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"Quigley Probes Possibilities for Foreign Service Curriculum Reform"

Congressional Quarterly




Better Training for Foreign Service Officers

An article by Carroll Quigley in The HOYA (November 16, 1967) pp. xx.




HON. BIRCH E. BAYH of Indiana 


Wednesday, April 24, 1968 



   MR. BAYH. Mr. President, next October begins the 50th anniversary year of the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. The school is now in the process of revising its curriculum in the hope of making it even more effective in preparing young men and women for serving their country abroad. As the Nation's oldest institution for the training of personnel for careers in both diplomacy and trade, the School of foreign service has produced in its half century an impressive number of graduates.

   Dr. Carroll Quigley, a professor of history at the School of Foreign Service for 28 years, has written an informative and interesting article about the changes now underway in this leading institution. He argues persuasively that when the founder and regent of the school, Rev. Dr. Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., revised the curriculum in 1951, shortly before his death, he envisioned a course of education that would provide the student with a broad, interrelated background in government, economics, history, languages, and philosophy. This, rather than any specialized or narrow training, would best prepare men to grapple with the problems of international relations and foreign trade. Because of the significance of this development, not only to other colleges and universities but also to those who are intending to prepare themselves for service abroad, I ask unanimous consent that the article, which appeared in the November 16 issue of The HOYA, be printed in the Record.  

There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:




(By Carroll Quigley. Ph.D.)



Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.

Ends should determine means.


   These two rules should be the guide posts to any reform of the curriculum of the Foreign Service School, as to most other things. That means that anyone talking or planning on this subject must be aware of what the aim of the Foreign Service School is and of what has been done in the past for achieving that aim.  

   In the last few years, there has been a fair amount of talk about SFS curriculum reform, but most of it has been very badly informed in respect to these two indispensable foundations. This article will seek to sketch these as I have come to know them in my 26 years in this School.  

   The goal of the SFS never was to prepare students for careers in the Foreign Service of the United States, since the latter was not established until the School was five years old.  The similarity of name is thus only coincidental. The School was established in 1919 in recognition of the fact that the United States had just become a World Power with obligations in private as well as public areas. There was a new need for trained personnel for many international agencies besides those of our own government. The fact that the League of Nations was founded in the same year as the Foreign Service School is much more significant than the fact that the Diplomatic Corps and the Consular Service of the United States were combined into a single agency called "the Foreign Service of the United States" in 1924, five years after the School was established.  Moreover, it was always expected that more graduates would go into private activities overseas than would go to work for public agencies. For this reason, the curriculum included study of accounting and commercial law as required courses until fairly recently.  

   The wisdom of this early and persistent view of the goals of the School will be evident to anyone who examines the areas in which Foreign Service graduates have worked successfully. In the years after World War II, when the largest classes were graduated, not over 3 or 4% even took the State Department Foreign Service examinations. On the other hand, many graduates went into a great variety of overseas work, in airlines and shipping, in education and journalism in foreign areas, as well as all kinds of overseas business. For these positions they needed a broad and integrated preparation in all aspects of international work.  

   In time this broad and integrated program came to provide one of the best undergraduate programs in general social sciences available in the United States, and it thus became, without anyone intending it, one of the best preparations available for law school or for graduate work in one of the social science specialties such as history, political science, or economics. For graduate school the SFS curriculum was better preparation than an undergraduate major in the same field, either here or anywhere else, because it meant that a SFS alumnus at graduate school in one of these fields had a solid grounding in the other two, something which is absolutely essential, but is rarely obtained from an ordinary undergraduate major, since most colleges do not require this and many advise against it. Yet anyone who examines what is done in graduate schools and by their graduates can see that a history major, for example, needs some knowledge of both economics and government, just as concentrators in the latter two fields need some knowledge of the other as well as of history. Moreover, knowledge of these fields used to be obtained in the SFS in an atmosphere where the emphasis was on teaching and understanding these subjects, and on explaining their mutual interrelationships in the actual experience of human life, and, above all. on the understanding of this nexus as a basis for decision-making in active life, and not taught, as they usually are in university-colleges today, as preparation for specialized work, especially research, on the graduate level.  This last point is fundamental: it was at the basis of the thinking of Constantine McGuire and Father Walsh when they founded the School (Sec my article, "Constantine McGuire, Man of Mystery," in Courier, December 1965).



