We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, September 12. 2019
"The object of the university is to develop character — to make men. It misses its aim if it produced learned pedants, or simple artisans, or cunning sophists, or pretentious practitioners. Its purport is not so much to impart knowledge to the pupils, as whet the appetite, exhibit methods, develop powers, strengthen judgment, and invigorate the intellectual and moral forces. It should prepare for the service of society a class of students who will be wise, thoughtful, progressive guides in whatever department of work or thought they may be engaged."
Johns Hopkins University President Daniel Coit Gilman, in 1876 (h/t, Askblog)
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Oh, so the purpose of higher education is to prepare the students to serve society? We know they're indoctrinating students with socialism, but they usually don't openly state it like that.
Well, this quote is from a time when colleges/universities saw themselves as passing on the heritage of Western Civilization to students, and not as a place to learn a trade or profession.
In 1876, Johns Hopkins had a prescribed curriculum that included Latin and/or Greek, which allowed students to read classical works in the original language. They were also required to study rhetoric, which is why debating societies were popular on campuses of that era. They would also be required to study important historical events, geography, and some natural sciences so they could converse intelligently about a wide range of topics. All of this was grounded in the moral principles of Christianity, even if Bible study was not explicitly required. Daily chapel attendance was required, however.
Colleges and Universities at that time focused on creating educated men who would go on to learn a profession or trade after graduating. By the 1870s, voices for an elective curriculum were on the rise, and college/university presidents wrote things like this as a defense of the old ways of educating. My guess is that the above quote is another of these defenses of the prescribed curriculum. By the early 20th century, proponents of the elective curriculum had won, thus the modern college/university and majoring in a specific field of study.
Universities' object has not been "to make men" for more than a century. That is another casualty in the Progressive drive to "liberate" mankind from the "evils" of the past.
The Greeks considered paideia to be carried out by the aristocratic class who tended to intellectualize their culture and their ideas. The culture and the youth were "moulded" to the ideal of kalos kagathos, "beautiful and good." This idea is similar to that of the medieval knights, their culture, and the English concept of the gentleman.
Greek paideia is the idea of perfection, of excellence. The Greek mentality was "to be always pre-eminent"; Homer records this charge of King Peleus to his son Achilles. This idea is called arete. "Arete was the central ideal of all Greek culture.
In the Iliad, Homer portrays the excellence of the physicality and courage of the Greeks and Trojans. In The Odyssey, Homer accentuates the excellence of the mind, or wit, that was also necessary for winning. Arete is a concomitant of what it meant to be a hero and a component of warfare that was necessary in order to succeed. It is the ability to "make his hands keep his head against enemies, monsters, and dangers of all kinds, and to come out victorious." - Wikipedia
Well, after a bit of research I found the curriculum for Johns Hopkins in 1876. They had two tracks, one for a general B.A., and one for a B.Ph., or a scientific track.
For the B.Ph., a student could choose to take modern languages, German and French, instead of Greek and Latin for the B.A. The work for either track would be light years more difficult than for any course of study at a modern university. Both tracks had a prescribed curriculum that students had to follow in order to graduate.
It seems that Johns Hopkins, founded in 1876, was founded as a research university that had acquiesced in a limited way to the voices calling for a more elective curriculum.
And just for perspective, Johns Hopkins had 89 students in 1876-77.
Johns Hopkins brought the Medieval university form to the US unseating the Scottish model, which had undergirded the Scottish Enlightenment.
What tipped the scales, at least in the US, seems to have been the idea that professors should do research as well as teach. This idea (along with the PhD, the department, and indeed the whole concept of the modern university) was imported from Germany in the late 19th century. Beginning at Johns Hopkins in 1876, the new model spread rapidly.
Writing was one of the casualties. Colleges had long taught English composition. But how do you do research on composition? The professors who taught math could be required to do original math, the professors who taught history could be required to write scholarly articles about history, but what about the professors who taught rhetoric or composition? What should they do research on? The closest thing seemed to be English literature. 
And so in the late 19th century the teaching of writing was inherited by English professors. This had two drawbacks: (a) an expert on literature need not himself be a good writer, any more than an art historian has to be a good painter, and (b) the subject of writing now tends to be literature, since that's what the professor is interested in.
High schools imitate universities. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the National Education Association "formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course."  The 'riting component of the 3 Rs then morphed into English, with the bizarre consequence that high school students now had to write about English literature-- to write, without even realizing it, imitations of whatever English professors had been publishing in their journals a few decades before.
--Paul Graham, 'The Age of the Essay'
The Medieval form of the university is "a guild of teachers and scholars, formed for common protection and mutual aid." Teaching is secondary, if not overlooked altogether except as a profit center.
We are informed by many that education is failing us. And well it may he so, if producing books is eulogized and repaid by advancement, while the efforts to produce men are scoffed at. It has been dinned in our ears that education must save us at the present juncture. To which, if true, I reply that, unless we regain the love and art of teaching, we are lost.
The truth is that at present the teacher exists by sufferance only, and stands against the current in the scholarly fraternity-a fact recognized by students as well as by faculty. For the educational field has been preempted by the so-called "research men." Their standards of scholarship have been set up as the only norms.
The Ban on Teaching by AN Instructor, Scribner’s Magazine, Vol 73, 1923
My spouse and I both have science degrees. We were both required to take "arts" courses, and these were always regular arts courses which, naturally, had a fair few students who were majoring in that subject. The arts students likewise had to take a "science" course, but it was never with regular science students. Instead, it was "rocks for jocks" or "bits for twits" or a similar course in biology or chemistry. To be fair, "bits for twits" was a decent course which gave the students a good grounding in various apps such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.; science it was not. It is the rare arts student who has ever taken a course which requires laboratory time each week.
In other words, Gilman was an elitist snob who believed that real understanding was beyond the reach of the masses. I beg to differ.
If he woke up in his office today, and heard the leftist know-it-alls on the faculty claiming they are the elite who must be deferred to, he'd be outraged. But on discovering that he no longer has authority to fire them, he might be driven to suicide. Once having pronounced as received wisdom that his graduates are our intellectual superiors, he would not be in a position to argue the opposite now.
No one is owed deference. It needs to be earned.