end of the race. But only when he has suffered does the fool learn this.
Hesiod, Works and Days. 213-8
One Year AgoRecall the morning after. All were dismayed by the violence unleashed in the clearing of Columbia's campus. The majority of moderates, who had previously milled about in uncommitted perplexity, were moved to angry involvement. The police had cut the Gordian Knot, removing the offense without resolving the issues that the occupations had exposed. Intellectuals typically react in outrage when the impatient men of action cut through a tangle that might, with time and care, have been peacefully unraveled; and the moderates thus resolved inwardly, in passionate penance, to atone for the violence by correcting its causes. Hence, a call immediately arose for the reform and restructuring of the university itself.
At Teachers College on the morning after the atmosphere was charged. So far the center had held; but now no one knew what would happen: each hoped that something constructive might occur, but all feared that factions would fall out in disagreement and prevent any common action. About noon word began to spread of an open meeting in the cafeteria. A great throng congregated and, like a swarm of bees, it quickly buzzed away in the search for more space, gathering recruits as it moved noisily through the corridors. After alighting for an instant in a lecture hall, the throng finally settled in Horace Mann Auditorium, filling even the standing room with a spontaneous selection of students, faculty, and staff. After a few moments of uncertainty about the agenda, a line of impromptu speakers began to form at the podium, and we listened, still uncertain where it would lead, as each speaker unburdened his heart and recommended various courses of action.
A sentiment for confrontation between students and the "system" began to build as most speakers echoed radical jargon and a large part of the audience responded. It seemed as if Teachers College might generate its own occupation as one young man vehemently denounced the remoteness the College administration. It was insensitive to the issues of the day and needed to be made aware of what was what. For instance, the youth complained, in all his time at the College he had never once even caught a glimpse of the President. Knowing eyes glanced to the side of the room; the moment of truth was at hand: another voice had to speak up or the center would have abdicated initiative.
A gentleman in stiff-starched collar and rimless glasses stepped from the crowd, jovially waved his hand, observed that here the President was for all to see, and asked if he might say a few words when the speaker was finished. Immediately, rhetoric was deflated; the humor of the situation relaxed the growing tension; and what might have issued in polarization began an effort at cooperation. The youth admitted that the President's face was not wholly unfamiliar and that the administration was perhaps not as bad as he had made out. Yet he stuck to his point that the College could and should be improved. President Fischer agreed, observing that for several years the College had been pursuing reforms. In the past, student apathy had, among other things, slowed progress, and the present concern could have beneficial results if the students, faculty, and administration could avoid polarization and could cooperatively work out and implement constructive changes. With these remarks the Teachers College community received a clear mandate, and now, a year later, we all might pause to reflect on our progress.
It would be pleasant here to describe simply the many changes we have introduced and to congratulate ourselves for the progress these reveal. Thus we have a new Student Senate; monthly meetings of the full faculty that conduct much business; student representatives on almost every committee of the College; wider, more democratic faculty representation on committees; an open flow of detailed minutes to every meeting; all manner of departmental sub-committees, student committees, and student-faculty committees. Participation and democracy of sorts we have; but the question here is the significance and value of it all. Teachers College exists in a world of real substance, with serious problems as well as passing fashions. The value of what we have done during the past year depends in the long-run on what is happening in the world around us; it depends particularly on the nature of the educational crisis that has set things in motion not only at Columbia, but at universities around the world. In the end, the value of the innovations we make depends on whether these increase or decrease our ability to flourish in a changing world. Hence, in order to evaluate the alterations we have introduced, we need to make same judgments about the current unrest. ?Que pasa en el mundo, hombre?
The End of an Order
Wisdom is one thing—to know the thought whereby all things are steered through all things.
Perspectives on Education (vol. II, no. 3, Spring 1969, pp. 1-5). A guest editorial, written by a prominent spokesman in the field of education, expressing his or her views on a timely subject, appears in each issue. It is with great pleasure that Perspectives on Education presents this editorial by Robert McClintock, Assistant Professor of History and Education, and Research Associate in the Institute of Philosophy and Politics of Education at Teachers College.
Our educational institutions are clearly in crisis; but the precise character of that crisis is still unclear. The aggressions of radical students and badgeless police, both of which have now violated even venerable Harvard, are glaring symptoms. But more fundamentally, in various ways and on every level, terrible frustrations are building up in those seeking stasis and those seeking change, frustrations out of which atrocious conflicts can issue.
