The Higher Learning in America — Chapter 6
The Portion of the Scientist
The principles of business enterprise touch the life and work of the academic staff at divers points and with various effect. Under their rule, and in so far as they rule, the remuneration shifts from the basis of a stipend designed to further the pursuit of knowledge, to that of a wage bargain, partaking of the nature of a piece-work scheme, designed to procure class-room instruction at the lowest practicable cost. A businesslike system of accountancy standardizes and measures this instruction by mechanically gauged units of duration and number, amplitude and frequency, and so discountenances work that rises above a staple grade of mediocrity. Usage and the urgent need of a reputable notoriety impose on university men an extraneous and excessively high standard of living expenses, which constrains them to take on supernumerary work in excess of what they can carry in an efficient manner. The need of university prestige enforces this high scale of expenses, and also pushes the members of the staff into a routine of polite dissipation, ceremonial display, exhibitions of quasi-scholarly proficiency and propagandist intrigue.
If these business principles were quite free to work out their logical consequences, untroubled by any disturbing factors of an unbusinesslike nature, the outcome should be to put the pursuit of knowledge definitively in abeyance within the university, and to substitute for that objective something for which the language hitherto lacks a designation.
For divers reasons of an unbusinesslike kind, such a consummate (“sweat-shop”) scheme has never fully been achieved, particularly not in establishments that are, properly speaking, of anything like university grade. This perfect scheme of low-cost perfunctory instruction, high-cost stage properties and press-agents, public song and dance, expensive banquets, speech-making and processions, is never fully rounded out. This amounts to admitting a partial defeat for the gild of businesslike “educators.” While, as a matter of speculative predilection, they may not aim to leave the higher learning out of the university, the rule of competitive business principles consistently pushes their administration toward that end; which they are continually prevented from attaining, by the necessary conditions under which their competitive enterprise is carried on.
For better or worse, there are always and necessarily present among the academic corps a certain number of men whose sense of the genteel properties is too vague and meagre, whose grasp of the principles of official preferment is too weak and inconsequential, whose addiction to the pursuit of knowledge is too ingrained, to permit their conforming wholly to the competitive exigencies of the case. By force of the exigencies of competitive prestige there is, of course, a limit of tolerance that sets decent bounds both to the number of such supererogatory scholars harboured by the university, and the latitude allowed them in their intemperate pursuit of knowledge; but their presence in the academic body is, after all, neither an irrelevant accident nor a transient embarrassment. It is, in one sense of the expression, for the use of such men, and for the use which such men find for it, that the university exists at all; in some such sense, indeed, as a government, a political machine, a railway corporation or a toll-road, may be said to exist for the use of the community from which they get their living. It is true in the sense that this ostensible use can not be left out of account in the long run. But even from day to day this scholarly purpose is never quite lost sight of. The habit of counting it in, as a matter of course, affects all concerned, in some degree; and complacent professions of faith to that effect cross one another from all quarters. It may frequently happen that the enterprising men in whom academic discretion centres will have no clear conception of what is implied in this scholarly purpose to which they give a perfunctory matter-of-course endorsement, and much of their professions on that head may be ad captandum; but that it need be a matter of course argues that it must be counted with.
Still, in the degree in which business principles rule the case the outcome will be of much the same complexion as it might be in the absence of any such prepossession, intelligent or otherwise, in favour of the higher learning on the part of the directorate; for competition has the same effect here as elsewhere, in that it permits none of the competitors to forego any expedient that has been found advantageous by any one of them. So that, whatever course might be dictated by the sentiments of the directorate, the course enjoined by the principles of competitive business sets toward the suppression or elimination of all such scholarly or scientific work from the university as does not contribute immediately to its prestige, — except so far as the conditions alluded to make such a course impracticable.
