Articles, Blog

Telling the Truth About Liberal Arts: Histories and Futures

February 6, 2020


– Okay, good evening. Good evening, in the spirit
of the end of Michigan time we’re actually gonna start now as opposed to 10 after. So good evening and welcome
to tonight’s lecture which is part of our new series on the history of the
University of Michigan sponsored by the Bentley
Historical Library. I’m Gary Krenz, I’m Director of Post-Bicentennial
Planning at the Bentley. I appreciate your joining us. And I appreciate your
patience with our little bit of a jerry rigged setup tonight. But there will be slides as you can see. So these monthly talks
are part of our effort to continue the exploration
of U of M history. It was kind of accelerated
by our 2017 Bicentennial. This academic year so far we’ve heard about the Detroit
Observatory, about the history of food at U of M, about the origins of athletic competition. Looking ahead for a moment to next month, our lecture will mark
the 150th anniversary of the admission of
women to the university. We will hear from Andrea
Turpin of Baylor University and then she’s going to speak
on coeducation for democracy. The changing moral vision for educating the sexes, 1870 to 1920,
I hope you can join us. And I also note that
the Bentley and others are doing more things. Will be doing more things to
mark the 150th anniversary including some articles
on the Heritage website by Kevin Clark. Social media weekly,
whatever you would call it, social media on the #UMISHwomen150. An exhibit at the Bentley
in an ongoing exhibit on our history of U of M
website and more so please check those things out. Now, for tonight’s talk, right? Which is titled Telling the Truth about the Liberal Arts
Histories and Futures. Our speaker of course is Terry McDonald who is director of the Bentley Library. And a long citizen of this university. In fact I’ve known Terry
for at least 20 years. I think we first know you when you were associate dean in LSA. But in any case, I am frankly relieved that finally after all this time he is going to tell the
truth about (mumbles). Seriously, there are few
people as well-positioned as Terry to discuss tonight’s topic. Before becoming director
of the Bentley in 2013, he served for 11 years as interim and permanent dean of
the LSA, an institution of more than 2,000 faculty,
17,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students,
includes divisions for the natural sciences,
social sciences and humanities. So overall it is larger and more expansive than most universities, and is to be sure the core of liberal arts at U of M, liberal education at U of M. In addition to his administrative work, Terry is an award-winning historian of American history and author and editor of four books and numerous articles. He is an outstanding
researcher and teacher, and on that basis has
held an Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship since 1993. And has received numerous
other teaching awards. So he clearly comes at this topic from several bases of experience and I have no doubt you
will enjoy and learn from his talk tonight. Please welcome me in, please join me in welcoming Terry McDonald. (clapping) – Thank you Gary, and thank
you all for coming out tonight. I know that coming out to a seven o’clock in the evening lecture
is a bit of a sacrifice, so I want you to know how much
I appreciate you being here. We’re going to have a few moments of audience participation tonight, so let’s start with this one. How many of you has at least one of those worthless liberal arts
degrees, raise your hand. Don’t be embarrassed. How many have more than
one of those terrible cheap worthless liberal arts degrees? All right, how many of you think something very special happened on the way to at least one of those
liberal arts degrees? Okay good. So I wanted you to, I
think we have something in common, I wanted to start with that and I want you to know
that whatever I’m talking about tonight, it’s beginning
with that standpoint and that basically is
that there is something very special about the
liberal arts experience, and yet the ways in which
its manifested itself through actual curricular
organization over time have been varied. And so the truth is nothing that we think was crucial to that experience
was necessarily necessary to it going forward. It’s the experience we
had with the structure at the time that we
actually attended college and university. And I think that perspective
on the conversation about the liberal arts is
somewhat missing today, when to some extent there are those who are deep critics of
it and there are those who are defenders of it, and it’s not true that either one of ’em is talking about actually what in the
important kind of idea in it. So, let me first make the announcement that I am not going to explain how much a liberal arts education is worth tonight. So this is, if some of
you wanna just leave after this while you can. There was a wonderful article about this in the Washington Post just a couple of weeks ago. Liberal arts education, waste of money or practical investment, this
is the question today right? I mean this is everywhere. The study’s conclusions
might surprise you. Spoiler alert, if you went
to a liberal arts college, about 40 years down the road there will be an income differential for
having a liberal arts degree. Now you can get the details from that. If you went to the University
of Michigan, forget it, you’re not in that category at all. All right, this is the topic,
liberal arts education, what is it and where did it come from? And if it was in the Washington Post, it might say lecture’s
conclusions might surprise you. But this is not the Washington Post, so. A few comments about why
being a historian is hard, I want you to feel sorry for me at the beginning of this lecture. And that’s to begin with
is the past really always speaks in mobile voices. So essentially the past
is always saying things are different here and
that’s why we study it. The humanizing aspect of studying the past is discovering
how different things were in the past. On the other hand it’s
also true that the origins of the present will be
found here in a certain kind of, sometimes very
straightforward and sometimes very inchoate kind of way. So we study the past also
to understand something about the origins of the present. Now the past is also always
saying everything here is gone and the same thing will happen to you. There’s that famous Joni Mitchell song I’ve seen some hard hard places come down with smoke and ash. That’s actually a lesson of history that everything changes and goes away. And therefore it’s true
if based on history, that nothing that exists
today needs to exist. So when we go back and look at history, we’re not necessarily
finding the rationale or justifications of the present. We’re actually finding some
leverage on the present. The past can help us
understand the present, it doesn’t determine
it and the institutions that we live in aren’t
necessarily all necessary. Now it’s behind being a
history because sometimes the past is disappointing. For example, at the
University of Michigan, academics have always been
more important than athletics. True or false? If you do a historical
analysis, it’s gonna be a very disappointing
answer, at least one that was disappointing for me. It can also hurt your feelings this way. So here’s this uncommon
education for the common man. We’re gonna respond to this
by the way with applause. We’re gonna have a test,
an uncommon education for the common man, which
19th century figure said this about the University of Michigan? How many think it was Thomas Jefferson? How many think it was President Tappan? Okay, a few people think it’s Tappan. How many think it was President Angell? Okay, a few thinking are
sticking their neck out. How many think the answer is D? Oh you, you cynical people. In fact the answer is no one ever said it. There was never a statement made about this in the 19th
or early 20th century. It appears that this was a attribution to the 19th century that was
actually invented in the 1980s with no historical basis in fact. Sadly, and I wanna thank some people in this room, Brian Williams,
Abraham McKay were involved in a search where we
said gee this is so cool, let’s find the context for this. Ah, it doesn’t exist. Okay, so history is
not always your friend. It can be really hard and
disillusioning and maybe some things I say tonight
will feel that way. All right, let me just give you a preview. There have been really three major periods in the history of higher
education curriculum and I’m going to try to take
us rather quickly through this. This is 200 years of
history, it won’t be deep. But it will give us a
sense of the structure of these kinds of traditions. And you’ll notice that
something interesting here. I’m only using the word curriculum
in regard to one of them. Because in fact the other two systems did not prescribe a
curriculum, they prescribed a kind of structure for learning. So the class book curriculum reigned high on American higher
education including at Michigan from about 1820 to 1880. The elective system came in in the 1880s and really was quite popular
until the ’20s, ’30s. liberal arts structure,
the one that we’re used to, came in about 1930 to the present. So now I wanna basically
take us through each of these things. Because my topic tonight
is the liberal arts I’m gonna start with that
and then work back again to the history of that, but here it is. So the liberal arts is
a curricular structure for four years of undergraduate education. It’s not a statement of
principle in and of itself. This is the liberal arts at
the University of Michigan. It’s a number of credits for graduation and it’s divided into four big categories. You’ve got certain skill
