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Egstad, H. M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 32, Number X (July 1931)

Frank, Glenn
The times challenge the universities,   p. 385


Page 385


July, I193 I                                                            The
Wisconsin Alumni Magazine
The Times Chalenge the Universities
W         V  {E, THE AUTHENTIC and adopted sons      its farmers, its business
men, its industrialists, in fact
           and daughters of the University of Wiscon-  all of its occupational
groups. Especially must it serve
           sin, meet in this festival of reunion at a  as a center of research
counsel for those groups that
           time when this University, in common with   could not otherwise
afford the sort of research counsel
other American universities, is contriving to deal    that has made possible
the unprecedented development
with a situation that contains two stubborn factors   of the great basic
industries of our time.
that were not in the situation a few    years ago.      I agree with Mr.
Flexner that there has been not a
These two stubborn factors are the financial depression  little unjustified
and superficial expansion of offerings
and Abraham Flexner. The two are somewhat inti-       in non-scholarly fields
in many American universities.
mately related. Flexner in the spear-head of a body of  There is, no doubt,
some water in the offerings of some
searching criticism of American universities. And periods  state universities.
And we shall see a good deal of
of financial depression always accelerate the critical  dehydrating in this
field during the next ten years. But
movement that seeks to reassess our institutional life  I hope that Mr. Flexner,
as the Pied Piper of educa-
and agencies. In piping times of peace and plenty, we  tional critics, will
never induce America to be reac-
are inclined-all too inclined-to take our institutions  tionary enough to
confine its notion of a university to a
for granted. But when economic stringency falls upon  scholastic cloister.
us our critical mood stirs from its slumber and we seek  Let me now speak,
with the utmost brevity, of four
reassessment to find ways of doing better work for less  possible implications
that the continuance of economic
money.                                                   depression may have
for the future policies and pro-
  The night is hot, and I doubt that you are in the mood  cedures of American
state universities. Some weeks
for exhaustive and exhausting discussion, but I want  ago I received a letter
from a legislator in a Western
to speak briefly of the Flexnerized mood we, as a people,  state. "Our
state university," he writes, "has become
are bringing to a consideration of our universities, and  one of the big
items in the bill the taxpayers have to
of some implication that the economic depression      foot in this state.
I realize that the university is the best
through which we are passing may have for the future  investment the state
makes, but if the time ever comes
of such state universities as the University of Wisconsin.  when the state
insists upon retrenchment, I would like
  The essence of Mr. Flexner's indictment is that many  to know how the state
can go about it without destroy-
American universities are dabbling in a hundred and   ing the very real values
it has built into its university."
one things that have no place in an institution of      I was glad to answer
this question as clearly as I
higher learning. His plea is the plea of the apostle of  could and with complete
candor. There are, I suggested
professional scholarship, and if the only purpose of the  to this Western
legislator, four ways in which a state
modern university were the creation of professional   might, if it proceeded
carefully, reduce the cost of its
scholars, I should agree with his contention in toto.  university.
But this is not, in my judgment, the case. Certainly this  (1) It might reduce
the program of the university.
is not and should not, as I see it, be the case with the  It is not necessary
that every university do every-
universities. The modern state university is a wholly  thing. Whatever is
done should be done in the best pos-
new sort of social tool invented by the modern Ameri-  sible manner. In every
human institution projects and
can commonwealths.    It cannot, in justice and ac-   services have a way
of staying on after their maximum
curacy, be compared with the great traditional seats of  usefulness is passed.
Programs can be reduced. But
learningof other centuries. The modern state university  they should be reduced
by analysis from the inside,
has three major functions, viz:                         not with an axe from
the outside.
  First, scholarship.                                      (2) It might reduce
the student body.
  Second, education.                                      In every university
there is a certain percentage of
  Third, research in the living problems of the state  the student body that
derives little benefit from uni-
and in behalf of the occupational enterprises of its  versity study and life.
This group is made up, broadly,
people.                                                 of two types. There
is the loafer who does not deserve
  I make no apologies for drawing a distinction be-   university opportunity.
There is the student who simply
tween scholarship and education, for some of the most  is not adapted by
native capacity and liking for uni-
grossly uneducated men I have met have been men of    versity training. He
would be a better citizen  and
profound specialized scholarship, while some of the   worker for a different
sort of training. It is possible to
most effectively educated citizens I have known have  devise just and socially
sound procedures for weeding
been innocent of high technical equipment. A state    this two-fold group
out of universities. Again, this is a
university must provide training of the most modern   job that must be done
from the inside.
and intensively specialized sort. It must train the men  (3) It might revise
student fees and tuition.
and women who are to carry on the torch of scholarship  It is a magnificent
thing for a state to provide measur-
in a world that is waging an uphill fight against super-  ably free university
training for all. It is, however, a
ficiality and  materialism. But it must also give a   relatively small per
cent of the families of a state that
rounded liberal education to its citizens, an education  actually send students
to a university. It is, therefore,
that will make them intelligently at home                         but simple
justice that those who directly
amidst the problems and perplexities of the                       benefit
from  the institution shall carry as
time in which they are to live and which they     by           much of the
load as may be feasible.  Any
must serve. And it must serve as the research  Ad                 schedule
of fees and tuition should, however,
center for the state on the urgent problems of  G flenn Frank           
  (Continued on page 407)
                           Page 385


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