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 THE SUNDAY STAR Washington, D. C., July 28, 1968. Carroll Quigley review.

THE ACADEMIC REVOLUTION. By Christopher Jencks & David Riesman. Doubleday & Co. 580 pages. $10.

THE  DISSENTING ACADEMY. Edited by Theodore Rozak, 304 pages. $6.95


     It would be difficult, on any major public issue, to find two books as antithetical as these. In style, purpose, methods, & conclusions, they are about as opposite as one could find. Yet they deal with a major social problem, one that lies at the root of many of our other social problems. The question must be asked: If competent men cannot get any closer than these do to finding common ground on which to build, how can anything constructive be done toward solving our problems?


   The real difficulty, of course, rests on the fact that the first book, despite its title, does not recognize that there is any problem, while the second seems to see nothing in our education except problems. The "academic revolution" to which Jencks & Riesman refer has nothing much to do with the issues which are agitating Rozak's associates. The "academic revolution" of the former book is what its authors call "the professionalization of teaching," & that, they feel, has been going on for about 80 years. This change is de­scribed as the takeover of the universities by, Ph.D's "who, despite conspicuous exceptions, mostly have quite similar ideas . . . . These men were not only likeminded at the outset; but they have 'established' machinery for remaining likeminded. National & regional meetings ... are now annual affairs, national jour­nals publish works on every specialized subject, & an informal system of job placement & replacement has came into existence. The result is that large number of Ph.D's now regard themselves almost as independent professionals like doctors or lawyers, responsible primarily to themselves & their colleagues rather than their employers, & committed to the advancement of knowledge rather than of any particular institution."


   I personally would regard this as bureaucratization rather than professionalization, since it involves many other things, such as paper qualifications of the mandarin type for admission to the system &, as features of the system itself, permanent tenure, step-grade promotions, automatic salary increases, & a great proliferation of staff & auxiliary personnel (who increasingly control such basic things as class hours & sizes, or the ways in which the total  budget is divided, or the control of fringe benefits such as parking  spaces).


Typical of system

   “The Academic Revolution” is typical of the system it describes - 580 pages of fine print, 14 pages of bibliography, 502 footnotes, & a bland, homogenized style whose tone hardly rises or falls no matter what is being said. Not that anything shocking is said, at least not con­sciously. The book is full of facts, stated with no real discrimination as to  relative importance &, above all, without establishing any but the most obvious interrelations among them.


   The authors are convinced that American education is the best in the world & has never better than it is today. All real value judgments are avoided, or are concealed in undefined terms which simply accept the assumptions of the present system, even when the meaning of words change within a single sentence. For example; among the great benefits of the academic revolution in the eyes of these authors is what they call "the gradual elimination of unscholarly undergraduates from these institutions of higher education & the parallel elimination of unscholarly faculty." The context allows that "unscholarly students" are those who do not study, while "unscholarly faculty" means those who do not publish, whether they study or not.


   This volume is a remarkable example of all that is wrong, & getting worse, in American higher education today - ­full of trivial, obvious, & superficial detail which is not fitted together to provide a comprehensive picture; complacent, even smug; loaded with all the external paraphernalia of scholarship with little of the essential nature of real scholarship. Although the authors seem quite unaware of it, they seem to be describing American education as a gigantic system of jobs in which petty people seek places in which they have little significant to do except to hold on long enough to achieve retirement & fringe benefits shielded from the turmoil of actuality.


   Forty years ago, the President of the United States said, "The business of America is business." Today, it is increasingly clear that the business of America is education. It occupies the attention of a quarter of our population as students, engages the largest single group of employees in the country, uses over a quarter of the capital plant & equipment, & is one of the few activities which intrudes into all other activities. As I write, a report prepared by the General Electric Company is circulating among its management to tell them, among other things, that the universities rather than government will be the dominant institution of the "post industrial society" of the future & that a military  dictatorship is a possibility if we do not solve our present problems of racial & urban disturbance. The merits of these  prophecies is not the issue here. What is clear is that higher education plays am ever-increasing role in life & draws upon ever-growing amounts of our wealth & energies. What is disputed is whether higher education is fit for the roles it  plays now, apart from the question of any greater role in the future.