To understand the crisis of our educational institutions, consider what one means by an institution. Hearing the word, most think of a formal organization with an established purpose and a hierarchy of offices. Educational institutions are thus schools and universities with students, teachers, administrators, and trustees fitted into a system for instructing the young, advancing knowledge, and providing needed talents to society. Such institutions seem to be out there in the real world, built of stone and steel, enclosed in well-fed files, and manned by an ever-living parade of personnel; men work in and for these institutions, finding them to be a good or a bad place. In the institution, people move through its hierarchy of offices, protect their places in the progression, and increase the power, security, or status of their particular part; for the institution they perform their assigned functions at least adequately, sometimes masterfully, while dedicated individuals even perfect the functions they perform.
With this conception, many find the educational crisis signals a need for "institutional change." This diagnosis calls for adjustments, even radical alterations, in the system for which men work. Under institutional change come proposals for restructuring the universities, recognizing minority interests, decentralizing or integrating different school systems, and changing practically every identifiable procedure. In this view, the educational crisis is the aggregate of particular abuses on all levels of the system; and to end the crisis one should promote institutional change, change in the formal organization, to correct each abuse one by one.
People err by thinking that the crisis is a need for institutional change. As a sum of particulars, our educational institutions, however imperfect, are better than ever before. To be sure, institutional change is desirable: numerous abuses should be corrected and many opportunities taken by altering our official organizations. But the sum of these particulars fails to explain why the crisis has arisen now, despite relative perfection of the system's parts. To explain this fact, let us meditate on a different conception of institution.
Institutions are not always official organizations. In times past, an institution meant the giving of form to a concern; it signified a principle that arranged diverse endeavors into a complex but coherent unity. A man formed convictions that were the institution of his life, for these defined his mission in the world; likewise, a group developed central principles that were its institution, for these defined its duties and instituted its offices. Instead of a solid structure existing in the workaday world, an institution may be a principle, a common commitment, a qualitative, unified intangible that informs diverse activities with mutual meanings.
Here, then, is the situation: the educational crisis is not fundamentally in our established organizations, but rather in the principle, the institution, that forms our educational concern. The crisis is in the vital institution, the living idea, not in the official institution, the rigid system; it is in the idée directrice, the guiding principle, which formerly shaped our effort and which now ceases to direct.
Our recent history shows how the principle that has been guiding pedagogical effort is no longer accepted by many on every instructional level. The familiar institution, the established idée directrice, no longer harmonizes our different endeavors, and despite excellence of the parts, these do not cohere spontaneously into a humming whole. As our institution ceases to form the whole, the parts increasingly work at cross purposes. The crisis will remain, not until we perfect each part through institutional change, but until we change our institution to regain our sense of the whole and to re-form our common concerns. To understand the scale of this task, let us trace how the old order became obsolete.
* * *
Americans never really relaxed the long discipline of the Depression and World War II. After a brief demobilization, Congress passed several National Security Acts, a Selective Service Act, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty, and a large Military Assistance Program. The Cold War was on, if not declared. Educational leaders responded to the Communist challenge with the Cold War institution of American education, which formed our diverse instructional programs well into the 1960's.
Simply the boldest features of this guiding conception will show the institution at work throughout the nation, productively coordinating educational effort on every level. Cold War concerns were not the official rationale of all reform; an idée directrice does not work this way. Instead, the Soviet threat was the background, informing the work of dissimilar persons with common intent. An ever-better standard of living, a continuously high level of military preparedness, a clear technological superiority over friend and foe, and an abiding faith in the American way of life seemed essential to national survival; and educators on every level saw many ways to make our instructional system a powerful means to these ends.
Books like Education in a Divided World (1948) by James B. Conant and Modern Arms and Free Men (1949) by Vannevar Bush set forth the Cold War institution. Conant assigned to schools and schoolmasters a crucial mission for national security: "if public education is as important as I believe..., then in the 'cold war' with the Soviet Union the scientists who assist in improving our tax-supported schools will play as significant a role as did certain physicists and chemists in the battle against the Axis powers." And Conant's unstinting efforts thereafter to improve public schools show how seriously he took this mission. In his manifesto for the military-industrial complex, Bush articulated the Cold War mission of the higher learning. "In a world where the prosecution of war . . . demands that we be in the forefront in the applications of science to public health, industry, and preparations for fighting effectively in a modern sense . . . , it is essential that . . . talent and intellectual ambition shall have no artificially imposed limitations. . . . " With steady reiteration from many quarters, practice was soon shaped so that schools would disseminate the skills requisite for an expanding economy, so that teachers could inculcate the loyalty necessary to withstand a long-term challenge, and so that the universities would train the most able into a political, industrial, and technical elite capable of keeping the United States in the forefront of nations.