It is not an easy or a graceful matter for a businesslike executive to get rid of any undecorative or indecorous scientist, whose only fault is an unduly pertinacious pursuit of the work for which alone the university claims to exist, whose failure consists in living up to the professions of the executive instead of professing to live up to them. Academic tradition gives a broad, though perhaps uncertain, sanction to the scientific spirit that moves this obscure element in the academic body. And then, their more happily gifted, more worldly-wise colleagues have also a degree of respect for such a single-minded pursuit of knowledge, even while they may view these naive children of impulse with something of an amused compassion; for the general body of the academic staff is still made up largely of men who have started out with scholarly ideals, even though these ideals may have somewhat fallen away from them under the rub of expediency. At least in a genial, speculative sense of the phrase, scholarship still outranks official preferment in the esteem of the generality of academic men, particularly so long as the question does not become personal and touch their own preferment. In great part the academic corps still understands and appreciates the scholarly animus, and looks, on the whole, kindly and sympathetically — indeed, with a touch of envy — on those among them who are so driven to follow their own scientific bent, to the neglect of expedient gentility and publicity.
The like can, of course, not be so freely said of that body of businessmen in whom is vested the final control; yet this sentiment of genial approval that pervades the academic body finds some vague response even among these; and in any event it is always to be reckoned with and is not to be outraged, unless for a good and valuable consideration. It can not altogether be set aside, although, it is true, the conduct of certain executive heads, grown old in autocratic rule and self-complacency, may at times appear to argue the contrary. So that, by and large, there results an unstable compromise between the requirements of scholarly fitness and those of competitive enterprise, with a doubtful and shifting issue. Just at present, under the firm hand of an enterprising and autocratic executive, the principles of competitive business are apparently gaining ground in the greater universities, where the volume of traffic helps to cloud the details of suppression, and the cult of learning is gradually falling into a more precarious position.
In a curious way, too, the full swing of business principles in academic life is hindered by the necessary ways and means through which these principles are worked out; so much so, indeed, as to throw a serious doubt on their ultimately achieving an undivided dominion. Taken as a business concern, the university is in a very singular position. The reason for its being, at all, is the educational aspiration that besets modern mankind. Its only ostensible reason for being, and so for its being governed and managed, competitively or otherwise, is the advancement of learning. And this advancement of learning is in no degree a business proposition; and yet it must, for the present at least, remain the sole ostensible purpose of the businesslike university. In the main, therefore, all the competitive endeavours and manoeuvres of the captains of erudition in charge must be made under cover of an ostensible endeavour to further this non-competitive advancement of learning, at all costs. Since learning is not a competitive matter; since, indeed, competition in any guise or bearing in this field is detrimental to learning; the competitive manoeuvres of the academic executive must be carried on surreptitiously, in a sense, cloaked as a non-competitive campaign for the increase of knowledge without fear or favour.
All this places the executive in a very delicate position. On the one hand the principles of competitive business, embodied in a plenary board of control and in a critical scrutiny from the side of the business community at large, demand that all appointments, promotions, dismissals, ceremonials, pronouncements and expenditures, must be made with a constant view to their highest advertising effect; whereas the notions current as to what is fitting in a seminary of the higher learning, on the other hand, somewhat incongruously demand that all these deeds of commission and omission be done with an eye single to the increase of knowledge, regardless of appearances. And this double responsibility falls, of necessity, on the executive head of the university, under the present régime of centralized autocratic rule. Any ethical code that shall permit the executive head to accomplish what is expected of him in the way of a competitive enterprise under these circumstances, will necessarily be vague and shifty, not to and men who have tried to do say tenuous and shadowy; their whole duty in these premises are ready to admit that they have been called on to face many distasteful situations, where honesty would not approve itself as the best policy.(1*)
Whatever expedients of decorative real-estate, spectacular pageantry, bureaucratic magnificence, elusive statistics, vocational training, genteel solemnities and sweat-shop instruction, may be imposed by the exigencies of a competitive business policy, the university is after all a seat of learning, devoted to the cult of the idle curiosity, — otherwise called the scientific spirit. And stultification, broad and final, waits on any university directorate that shall dare to avow any other end as its objective. So the appearance of an unwavering devotion to the pursuit of knowledge must be kept up. Hence the presence of scholars and scientists of accepted standing is indispensable to the university, as a means of keeping up its prestige. The need of them may be a need of their countenance rather than of their work, but they are indispensable, and they bring with them the defects of their qualities. When a man achieves such notoriety for scientific attainments as to give him a high value as an article of parade, the chances are that he is endowed with some share of the scientific animus, and he is likely to have fallen into the habit of rating the triumphs of science above those of the market place. Such a person will almost unavoidably affect the spirit of any academic corps into which he is intruded. He will also, in a measure, bend the forces of the establishment to a long-term efficiency in the pursuit of knowledge, rather than to the pursuit of a reputable notoriety from day to day. To the enterprising captain of erudition he is likely to prove costly and inconvenient, but he is unavoidable.
