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Thoma, Harry C. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 38, Number I (Oct. 1936)

Hibbard, Addison
Is college a machine?,   pp. 8-9

Page 8

                                                        "l C iege a
                                                An Alumnus Speakss His Mind
ofl the
                                                Charg es of Mass Production
                                                        /V AJ~ISoi HIL~AI',09
                                                        Dean of the College
of Liberal Arts,
                                                        the bars were down;
students were supposed to know
                                                        what was best for
them in all ways and were allowed
                                                        to range pretty much
where they would. Here was
with a vengeance. This second epoch
                                                        somehow largely assumed
that four years at college in
                                                        which the student
"took" almost anything the col-
   H F'~E mechanical nature of our college education  lege had to offer equalled
"one college education."
   flhas been often emphasized.  "College," we     The first-the
"ick" period-was rigidity itself; the
   flhave been told, ''is a huge machine into which  second-the ''elective''
period-was freedom itself.
   IL thousands of students are poured, the faculty   But neither one worked
as happily as it might for
       turns the crank, and out come more gradu-     the increasing attendance
in our colleges. Freedom, it
ates!" Each alumnus is popularly supposed to be      was found, might
be as fallacious as rigidity. Some-
stamped with the trade-mark of his institution. Thus  thing more was necessary.
The individual needs and
we have, these critics say, the "Yale Man," the      capacities
of students must be studied to the end that
"Princeton Man," the "Harvard Man."   "You peo-
     students might follow  that type of education for
ple responsible for higher education in America," they  which they had
a particular bent, an especial enthus-
continue, "are emulating the methods of mass pro-    iasm.  And with
this realization we came to our
duction in industry. You are 'big business'."        present, the third
"stage" in American education.
  The charge has been so frequent as to be well-     This present period
is that of individual attention.
known to every member of every college faculty.        MY purpose in this
statement, then, is simply to
And I, for one, am willing to admit that college pro-   p        pu  re 
            is           simply to
fessors and college administrative officers have been  point out   there
is room  to  do  no more the
uncomfortably irked by the charge-so irked, in fact,  way in which American
colleges today have tried to
that for the past decade or so their chief efforts have  meet the earlier
charge of mechanization of education
been directed toward one purpose-the individualiz-     by offering individual
attention to each student.
ing of higher education.                                   In brief it may
be said that to meet this end, two
  And I submit here that if those responsible for the  major plans have been
evolved.  First, an advisory
state of our educational institutions have listened in  system which reaches
out to all students and makes
the past to this comment when it was made by the     available to them a
skilled and sympathetic interest on
populace in general, then that same general populace  the part of matured
men and women: second, adjust-
should be interested in learning what the colleges   ments within the curriculum
so that the particular
have recently been doing to render the charge untrue.  capabilities of each
student may be discovered and giv-
It should be said here that no single purpose has so  en full room for development.
The rigidity of the
motivated educational change in the past ten or      "ick" period
is gone; the complete freedom of the
twenty years as has this desire to individualize our  free but characterless
elective system is no more. This
instruction and methods.                                new individualized
program    of our colleges keeps
   instruction and methods.                             what virtues there
were of the first, what reason there
   THE first American colleges knew just what they    was in the second,
but from the two it has moulded
were to do-they were to educate the chosen few       something new.
for one or another of the dignified professions. This  All reputable colleges
today do whatever is pos-
period constituted what I often call the "ick"              sible
to offer the student free and constant
period in American education. Every student                     consultation
with professors and adminis-
in our colleges a hundred years ago did go                      trative officers.From
 the first days when
through the same mill. Certain subjects-or                      the freshman
enters his institution, when
"disciplines"-were thought to be good for                     
through a "Freshman Week" he is intro-
all students at all times. And the subjects                     duced by
older students to advisers, deans,
most generally followed were the "ick" sub-                   
 professors, registrars, the library, classrooms,
jects-logick, mathematicks, rhetorick, and                      and laboratories;
the spirit is one of helpful-
the classicks. At this time higher education                         ness
 and   collaboration.  Each   in-
was formalized to meet a certain rather nar-                         stitution
worth its salt has a system
row view of what constituted a gentleman's                           of advisers,
counsellors, tutors-what-
education. Then followed, perhaps forty or                           ever
they  may   be called.   Advisers
so years ago, the "free elective" period, intro-              
      hold office hours and often invite stu-
duced most emphatically by President                                 dents
to their homes; tutors in the
Eliot of Harvard. Under this scheme                                  dormitories
and outside of the class-

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