To begin, conservatives made a double attack on the slack standards and imperfect patriotism of our public pedagogues. These shrill charges were sobered as national leaders perceived that academic excellence was essential to Cold War success and the public schools were therefore to be used, not abused. Replacing invective with incentive, they induced a substantial demand for technical training through federal expenditures for scientific research and advanced weapons.
With Sputnik, the enemy seemed to outdistance us through relatively more rapid technical, economic, and educational advances. The Cold War institution became a national mania. Every magazine called for higher academic standards, and Admiral Rickover became a pedagogical authority with his admonition "Education Is Our First Line of Defense-Make It Strong." Long sought federal aid to education passed easily as a National Defense Education Act. The highest, widest possible achievement in productive skills became the end of the system, for most believed that such achievement was essential both to regaining technological leadership and to personal success in a society that would need indefinitely to mobilize all energies in the production of power. This individual incentive, the carrot of federal funds, and the stick of nation-wide testing programs made the system respond: enrollment in higher education has climbed steadily and the number of highly qualified workers has markedly increased. Suddenly critics find the American way of life is a mandarin system dominated by a scientific-educational estate.
* * *
To be sure, much room for further intellectual improvement remains; but it will not occur under the aegis of the Cold War institution, for this guiding principle has ceased to work. Large groups do not believe that the raison d' être of their pedagogical efforts should be raison d'état. People doubt that it is either desirable or prudent to continue to link educational effort, however indirectly, to Cold War priorities; and they assert that it is time to remedy the social injustices perpetuated as long as intellectual achievement for the sake of national power was the guiding pedagogical principle. Two developments have exposed the educational crisis by showing the Cold War institution to be obsolete.
Racial tension is the first sign of an out-dated order. The Cold War institution was inequitable for disadvantaged groups, especially the blacks. To promote economic growth, military preparedness, and technological advance, educators deployed intellectual resources in the most efficient way. The better teachers were matched to promising students; suburban schools and elite universities received the lion's share of resources; and slum schools retrenched, teaching only enough to create a semi-skilled labor pool for industrial expansion and front-line troops. Cold War expediencies made it imprudent to "waste" resources in redressing injustices by allocating extra money and talent to the schools of the poor, for this might slow the defense effort by investing heavily in supposedly unproductive human capital. But recently it has become clear, even without appeals to social justice, that the dangers risked by slighting the slums may outweigh those from any Cold War enemy. Hence, black militants and moderates, urban politicians, foundations, social reformers, intellectuals, and idealistic students insist that equalization of intellectual opportunity merits a higher pedagogical priority than national security.
Second, the Cold War institution has serious internal contradictions. Americans do not like the military for itself, and we have sufficient resources not to need the military for imperial expansion. In matters martial we take pride only in powers of self-defense. We entered the Cold War as the defenders of the "free world" nobly protecting it from the aggressions of totalitarian powers. Now, rightly or wrongly, many believe that our armaments cannot be justified as defenses proportionate to the real challenges. Our network of treaties and bases embroils us in other peoples' domestic quarrels and draws us into imposing solutions, frequently for the least deserving party, in order to preserve our alliances and bases. Various adventures, most notably Vietnam, have made our armed forces seem not to have a purely defensive character; consequently these represent to many patriotic citizens an improper diversion of resources from more desirable possibilities. Such doubts are not confined to a radical fringe; General David M. Shoup, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commandant of the Marines, recently put it bluntly in the April 1969, Atlantic: "America has become a militaristic and aggressive nation."
Since the aggressive unity of the Communist bloc crumbled, the "divided world" of the Cold War has given way, in the view of many, to an interdependent yet fragmented world in which the super powers have common interests. World politics is no longer shaped simply by two intricate alliances based on vast military might; it works instead as a multi-centered system that can be directed only by a concert of the major powers achieved through diplomatic delicacy. In this world, progress depends on whether the major nations work out common policies towards the great issues, towards population control environmental pollution, resource conservation, economic development, space exploration, hunger, and world law. Hence, an educational institution formed by a presumption of a divided world seems not only obsolete; it further seems destructive, for it transmits capacities useful mainly in a cold war, and it fails to cultivate characteristics by which Americans can construct a better future in an interdependent, fragmented world.
