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McCormick, Bart E. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 28, Number 2 (Dec. 1926)

Frank, Glenn
An experiment in education,   pp. [51]-53


Page [51]


Vol. XXVIII                                    Madison, Wis., December, 1926
                                   Number 2
An Experiment' in Education
                 By PRESIDENT GLENN FRANK
   (Nation-wide attention has been at-
 tracted to the projected establishment of an
 Experimental College inside the college of
 Letters and Science at the University of
 Wisconsin.   This experimental college,
 which will be established in the fall
 of 1927, will be the result of a proposal
 made to the faculty by an Alll-University
 Study Commission which President Frank
 appointed last year: The Alumni Maga-
 zine "here passes on to the alumni the
 memorandum that Mr. Frank presented
 to the faculty when he appointed the Study
 Commission. Still other proposals will
 emerge from the work of this Commission,
 but this memorandum will give the alumni
 an interesting insight into the Experi-
 mental College proposal, pending the de-
 tailed development of its plans.)
 SEVERAL     months ago a resolution
    of this faculty, requested me to ap-
point,-an All-University Study Commis-
sion to review questions concerning the
articulation of the several parts and
processes of the University and to con-
sider possible improvements of instruc-
tion and the possible development of
more fryiitfil, rnnt-frt hp,_ o.+A .4.
mittee or be greatly thrilled by the
prospect of its possible contribution to
the educational efficiency of the Uni-
versity. We have been tinkering with
the curriculum   since academic time
began and I suspect that we are begin-
ning to realize rather generally that an
undue    concentration  on  curriculum
carpentry means that we are dealing in
most instances withý the mechanical
process of the addition and subtraction
of courses that- does not represent the
really determining factors in the edu-
cational efficiency or inefficiency of the
University. I do not mean to say that
the educational world may not now be
facing the challenge to some very far
reaching readjustments of curricula.
I mean only to say that the major prob-
lems in the future evolution of our uni-
versities lie in the field of the dynamics
rather than of the mechanics of educa-
tion. I am trying to say that I hope that
the commission I am appointing today
will prove to be more than the conven-
tional curriculum tinkering committee.
  I hope that the appointment of this
commission means that we are settina-
No one is under the delusion that you
desired to create a sort of corporate
academic Mussolini who would under-
taketo oictate-he fiuture-educational
policies of the University.   However
definite may be the proposals that grow
out of its discussion, I conceive one of its
major functions to be that of a sort of
informal: general staff for the suggestion
and stimulation of a University-wide
discussion of the fundamental problems
that are today harassing the minds of
those who have the future of higher edu-.
cation at heart, those really funda-
mental problems a realistic considera-
tion of which might chart the next steps
that shall determine the direction higher
education is to take.
  If this commission, either in its pres-
ent form or with a future extended
membership, shall, despite the fact that
it is a general University commission,
concern itself with the problems that
center in a specific college or specific
department, I hope that nowhere will
this be regarded as an impertinent in-
trusion into matters considered sacred
to' :1 -uifr;n 1' arni -n  T I ' h r~ n  A.-V~ that- ; #.
will be considered as a symbol of the
only spirit that is worthy of a Univer-
sity, namely, the spirit of a common
consideration of our common problems,
a spirit that makes it possible to bring
the benefit of the entire genius of the
institution to bear upon any and every
.point in its life and work.
  A rigid insistence upon the separate-
ness of colleges and departments is
necessary  in   the  administration of
policies; it is death to those creative
processes of thought and counsel that
produce policy.
and teacher.
   I have-perhaps been unduly tardy iin
 creating this commission. I think it is a
 pardonable tardiness, however, because
 the delay has been caused solely by my
 concern that such a commission might
 be created in terms of an idea and atmos-
 phere that would invest its Work with
 fundamental reality and importance.
 The history of universities is strewn
 with the records of all sorts of study
 commissions that have labored long over
 such detailed questions as the wisdom of
 requiring one hour more or one hour less
 of this language or that science, and
 when all has been said and done the
 actual educational results visible in suc-
 ceeding crops of graduates has probably
 not been altered one iota.   For my
 part, I should not feel justified in asking
 busy scholars to give time to the work of
 a commission that would be expected
 to do no more than to advise the addi-
 tion or subtraction of a few courses or a
 slight shuffling of the cards of require-
 ments. In short, speaking as one mem-
 ber of this academic community, I
 should not be interested in the appoint-
ment of just another curriculum com-
up the instrumentalities and giving
proof of the existence in this University
of a spirit of continuous and construc-
tive self-criticism of our own purposes
and procedures.- Any good mechanic
maintains an attitude of continuous and
constructive criticism toward his tools
in order that his tools may be kept
effectively adjusted to his tasks.
   One of the diseases of institutionalism
is the disease of departmentalism. The
very virtue of educational statesman-
ship inside. separate departments and
separate colleges may become a vice if
it prevents our thinking institutionally,
if it prevents that pooling of experiences,
that cross fertilization of minds, that
common counsel, which alone can give
organic unity to a university. If I may
adapt a phrase from William James, it is
only this common consideration of the
common problems of educational policy
and method that can prevent a uni-
versity from becoming a multiversity.
  Obviously the commnission that I am
today appointing is not a legislative
body, it cannot imply any infringement
of the minimum necessary autonomy of
the various colleges of the University.
   Consistent with this point of view I
have not, in determining the initial
membership of this commission, sedul-
ously sought to give representation to all
of the various parts and interests of the
University. I have sought simply to
select from a long list of men, any one of
whom would have represented an ad-
mirable selection for service on this com-
mission, seven men, regardiess of their
particular location in the University
scheme, who would bring deep personal
interest and careful consideration to
those aspects of higher education which,


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