This will hold true in a general way, and with due exceptions, for men prominent in those material sciences that have to do with data of such a tangible character, and give their results in such terms of mechanical fact, as to permit a passably close appreciation of their worth by the laity. It applies only more loosely, with larger exceptions and a wider margin of error, in the humanities and the so-called moral and social sciences. In this latter field a clamorous conformity to current prepossessions, particularly the conventional prepossessions of respectability, or an edifying and incisive rehearsal of commonplaces, will commonly pass in popular esteem for scholarly and scientific merit. A truculent quietism is often accepted as a mark of scientific maturity. The reason for this will appear presently. But so far as popular esteem is a truthful index of scientific achievement. the proposition holds, that scientists who have done great things have a business value to the captain of erudition as a means of advancing the university’s prestige; and so far the indicated consequences follow. In some measure the scientific men so intruded into the academic body are in a position to give a direction to affairs within their field and within the framework of the general policy. They are able to claim rank and discretion, and their choice, or at least their assent, must be consulted in the selection of their subalterns, and in a degree also in the organization of the department’s work. It is true, men whose talent, interest and experience run chiefly within the lines of scientific inquiry, are commonly neither skilled nor shrewd managers in that give and take of subtleties and ambiguities by which the internal machinery of the university is kept in line and running under a businesslike administration; but even so, their aims and prepossessions will in a measure affect the animus and shape the work of the academic body. All this applies particularly on the higher levels of research, as contrasted with the commonplace (undergraduate) work of instruction. But at this point, therefore, the principles of competitive publicity carry with them a partial neutralization of their own tendency.
This necessity of employing scientists of a commanding force and rank raises a point of some delicacy in the administration of the competitive university. It is necessary to assign these men a relatively high rank in the academic hierarchy; both because they will accept no subordinate place and because the advertising value of their prestige will be curtailed by reducing them to an inconspicuous position. And with high rank is necessarily associated a relatively large discretion and a wide influence in academic affairs, at least on the face of things. Such men, so placed, are apt to be exacting in matters which they conceive to bear on the work in their own sciences, and their exactions may not be guided chiefly by the conspicuousness of the equipment which they require or of the results at which they aim. They are also not commonly adroit men of affairs, in the business sense of the term; not given to conciliatory compromises and an exhibition of complaisant statistics. The framing of shrewd lines of competitive strategy, and the bureaucratic punctilios of university administration, do not commonly engage their best interest, even if it does not stir them to an indecorous impatience.(2*)
Should such a man become unduly insistent in his advocacy of scholarship, so as seriously to traverse the statistical aspirations of the executive, or in any way to endanger the immediate popular prestige of the university, then it may become an open question whether his personal prestige has not been bought at too high a cost. As a business proposition, it may even become expedient to retire him. But his retirement may not be an easy matter to arrange. The businesslike grounds of it can not well be avowed, since it is involved in the scheme of academic decorum, as well as in the scheme of publicity, that motives of notoriety must not be avowed. Colourable grounds of another kind must be found, such as will divert the popular imagination from the point at issue. By a judicious course of vexation and equivocations, an obnoxious scientist may be manoeuvred into such a position that his pride will force a “voluntary” resignation. Failing this, it may become necessary, however distasteful, delicately to defame his domestic life, or his racial, religious or political status. In America such an appeal to the baser sentiments will commonly cloud the issue sufficiently for the purpose in hand, even though it all has nothing to do with the man’s fitness for university work. Such a step, however, is not to be taken unless the case is urgent; if there is danger of estranging the affections of potential donors, or if it involves anything like overt disloyalty to the executive head.