Although certain citizens still believe in America's defensive purity, even they should not rely rigidly on the Cold War institution. This program will no longer function because many other citizens share a profound disillusion with the prospective continuation of Cold War policies. This disillusion may be right and it may be wrong; in either case, it exists and will not go away simply by being dismissed. This disillusion creates our educational crisis because the disillusioned reject the two most prominent results of the Cold War institution: despite egalitarian rhetoric, educators failed markedly to bring equality of opportunity through our schools to the children of disadvantaged groups; and despite professions of peace, they succeeded significantly in providing the military and their industrial servants with skilled manpower sufficient for pursuing aggressive adventures.
These results stem from the Cold War institution, which set forth a vision of a divided world and of education, higher and lower, public and private, as the means by which the good half would save itself from the evil. A crisis besets our educational institution now because many citizens no longer find tolerable an institution that leads to these results. The crisis therefore signals the end of the Cold War order in education, for once a guiding principle is effectively questioned, its usefulness disappears. Leaders of every persuasion are thus challenged to work out a new institution, for enforcement of the old cannot retrieve the simplicities of Cold War pedagogical policy.
Enforcing an institution is impossible, for efforts to maintain a contested idée directrice are inherently self-defeating. Campus radicals, and the many moderates who would join them in the event of repression, are talented youths trained up in the post-Sputnik mania for standards. To expel, imprison, or draft these students systematically in order to prevent further challenge to the Cold War institution would defeat the Cold War program, which was to ensure that the more talented students received the more productive opportunities. An intangible institution cannot be preserved through policies that decree a pattern of action for alt for a guiding principle must function without having to be enforced officially with respect to all particulars. The institution operates when almost all spontaneously use it without authoritative directions to inform their personal intentions.
Since many have ceased to share a vision of a divided world, that vision is no longer a guiding principle. The Cold War gave an order to pedagogical effort that has ended, even though the Cold War may still be on. t for one, do not lament the passing of this institution. But I should add two further points.
While signaling a desirable end, the crisis is not itself desirable, for the clashes it occasions destroy much of enduring value. Alienated students whose experience is only with the Cold War institution do not distinguish between a pernicious guiding principle and the valuable parts that the principle shapes into an undesirable whole. Hence, their negations through direct action are undiscriminating and may destroy the remnants of autonomous intellect that will be the source of any alternative institution. Mere negation leads logically to suicide. Instead we should go beyond the crisis to affirm a new institution.
We can do so only by articulating a new idée directrice, another guiding principle, which will effectively integrate anew our vast common energies; and this will not be easily done. To make a new institution in the intangible sense, one does not proclaim a plan and command others to put it into operation. A guiding principle becomes operative as it diffuses freely through public opinion under the gentle pressure of cogent discourse. To occasion such discussion, let us close by putting the question. Over the coming decades, what institution, what principle, can give a humane, productive order to the full range of our educational concerns? What thought, thus, will steer all things through all things?
For Teachers College, the Cold War period has been one of transition; but the precise destination of that transition is still to be determined. We will help develop a new idée directrice for American education as we our our house in order and begin to move in a definite direction. Hence, we need a historic sense of where we are, not to pass judgment on ourselves, but to see where we might go and how we might get there.
With traditions of internationalism, radicalism, and social idealism, Teachers College did not adapt easily to the Cold War institution of American education. During the 1950's, two criticisms of professional educationists became fashionable in large sectors of the public: many believed that the typical schoolman was soft on Communism and even more were certain he was enamored of an anti-intellectual pedagogy. To refresh your memory, reflect on the rhetoric of the radical right from the Gross affair through the floridness of Rafferty, and run down that long list of books castigating the intellectual quality of the public schools. As Americans became more concerned about educational efficiency in the Cold War context, they became more suspicious of an educational establishment that was identified with previous pedagogical orders.
Two aspects of these criticisms were of great significance to Teachers College. First, much of the public suspicion of the educationist was focused on the College because TC had notoriety as a leftist influence in education and because through World War II it had dominated the professional study of education, mainly by virtue of having the field to itself. Second—and intrinsically more important—the widespread criticism of public educators, combined with the Cold War urgency to make the schools produce, made education seem to be much too important to leave to the established professionals. As a result of this feeling, there arose a strong impetus in the nation for developing alternative professional schools of education such as that at Harvard; for going to the academic experts—to the chemists, physicists. biologists, and mathematicians of the research universities—for major curricular reforms; and for looking to interested amateurs, to James B. Conant and Admiral Rickover, for guidance on school policy. Such developments have decisively changed the pedagogical environment within which Teachers College functions.
