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September 20, 1956 - Image 18

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1956-09-20

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(Editor's Note: The following
speech was g-ven by Harold Tay-
lor, president of Sarah Lawrence
College, as the keynote address of
the Ninth Annual National Stu-
dent Association Congress.
It was delivered to an audience
of more than a thousand students
at the University of Chicago,
Aug. 21.
With the exception of introduc-
tory remarks and comments about
NSA, the speech is reprinted in its
What kind of private instrue
tion can teach young men and
women to be free, to be indepen-
dent, to want to think and act fo
In a way, it is a question of
teaching people to find them-
selves, to establish their own iden-
tity, an identity which is their's
and no one else's; it is a question
of teaching people to know what
they believe, about themselves
and their world, about other
people, to know who they are
to know what there is in life, what
they want from life and what
they want to give to it. All this is
involved in the struggle for per-
sonal independence.
I would like to suggest that this
is what colleges and universities
are for, to enable the young to
find a personal identity, to help
them to achieve a personal inde-
pendence. I would like to suggest
that this is what students are in
college to do, and that if they ar
not doing that, they are failing to
achieve a true education.
We hear a lot about the stu-
dent's responsibility. You hav
probably heard that most colleges
are bent on teaching you to be
responsible citizens - and ar
counting on you to help things
along in future generations.

Responsibility .
BUT WHAT does it mean to
be a student? Who is he respon-
sible to, and for what?
To be a student is an honorable
and highly respected position to
occupy. In Burma, in Indonesia,
in Ceylon, in Africa, to be a stu-
dent is to accept the responsibility
for being a leader of your coun-
try, of being educated to bring
your gifts to the country's service
- at a time when education has not
been able to catch up with the
incredible demands for educated
r men and women who can build
new countries.
iBut is the student in America
f a very different situation? Is
there not a shortage of educated
andinformed leadership in our
s country? Some would say yes,
1 such a shortageexists, particu-
tlarly in the political party which
s is not the onea person is in. Is
, the American student not respon-
sible, quite as much as the Bur-
t mese student, for putting his edu-
t cation at the service of his coun-
s try, and not merely putting it at
- the service of a commercial
s Have we so many teachers that
s we do not need an infusion of
a new, enthusiastic educational
P leaders recruited from among
- yourselves, ready to undertake the
t excitement of reforming American
1 education?
e It needs reform as you may
a have noticed. And education is
only reformed and invigorated by
- students and teachers who are
e vigorous, active, lively and inter-
s ested. We cannot promise our
e American youth that after a uni-
e versity education they will go
s straight into a post with the Cab-
inet or a United Nations delega-

tion. But we can promise them
that their presence as informed
and interested citizens, aware of
political and social issues, is
wanted in the government, in ed-
ucation, in politics, in the law,
in business and everywhere else.
In most other countries the stu-
dent does not go to a universtiy
merely to increase his chances of
a higher income in later years.
He goes to develop those talents
which in the view of the Univer-
sity are needed for the continua-
tion of his country's culture. In
this country, at this point in its
material success and prosperity,
we hear constantly of the values
of college.in raising your income.
It works out, I believe, to around
$100,000 more for a B.A. degree
than without one. But any of you
people who have it on your mind
should remember not to go on to
the Ph.D. or any higher degree.
The income falls sharply after
the B.A.
Emphasis on the personal ad-
vantages of a college education
has distracted many people from
thinking of the true values of
higher learning and the true mis-
sion of the student.
A student is not a professional
athlete, although many Univer-
sities, and a large segment of the
watching public act as if he were.
He is not a little politician or
junior senator looking for angles,
getting a good record, getting con-
tacts, and starting his business
career in his sophomore year. He
is not an amateur promoter, a
glad-hander, embryo Rotarian,
cafe society leader, quiz kid, or
man-about-town. He may be
some of these or all of these for
a little while before he grows up,

but none of it defines him as a
A student is a person who is
learning to fulfill his powers and
to find ways of using them in the
service of mankind. The student
at his best has a purity of motive
which is the mark of his true
function. He wants to know the
truth, to know what is good, not
merely for his own or for other
peoples' advantage, but in order
to achieve his maturity as a stu-
dent. He is granted the priceless
advantage of looking openly at
the world to discover its secrets.
He is given the rare privilege
of withholding his assent to the
claims the world makes for its
own particular brand of truth,
and he can decide what he thinks
on the basis of the evidence, not
on the basis of pressure, because
this is in fact what it means to
be a student, and what the world
asks the student to be.
For a little time before he be-
gins a life which will gradually
involve him in more and more
commitment to tasks and duties
which are not central to the con-
cern with truth and ideals, the
student lives in a world of dis-
covery and of possibility where
nothing is yet completely settled,
where everything, including the
achievement of greatness, is still
actively possible.
* * *
Excitement, Hope . .
I URGE you to make the most
of this time, for it may never
come again. If your life as a stu-
dent does not possess the excite-
ment, the innocence and the hope
of the true enquirer, you may
never again experience a time for
thoughtful and sensitive attention
to the big issues of human life.