This is one of the points at which it is necessary to recall the fact that no settled code of business ethics has yet been worked out for the guidance of competitive university management; nor is it easy to see how such a code can be worked out, so long as the university remains ostensibly a seat of learning, unable to avow any other ground of action than a single-minded pursuit of knowledge. It has been alleged — indeed it is fast becoming a tradition — that the executives of the great competitive universities habitually allow some peculiar latitude as touches the canons of truth and fair dealing. If this describes the facts, it should not be counted against these discreet men who so have to tax their ingenuity, but against the situation in which they are placed, which makes it impracticable to observe a nice discrimination in matters of veracity. Statements of fact, under such conditions, will in great part be controlled by the end to be accomplished, rather than by antecedent circumstances; such statements are necessarily of a teleological order. As in other competitive business, facts have in this connection only a strategic value; but the exigencies of strategy here are peculiarly exacting, and often rigorous.
Academic tradition and current common sense unite in imposing on the universities the employment of prominent scholars and scientists, in that men of note in this class have a high prestige value for purposes of publicity; and it was suggested above that a reservation of some breadth must be made on this head. Common notoriety is the due test of eminence which the competitive university must apply in the selection of its notables. But in the sciences that deal with the less tangible and measureable data, the so-called moral or social sciences, common notoriety is not even an approximately accurate index of scientific capacity or attainments; and still it is, of course, the standing of the incumbents in point of common notoriety that must chiefly be had in view in any strict valuation of them for purposes of academic prestige. They are needed for the advertising value which they bring, and for this purpose they are valuable somewhat in proportion to the rank awarded them by common report among that unlearned element, whose good opinion the competitive university must conciliate. But in the nature of the case, within the range of sciences named, the estimate of the unlearned is necessarily in the wrong.
With the exception of archaeological inquiries and the study of law, as commonly pursued, these moral or social sciences are occupied with inquiry into the nature of the conventions under which men live, the institutions of society — customs, usages, traditions, conventions, canons of conduct, standards of life, of taste, of morality and religion, law and order. No faithful inquiry into these matters can avoid an air of scepticism as to the stability or finality of some one or other among the received articles of institutional furniture. An inquiry into the nature and causes, the working and the outcome, of this institutional apparatus, will disturb the habitual convictions and preconceptions on which they rest, even if the outcome of the inquiry should bear no colour of iconoclasm; unless, indeed, the inquirer were so fortunate as to start with an inalienable presumption that the received convictions on these matters need no inquiry and are eternally right and good; in which case he does best to rest content at his point of departure. Scepticism is the beginning of science. Herein lies the difference between homiletical exposition and scientific inquiry.
Now, on these matters of habit and convention, morality and religion, law and order — matters which intimately touch the community’s accepted scheme of life — all men have convictions; sentimental convictions to which they adhere with an instinctive tenacity, and any disturbance of which they resent as a violation of fundamental truth. These institutions of society are made up of the habits of thought of the people who live under them. The consensus of the unlearned, or unscientific, as regards the scientific validity of inquiries which touch these matters means little else than the collective expressions of a jealous orthodoxy with respect to the articles of the current social creed. One who purports to be a scientist in this field can gain popular approval of his scientific capacity, particularly the businessmen’s approval, only by accepting and confirming current convictions regarding those elements of the accepted scheme of life with which his science is occupied. Any inquiry which does not lead to corroboration of the opinions in vogue among the unlearned is condemned as being spurious and dangerously wrong-headed; whereas an unbiassed inquiry into these things, of course, neither confirms nor disputes the scheme of things into which it inquires. And so, at the best, it falls into the same class with the fabled Alexandrine books that either agreed with the Koran or disagreed with it, and were therefore either idle or sacrilegious.