In the midst of these changes, the College was by no means dormant. The faculty's power of self-renewal was tested in recruiting a new generation of professors. The last links to hoary origins were outgrown, and the faculty now comprises relatively young men, most of whom received their higher degrees in the Cold War years. Furthermore, the sting of the criticism that the College favored the heart over the head led to the improvement of our academic competencies, and to our disengagement from methodological orthodoxies, or, if you prefer, from the orthodoxy of methodological unorthodoxy. Presently, the academic strength and doctrinal diversity of the College is the basis of our adaptability, an adaptability that may enable us to take significant initiatives in American education. But we will not be able to exercise this initiative if we simply seek to return to our pre-Cold-War visions, for our student body has also changed, altering fundamentally the ways by which we can expect to influence the world.
Teachers College students have become a more carefully selected group they give relatively greater emphasis to doctoral studies; and they contemplate a far more diverse professional future. An even more important fact is this: at a time when there has been a rapid increase in the number of people employed as formal and informal educators, enrollment in the College has been declining slightly but steadily. This fact is not a sign of our eclipse; this fact, combined with the growing stress on doctoral studies, means that our mode of influencing the world at large has changed irrevocably.
In the 1930's, the great image of how the College might transform the world was voiced in George S. Counts' famous question, Dare the schools build a new social order? Counts could ask this question with a semblance of plausibility because almost everybody who was anybody in public education came to Teachers College; and almost everybody who passed through the College took courses with Counts and like-minded colleagues in which the students were imbued, some say indoctrinated, with a common vision of the social order. We can no longer plausibly ask Counts' question for we no longer train a sufficient proportion of the profession to stamp unilaterally a favored dogma on it. This fact should cause no despair, for the question was based to begin with on an illusory conception of how the educator affects the social order. Education is too indirect a mode of action for its power to be made manifest through metaphors of building, construction, or production. No educator can construct his charges to blueprint specifications, and no school has ever built a social order. At most, educators can start a ferment in their students' powers; and at best, the school can add a bit of yeast to life: for this reason works of science and art are called culture. Hence the real question that always confronts the educator is, "Dare the schools leaven the social order?"
Let us be sure that this image is understood, for perhaps the most powerful influence on educational policy is the way we conceive that schools act in the community. Educative agencies do not transmit culture across generations; they facilitate the formation of a generation by allowing it to nourish itself in a culture. Through instruction youths discipline their powers; through intellectual stimulation they broaden their curiosity; through leisure they imagine untried possibilities; through sporting effort they strengthen their capacity for work; through camaraderie they develop a taste for excellence. If the culture of the school and university is particularly nourishing;, youths will go out from it into every walk of life with more robust, humane aspirations than their elders have. In each sphere of endeavor these youths will excite their peers and push their predecessors, and the standard performance in each area and on every level will rise. Thus the school can leaven the social order, and beyond that it can do little more.
Teachers College is now in a good position to ask itself whether it dares leaven the pedagogical order. During the Cold War, the faculty and student body changed their competencies and concerns, and these changes altered the way we can hope to affect the world, easing our old hubris. We no longer have a field to ourselves, but are one among many; and being a limited part of a vast whole, our best way of affecting the whole is not to reconstruct it anew, but to leaven it. Consequently, the changes of the last decades define bases from which we should proceed, not conditions we should try to transform. Unless our coffers enjoy a sudden windfall of extraordinary magnitude, our present faculty will not change markedly in the coming decade or two, and our student body will remain at roughly its present size with a steady increase in the proportion of full-time doctoral students. If nothing else, the marked increase of educational activity throughout the country and the world makes it futile to seek to dominate the profession merely by training standard views into great quantities of prospective pedagogues.
Hence, the task before Teachers College in coming decades is neither to recruit a much larger faculty nor to saturate the public schools with likeminded professionals; our task is to marshal our best competencies, to nourish these steadily, and to impart them to our students; our task is to provide a culture in which our students can grow and generate energy that they will carry forth and apply to the many problems of man. And with the crisis at Columbia and throughout American education, the moment for rising to this task is thrust upon us; we and innumerable other educators are called by events to take a stand, and the situation is such that our stand will be remembered for whatever it embodies—wisdom or folly.