courses which contain, whoops, did our projector die out or? – Gotta take a liberal arts education. – Yeah you gotta have
a technical background to keep this going. There it is, it came back, okay. Yeah now we can see the
whole thing, that’s good. All right, so you’ve got some skills. These are the college requirements, there’s 13 of ’em
approximately as I recall. You’ve got some distribution, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, you’ve got some electives and you’ve got a major. So you have to fulfill these categories and come up with this many credits, but of course it’s all
open, you don’t have, there’s nothing specified, in
that sense it’s a structure and not necessarily a curriculum. Now this structure is uniquely American, it doesn’t exist anyplace else on earth except recently, some countries have tried to adapt this
structure to their own systems. And it’s popular in America
because it’s permissive. It doesn’t specify the contents of anybody’s undergraduate education, it specifies the number of credit hours and the number of ways
you have to distribute those credit hours. So it’s basically a kind of
a structure for learning. And as we’ll see, in history
there have been curricular are much more prescriptive. Now it’s fragile. The numbers, this room
is very unrepresentative of college degrees. Today about 30% of college degrees are in any area of the
liberal arts and sciences, any area, very small number. And this, probably the purest form of liberal arts education
is in freestanding liberal arts colleges, and in America if you took the 51 highest ranked free
standing such colleges, the students there would
not fill Michigan Stadium. There’s just barely 100,000 students in free-standing liberal arts colleges at the very top of that distribution. And then finally the
three-division college that you might be familiar
with or we certainly are here at Michigan, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences at
the university is rare. So most big state schools have split up their colleges according to the division. So you’ll have a college of humanities, a college of sciences, a college to this, whatever, some kind of combination. Michigan State for example,
they’re all split up. There’s been a trend to sort of try to reunite them, but the fact is a place like Gallaton A which threw
out its entire history has had all the divisions
in the same institution is very very rare. You won’t find it very far, very often anywhere in this country. And this is gonna have
an implication obviously for how people understand the liberal arts when they come here. All right so here’s the majors today. It’s just kind of interesting. By the way this is taken from what appears to be the winter graduation in 2018. But if you, so this is a small number but if you, the order I think is about the same no matter what. So you see we’ve got economics is the most popular
major, psychology is next. We’ve got BCN, biopsychology,
cognitive and neuroscience. Oh, that’s a subdivision of psychology, it’s another psychology major. Political science, computer science, international studies,
communication studies, neuroscience, another branch of psychology taught with biologies, we can use a college of psychology probably. And then we’ve got
mathematics and English. A couple of things. There’s a strain of vocationalism in here. All right, these most
popular majors clearly are those that at least are
plausibly representative of some kind of vocation training. There is the dearth of humanities majors in this number. English’s position is
remarkably low compared to 10 to 20 years ago and
my own department History which was in the top 10 for decades is no longer in that list. So you see that things are, this system, this structure which allows choice and encourages choice can produce a lot of different kinds
of outcomes which may or may not be the ones that
people might like people to do. All right so this is the most
recent structure in America, but it’s now 100 years old, right? It’s been in place for almost 100 years. So in a funny way, it’s the most recent and the longest lasting,
and to some extent the less frequently
challenged of all the three that I’m gonna talk about tonight. And we could ask ourselves
if that’s important. Turns out that LS&A students
got into this concentration distribution model with the
people who arrived in 1931 and these were the first
graduates with concentrations and interesting enough,
the list is very similar to the one that’s going on there. Economics, history, although
history would go down. Now there’s a couple of odd ones, we’ll talk about law and medicine here, sociology, English, Sciences,
French, social sciences in 1933. All right, now the important thing tonight is to keep in mind that a curricular structure may not guarantee an intellectual experience. So when we talk about what we want from a liberal, from a college education, this is what we want, this statement. Imagine a different world or place where students find deep meaning, learning changes people,
it makes them into better problem solvers, able to think,
not afraid to make mistakes. Learning amazing adventure,
deep humility et cetera. Ken Bain’s wonderful books “What the Best College Students Do”. If any of you have
children or grandchildren approaching college it’s a fabulous book for them to read. He’s got other ones “What the
Best College Teachers Do”, really a wonderful guy. This is what we wanna have happen. And we don’t really
care about the specifics of the curriculum. We want an experience that
transforms the person. And some of you think you had that. Now did you have it
because of the structure of the liberal arts or because
of 25 or 30 other things that were going on in
your life at the time or whatever, this is the
question that we all really kind of have to consider. So this is it. We wanna have this experience. We wanna know how to create that. It may or may not be created
by the current structure for the liberal arts. Maybe it could be created by
something really different. And 100 years down the
road maybe we should ask a question about that. All right so this is
the classical curriculum at its high point. It was the first, really
the first curriculum in American higher education that could be kinda called that. These dates are approximate. Some schools had it before then, some schools had it after that. University of Michigan
was entirely devoted to it in these years and these
were the characteristics. You had to present Latin
and Greek for admission. You couldn’t come unless you
could do Latin and Greek. The readings in the
curriculum were specified and they were in the classics. There was no choice. Everyone took the same courses together for the entire freshman,
sophomores, junior, senior all took the same class every day together for the whole four years. You became very connected with your class. The faculty was mostly amateurs, that is not academically trained people. Many of them were ministers
because they were oftentimes the highest educated people in the region. The teaching method, wonderful
recitation and declamation. You would memorize and
deliver large pieces of text three times a
day five days a week. And you would get at the
end of that four years of that, you would get a bachelor’s degree with no major. This was the so-called
classical curriculum. Now if you had shown up
at the door of Michigan in 1851, and don’t forget
you had to be a man, so there were no women here
until 1870 here at this point. This is what your
schedule would look like. So freshman year, okay,
Latin, Greek, Latin, Roman and Greek, a little bit of science. This is pretty much
going through almost kind of high school math. Sophomore year, Horace,
Xenophon, Sophocles, rhetoric. Center of junior year, Tacitus, a little more political economy, natural philosophy rhetoric chemistry. Senior year, Plato philosophy et cetera. So you can see the core of this. And if you actually
look at the actual kind of structure of the curriculum, here’s what it looked like in terms of the years of the curriculum. So basically you’re very heavily invested in the classics almost
all the way through. You slowly start to add
some science courses. But importantly, the entire curriculum is focused on this, that is
all the seniors take together these classes, and it’s hard to see it but they involve psychology,
intellectual philosophy and importantly political grammar, the history of the
Constitution, political economy. All kinds of courses that are designed to prepare you to be a
good person and a citizen. So this was a curriculum that was aimed to produce a certain outcome
and the outcome was a man of course in these days was
going to be an active citizen in society. So on balance and by the way we could spend hours just talking about the details of this, but moving on. So the people that taught
this curriculum believed that studying the classics and the classic languages sharpen the mind just by the sheer discipline
of learning the languages of Latin and Greek. But as importantly, that Americans had to study the fate of the early republics. So if you wanted to
avoid the dictatorships, that plagued Greece and Rome, you had to read the stories of those civilizations and see what happens to
republics that go bad. So it actually was a
kind of political purpose in the curriculum. The focus was very much on the public role of the, of producing good male citizens, the curriculum points to
these required courses. By the way, which were usually taught by the president of the university. So these Capstone courses
in the senior year were taught by the
president of the University of Michigan, other
universities and colleges. Now not so good, zero
interest in new knowledge or current events. This just wasn’t part of
the classical curriculum. Lock step unchanging
