"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
edited by by Alvin C. Enrich. New York:: Delacorte Press, 19xx.
TOWARD AN EFFECTIVE CRITIQUE OF AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION:
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.
THE WORLD EDUCATIONAL CRISIS: A Systems Analysis,
by Philip H. Coombs. New Yotk: Oxford University Press, 1968.
THE HIGHER LEARNING IN AMERICA: A Reassessment,
by Paul Woodring. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
THE SUNDAY STAR
Washington, D. C., December 22, 1968
"How to Elevate Our Higher Education"
BOOKS: How to Elevate Our Higher Education
By CARROLL QUIGLEY
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
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
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 “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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.)
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
Along with McClellan, he gives an introduction to this significant
problem on which so many other books are now pouring from the presses.