No one knows the precise direction, if any, that American education will take during the coming decades. It is fairly certain that the direction will not be the familiar one of the Cold War: maximum intellectual efficiency for the sake of national power regardless of the social costs thus incurred at home and abroad. It seems probable, moreover, that the new institution will form as educators learn to link real efforts to deal with problems such as racial reconciliation and international cooperation, hunger and poverty, overpopulation am underdevelopment, conservation and pollution, urban concentration and technological depersonalization, demilitarization and world law. Furthermore, the scale and complexity of these problems makes it inconceivable that educators will be able to approach them effectively by reversing the present intellectualist trends, for de-emphasizing basic skills in favor of terminal techniques and dogmas will simply raise expectations while diminishing the powers by means of which these hopes may be satisfied. Surely any new institution will have to remedy the present egregious inequities in intellectual opportunity; but the real substantiality of the problems before men, before all men, makes it undesirable that instruction aimed merely at reforming social attitudes replace efforts to nurture a variety of fundamental competencies.
We will leaven the future order neither by mouthing fashionable doctrines in our meetings nor by aping every style of the modish moment in our programs; we will leaven the future by concentrating on our real abilities and imparting these to diverse persons who will multiply the abilities as they work, not merely discourse, on tomorrow's problems. At no time has diligent, day-today application to our duties in the classroom and the study been more crucial to the quality of our endeavor; yet at this time we have been compounding our distractions, creating all sorts of extraneous concerns that turn us away from our strengths and highlight our weaknesses. Let us consider the possibility that in stress filled moments we all—professors, students, and administrators—missed our real opportunities and embarked on undesirable innovations. At Teachers College, our response to the educational crisis has had two salient features: we have succeeded in increasing the quantity, if not the quality, of faculty and student participation in running the College, and we have failed to articulate effectively the widespread but latent concern for examining and perfecting our public mission. These two developments, tho one positive and the other negative, emanate from a mistake we made under the pressure of time: we forgot to distinguish between the power of office and the power of mind.
Faculty members, students, and administrators all made the same error: we confused the agencies for making definite decisions and implementing particular actions with those for considering basic problems and forming general policies. Professors qua professors and students qua students will neither gain nor contribute by active involvement in the chores of daily administration; the potential power of both groups lies in their ability to shape with reason and imagination the general policies from which responsible administrators derive direction as they dispatch the endless details. We did not make this distinction, and blindly took the way of least resistance. As a result, we pell-mell provided, to the detriment of all, for wider participation in resolving the day-to-day dilemmas that must be resolved if an organization is to function and flourish; and we failed to provide what would be in the interest of all, namely wider participation in examining continuously our common concerns and in working out a tacit conception of our general will, our sense of direction in a changing world.
Prior to the crisis, the established structures of academic governance at Teachers College, as at almost all universities, were structures by which express choices were made and implemented. With a hierarchy of departments, divisions, faculty committees, and a few full-time administrators, the mundane decisions that make it possible for complicated teaching and research activities to go on were made rather effectively with a minimum expenditure of scholars' scarce hours. As Jacques Barzun pointed out well in Teacher in America, the best committee chairman is the one who can dispatch business competently and quickly. The decisions and actions that allow the College to function effectively are not fundamental; they concern a host of particulars: a repair here, an alteration there, an expenditure for this, an improvement in that, an exception for him, a promotion for her, an added course, a novel program. Rarely is one of these decisions important in the absolute but unless these are continually, competently, efficiently made, even the most talented group will dissipate its abilities in useless frictions. Provisions for conducting our practical business should be responsive, not representative, and the fewer academic resources these provisions consume the better.
During the past year we have greatly widened participation in our agencies for dispatching with mundane matters: we have added students and elected faculty members to the major committees; we have created many new student and student-faculty committees; and we have greatly loosened up channels so that half-baked notions and gratuitous crises are taken directly to top administrators and meetings of the entire faculty. The upshot of these actions is not participatory democracy, but a clogged, inefficient system for keeping house, one that is consuming far more effort and talent than it deserves. Neither students nor professors can spare enough time from their studies to devote themselves to all the details of the day-to-day administration of the organization. Many of our new committees seem about to die the inevitable death of any form that serves no function. The pedestrian but necessary business of other groups is being shunted aside or complicated as the urge to participate prompts people to raise extraneous questions. The administration listens to every side of every minor issue, at the cost of concentrating on the implementation of major innovations; and students and faculty members have been far too willing to involve themselves, making celebrated causes of all manner of matters and eagerly taking these to the top. We seem to have forgotten that executives who must lend an ear to all will have time to give a hand to none.