required curriculum taught with dreadful methods. Recitation and declamation. Amateur faculty who could teach, who might be able to teach
well but they couldn’t change the curriculum because they really, they weren’t really very intellectual and they certainly weren’t doing anything they were producing their knowledge. And there was also no connection
with professional education which by the way I mentioned just because that becomes important later. The professional schools
for most of the 19th century did not require a bachelor’s degree. So when you applied to
the University of Michigan in 1851, you could go
direct, well after that. 1861 let’s say, you
could go just right out of high school or whatever
school you had to medical school or the law school or the literary college. There was no need, there was no notion of a four-year undergraduate degree as preparatory to professional training, there wasn’t any
connection until very late, and in fact most of the time
even early in the 20th century. All right so this is the
classical curriculum, in the first curriculum,
Michigan was entirely part of this for about 40 years and very very dedicated to it. So this is a modern day inheritance of the classical curriculum
and it’s a principle that we all believe but it’s important to see where it kind of comes from and that is you wanna have a useless college degree, all right? So the non-vocational, non
career-based uselessness of the subject matter is what opens the door to appreciating
knowing for the sake of knowing. And the whole idea liberal arts education eliminates the distraction
of vocationalism and its lack of career-directed
purposefulness separates knowing from the need-to-know, learning from the need-to-learn and the desire to understand from the need to understand. This is a legacy of that
first curricular setup, the classical curriculum
which now has become kind of a principle to liberal arts
in this very very interesting book by the way, Victor Ferrall with “Liberal Arts at the Brink”. Very very interesting
analysis of the situation of the liberal arts
colleges in America today. But just to say I think most
of us are gonna probably believe this, I do believe it. But it’s also important to understand where it comes from. It comes from this moment
in higher education history for 40 years or so when
almost by definition people were taken out of the present and put into a kind of
non-practical place. Now in a society like America,
in Michigan there’s gonna be a lot of pressures on this curriculum. And the first one was
just simply outside demand for new knowledge, which
might have not have been the best knowledge. So here we have 1868 already. Now we’ve got multiple
degrees, the classical course, the scientific course, the
Latin and scientific course, that was interesting. The course in civil
engineering, the course in mining engineering, the
course in mechanical engineering. So little by little the
demand for other kinds of training is coming into the curriculum. But you still had to present Latin and Greek for admission even if you wanted to be a civil engineer. And you still had to spend the first year or two studying the classics even if later on you were allowed to take a few courses in civil engineering. So one pressure on the
classical curriculum is the, just the demand of society, and frankly this was oftentimes
communicated to the regents and the regents would
ask the literary college, these are all the literary
college to begin with. They would ask the literary college to put these programs in the curriculum. All right but two announcements killed the classical curriculum
and they were powerful because they were inside
the academic system. And the first was this
announcement in 1869 at Harvard that all classes would be elective as soon as possible. No requirements whatsoever
at Harvard in 1869. This is the beginning of the
so-called elective system and the second thing is 1876,
Johns Hopkins University opens up and offers the
first American PhD programs. These two things were
gonna radically reshape American higher education. And they were the death now
of the classical curriculum. Much more than the demand
for mining engineering or anything like that. Because this was gonna
hit the actual heart of the teaching process which was going to be the factory of course. So there never was a more
unlikely revolutionary than Charles Eliot, the
president of Harvard University. The longest-serving president in the history of the university who was an analytic chemist at MIT when he was brought
over to be the President of Harvard in 1869, he stayed until 1909. He was absolutely committed to the idea that the classical curriculum
had to be annihilated. And in fact that there
were only two criteria for a college curriculum. One, the choice of the student when the revelation of his
own peculiar taste comes to a young man, always, let
him reverently give it welcome, thank God and take courage. If you wanna take this
class, you take this class. Don’t worry about taking Greek and Latin because I told you to. And then more importantly the university has a place of study is at any moment what the faculty make of it. This was a radical
proposition for these days but it turned out it was the future, that is that the faculty would shape the curriculum from their interest and that the curriculum would represent the meeting of interests of
the students and the faculty. So in fact he was very
unkind to other universities in making this statement
that the American university has nothing to learn from
medieval universities nor yet from those still
in the medieval period. This was the poor things
they were still teaching the classical curriculum. So in 1872, lock step
teaching is abolished. Students can take after the freshman year, students can take any course they want anytime they want. Radical change from the
classical curriculum. 1884 compulsory Greek and Latin abolished and the whole first year is elective. So he’s doing this gradually. By the way, stiff opposition to this. Don’t forget, everybody
who was on the faculty, anywhere, Harvard, Michigan et cetera had had the classical
curriculum themselves. So getting them to agree
to the elective system was not automatic at all. It was important to kind
of bring them along, so it took a while. And then by the 1890s at Harvard, all graduation requirements are abolished. Now it may shock you to know that there is kind of a Harvard tropism
in American higher education. Whatever Harvard does must be okay and Michigan therefore
with a few years lag made all these same changes
in the curriculum here. So here we have the 1905 bulletin of LS&A. Requirements for graduation. The degree is conferred,
120 hours of credit. This credit must include
courses one and two and rhetoric with this restriction
the student may select from the work offered in the department such courses as he is
qualified to pursue, boom. The entire curriculum at
Michigan in 1905 was elected. In fact it was before then. A student could take any course anywhere. And by the way anywhere means any college. So we saw those kind of
funny looking degrees, law, medicine in the first
set of concentrations in LS&A in 1933, you could
take any course you wanted. You could take enough
courses for a major in law. You could not get a law
degree, but you could take the classes in the law school. You could take, you could
get a degree in medicine, an undergraduate degree in
medicine in medical school. You couldn’t get a medical degree, but you could take courses there. You could take courses
anywhere you wanted. This actually was
radical and actually kind of interesting when you think about it. That the whole university was open to the students in the
elective system here. Now part of that question I think was the status of the medical
school and the law school were not exactly top notch in those days. So there was another issue
there that they were probably happy to have some. It wasn’t until as late
as the 1940s in Michigan, you could practice law without
going to law school at all. So it’s not as if people were filling the chairs in the law school,
they didn’t have to do it to practice law. All right, so we’re entirely elective by 1905, radical change. I mean just think about this. When you think about going from this very structured curriculum to this one that’s just
basically all choice. So it’s not gonna be surprising that some people are gonna
be concerned about this. Wow, this is kinda out of control right? Nobody quite knows what anybody’s doing. But alongside this is a
completely separate set of developments that’s
gonna be crucially important for getting toward our time
period and that’s basically the professionalization of the faculty. So we’ve got these kind of
curricular battles happening inside the colleges, but outside the colleges all of a sudden
we have national disciplinary organizations emerging
at exactly the same time. So just at the time that
all the universities were thinking about
changing their curriculum, the professional associations
of academics are emerging. So we’ve got the Modern
Language Association, American Historical Association, American Economic Association, et cetera. The first university press at
University of Chicago 1892. Faculty are now gonna be
able to go to Johns Hopkins and elsewhere and get the PhD. They’re going to be
taught how to do research. They’re going to see that
there’s national incentives. To reward research you’re a
member of these associations. They make a big thing out
of those that are coming to the national meeting. And teaching is gonna
become increasingly based on faculty research,
which means it becomes more and more specialized,
but this is perfect for the elective system. So there’s an interesting meeting of two completely different tendencies. On the one hand, the