Within this field, vulgar sentiment will tolerate a sceptical or non-committal attitude toward vulgar convictions only as regards the decorative furnishings, not as regards the substance of the views arrived at. Some slight play of hazardous phrases about the fringe of the institutional fabric may be tolerated by the popular taste, as an element of spice, and as indicating a generous and unbiassed mind; but in such cases the conclusive test of scientific competency and leadership, in the popular apprehension, is a serene and magniloquent return to the orthodox commonplaces, after all such playful excursions. In fact, substantially nothing but homiletics and woolgathering will pass popular muster as science in this connection.
So it comes about that the men who are by common notoriety held to be the leaders in this field of learning, and who therefore are likely to be thrown up by official preferment, are such as enlarge on the commonplace and aphoristic wisdom of the laity. Not that the official sanction falls unfailingly on the paragons of mediocrity; there are many and illustrious exceptions, a fair proportion of whom would be illustrious even without the official sanction; and in this connection it is in place to recall that business principles have not hitherto held undivided and sovereign dominion in this province, and that there is even reason to believe that they are not yet coming fully into their own.
These putative leaders of science referred to are, in the common run of cases, not men with whom the science will have to count; but by virtue of their eligibility as academic spokesmen of the science, they are men with whom their contemporaries in the science will have to count. As is shown by the experience of the past, they are likely to be well forgotten by the generation that follows them, but they are, perforce, equally well remembered by their contemporaries. It is not the long-term serviceability of these official scientists that counts toward their availability for academic leadership, but their popular prestige. They may not be such leaders as the science needs, but they are such exponents of opinion as are believed to commend themselves to the tastes of the well-to-do laity. A citation of instances would seem invidious, nor, presumably, is it called for. The anecdotal history of contemporary events is particularly full at this juncture; while to outsiders who are not in a position to appreciate either the urgency or the subtlety of the motives of academic expediency in this bearing, a recital of illustrative instances might seem either libellous or farcical. The exigencies of competitive academic enterprise, especially in its relation to the maintenance and increase of endowment, place the executive in a very delicate position in this matter and leave little room for squeamish deliberation.
At the risk of tedium, it is necessary to push the analysis of businesslike motives and their bearing a step farther at this point. It is not simply the vulgar, commonplace convictions of the populace that must receive consideration in this field of the moral and social sciences, — including such matters as religion, sociology, economics, and political science, so-called. What is especially to be conciliated by the official scientists is the current range of convictions on all these heads among those well-to-do classes from whom the institution hopes to draw contributions to its endowment, on the one hand, and the more reputable part of its undergraduate clientèle, on the other hand. Which comes, broadly, to saying that a jealous eye must be had to the views and prepossessions prevalent among the respectable, conservative middle class; with a particular regard to that more select body of substantial citizens who have the disposal of accumulated wealth. This select and substantial element are on the whole more conservative, more old-fashioned in their views of what is right, good and true, and hold their views on more archaic grounds of conviction, than the generality of the vulgar. And within this conservative body, again, it is the elderly representatives of the old order that are chiefly to be considered, — since it is the honourable custom among men of large means not to give largely to institutions of learning until late in life.
It is to be accounted one of the meritorious customs of the greater businessmen that, one with another, they eventually convert a share of their takings to the installation of schools and similar establishments designed to serve and to conserve the amenities of civilized life. Usually it is in later life, or as an act of leave-taking, that this munificence is exercised. Usually, too, the great men who put forth this large munificence do not hamper their bounty with many restrictions on the character of the enlightenment which it is to serve. Indeed, there is in this respect a certain large modesty and continence customarily associated with the large donations. But like other men of force and thoughtfulness, the large and elderly businessmen have well-assured convictions and preferences; and as is the case with other men of the passing generation, so with the superannuated businessmen, their convictions and preferences fall out on the side of the old order rather than contrariwise. A wise academic policy, conducted by an executive looking to the fiscal interests of the university, will aim not to alienate the affections of the large businessmen of a ripe age, by harbouring specialists whose inquires are likely to traverse these old-settled convictions in the social, economic, political, or religious domain. It is bad business policy to create unnecessary annoyance. So it comes about that the habitual munificence of the captains of industry who have reached their term will have grave consequences for that range of academic science that is occupied with matters on which they hold convictions.(3*)
There results a genial endeavour to keep step with the moribund captains of industry and the relics of the wealthy dead. Remotely by force of a worldly-wise appointing power, proximately by force of the good taste and sober sense of well-chosen incumbents, something of filial piety comes to pervade the academic handling of those institutional phenomena that touch the sentiments of the passing generation. Hence it comes that current academic work in the province of the social, political, and economic sciences, as well as in the sciences that touch the religious interest, has a larger reputation for assurance and dignity than for an incisive canvassing of the available material.