Graduate Schools

   Only in their final chapter called "Reforming the Graduate Schools,'" do Jencks &  Riesman get close to what is bothering the writers of  "The Dissenting Academy" & what is really going on in American higher education to­day. Even in that chapter they begin with four pages of uncritical praise. But suddenly on page 514, very late in the proceedings & totally unintegrated with the great mass of the book, the tone changes. At that point it begins to become clear that professors have largely abandoned much concern with goals or ends, or even with human needs, except for the task of funding a job in some bureaucratic structure regardless of its ends. Without much meaning or purpose outside itself, with an almost total concern with methods rather than meaning or values, these persons increasingly want to spend their lives chatting with students who elected their courses simply because they were already interested in the subject, at least as a step toward credits for a degree, without much concern with its relevance to human life, the students' own growth & development, or the social problems of today. Such a student, these authors say, has "a vested interest in the value & relevance of what he already knows & lets the other matters slide indefinitely." These "other matters" are those subjects which would give meaning & context to the student's specialty.


David Riesman - author

David Riesman

   The reality of American educational development, so largely missed here, is its division, since 1880, into two separate compartments, the higher & lower, with very little interchange between them, to the grave injury of both. Each compartment fell under the domination of a training institution which became increasingly obsessed with only a minor portion of the training process & which, as a certifying agency controlled access to jobs in its own compartment, without reference to real competence, talent, or devotion to the task, but based solely upon having experienced the training process itself, regardless of its inadequacy. In the lower compart­ment the control mechanism became the “teachers' college"; in the upper level it was the graduate school. Each shielded itself from criticism, even of those in the profession, by claims to expertise & secrecy, & by a live-&let-live of anyone in the profession to examine or question anything any other person did, except in his published papers, where they treated each other with an elaborate kid-glove etiquette which never spilled blood & rarely bruised feelings, except of the hypersensitive. The history of the process in the two compartments is the same, except that the upper is lagging about fifteen years  behind the lower.


   The teachers' college destroyed itself & badly damaged the whole educational effort, by neglect of subject content, of the social background of both students & teachers, & of the real nature of the processes of maturation & personal learning. It did this by its concentration on methodology, on quantification of achievement, & on so-called "educational  research," all three of these fraudulent activities, founded on misconceptions about scientific method & about the nature of human beings & the human environment,  but pursued vigorously from motives of monopolistic self-interest. This fraudulent structure began to collapse, on the high school level, with the advent of sputnik in 1957, with men trained in graduate schools rather than in teachers' colleges leading the attack. These same university teachers today will generally deny that the upper compartment of education in America has, since 1957, gone farther along the path toward a mandarin system as the lower compartment did before 1957. This is an illustration of the well known truth that a sick system is unlikely to remedy itself.


Areas of Sickness

   Higher education today is sick especially in the social sciences & the humanities, the areas which must be cured if our more adequate education in the natural & physical sciences are to obtain the direction & moral guidance without which they will destroy us all. Today the graduate schools are obsessed with "research," fully as irrelevant, fraudulent, & pedantic as that of the teachers' colleges in 1957. That research training, even to the degree that it may be soundly based, is quite irrelevant to what the vast majority exposed to it will be doing for the rest of their lives. It does not touch upon administration, or interpersonal relations, or teaching, or understanding anything (least of all on understanding what goes on in real life in the academic specialty concerned). Instead it concentrates on the production of “research papers” of which 99 percent have little relevance the field concerned or are unnecessary in terms of the subject itself. But the production of such papers is the narrow entrance to the profession & to promotion in it.


Note, on Rigidity

   Evidence for these extreme statements is to be found in the final chapter of this book, or, apparently, in the minds of the authors. They say; "We are troubled by the rigidity of the departmental & disciplinary categories into which the graduate schools are characteristically organized, & by their emphasis on training men to write papers rather than to communicate with students on a face-to-face basis. More generally, we are troubled by the fact that graduate schools have an essentially imperial relationship with many of the institutions & subcultures on their borders, particularly the  undergraduate colleges. . . . Like all imperial powers, the graduate schools believe they are doing their empire a favor by keeping order & maintaining standards within it. Given their values, this is to an extent true. Nonetheless; their values are not the only imaginable or appealing ones, nor are they necessarily the ones most appropriate to an  undergraduate college......


