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 "How to Elevate Our Higher Education"
A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,December 22, 1968, of six books:

THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: How It Runs, Where It Is Going,
by Jacques Barzun. New York: Harper & Row, 1968

THE CLOSED CORPORATION: American Universities in Crisis,
by James Ridgeway. New York: Random House, 1968.

CAMPUS 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Higher Education,
edited by by Alvin C. Enrich. New York:: Delacorte Press, 19xx.

Studies in the Educational Thought of James B. Conant, Theodore Braineld, Jacques Barzun, B. F. Skinner, and Paul Goodman,
by James E. McClellan. New York: Lippincott, 1968.

by Philip H. Coombs. New Yotk: Oxford University Press, 1968.

by Paul Woodring. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Washington, D. C., December 22, 1968


"How to Elevate Our Higher Education"


BOOKS: How to Elevate Our Higher Education


THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: How It Runs, Where it Is Going. By Jacques Barzun. Harper & Row. 319 pages. $7.95.

THE CLOSED CORPORATION: American Universities in Crisis. By James Ridgeway. Random House. 273 pages. $5.95.

CAMPUS 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Higher Education. Edited by Alvin C. Enrich. Delacorte Press. 327 pages. $6.95.

TOWARD AN EFFECTIVE CRITIQUE OF AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION: Studies in the Educational Thought of James B. Conant, Theoiore Braineld, Jacques Barzun, B. F. Skinner and Paul Goodman. By James E. McClellan. Lippincott. 324 pages. $5.95.

THE WORLD EDUCATIONAL CRISIS: A Systems Analysis. By Philip H. Coombs. Oxford University Press. 241 pages. $6.00.

THE HIGHER LEARNING IN AMERICA. A Reassessment. By Paul Woodring. McGraw-Hill paperback. 236 pages. $2.95.



   From a pile of 15 volumes on my reviewing desk, I have chosen these six as representative of the best and the worst of recent books on higher education. None speaks for the large number of faculty members and administrators who believe higher education has no problems that cannot be solved by quantitative solutions: more faculty; more students; more buildings; more equipment, and, above all, more money.

   Those in this group, probably still in a majority on most campuses, constitute the chief threat to any real higher education in America, but they are so busy making speeches that they apparently find no time to write books.

   Philip Coombs is close to this point of view, presenting it in a language that they will find acceptable. His volume is included here for that reason.

   The most significant of these books is that of Barzum, not so much for what is said but because it is he who says it. For it was Barzun, not Grayson Kirk, who was the chief architect of the disaster at Columbia University, and Barzun's failure to recognize this, or even to see what all the shouting is about, is the most significant thing about the book.

The “New Columbia”

   As dean of faculties and provost of the university for 12 years, from 1955 until mid-1967, Barzun was the central figure in creating the “new Columbia” that emerged from the Macmahon Committe of 1955. The committee’s report, digested in the appendix of this volume, set up 21 new offices, 9 advisory committees, recommended 10 organizational changes (including “redesign of the academic costume”), established 19 “new or modified divisions (including a language laboratory, a computer center and a “a student-faculty residence in Paris.)” The report was supported by 25 documents of which the last was Barzun’s “Provost’s Survey of Departmental Needs 1967.”

   Barzun’s book is a description of the university that under his 12-year guidance developed from this report. The book balances good and bad, mentions tensions and problems, has chapter headings with sensational titles (like “Scholar in Orbit,” “Students or Victims?” “Poverty in the Midst of Plenty” and “The Higher Bankruptcy”).

   But on the whole, it is a self-congratulatory, if not smug. And on the whole, it misses completely the consequences of bureaucratization of higher education:

   First, the basic antithesis between bureaucracy and real educational processes, including the pursuit of excellence.

   Second, the stultifying influence on students who are seeking meaning, maturation, significant experience, and self-realization.

   Third, the role in opening the door to the organized greed and institutional power-seeking so prevalent in the outside world.

   If the role of higher education is to smother education in expensive and organized trivia, to stultify student growth within the system and to adjust the university to the worst aspects of the outside world, then Columbia under Barzum was moving in that direction. It is alarming to see a man of his outlook, experience, and charm fail so signally to recognize what he was doing or where he was taking the university.

Campus Explosion

   The evidence for Barzun’s failure may be seen in his wise, honest, even-handed and misconceived chapter, “Students or Victims?”. It shows neither warning nor explanation of the student explosion that almost shattered Columbia less than a year after Barzun put down the reins which had guided it to that dangerous spot.

   The measure of Barzun’s blindness and insensitivity to what was really happening in higher education is revealed in a note dated May 3, 1968, and added to his preface. He wrote that the student riots in April gave “no reason to change or add to the substance of what I had written.”

   Obviously, it requires more than good will, a devotion to the humanities and a liberal arts background to find one’s way in the bureaucratic jungle into which the contemporary university has strayed.

   James Ridgeway, a journalist who writes for New Republic and who is now an editor of Mayday, gives part of the story that Barzum left out. Ridgeway mentions the consequences of the universities’ efforts to “adjust” to an external world devoted to greed, power and massive competition to plunder and pollute our natural environment in getting a share of the gravy from a sociopolitical system that is becoming a war machine. Also, a system that seeks to make the chief aim of education to brain-wash the citizens so that they will allow this.