professionalization of faculty and this way on the other
hand the elective curriculum which basically says and Eliot said that, faculties should teach their research and that was the kind of theme and how the curriculum
was going to change. So here’s an example, here’s
our very young John Dewey who some of you may know began his academic career at Michigan. He’s an exact example of these tendencies. So John Dewey gets his
PhD at Johns Hopkins. Of course everybody did. He comes to Michigan in 1884. He’s hired to teach the
Capstone moral economy course that the president used to teach. It’s being taught by a
local minister name Crocker. He arrives and says this is, first of all how could I possibly teach this course? I can teach an ethics
course, I can teach you how to think about ethics, but I
can’t teach you how to live. And so he just says,
I’m not gonna teach you. And so he doesn’t. And so that longstanding Capstone course in moral economy off the books, because basically the philosophy people won’t teach it anymore. So what does he teach? These are the courses he
teaches in his first year. This is a gripper,
psychology and philosophy with special reference to the history of philosophy in Great Britain. It was packed, it was just
packed, no I’m just kidding. (laughing) Kant, okay fine, another
one, probably packed. I mean the old guy that taught them the moral economy course,
that course was packed but these really weren’t packed. But what were they? They were exactly the new system. Courses taught based on his
research very specialized elective system, student can choose them or not, didn’t make
that much difference if they did or didn’t. He writes his first book here. So again the research ethos
is very alive and well here. He co-founds the Graduate School in 1892 with another famous
guy, Henry Carter Adams, he was the founder of
the Economics Department and the Business School. Phenomenally important
19th century economist. And then he leaves for Chicago in 1894. Why? There’s no undergraduate
teaching in Chicago. So this guy was fabulous,
his impact on Michigan is, in the years that he was here is, is just phenomenal, but he’s a case study of how this new intersection between the professionalized faculty
and the elective curriculum was such a nice, a nice match. Okay so on balance, the elective system. The curriculum is harnessed
to the research interest of the faculty who were
trained and specialized. This is a big change and really good. Because all of a sudden now we have a mode of force for changing the curriculum which is very different
from the old curriculum that couldn’t change. Impressive proliferation
of specialized courses, well we just saw that. If you wanted a course on
psychology and philosophy in Great Britain, you had it. If you wanted to take a course from Dewey. If you wanted to know how to
live your life, not interested. So it’s a big change from the way the curriculum was taught in the old days. Not so good. It was introduced mostly because the supported faculty research interest. That’s what powered the elective curriculum as long as it did. This was great for faculty who were trying to become powerful researchers because they could just teach what
they did their research on, which isn’t a bad idea. But that’s what it was. There was no thoughtful
theory or understanding of the curriculum, except
the theory of choice. Faculty choose what they’d
wanna teach students, choose what they wanna
take, and that’s education. There was not, oh yes it’s a good idea to have a lot of choice, well maybe it is. But the fact is this is very different from the kind of moral pyramid
in the courses before that. And specialization ends the teaching of morality and citizenship. Always in that whole last term of the senior year just disappears. Nobody’s gonna teach it, nobody’s thinks they can teach it. The idea that you should
have a finishing term of citizenship, public
morality, et cetera is gone and so all of a sudden
now that’s a major change. And by the way this actually had an impact on students ironically. There’s a book written about this, “Change at Michigan”. So losing that kind of moral trajectory of the curriculum actually
caused spiritual crisis among a lot of the 19th century students here because they no longer had that idea that there was a way kind of step by step to be kind of acculturated into the kind of moral and political economy that would be good to
be in the United States. All right now when was this written? There are a few college
or university faculty in the United States that
have not some complaint to make of the intellectual
life of their students, the University of
Michigan is no exception. The atmosphere of the campus
is one of intellectual apathy rather than intellectual enthusiasm. 20 hours a week outside the class which is a liberal average of studying, the students’ interest in
the external is too apparent to require exposition, places
on athletic teams et cetera are more important than scholarship and scholarship is relegated
to a subordinate position. Well I thought about trying to trick you and say that it was written yesterday. But you would know that it
wasn’t written yesterday. Nobody studies 20 hours
a week today, right? So that’s wow, that was
hard work in those days. Nobody does 20 hours a week now. But in any case, this
was the type of attack that would be leveled
against the elective system. So I mean ironically, the
problem with the elective system was it was hard to sort of justify itself. What was it actually
doing, all this choice? Well it was letting the students choose to opt out of intellectual
life was the concern that the people that
were critics of it had. This is actually written
as we’ll see in a moment in 1924. And it was one of the responses
to the elective system that was actually quite characteristic. There were two responses to it. One, let’s call this
kind of the old guard. The reimposition of the
classical curriculum. So in a lot of places the faculties that were there really wanted to go back to the old system, that
wasn’t gonna get very far. So what they did was they began the so-called core curriculum programs. So the first two years would
be the core curriculum, these are the famous ones
at Columbia, Chicago, known as great books, great
general education et cetera. Essentially this is the reimposition of the classical curriculum in the first two years. So in the first two years it’s Greek, it’s Latin, maybe in translation but you’re gonna be reading the classics. You’re gonna spend your
time in the ancient world and then you’re gonna
kinda work your way back in the second two years. And the second one, which
is vastly more popular, is the system that we grew up in, distribution and concentration. Most colleges and universities that give up the elective system
go in this direction. And basically this distribution comes from this idea that you’re gonna take 25% of your 120 credits and distribute it across humanities, social sciences, natural sciences in
the different divisions of your liberal arts college. Now this is the hilarious
revolutionary document at Michigan that initiates
that conversation about the new structure at Michigan. And this is written in 1924
by the Michigan sociologist Robert Cooley Angell, whose dissertation was on the campus, the American campus in the ’20s. Very interesting book actually. And he began this conversation in 1924 and noticed that at this point the idea of a major and two
halves of the curriculum is the big innovation, all right? So he says a more recent innovation and one which promised it added advantages is the splitting of the
college course into two halves. One the foundation of knowledge, the other the concentration. Majors are called concentrations
in those early years. So in the first two years, students are supervised carefully,
in the second two years they’re more on their own
responsibility brought into intimate relations
with faculty members in their chosen field. This is the beginning
of the current structure of the liberal arts and why by the way we’re coming up on the
hundredth anniversary of this system here at Michigan because this document was what set it off. Now there’s gonna be six
years of rancorous discussion over this for a lot of reasons. And most importantly by the way, not because of the curriculum so much as the fact that there were those who thought that this
first two years should be a separate college,
actually a separate college at the university. That was opposed, shocker, by every dean in the university because wait a minute, are my students gonna be in that college and on and on and on? And by the way hilariously the group that killed it was engineering. They were not gonna have
their first two year students spending time in the first
two years of college. So this took six years to get through these various conversations, get rid of the idea of a building, get rid of the idea of the separate college, blah blah blah blah
blah, and finally in 1931 things got into place in the kind of form that we actually are familiar with. So the major framework by the 1930s then is the one that all of us
probably grew up in, right? Four years, non-professional period. Liberalization first, then specialization. A wide choice of courses mostly
based on faculty research, a major or concentration and
a distribution requirement or a core curriculum. But the number of places
that had the core curriculum was very small. Now you can already ask, understand why because basically to
have a core curriculum means you have to specify what people are gonna read or study
and that’s a whole kettle of fish that a lot of places
just didn’t wanna deal with including Michigan quite frankly. All right but this is
important to keep in mind. Where does this structure come from? It doesn’t come down from heaven