Critics of the latterday university policies have from time to time called attention to an apparent reluctance on the part of these academic scientists to encounter present-day facts hand-to-hand, or to trace out the causes to which current conditions are due. Distempered critics have even alleged that the academic leaders in the social sciences are held under some constraint, as being, in some sort, in the pay of the well-to-do conservative element; that they are thereby incapacitated from following up any inquiry to its logical conclusion, in case the conclusion might appear to traverse the interest or the opinions of those on whom these leaders are in this way pecuniarily dependent.
Now, it may be conceded without violence to notorious facts, that these official leaders of science do commonly reach conclusions innocuous to the existing law and order, particularly with respect to religion, ownership, and the distribution of wealth. But this need imply no constraint, nor even any peculiar degree of tact, much less a moral obliquity. It may confidently be asserted, without fear of contradiction from their side, that the official leaders in this province of academic research and indoctrination are, commonly, in no way hindered from pushing their researches with full freedom and to the limit of their capacity; and that they are likewise free to give the fullest expression to any conclusions or convictions to which their inquiries may carry them. That they are able to do so is a fortunate circumstance, due to the fact that their intellectual horizon is bounded by the same limits of commonplace insight and preconceptions as are the prevailing opinions of the conservative middle class. That is to say, a large and aggressive mediocrity is the prime qualification for a leader of science in these lines, if his leadership is to gain academic authentication.
All this may seem too much like loose generality. With a view to such precision as the case admits, it may be remarked that this province of academic science as habitually pursued, is commonly occupied with questions of what ought to be done, rather than with theories of the genesis and causation of the present-day state of things, or with questions as to what the present-day drift of things may be, as determined by the causes at work. As it does in popular speculation, so also in this academic quasi-science, the interest centres on what ought to be done to improve conditions and to conserve those usages and conventions that have by habit been imbedded in the received scheme of use and wont, and so have come to be found good and right. It is of the essence of popular speculations on this range of topics that they are focussed on questions of use; that they are of a teleological order; that they look to the expediency of the observed facts and to their exploitation, rather than to a scientific explanation of them. This attitude, of course, is the attitude of expediency and homiletics, not of scientific inquiry.
A single illustrative instance of the prevalence of this animus in the academic social sciences may be in place. It is usual among economists, e.g., to make much of the proposition that economics is an “art” — the art of expedient management of the material means of life; and further that the justification of economic theory lies in its serviceability in this respect. Such a quasi-science necessarily takes the current situation for granted as a permanent state of things; to be corrected and brought back into its normal routine in case of aberration, and to be safeguarded with apologetic defence at points where it is not working to the satisfaction of all parties. It is a “science” of complaisant interpretations, apologies, and projected remedies.
The academic leaders in such a quasi-science should be gifted with the aspirations and limitations that so show up in its pursuit. Their fitness in respect of this conformity to the known middle-class animus and apprehension of truth may, as it expediently should, be considered when their selection for academic office and rank is under advisement; but, provided the choice be a wise one, there need be no shadow of constraint during their incumbency. The incumbent should be endowed with a large capacity for work, particularly for “administrative” work, with a lively and enduring interest in the “practical” questions that fall within his academic jurisdiction, and with a shrewd sense of the fundamental rightness of the existing order of things, social, economic, political, and religious. So, by and large, it will be found that these accredited leaders of scientific inquiry are fortunate enough not narrowly to scrutinize, or to seek particular explanation of, those institutional facts which the conservative common sense of the elderly businessman accepts as good and final; and since their field of inquiry is precisely this range of institutional facts, the consequence is that their leadership in the science conduces more to the stability of opinions than to the advancement of knowledge.
