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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Telling the Truth About Liberal Arts: Histories and Futures

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- 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.


- 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.


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.


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.


- 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.


- 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.


- 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.


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.


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.


- (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.


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