like the Ten Commandments. It comes from the professionalization of faculty who perceive a need
to discipline student course choice in enhanced intellectual activity. So the theory at the time
was that concentrations or majors would actually let students be more committed to intellectual life. So the theory was, this
was gonna actually help them get more engaged with their work and it was also gonna
constrain this whole kind of elective system which was making a lot of things difficult. And there’s a lot of practical challenges for that system which
we could talk about too. So on balance. Good, the curriculum in
the major is dynamic. So the majors now become
the specialization and again, the curriculum’s being driven by faculty research, I mean
just all the way along. Some specialization clearly
benefits some students. Clearly some students thrive
in their native department, they love it, they get good at it, it’s really important to them. Concentrations and majors can satisfy demands for vocational training as they do today, right? Why is the most popular
major in LS&A economics? It has no connection
with careers, right, no. And it respects the power and
importance of the disciplines. Now keep in mind the galvanizing force in higher education now is the power of the professionalized disciplines. So if you decide you’re gonna have a curriculum that’s going to damage the economics department,
the geology department, whatever, you’re outta
luck, it’s not gonna happen. They’re now very very powerful
on these research oriented campuses like Michigan. And so this was a compromise solution which respected the power of
the newly professionalized and powerful disciplines that
had these national networks and all these kind of things. Now not so good. The concentrations are seen by the faculty as analogs to graduate study right? So basically this, the
idea of a concentration it would be kind of
like graduate training, not identical but sort of like that. And ironically, the main
criterion for majors for most of the 20th century
was adequate preparation for graduate study in the field. So if you’ve got an
English degree in 1955, at the faculty anymore they
talked about those requirements, they’d be debating what should be in those major requirements so that you who had no idea
going into English graduate school would be prepared if you went and why was that? Because what you thought wasn’t quite as important as what
Joe at Harvard thought if a student from Michigan went to do graduate study at Harvard. So the conversations
about the majors then, not only were they
analogs to graduate study, but they were designed almost
exclusively as preparations for graduate study even
though a very small number of students were gonna go on. Shockingly in this
professionalized faculty, nobody wants to teach
the distribution courses. Why would they, right? It’s not their research. It’s supposed to be general,
it can’t be focused. This is going backwards
for a lot of people. They just had this period of
not having to worry about it. So nobody wants to teach
the distribution courses, they’re not supposed to be specialized so by definition they’re
not really connected with the ambition of the
research-oriented faculty. And very few faculty
over time know anything about the liberal arts, right? So it’s important to understand of course that all these things are happening in these hilariously mixed
generations of faculty. So Robert Cooley Angell
himself was a veteran here at Michigan of the elective curriculum, that’s the curriculum he had,
so that was his experience. John Dewey on the other hand had had the classical curriculum. So you’ve got all these
kind of interspersed kinds of generations making educational policy but nobody knows, no one’s
ever heard of liberal arts. The term liberal arts is
not used on this campus until after the 1930s, it’s a concept that just doesn’t exist when people are talking
about these kind of changes. It’s a modern, it’s a
concept that some extent we have used to identify something but it wasn’t necessarily on the minds of people at the time whose
only experience before that was the classical curriculum
and the elective system. All right so again going
back to this right? You can see the mix of these motives here in the major the students take today. You’ve some vocationalism, a lot, you’ve got some courses that are designed to be, let me put it this way. You don’t see any Greek or Latin. You don’t see many of these kind of ideas that might be kind of not that. You’ve got a lot of
interdisciplinary majors, international studies, BCM, neuroscience, communication studies, perfectly fine. But now we’re in this transitional period where ironically for a variety of reasons, the straight disciplinary
concentrations may ironically not be the first choice
of a lot of students. That portends some kind of
interesting developments in the history of liberal arts. Now professionalization among the faculty is an ongoing force in the 20th century. By 1989, 70% of academics
feel more loyalty to their disciplines than
to their institutions. This is not shocking. This is almost a predictable development of the professionalization of the faculty, but it’s problematic
for every institution. Because basically if your
faculty aren’t engaged with the institution and
the institution has hopes for the curriculum and the
undergraduate experience, then they’re not gonna do much for it. And then of course the students, in 2006 before the great recession,
92% of college-bound students felt preparing for a
career was very important. 8% found the availability
of a liberal arts essential in choosing a college. So this vocationalism
has been driving through the early 20th century
is not just a product of the recession, although God knows the recession accelerated
it extraordinarily. If you look at that list of majors in LS&A it’s got basically career preparation written all over it of course right? And maybe that’s fine
but it certainly is that. All right now here’s
another important truth about the liberal arts, it’s the place, liberal art courses
turn out to be the place where there’s the most learning game. So one of the interesting
studies that came out in recent years which has been really as a muckraking of higher education, it’s called academically drift. Limited learning on college campuses. Very famous, perceived as an
attack on higher education. Some of it is, they
reveal the shocking truth that at the highest performing campuses, the average amount of homework
per week is nine hours. That was thought to be a shock to people that were reviewing this book. But they did find something
buried in the study that it was students in the liberal arts and sciences that exhibit
the most learning gains because of the high expectations set by faculty in these fields,
the higher average assignments in both reading and writing and the need for solitary study for such assignments. So something important is happening in this curricular
structure that’s measurable, that is that there’s more
learning gain in colleges organized this way than in some others. And I don’t know exactly why that is, but it certainly is worth pointing out. Another truth about the liberal arts, maybe, certainly higher education, what is the role of higher
education vis-a-vis society? At the end of the road,
this is Louis Menand’s book “The Marketplace of
Ideas”, this is a writer who is on the faculty
of Harvard that writes for the New Yorker all the time. This is a fabulously accessible
book on all these issues. At the end of the road there’s a danger which that is the
culture of the university will become just an echo
of the public culture. This is actually true, I think probably most of us agree with that. The university’s culture
has to be the culture that asks questions of
the society and brings up topics toward the society which it doesn’t wanna face itself. That’s a very very important function. Who’s gonna do it? Who’s gonna do it if the
universities don’t do it? But also how do we make sure that that’s what’s happening on college campuses? And that’s really kind
of a complicated thing. But it’s an important thing. We think that this is one of the roles of a liberal arts college, and it may be. But it’s, the connection
between this function and the specifics of the
liberal arts structure is not exactly, is not
exactly crystal clear. So what does the future hold? This is the point where the
historian feels just great. Not my job to talk about the future. So the future is not my job. History is hell until
they get to the future and then it’s just the best job in town because I’m not responsible for it. I will make a few carefully
guarded statements about the future and then stop. So from the past, it’s important that we always reflect on the fact that the current structure is the product of a particular moment in history, not in a universally true ideal structure for undergraduates
education or for organizing a university or anything else. It carries like every
other structure legacies and suppresses choices
that might be alternatives. So this structure has suppressed, whatever the value might have been, I’m not saying it was a lot of the classical curriculum for example. It has eliminated thoughts
of the elective curriculum which in some ways it would be interesting to know if that wasn’t to some extent kind of one of the most exciting curriculums in American history. So this structure that
we are oftentimes kind of called upon to descend
needs to be recognized as simply a product of history
and not even our history. A history of 100 years ago. This was the product of the
newly professionalized faculty thinking about how universities
should be organized in the 1920s and ’30s. And then sadly even, despite