The result is by no means that nothing is accomplished in this field of science under this leadership of forceful mediocrity, but only that, in so far as this leadership decides, the work done lies on this level of mediocrity. Indeed, the volume of work done is large and of substantial value, but it runs chiefly on compilation of details and on the scrutiny and interpretation of these details with a view to their conformity with the approved generalizations of the day before yesterday, — generalizations that had time to grow into aphoristic commonplaces at a date before the passing generation of businessmen attained their majority.
What has just been said of this academic leadership in the social sciences, of course, applies only with due qualification. It applies only in so far as the principles of competitive enterprise control the selection of the personnel, and even then only with exceptions. There is no intention to depreciate the work of those many eminent scholars, of scientific animus and intellectual grasp, whose endeavours are given to this range of inquiry. Its application, indeed, is intended to reach no farther than may serve to cover the somewhat tactful and quietistic attitude of the moral sciences in the universities. As they are cultivated in the great seminaries of learning, these sciences are commonly of a somewhat more archaic complexion than the contemporary material sciences; they are less iconoclastic, have a greater regard for prescriptive authority and authenticity, are more given to rest their inquiry on grounds of expediency, as contrasted with grounds of cause and effect. They are content to conclude that such and such events are expedient or inexpedient, quite as often and as easily as that such are the causes or the genetic sequence of the phenomena under discussion. In short, under this official leadership these sciences will have an attitude toward their subject of inquiry resembling that taken by the material sciences something like a century ago.
To the credit of this academic leadership in the social sciences, then, it should be said that both the leaders and their disciples apply themselves with admirable spirit to these inquiries into the proper, expedient, and normal course of events; and that the conclusions arrived at also shed much salutary light on what is proper, expedient, and normal in these premises. Inquiries carried on in this spirit in the field of human institutions belong, of course, in the category of worldly wisdom rather than of science. “Practical” questions occupy these scientists in great part, and practical, or utilitarian, considerations guide the course of the inquiry and shape the system of generalizations in these sciences, to a much greater extent than in the material sciences with which they are here contrasted. An alert sense of the practical value of their inquiries and their teaching is one of the chief requisites for official recognition in the scientists who occupy themselves with these matters, and it is one of the chief characteristics of their work. So that, in so far as it all conforms to the principles of competitive business, the line of demarcation between worldly wisdom and theoretical validity becomes peculiarly indistinct in this province of science. And, it may be remarked by the way, the influence of this academic science, both in its discipline and in its tenets, appears to be wholly salutary; it conduces, on the whole, to a safe and sane, if not an enthusiastic, acceptance of things as they are, without undue curiosity as to why they are such.
What has here been said of the place and use of the scientist under the current régime of competitive enterprise describes what should follow from the unrestrained dominion of business principles in academic policy, rather than what has actually been accomplished in any concrete case; it presents an ideal situation rather than a relation of events, though without losing touch with current facts at any point. The run of the facts is, in effect, a compromise between the scholar’s ideals and those of business, in such a way that the ideals of scholarship are yielding ground, in an uncertain and varying degree, before the pressure of businesslike exigencies.
NOTES:1. Cf. also J. J. Chapman, paper on “Professional Ethics,” in University Control, as above, for an estimate of the inefficiency of academic opinion as a corrective of the executive power on his head.
2. “The lambs play always, they know no better, They are only one times one.”
3. “He was a trusted and efficient employee of an institution made possible and maintained by men of great wealth, men who not only live on the interest of their money, but who expend millions in the endowment of colleges and universities in which enthusiastic young educators… find lucrative and honourable employment.” — Editorial on the dismissal of Dr. Nearing, in the Minneapolis Journal, August II, 1915.