If you do possess that quality in
your life as a student, you can be-
sure it will remain wtih you as
a way of thinking and acting for
the rest of your days.
But your difficulty is that not
everyone thinks of your student-
hood in these terms. More often
the student in America is con-
sidered as manpower to be trained
to carry out society's wishes, as
"youth" to be educated according
to a set pattern of ideas. One of
the more annoying ways in .which
this is often stated is to compare
the number of graduates in tech-
nical fields now being produced
in the Soviet Union with the num-
ber being produced in the United
States. The assumption is that
higher education in the United
States has the same ideals and
values as that of the Soviet
Union and that if only we turn
out another 30,000 technical ex-
perts a year to keep up with the
U.S.S.R., our country's future will
be secure.
Will it make us more secure or
less secure if we accept the Soviet
view of education as a combina-
tion of propaganda and tech-
nique? Will it make us more or less
secure to give all our high sal-
aries and material rewards to
technical experts, with no one
left either to teach them or to
discover new forms .of knowledge,
new values, new works of art or
the new ideas, which alone make a
civilization worth preserving? I
don't think that security lies in
this direction, and I think it is
not only a foolish mistake but an
un-American activity to think of
students this way.
Anonymous Units . .
NOR DO I think that educators

themselves are paying enough at-
tention to students. This is odd,
I admit, since. students are the
reason for having colleges and
universities. In all the plans made
for the reform of American high-
er education in the post-war,
period, the discussion has been
about subjects to be required,,
tests to be administered, rules to
be applied; buildings to be raised,
money to be found, numbers of
qualified experts to be produced.
Certainly these things must be
discussed. But it is a dreadful mis-
take to think of students as
anonymous units of mental stuff,
to be put into classes, lectured.at,
examined, and graded as if they
were products in a manufacturing
plant, to be turned out in.thous-
ands for the maintenance of Am-
erican prosperity and military
No. wonder people are arguing
for using television in higher edu-
cation. If higher education mere-
ly consists in feeding information
to students and grading them on
how they manage to hand it back,
it would be much better to save
the money now being spent to
build campuses and just pipe in
the information to every happy
student listener in his own living
room or bar.
Among other things, it would
certainly help with the parking
problem, and it would make obso-
lete the work of the campus po-
liceman. You would then see the
logical outcome of the present
system. The faculty, unhampered
by the presence of students,,would
then be able to do their research,
sign government contracts, .or if
they preferred it, fill the profes-
sional journals with more and
more technical articles; or even

publish fat books on higher edu-
cation. As General Grant once
said about Venice , it would be a
great town if they would just
drain it.
This is what comes of not think-
ing about students. I asked, a
while ago, who is the student re-
sponsible to, and what is he re-
sponsible for? I am ready to try
some answers.
* . *
Buildings, ,Books ...
THE STUDENT is responsible
for his own education. Unless he
takes that responsibility, he will
not become educated. A college can
provide the buildings, the teachers,
the books and the equipment, but
these are the environment of
higher learning, not the learning
itself. The student must bring to
his teachers an interest in learn-
ing, note the learning itself. The
student must bring to his teachers
an interest in learning, a respect
for what the teacher can give
him, a readiness to learn and a
will to become educated. Without
that, the teacher does all the
work and the student learns
merely to accomodate himself to
the system by whatever means he
can devise.
The student Is also responsible
for other students and, for the
quality of the life they lead to-
gether. The student is in fact a
young adult, should be treated
like one. If he is given the respon-
sibility for planning and organiz-
ing the life of the campus, if he
is made responsible to the Uni-
versity for the government of stu-
dent affairs and for the develop-
ment of educational and social
policy, he responds.
Collen- students are in fact
adults, many of them are married,

some have children, some have
held or are holding jobs, some
have written stories, poems, nov-
els, newspaper articles, others
have travelled throughout the
world. They belong to ail inter-
national community of youthful
adults, a community whose com-
mon characteristic is the fact that
all its members are involved in the
process of learning to find their
place in the world in which they
The student is of course respon-
sible to his University. But beyond
his University, he is also respon-
sible for carrying out his obliga-
tions to the world of scholarship
and human learning. Therefore he
is responsible for educatnal
planning. When I said a moment
ago that the educators are not
paying enough attention to the
students, I meant that they are
not paying the right kind of at-
I believe that students should
have a central role in the devel-
opment of educational policy.
They are the ones who know at
first hand the qualities and val-
ues in the education they are re-
ceiving, and they have at their
disposal a gold-mine of informa-
tion to be used for theImprove-
ment of American higher educa-
tion. But too often in the struc-
ture of the University community,
there is no place where their in-
formed judgments about educa-
tional questions can be put to
work in a creative way.
For the most part they are ex-
cluded from curriculum planning,
and excluded from the formation
of social and educational policy,
when we have in our hands the
evidence of the National Student
See DISCUSSES, Page 19







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Theatrical presentation with scenes from
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W/oman on the Washington Scene ^________________ ________________ Author


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, 1935-55


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