   The curriculum of the SF'S was directed to these ends, as judged best by Father Walsh and his advisers, from 1919 until the School was mobilized for the war effort in June 1943. During that time, there were no departments and no faculty ranks (all the faculty were called "lecturers"). For much of that time, most of the faculty and many of the students were part-time, and all courses were offered in the evening, although by 1930, most courses were repeated in the day-time. Each course was two credit hours, and a student often took eight or more courses at a time. In time, as new courses were added, the integration among them came to be less than desired. By 1940 or so, curriculum reform was very necessary, but the outbreak of war put such demands on the School, and above all on Father Walsh, that the task could not be tackled until 1950.  

   The SFS made a major effort in the war, turning almost entirely to training of men in uniform in June 1943 and being swamped with returning veterans as soon as the fighting stopped. In 1947 the School had about 2300 students (more than twice its present enrollment). In those first postwar years, Father Walsh was very busy with missions to Germany and Japan, with writing two major books, and with the establishment of the Institute of Languages and Linguistics. As a result, the long needed reform of the Foreign Service curriculum was not undertaken until the spring of 1950.  

   Perhaps because this task had been so long delayed, it was done very thoroughly. Members of the faculty and administration met about a dozen times, under the chairmanship of Father Walsh and with Walter I. Giles as secretary, in Room 8 Healy, the "Constitution Room." Most of these assemblies lasted several hours, some of them for a good part of Saturday mornings. The whole group was divided up into smaller committees which met elsewhere to work on parts of the problem before reporting back to the plenary sessions.  The general ground rules were set by Father Walsh, after discussion with many others.



   These general rules were as follows: (1) The number of courses taken at any one time must be reduced, and the courses themselves strengthened so that they should leave the student with a real familiarity with the subject concerned; (2) the courses should be made more general, with the numerous specialized courses which had grown up over the years either eliminated or made electives; (3) a balance must be maintained between the various academic disciplines so that a graduate would be familiar in some depth with all the tools he might need in his post-graduate experience; and (4) the School must ensure that these various disciplines and courses are integrated in the students mind, and not simply memorized as discrete academic subjects.


   Two difficulties, from opposite directions, arose in the general discussions. On one side, those who had been teaching specialized courses, such as "Staple Commodities in World Trade," or "Exporting Practice," or commercial law, accounting, and shipping, objected to their subjects being reduced in time or made electives. On the other hand, a group of the political scientists insisted that international affairs was merely one part of the general subject of political science and should be treated as such, with the main core of the curriculum built on a political science department expanded to include additional courses, especially a new course in "International Relations." Father Walsh was most emphatic in rejecting this last suggestion, insisting that the whole program of study of the School was on International Relations, and that this subject was not simply a matter of political science but was equally concerned with economic, psychological, intellectual, and other issues. He emphasized, against the efforts of this group to cut down the time devoted to economics, that even in the Foreign Service of the United States 80 percent of the time of personnel on the lower levels was devoted to economic issues not to political ones.


   In this reform, most courses which were retained as required courses were increased from two to three hours a week, and, at the same time, the number of courses taken each year was reduced, with freshmen and sophomores taking only five courses.  Father Walsh insisted that this adoption of the standard three-credit course must not lead students to look at the achievement of the degree as simply the accumulation of a number of discrete and separate courses. To avoid this danger, it was decided to introduce an oral comprehensive examination for all seniors to force them to review the work of the first three years and to look at the assemblage of courses as a single comprehensive body of knowledge. To assist in this end, each professor was to prepare and submit for mimeograph publication a syllabus of the content of his course so that all might know what was in each course and how it fitted in with the others.