Hence I think we have erred. Our committees functioned well enough before the crisis. The addition of students and more professors has not improved their performance, but it has increased the amount of academic resources consumed in that performance: this is a loss, a serious loss, for it lessens the energies we can devote to the real problems of the world. When the classroom and the study are our basic means for affecting the world, and thus for dealing with the educational crisis, we should be skeptical of all that distracts us from our real work.
If this diagnosis is correct, then we should abruptly change our direction and rescind most of the innovations we have made during the past year in our means for conducting! our practical business. A compact, competent, efficient administration that can make and implement particular decisions quickly, effectively, and responsively is preferable to an unwieldy conglomeration of professors and students who alternate between being impossibly bored and impossibly impassioned. Besides preserving the Student Senate, let us return to the status quo ante in procedures for academic administration; and in the likely event that we will be unable to muster the wisdom and courage to reverse officially our recent course, let us partly make up for our folly by resolving to settle each particular question by involving as few people on as low a level of the administrative hierarchy as possible.
Before dismissing this plea for retrenchment in our day-to-day government, finding it a reactionary aberration, consider our other failure. Prior to the crisis, the great deficiency in academic organization was the lack of any agency for the continuous, imaginative consideration of intellectual policy. Trustees are busy men who serve part-time and who bring to a university certain very costly competencies; but they are not experts on pedagogical goals, scholarly possibilities, or academic priorities. Administrators are rightly pre-occupied by the details of daily operations and the neverending campaign for funds; only rarely does a good academic executive further possess the time and ability for original, profound consideration of intellectual policy. Many faculty members have the background to think through the intellectual commitments and responsibilities of the university; but they are busy, all-too-busy, with teaching, research, advising, writing, and consulting, with conferences, lectures, books, and seminars. Students, too, have a freshness of view and a personal concern that fits many for participating effectively in considering the proper institution for intellect; but they have a heavy load of courses to take, numerous papers to write, and a seemingly endless list of books to read. In short, no one has been regularly reflecting on the mission of mind.
In one way, the present educational crisis may be understood as the result of precisely this deficiency in our academic organizations: the means were lacking by which we could have anticipated the end of the Cold War order and through which we might have worked out new guiding principles prior to collapse and conflict. Instead, many began to suspect that the intellectual policies in force were no longer valid; but they found no regular channels by which they could think through this suspicion and present their concern coherently to the scholarly community. In the absence of such agencies, the concern festered as frustrations built up. The frustration came to a head when disturbed persons, who basically wanted to raise questions about the over-all direction in which academic institutions had been moving, found that they could do so only by seeking out in the practical affairs of the university various particular "issues" that symbolized their larger concerns. Their questions were finally put by dramatizing the issues through disruptive direct actions; but given suitable agencies, these questions might have been raised far more effectively through the indirect action of reasoned discourse.
Eventually, educators will awaken to this deficiency in academic organization. The great institutional change that will emerge across the nation from the present crisis will probably be some sort of agency that will provide for continuous, open consideration of intellectual policy. Everywhere, a means is needed by which students, professors, and administrators can think through the implications of intellect, voice their concern to their peers, and adapt their guiding policies in an open discussion of principles. So far, only at Amherst and M.I.T. have such discussions occurred, and in both cases they occurred only ad hoc on the brink of crisis and in both cases they took place in an unwieldy manner that required the suspension of all regular activities. The Columbia University Senate is a worthwhile proposal, but it falls short of the type of agency needed, for unless it sets up many internal committees for the study of potential matters for its consideration, it will most likely function like most faculty senates, ratifying particulars, not debating alternative directions. At Teachers College none of the many new structures we have created are effective means for reflectively considering pedagogical policy; all simply feed into the channels for making and implementing· decisions. In short, there seems to be a bloc, an impediment that prevents academics from seeing how to create what is clearly desirable.
This bloc is our predilection to look for a quasi-political structure as an agency for considering policy. The mission of mind should be worked out intellectually, not politically; and the consideration of university policy should be separated from the practical system for academic governance: it should instead be an important addition to the university's instructional program.