what Erum and his co-author might say about finding more learning gain there’s no research
that it actually works. So a great research project would be what is the personal experience of a student in LS&A and how does that compare with the personal experience of a student in engineering? You’ll be shocked to discover
that’s never been done. It’s one of those questions that cries out to be answered, but for all kinds of reasons not so that
anybody in particular wants to answer it. All right so the past is basically saying what the past always says. I can’t tell you what to
do, but I can tell you that something happened in history and don’t think that that’s sacred, it’s just what happened to
happen at a certain point in time and you should
always keep that in mind. Some thoughts for the
future from the present. Okay so as Gary was so rude to point out I’ve been around for a long time. This moment, this moment in history of higher education is the worst, the absolute worst in my life. There has never been such a cynical coruscating conversation about higher education in general and the liberal arts in
particular in all the years that I have been a student, a teacher, a graduate student what have you. And so I just wanna say we are living in a very very dangerous
moment for higher education and for the liberal arts. Now why, and I wanna say
this is really important. It’s because of the increasing
cost of higher education in my opinion. So it is driving and in a sense confirming two sides of a conversation
that otherwise, that have been separated up until now. And one side is economic payoff. So if you believe in
vocationalism as an outcome of higher education, it gets worse and worse and worse every
time tuition goes up. So the more expensive
a liberal arts degree is, the more you demand
a vocational payout. For that matter, any other kind of degree, but the demand is highest
for the liberal arts which doesn’t have a
specific vocational outcome. So higher ed cost drives the conversation about economic payoff. Meanwhile the group that
used to have no leverage at all who were constantly harping about the politicization of the curriculum now have new leverage because they’re saying you’re paying all this money and all you
get is political correctness. That’s a powerful two-edged sword driven by increasing costs, that’s now got much more leverage than before. So one of my fun things
of being the dean of LS&A was being visited by a
member of the State House of Representatives, a notorious
conservative who brought me a list of 80 courses that were a waste of the taxpayers’ money and wanted to know what we were gonna
do about these 80 courses. Now that would’ve been in the early 2000s. So we’ve had to go through a big blah, act like we were paying attention for five minutes and then of course my job was to notify the instructors of these 80 courses. But this guy was gonna
put this one the web that their courses were a
waste of taxpayer money. So I had to send out I don’t
know 75 or 80 messages. And of course the return
I got was right on and then other people
who weren’t on the list were mad, wait a minute how come my class wasn’t on the list? And it went nowhere, it went nowhere. It had no effect. Now there were two reasons
for that of course. In Michigan, constitutional autonomy is so powerful that if a state legislature wants to come down and
condemn the whole curriculum, not a thing they can do about it. But more importantly in those days, conflicts over the curriculum
just didn’t get leverage because we were still cheap. Because the cost was still low. And once the cost went up, you had this horrible joining of the critics of the curriculum and the critics of the lack of vocationalism,
that’s a whole new phenomenon quite frankly. And it’s not getting any better. And the universities themselves
carried the blame for it. They killed themselves by
consistently increasing price after the great recession. That was be disastrous
policy in hindsight. Okay, so we’re in a terrible moment. It’s very dangerous. Now the critics are wrong about just about everything I say. For one thing, anyone who says that the goal of universities today is political indoctrination, they’d never even looked at the
structure of the curriculum. No one is required to take anything. But and in fact in a course of five days you go from different
cultures all day long. So you have your econ course at 8:00. You have your psychology course at 10. You have a history course at 3:00. Each one of those is gonna
have a different framework and certainly different kinds
of implications for politics. Nobody gets an econ major
who’s a bleeding heart. I mean in other words you’re not getting a lot of political correctness
in the econ department and thousands of students are
majoring in that every year. So the truth is, the design
of higher education to some extent prevents the overwhelming
politicization of that. So the critics are wrong about a lot, we could talk about that. But the defenders are
also off balance, right? It is time to listen a little bit, not necessarily to the screwballs who are on all sides of this debate but to ask ourselves, is it time after 100 years now, now
and academic time is slow. But 100 years is still a long time. So we’ve been basically kind of doing the same thing for 100
years and we’ve been kind of convincing ourselves
that the outcome we want is happening because of that same thing that we’ve been doing for 100 years. And the truth is, there’s probably nothing that does the same thing
over the course of 100 years. And certainly not, you wouldn’t think a curriculum for higher education. It persists for reasons, in other words that may or may not be connected to what we think we’re trying
to do with that structure. So the critics are wrong
because they’re asking the wrong question, but the question that universities have to ask is, why did we decide this to begin with and is it a thing we wanna stick with once we know where it
came from which may not have been the kind of thing
we thought was happening. So again I conclude with this. That if we look at the whole history of higher education curriculum and the liberal arts in particular and we say what is
important, it’s this, right? It’s this thing we looked at before, it’s the experience,
it’s the transformation. It’s the production of a
person of a certain kind, not the maintenance of a
particular curricular structure because there had been a bunch of those over the course of time. So with that I thank
you for your attention. I’d be happy to have any
questions or comments you have. (clapping) – I noticed that you haven’t mentioned anything about the degree
program general studies to get into college. – Sure. I could. – Was supposed to be at
least in theory something that everything together, a
lot of controversy (mumbles). – Oh yeah. So those of you that,
this is the BGS degree. It’s an interesting story. In fact there could be a
really interesting analysis of that and I’m not going into it. But it’s really interesting
because what it is is that the students wanted to abolish the language requirement. There was a furious faculty meeting and it’s really interesting to think about what used to get people crazed. And it may be sad that it
doesn’t now, but okay fine. So the students showed up, they wanted to abolish the language requirement. There were enough people
kinda sympathetic to it in the faculty meeting, this
was 1969 maybe or something. They looked like it actually might pass. So they decided to take
it into a committee, kinda work out the differences
and they decided okay, they came back with another degree called the bachelor of general studies. No major, you had to
put together a program of study but not a major. No language requirement,
key, but no major, all right? So that was the trade-off. You’re not takin’ language in the BGS, but you won’t have a
certification in a field, that was the compromise. It still exists, and what,
maybe 125 students a year do it. Ironically it doesn’t work
well with vocationalism because everybody, that certification of the major turns out to be powerful. So it turned out to be a compromise that rapidly became less than necessary, but it could be the kind of thing that if you wanted to back toward the elected curriculum, the degree for that already exists, the
bachelor of general studies. It would have to have this kind of bad odor around it as this sort of subsidiary, second class degree because there’s no language requirement but it could actually be a place to start thinkin’ about
how to open up alternatives to the current system. Yes. – So when thinking about
the cross complication with (mumbles) the end and how
it’s a discussion of history, of students who enter under
the classical curriculum maybe, I’m thinking about the age at
which students enter college, and your research (mumbles)
age of which maybe students were going to university
in the 19th century and maybe people now
(mumbles) community college sort of program first before (mumbles) evolve into (mumbles). – Right, yeah, yeah. Well the, so it took, so the early the classical curriculum was
populated by a surprising range of ages. There were some very very young. Keep in mind you had to
have Greek and Latin. So your life chances dictated your ability to come to the university
with those requirements. So if you had a father who was a minister who sat you down everyday
and taught you Greek and Latin, you could come to
the college when you were 15. If on the other hand you went to a place where there wasn’t a high
school or there wasn’t a prep school then you had to pay somebody to tutor you in Greek and
Latin and you might be 20 before you showed up. If you had the money to come to college. And by the way, the biggest money was your room and board,
it wasn’t the tuition which was negligible. You might teach one, teach in
