Book Review: The Higher Learning in America, 46 Yale Law Journal 1433 (1937)
President Hutchins' book contains a diagnosis, definitely prescribed remedies, and a religion to make the remedies palatable. "The most striking fact about the higher learning in America," President Hutchins finds, "is the confusion that besets it." There is no "ordering principle;" it is going off in all directions at once; it is, in brief, chaos. The causes of this confusion, rooted deep in the state of the nation, are many and interrelated. First is the vulgar love of money. This makes educational policy whatever anybody—student, donor, or legislator—is willing to pay to make it. Next, and more important, is a misconception of democracy. This leads to two erroneous notions: that "everybody is entitled to the same amount and the same kind of education" and that every citizen, editor, alumnus, or trustee can qualify as an educational expert. A final major cause is our modem idea of progress. Impressed by expansion of our scientific knowledge and improvement in our technology, we have renounced our intellectual heritage, broken completely with the past, and ended "with an anti-intellectualism which denies, in effect, that a man is a rational animal." So much dependence of the higher learning upon external conditions—the diagnosis continues—afflicts us with a strange circularity. "The state of the nation depends on the state of education; but the state of education depends on the state of the nation." Witness the three bewildering dilemmas of professionalism, isolation, and anti-intellectualism. The only excuse a university can have for existence is to provide a haven where truth may be pursued for its own sake; yet public opinion demands a vocationalism that stops at no triviality. Cooperation is badly needed between teachers concerned with different trades and teachers pursuing truth; yet there is no common frame of reference; cooperation might even increase the confusion. The public and the professions are anti-intellectual in temper: yet somehow people must be forced to accept intellectual training. How are these dilemmas and all this confusion to be resolved?
Date of Authorship for this Version
McDougal, Myres S., "The Higher Learning in America" (1937). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 2456.