Teachers Led Astray

   Ridgeway’s picture is obviously one-sided and not free from error. But it is filled with information on the links by which the university and its teachers are drawn from their stated task of seeking and teaching the truth to serving a system of greed that cares little for teaching and even less for the truth.

   An appendix of 26 pages gives statistics on universities as defense contractors, and on interlocking directorships between universities and the largest corporations.

   The volume is full of evidence to support the charges of the Students For a Democratic Society, such as:

   Two-thirds of university research funds come from the federal government—almost all from the Department of Defense, Atomic Energy Commission and NASA.

   Eighty percent of the funds for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology come from the government, and Columbia and Princeton get half of theirs from Washington.

   The professor of medieval history at Princeton "runs in his classes to the CIA, where he helps straighten out Spies."

College and Industry

   Professors testify for pay before congressional committees in support of big business and what they say contradicts what they have published in their (largely unread) research reports.

   Some professors publish as their own research, reports prepared by drug or tobacco firms.

   But the book offers nothing sustain SDS's remedies.

   Anyone like Barzun who is unaware of this situation should read Ridgeway's book. Others need read only the first two pages, which quote Daniel Bell's statement:

   "The university will become the central institution of the next hundred years because of its role as the new source of innovation and knowledge."

To this Ridgeway adds the very significant statement:

   "It is difficult to gain any clear understanding of the university because it remains as one of the few large secret organizations within the nation."

   That may be one of the reasons the giant corporations and the super-rich like it so much.

   In many ways, Campus 1980 is more interesting than Ridgeway's volume, especially for those who are aware of the real nature of the crisis in higher education. Alvin Eurich was first president of the State University of New York, education director of the Ford Foundation, chairman of Stanford Research Institute (which Ridgeway calls "the model" of commercialized money grubbing moving into higher education), and chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

   In this book he offers chapters from 17 writers, ranging from William Arrowsmith's already famous attack on present trends to Sidney Tickton's statistical study of how many more buildings, professors, dollars and "places" the country will need by 1980.

   In between, John W. Gardner surveys the scene in his usual judicious way but fears that universities may become "busy and populous frauds." Rounding out the volume are other chapters on the community college, continuing education, urban problems and universities ("Two Crises in Collision"), students, curriculum, teaching, graduate instruction, and other aspects. Most of these chapters are of high quality and a few (notably Nevitt Sanford's on students) are outstanding.

Grasp of Problem

   McClellan, who is professor of education at Temple University, may well have a better grasp of the controversy in higher education than do any of the writers in these six books. For anyone who knows the subject well, he has much to give.

   Others — outsiders to the crisis in education—should begin with Woodring. But McClellan has much to say. He can think, he is totally independent in his point of view, and he speaks sotto voce so that the reader must listen carefully.

   The volume centers on the writing of five persons listed in the sub-title and places them in a framework of an introductory chapter, "The System, the Establishment, and the Search for a New Politics," and a final chapter, "Where is the Polity?"

   The first chapter is institutional, concerned with the interest groups and organizations which are pushing American education toward ruin (although the author does not say this). The last is concerned with the ideological and intellectual forces that underlie our lives and especially our educational aims.

   The whole analysis is presented step by step with such moderation that the reader does not realize until the end how devastating it is. What McClellan shows by examining and analyzing the writings of these five “leaders of American education" is that their theories are largely covers for emotionally held and unexamined beliefs, sustained by ambiguous, contradictory and untenable thinking processes.

Moderate Picture

   It is very difficult to refute the evaluations he gives, and my own knowledge of these men entirely supports his unconventional and largely unexpected conclusions about them.

   But McClellan’s presentation is so moderate and his writing is so convoluted that the reader must follow every sentence to the end—a difficult task, but well worth it. His demonstration of the basic superficiality of Barzun and of the wrong-headedness of James Conant help explain why Columbia University and American education as a whole are so badly off.

   Philip Coombs' book is an effort to apply a very superficial 'systems analysis" to education worldwide. His work is a fine example of what is wrong with education, since the book has almost nothing to do with real education. Instead it is totally concerned with such materialistic impedimenta as percentages of children in school buildings, size of classes, budgetary sums and number of degrees held by teachers.

   He seems to have no idea of education as something inside people or as a process which takes place outside classrooms and even outside curricula. His idea of non-formal education has nothing to do with people maturing from living but is equivalent to such programs as adult education, continuing education, on-the-job training and extension services

   Ignored are all the processes of socialization of the youth, and the non-institutionalized, non-materialistic, and non-quantifiable. (In other words, everything which is real education.)

Restricted Vision

   This restriction of vision and comprehension is what allows Coombs to make his comparisons worldwide, with heavy focus on Africa. But he obviously understands nothing about Africa (or America either), for what is significant in education today, above all in Africa, is not what can be quantified or even what happens in classrooms, but the quality changes in human life.

   What Coombs does not understand and ignores is what Woodring knows well and states clearly. This is probably the one book to be recommended to someone who wants to get a broad view of what the problem of American higher education is today. Moreover, it is the best written and most easily read of any of the six. The author for eight years was education editor and then editor-at-large of the Saturday Review. He is fully aware of the complexities of the problem and is chiefly concerned with exposition rather than with advocating policy.

   His presentation is pluralistic, with adequate weight given to institutional, social and psychological forces like "the generation gap."

   Along with McClellan, he gives an introduction to this significant problem on which so many other books are now pouring from the presses.



Scan of original review



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