a country school one semester so you would automate
studying and teaching. And so you might be 25
when you got your degree. Now as the century goes
on more and more students are high school graduates and
are arriving in that thing. So basically for about
100 and, maybe 120 years, it’s been that, the slice has been the 18 to 22 year old slice at Michigan. Michigan has not been
friendly to a wide range of age students. It hasn’t had the facilities
for it, it hasn’t had the, the classes are scheduled in a day that means you basically
can’t work to come here. So it’s been a focused on a
group that’s about 18 to 22 for about 120 years. – So when (mumbles)
liberal arts appear, why? What did whoever invented it think it was doing for the time? – Well the important thing about this is this curriculum emerged before the term liberal arts emerged, okay? So ironically the name
of this actually comes on this campus I am talking about now. I can give you the year I mean. So this could be another
interesting digression things that we could get ourselves into. The term liberal arts came
from the World’s Fair of 1893. And in the World’s Fair of
1893 the famous White City in Chicago, there was a building called the Liberal Arts Building. That was the first time
that there was kind of what in the hell is that? Now if you look at what
was in that building, it was everything under the sun. It wasn’t academic, it
was all kinds of things. But every university
in America was invited to put a display, all the big universities were invited to put a display
in the Liberal Arts Building. And Michigan had one. Really interesting, we
have a lot of the stuff from it independently,
the documentation of it. So that’s kind of when
the term got out there that it was something
about higher education and something about things
and blah blah blah blah. So if we look around, that’s kind of when we’re first seeing it. That term then becomes appropriated after, it becomes really
most popular in 1945 when the famous Harvard
Red Book is published. This is a famous guide to the Harvard curriculum after the war. But in the ’30s it’s pretty unstable. I mean it’s not really
a very specific term that refers to anything in particular. So it takes a while to
get attached to this. – So actually what you’re telling us still actually doesn’t
refer to anything (mumbles)? – Well yeah, like I said
it identifies a structure, not a curriculum, yeah. – (mumbles) where Robert
Angell and the Honors program is under this discussion? – Yeah so Angell who was
Robert Cooley Angell who by the way is President Angell’s son, he’s part of the and whose
middle name is the name of Morgan McCooley who was
the dean of engineering. This guy was totally plugged in to University of Michigan culture. He by the way who thought sports was terrible was the
star of the tennis team when he was an undergraduate
student in Michigan. But anyway so he gets on the faculty in the sociology department. He writes this really interesting book on the college, fascinating. By the way in there he actually does a, he asks people the
income of their families, where they came from and all that, there’s a chapter on, and by the way it’s all about Michigan. It’s camouflaged in the book,
but it’s all about Michigan if you ever wanna read an interesting book about
Michigan in the ’20s. All right so he is then
perceived to be this kind of educational reformer
and in this document he calls for honors courses. So he says here’s the
structure and an added benefit would be to offer honors courses in a variety of fields. So he first proposed the
idea of honors courses that would go along
with the concentrations. And I wanna say that the, he is sort of thought to be I think it’s correct the founder of the Honors program here in the I wanna say in the ’40s. And he’s actually connected
with it after the war. So I think that’s my hazy recollection, but he’s a major player on the campus, a big educational reformer, a tremendously strong
advocate for students. Plays a really positive
role in all these things. As opposed to his brother who goes off to be the president of Yale and turns out to be a horror story
for a lot of reasons, so. – How did the Residential College fit into that transition to (mumbles). – Well don’t forget
the Residential College comes up in 1961 if
somebody remembers, ’61. – We can go back to
(mumbles) for old proposals for something like the
Residential College. – Yeah so the, this is, and don’t forget another interesting thing about Michigan that’s very unique, there’s
no dorms here, right? So President Tappan throws the students off the campus in 1857. And so from 1857 to 1915 there’s no dorms. And after 1915 there are
two, three women’s dorms and no men’s dorms. The first men’s dorm is
West Quad in 1939, 1938/’39. So the idea of a con,
there’s no residence, so there’s no concept
of residential education in concrete terms. Now there are thoughts about it. And so when the dorms
start to become planned and become bigger and
of course in the ’30s there’s the new deal
programs, fund the building of the big dorms that we still have today. The quads, all the halls on the hill. These were all built by
PWA, CWA no deal money. It was a big bonanza for Michigan. All right so when those
buildings start being planned then there has to be some kind
of a curricular component. And the idea is yes we’re gonna have this kind of residential
education program. And there’s a lot of planning
that goes along with it and there’s a house
master and it’s divided up into smaller houses and
there’s gonna be a master of each house and all
these kind of things. The war comes, disrupts all this planning, people come back from the war. Shocker, no faculty
wanna live in the dorms. Or even be in the program. So basically what happened
was that concept collapsed. So the Residential College is a response to that collapse. So the idea of a Residential College, now they didn’t ask faculty to live there but the idea of students
living and studying in the same building really is something that comes up after that it’s connected to the ’60s of course in a lot of that. But basically it was what the
dorm system had failed to do, and that’s why it had the kind of cache that it did at the time. So it’s, but the idea there originally was much more radical than
what it developed into. So the idea of the RC was really to kind of be a place that generated new kinds of curriculum and new opportunities of all kinds and that’s probably
not been quite that kind of a place as time has gone on. Yes. – So it’s my understanding (mumbles) college (mumbles) a lot of, are required to take a lot of
old liberal electives at all? – No. One term. – Oh anyway, could you say if there’s been any coordination between
these other colleges and LS&A and all that? Or was it just a half of stance and people like this
course I’m gonna sign up? – Yeah. So the engineering curriculum
has become so structured over time by the way that most engineers can’t even graduate in four years. They’ve gotta take so much engineering. So if you go to the December commencement, it’s full of engineers. They have to go four and a
half years to get their degrees just to finish their courses. They get to take one course outside of engineering a term, so very small. So no there’s no coordination because first of all if it’s just
not big enough demand and secondly the question
of what they might wanna take, they’re
under a lot of pressure, they call as you probably
know, the students have these terms for each other, so the engineers call LS&A LSN Play and they kind of like the idea that they’re gonna try to find
an easy course over there. Meanwhile the LS&A students call the RAW students RAWssholes, terrible. (laughing) So there’s a little bit of
funny kinda competition. What’s the problem now? Not a problem, but the reality of it now is mapped onto all this now of course is a budget system that rewards the enrollment of
students in your college. Therefore they’re now, yeah. There’s now not only not a collaboration there’s a lot of competition. And now all the professional
schools have dropped down undergraduate programs. So now we have a major,
an undergraduate program and a public policy, public
health, school of information. All these places that
were exclusively graduate are now, have an undergraduate program. Shocker. Don’t say I said this
because there’s money it, and there wasn’t say 25 years ago. So now another question for LS&A is when you’re surrounded by these
very clearly vocational degree programs, what happens to you? And that’s a serious thing
that the university’s gonna have to think about going forward. LS&A is geared up to be big. It’s budgeted to be big. Its departments are big, it’s
expecting a lot of students. But if more and more of
them are being sucked into these other
undergraduate programs around the campus which didn’t
exist 20 years ago, then mapped onto all this conversation is a real question about fiscal policy and how to fund different kinds of things. And within LS&A here’s just
all liberal arts colleges by the way, here’s another very
very serious fiscal situation. So historically there’s
been a tremendous transfer of resources in liberal arts colleges between the less expensive disciplines to teach and the more
expensive disciplines to teach. So it has not been wrong for a department like say English to say,
we’re helping support physics because it’s very cheap to
teach students and English and it’s very expensive to
teach students and physics. The decline of the
enrollment in the humanities portends another crisis
for liberal arts colleges everywhere by the way, precisely because yeah there was truth to that. There was an exchange of resources across these different disciplines
and now that’s kind of dropping off a bit with