   This curriculum reform of 1950 took months of work and established the outlines of the program still found at the School of Foreign Service. However, it has been so much subjected to tinkering and manipulation that much of its original value has been lost. These changes arose from two directions. On the one hand, new administrators who knew nothing about the original reasons for the courses as they were established made or allowed changes which weakened the whole effect. On the other hand, the establishment of university-wide departments, which did not exist in 1950, led to changes in the content, sequence, and perspective of both faculty and courses so that they fitted together less effectively for the SFS curriculum.


   As set up in 1950, there were four years of history and political science, three of economics, and two each of English, philosophy, and language.  The two years of required religion for Catholics were non-credit courses.  In the early 1950's, the religion courses were given credit to force students to take them more seriously.  A few years later, a new Regent could not see why Catholics had to take 12 credit hours more than non-Catholics to get the same degree, so the latter were forced to take 12 hours more of history of political theory as a substitute for religion. These 12 hours have since been juggled in various ways. About the same time, a University official felt that freshmen were not able to handle generalities, so used his influence to have the SFS required freshman course in "Principles of Political Science" abolished, with the result that most of them now never get much of the material which was in that course.


   The greatest changes in the curriculum, however, were not ones which could be seen in the catalogue, but were simply the result of the establishment of University-wide departments since 1950. During Father Walsh's regime, the SFS was a completely separate entity whose only connection with the University was that it gave its degrees under then University charter and rented room-space from the University. It had a separate library, bank account, admissions policy, administration, and faculty. In fact, about that time the College issued a ruling that no one who taught in then> College could also teach in the SFS. As a result of this order, William Flaherty, one of the greatest teachers in the history of the School, resigned from both and left to become, in a short while, chief statistician of Chrysler Corporation.


   The creation of University departments meant that the course syllabi were forgotten, the content of the courses changed even when names remained the same, and the whole context of the School's educational process changed, with the substitution of departmental courses aiming toward preparation for graduate work in that departmental discipline replacing foreign service courses aiming at the establishment of an integrated understanding of international affairs as an area of decision-making and action. At the same time, the new University faculty, possessed by the unique value of their own subject, or even of their narrow specialty within that subject, were increasingly unable to ask or to judge comprehensive questions on the oral comprehensive examinations. In fact one of the amusing evidences of this process has been the growing reluctance of the examiners to judge the candidates in all three fields as the rules of the examination have always required them to do.



   There is no need to explain in detail what has gone wrong with the SPS curriculum in recent years. It should be sufficient to say that many of the courses no longer contain what they should contain or even what their titles would lead one to expect, because their teachers are often off riding hobby-horses instead of teaching what the SFS curriculum requires them to teach. Thus students often have had no logic, even when their transcript lists a course called "Logic," their courses in English now often consist of impressionistic studies of literature rather than the training in verbal communication skills which the curriculum requires; they may well graduate with all kinds of specialized knowledge in government, but are unable to define such basic concepts as "state," "nationalism," or "democracy," in a similar way they often miss fundamental movements in the historical past depending on which section they happened to be in in the required history courses; and, most astounding of all, they take a degree in "Foreign Service" without ever having studied geography, simply because the teacher of that subject refused to teach the course described in the syllabus. And, finally as a culmination of all these erosions of a once excellent program, the fitting together and integration of the courses have become disjointed, the years of study have become unbalanced (so that the freshman year is now too easy and the sophomore year too difficult), and the better students in the last few years are constantly being drained away from the SFS curriculum to fill up special electives and proseminar courses so that teachers whose primary interest is in some special subject on the graduate level may have as sufficiently large group of good students to make his efforts satisfactory to himself.


Scan of original article

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Additional Notes: This and a similar article by Prof Giles (put into the record by another Senator) ignited the 1968-69 commotion that resulted in the SFS getting budgetary autonomy, a new Dean, and its own faculty.


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