   “Both the government & the foundations tend to support interdisciplinary research, for the problems of the real world often refuse to fit departmental categories. . . . Hard research has a persistent tendency to take on life of its own, accumulating by an internal logic that takes no account of any one individual's subjective experience. The  researcher's work thus ceases to have any effect on the rest of his life, & conversely his life has little effect on his work. This development is, we would argue, one of the crucial ingredients of professionalization ... Professors struggle to transcend themselves & to be dispassionate about subjects they care deeply about. Too often, they succeed in this by ceasing to care. . . The crucial problem of graduate instruction in the social sciences & the humanities is to narrow the gap between individual students, personal lives & their work.... This is no mean task. The difficulty of the job is not, however, an excuse for the present situation, where the student’s subjectivity is even regarded as a prob­lem . . . .


   "Insistence on academic inquiry as an end in itself, with its own criteria of relevance & utility, grew up in response to the mindless expediency of much American life. . . . Few professors . . . . see their job as extending the students' experiences, either real or vicarious, into new areas. Rather their hope is to substitute a new mode of learning, which will enable all students to perform the same tasks & use the same skills in the same ways, regardless of where they might come from, or what their private lives may be like . . . . Today’s man can become a political scientist without ever having engaged in political activity of any sort. Indeed, some professors would say such innocence enhanced their objectivity. Similarly, a sociologist can earn a Ph.D without ever talking to anyone from a nonacademic group. . . . Those who expect to theorize or teach may benefit nom having participated in a practical way. A man must, after all, learn who he is & what life is through a variety of different experiences. A professional training program that concentrates on a single mode of learning & knowing is almost by definition a poor one. . . . Since graduate programs exist primarily to certify rather than to teach, this poses a serious problem. . . . Graduate students conclude that the department is not really interested in their teaching (or their experiences or maturity) but only in their ability to write papers & examinations. Students who draw such conclusions are, moreover, usually right. . . . Each is rewarded for what he can verbalize; not what he has become."


A Betrayal

   Unfortunately, these truthful remarks, added to the last, pages of a very long book, are not applied to the earlier  description of higher education. There the conditions described are dominated by these circumstances in the graduate schools. But the implications are drawn in the second book, "The Dissenting Academy," which tries to show how the professors & the system have betrayed American higher education.


   The argument is not new; I read its general terms in Julien Benda's “Treason of the Intellectuals” 40 years ago. But here it is brought up to date & specified. Nine chapters describe the task as seen by nine authors in their selective fields (English, economics, history, international relations, anthropology, philosophy, social science, & the Catholic universities). Except for one, or possibly two cases, the barrages are on target. The volume begins & ends with more general chapters, "On Academic Delinquency" by the editor & "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" by Noam Chomsky. The latter paper is already famous from, an earlier version in the New York Review of Books.


   Most of the chapters are informal, well-informed, well-written, undocumented, true, but biased & incomplete. The average professor; is no more likely to give these chapters an objective consideration than the teachers of elementary reading & the teachers' college professors of reading (who had sometimes made large personal fortunes from their quite mistaken methods) would give consideration to "Why Johnny Can't Read" by Rudolf  Flesch when it was published in 1955, The fact that hundreds of thousands of American children ever a whole generation were made into functional illiterates, & thousands were left emotionally damaged in the process, & the fact that Flesch's criticisms have  now been fully sus­tained by a three-year study of the problem, financed by the Carnegie Corporation & written by a professor of reading at Harvard ("Learning to Read: The Great Debate"­ Jeanne Chill: McGraw-Hill, 1968) will mean little to the professors of higher education. Those who are wrapped up in a system & have committed their careers to it are unlikely to see the system’s evils until outsiders push in & force change. That is what happened to elementary education following Flesch & others in 1955: it happened again to high school education, at least in science & mathematics, following Sputnik, & it will happen to our graduate schools & higher education in general, unless it is too late, as a consequence of ''the large-scale disruption of American social life in the next decade from the failure of higher education to give our people the intellectual tools for dealing with the problems which face us.


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