Such an addition would make sense for the following reasons, among others. The call for more relevant courses is not really a criticism of the existing courses as much as it is an imprecise observation of a gap in the curriculum; it is actually a request for the provision of an instructional means by which students can consider the relevance of intellect to the world at large and to various problems in it. Moreover, if it is truly important for students and professors to participate in forming academic policy, then a means to do so through the university's instructional programs must be found, for neither students nor professors have the time to spare, outside their academic endeavors, to partake in thorough deliberations. By making these deliberations extracurricular, we simply ensure that they will be performed by those who take their main responsibilities lightly. Furthermore, unless professors and students can raise and pursue policy questions within an a academic context, there is little justification for their claim to participation, which depends on their special intellectual abilities and competence, on their erudition, acumen, diligence, trained rationality, and specialist expertise, not on their political savvy or business sense, which are often minimal.
Hence, it seems to me that the institutional change of lasting significance that will come out of the current travail will be something like the following, which I shall call for convenience The President's Seminars; and I hope that Teachers College will take the lead in making this innovation. Each year up to five special seminars should be offered on a college-wide basis. Each seminar should be charged by the President with producing a report to the whole College on a matter of possible policy interest to the College and the academic community. For the sake of effectiveness, participation in each should be limited to four faculty members and twenty doctoral students, all of whom should represent as diverse a range of commitments and competencies as possible. Participation by professors should count as a full-year course in their teaching load, and students should receive academic credit. Various systems for setting up the seminars could be devised; for instance, the Dean or a faculty committee might choose the topics from suggestions submitted by professors and students and an interested faculty member could be designated as the seminar leader responsible for granting admission to the seminar and for producing its final report. At this point, however, the mechanics of The President's Seminars are far less important than the principle and its rationale.
Intellectual policy is primarily an intellectual concern. Therefore, the consideration of academic goals should occur primarily within the university's instructional programs. The basic idea of The President's Seminars is to make a place in the university's provisions for teaching and studying for open, responsible reflection on policy. In an autonomous university, students and professors should have a means for calling various matters pertaining to the uses of intellect to the attention of the academic community and for thus initiating a rational, informed discussion of these matters and their implications for the mission of mind. Not only is such a means desirable in an autonomous university; it may be essential in making the university autonomous.
If The President's Seminars become regular features of university instruction, they would be such a means by which the academic community could make itself responsible for itself without ceasing to be an academic community. The purpose of the seminars would be to provoke further discussions, not to formulate actionable proposals. The seminars would allow small, self-appointed groups to plumb emerging issues, to educate themselves about a matter that may merit general concern, to inform themselves about the possibilities, difficulties, and implications inherent in it. Further, participants in the seminars would be responsible for communicating the results of their investigations and reflections to the students and professors, the administrators and trustees of their particular university, testing their report by giving their peers the opportunity to question, examine, commend, criticize, amplify, and perhaps even ignore it. Thus, The President's Seminars would serve to stimulate the rational discussion of intellectual policy on each campus; and the best reports, those that in the course of further discussions were able to elucidate important matters of general concern, would be published with the intent that they would then help educate the whole academic community about the matter.
In the present climate, many will fear that creating The President's Seminars would simply establish another channel through which extremists could foment disruption. This danger will be minimal if the basic character of the seminars is not obscured. They are to be part of the instructional, not the administrative apparatus of the university. A basic ground rule should be that the seminars make no recommendations that particular actions be taken, for the job of the seminars is not to direct the organization, but to stimulate, inform, and educate its members. Hence, the seminar reports should be written to enlighten and persuade, not to coerce; and the university community should judge the reports by academic, not ideological, standards. In both form and content, the seminars should be educational; and only insofar as they are educational will they meet the deficiency the crisis has revealed in university organization.
Without an academic means for promoting the continuous, rational revision of intellectual policy, our educational institutions will remain susceptible to political intrusions from the right, from the left, and from the mammoth middle. The university should not be politicized; it should be the tool of neither the righteous radicals nor the complacent establishment. An autonomous university should be primarily a place for teaching and learning, for study and research; but if these activities are to be primary, we need to find a means within them by which academic initiative can be asserted over intellectual policy. Otherwise we will abdicate control over our mission and turn it over to the group that mounts the strongest political putsch on campus; we will dissipate our internal cohesion and our substantive abilities in a useless jockeying for influence. Time is running short; let us close by completing our earlier question. Over the coming decades, what means will enable us as scholars to study and shape the principles by which we can give a humane, productive order to the full range of our educational concerns? How might we discover and enunciate, without ceasing to be professors and students, the thought that will steer all things through all things?