the decline in the enrollment and the cheaper side of the house and that’s gonna have implications I think going forward too. Yes. – (mumbles). – Yeah, now keep in mind, at Michigan, yeah no there’s nothing like that at present going on. It’s important to say that
geography was dropped in 1982. And journalism in
1990-something, 1995 maybe, that’s really not a current plan. I don’t think anybody’s
thinking about that. At least as far as I know, I
mean I’m not an expert on this. Many places are, but I will tell you that the higher the
prestige of the university the less there’s program discontinuance. So all of the stuff by the way, there’s a whole nother side to all this which is the competitive
relationship of other institutions. So one of the reasons why Michigan is following Harvard is because they’re trying to
recruit the same faculty. And so you can’t, if you
wanna recruit John Dewey, you have to let him teach what he wants otherwise he’ll just go someplace else. And that’s I guess become
more and more intense as the time goes on after
the 1890s for example. So no, we’re not, I
don’t think there’s any, I’ve not heard of any
recent discontinuance. There’s three definitions
moving around stuff like that, but discontinuance running is an extremely cumbersome process too. And I think the lesson of the ’80s was you don’t benefit that much
from closing out a program. – Status (mumbles) departments
are bringing (mumbles). – No, no, not necessarily. I mean, the most, the
highest ranked departments in this college are the
Social Science Department. And they don’t all bring
in that much money. So it’s not always the
case that the status goes with the money. Yes, no okay. – You walk around the campus
and see new construction, see more students and (mumbles). It all seems to be a happy future. But my experience at the business school they’re repositioning their programs because the doubt at the end (mumbles). The Residential MBA. And one thing I’ve learned over at the Business School you don’t wanna be a high cost provider in that industry. Look at your crystal ball. – Yeah, so I mean I think. So some striking developments
at the professional level, I think that probably none of us thought we’d live to see the day when law schools were struggling to fill
their first year of class. And again this is
completely driven by cost. So I taught a class of
27 seniors two years ago. Not a single one was thinking
about going to law school. And that would’ve been
unheard of 20 years ago. And why weren’t they thinkin’ about it? They couldn’t earn enough money to pay off the cost of going to law school. Same thing with the MBA. So the problem is this cost problem is driving up, is causing
problems across the board. And so one of the things
that’s ironically happening. So let’s imagine we wanted to go back to the elective system and
let students take courses wherever they wanted. So if you wanted to take
an MBA course, welcome. Wanna take a law course, fine. Wow, perfect time for it. A lot of other people don’t
wanna take those courses. No, they don’t wanna pay for them but an undergraduate could
be admitted to take classes anywhere they wanted. So yeah there is a real surprise going on right now which is that some of these professional
degrees are so expensive that they’re pricing
themselves out of the market and these places are ranked so strenuously that they have a hard time going down the pool of applicants
’cause of their average GPAs and scores drop and they
suffer in the rankings and that’s a real problem
for the high prestige professional schools. So that’s a big challenge. The solution to that
ironically may be opening doors to more the financial solution but they also may be kind of interesting intellectual solutions. And one thing that’s interesting is the division between
the case method and not. So all, many professional schools have a method that’s actually quite interesting called the case method. Certainly law and business do. That’s not used very much in LS&A at all. It might be a really interesting thing for undergraduates to
have a lot of courses in the case method. And maybe this’ll be an opportunity. All of these changes
are scary at the moment, but of course they could
resolve in different kinds of solutions going forward. And so it could be that this crisis, the question is at this crisis
and I wanna emphasize again it is a really serious
time for higher education. But one way to think about
this is it’s also a good chance to really kinda think right
to the bottom of things. What are we actually doing? What do we wanna see happen? What can we do that’s
gonna be the best possible outcome for students and allow us to survive economically? That’s kinda what we have to think about and it’s a big
challenge, but the defensive position, which is sad
to say higher education has taken since the recession. Don’t, we’ll just
continue to do what we do and it’s gonna be really expensive and congratulations, you can come here and pay for it. Wow, that’s the thing that probably is gonna be hard to persist in. But a radical rethinking
then also requires us to think about changing things and that’s also always a struggle. But the point is that some of this thought has been done all the time. We can now say okay this is what people thought about this curriculum, about this curriculum or that curriculum. It’s that we don’t have resources, probably even from the past,
maybe even from the future. So anyway the thing is that the worst thing we can do is hunt
her down at this moment and say no it’s too scary
to think about the future because we’ve got so many enemies. That’s the time, oftentimes
when you wanna think about the possibilities
and not necessarily cave to the enemies but just kinda
rethink what you’re doing and see if there’s a path
that might be more interesting and that’s where history gets kind of important I think, gotcha. – So is it happening anyway
in the big foundations for the students? – Interestingly enough, well Paul knows a little bit about this. I mean I don’t know if
anybody’s supporting that. They’re supporting research about things. About, as to funding a large
scale curricular experiment, I don’t know about it, so I. – Most of, I’ve been looking
for some of the places in what you’ve been
saying where there might be some optimistic projection
that innovators thought that might actually carry us forward in the ways that you were gesturing at various points. And it seems to be very much except tools at the end of some of the last things you were saying is seems to be saying that because of the compulsions of
cost and the improvising of solutions say in the
professional schools, that it might loosen things up so that there may be some
unintended consequences creating spaces where things can happen. I mean that’s not very hopeful. – No, no, no I would say that it’s one of these, it’s one of these things where I would say it’s
one of those moments where the incentive to change is coming from the difficulty of the situation. And the path forward is by no means clear. But now here’s another
thing that’s happening and I don’t mean to, I won’t
go on much longer but so across the board, the employment market for PhDs, and I mean across the board it’s just as bad in the sciences as it is in the humanity
and social sciences. The employment market for
PhDs has basically collapsed. So most disciplines have no idea where their graduate
students will be placed after they get a PhD. And some, there’s now been an article in the proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences encouraging PhDs in the
sciences to be satisfied with being researchers,
research technicians rather than the principle
investigators in the sciences. This is a radicle change
in graduate education. And therefore ironically
what’s going to happen and what is happening is a contraction in the size of graduate programs connected to again, to these
market changes in demand and some disciplines,
many of the disciplines. Which means there’ll be less
and less graduate teaching going forward. So in a funny way believe it or not, again, if you wanna kind of make the best of a bad situation, that contraction also opens up some space. So now if you wanna say
what kind of teaching am I gonna be doing
over the next 20 years, believe it or not it’ll be
very rarely graduate teaching. So if you really wanna think about how to enrich your teaching, enrich your feelings about teaching, you’ve gotta really start to dig down and start thinking about
improving undergraduate teaching. ‘Cause that’s the way most
people are gonna spend most of their time going forward. That’s the certainty given
the shape of the job market. So that’s got some potential
for change too, yes. – So you said (mumbles). – Well see what they do
is they track you right? So you take a national exam
when you’re 16 and bam, that’s where you are. That’s England, that’s
France, that’s China, that’s just about everywhere. So that’s never gonna go here. And I don’t think anybody wants that. Certainly parents don’t want it. So the idea of having this period where you get to do what you choose is so American, of course obviously right? It’s a market kind of a model. But the thing is the European
system is so different that basically by the age of
16 you’re pretty much done with your career planning. And people often point out
well how come college degrees only take three years in
the continent in England? Well it’s because there’s
no electives, boom. You arrive to be this and you stay there for three years and then you’re done. So I mean ironically that system has never been in the United Sates and I don’t see it could ever come in. So that’s probably not gonna be an option unless something even more dire happens than I can imagine. All right, thank you very much, have fun. (clapping)

No Comments

Leave a Reply