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September 15, 1959 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1959-09-15

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'Plain Talk' About The Problems
Of American Higher Education
By THOMAS HAYDEN

PLAIN TALK FROM A CAMPUS,
by John A Perkins, University of
Delaware Press, 1959, 195 pages,
$4.,
PLAIN TALK from a Campus"
is simply that: a collection of
clear, sensible essays concerning
contemporary problems in higher
education.
The author is Dr. John A. Perk-
ins, president of the University
of Delaware, and a former mem-
ber of the University political sci-
ence department.
Perkins' little epistles have a
good deal of relevance for the
University, not only because of
his ties with the faculty but also
because of his past service as
budget director and controller for
the state of Michigan. Thus he
S speaks with some authority and
objectivity on the problem of pub-
lic financing of higher education.
YET THE BOOK suffers a bit
from disjointedness. If any
real theme is present, it is the
distressing one that Perkins sounds
in the opening sentence:
"American education faces per-
0 plexing problems."
Underscoring this is the more
distressing and not so subtle feel-
ing that American failures to sup-
port education "challenges our
capability as a people to be self-
governing."
In other words, Perkins con-
tends, "we as a nation are now
seemingly unable to mount an
education program commensurate
with our national security."
He points out the .major lack of
operating and capital funds, teach-
ers, teachers salaries, classrooms
and general plant facilities, then
suggests that more federal aid may
be forthcoming.
F
IN DISCUSSING the touchy sub-
ject of federal aid, he firmly
holds that education must be free
from federal controls, while ac-
knowledging the conflicting tenet
that federal government must have
some responsibility over the use
of the funds it appropriates.
But there is no real conflict if
two attitudes prevail, Perkins feels.
The first is that federal laws must
be conceived and administered by
men thoroughly grounded in the
free spirit of American education,
and second, that local school au-
~thorities must be equally aware
of the contribution education must
make for the nation if the na-
tional government is to discharge
its responsibilities.
'The needs of the nation must
be projected into the community
school," Perkins concludes.
Thomas Hayden is a
night editor on The Michi-
gan" Daily.
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T HE AUTHOR is clearly dubious
of the quality of contemporary
government, particularly because
of a shortage of competent per-
sons entering the field of public
administration.
He rightly notes a decrease in
willingness to serve one's country
and community with one's talent
and resources.
Education is the means through
which government can be ade-
quately staffed, Perkins says. With
this premise, he suggests "if un-
dergraduate higher education is
to be truly liberal, its core sub-
ject might well be the study of
government in all its aspects and
the related social sciences."
If the social sciences are pro-
perly organized and taught, Perk-
ins sees the evolution of "an in-
digenous twentieth - century hu-
manism in the true classical tradi-
tion.
GETTING to "the meat of the
matter" next, Perkins suggests
more emphasis on graduate pro-
grams in public administration.
"We must bring public affairs
and public administration to the
forefront in our universities as a
sort of preventive medicine," he
writes.
Good administration is not also
a critical need in government but
also in universities and colleges,
he continues in another chapter.
"It is high time" college ad-
ministration be recognized as a
vitally necessary function, he ar-
gues, rather than a seat of scorn
and disdain.
Perkins warns administrators
however: "they must never forget
that the major purpose of higher
education is intellectual growth
. .. they should never cease the
cultivation of their own minds .. .
they should continue to do some
teaching and even a little re-
search." '

AS THE AUTHOR turns to con-
siderations of modern uni-
versities in the final essays, "plain
talk" becomes largely "tough
talk."
Too many persons do not un-
derstand that "colleges and uni-
versities have inevitably as their
prime purpose intellectual growth."
Perkins criticizes the "organized
hoopla attending athletic spec-
tacles. and a host of other frivo-
lous activities carried on with col-
lege sanction," which have given
the public a distorted view of what
education really is.
He rejects the notion of "college
for all," and adds that "plenty of
money, social standing and a de-
sire to wear the white collar do
not, in and of themselves, con-
stitute reasons for admissions to
college."
ONE ANSWER to the future
problems of education then,
lies in making more careful selec-
tion of students and persuading
only the well-motivated, academi-
cally talented in our high schools
to come to college, Perkins con-
tends.
However, he continues, the num-
bers entering college might still
be so numerous as to put in further
jeopardy the creative function of
our universities.
Therefore, to permit the time
needed for research and scholar-
ship, additional steps must be
taken:
"First, the college student of
the future must be put more on
his own."
"Second, his environment must
be enriched to permit maximum
out-of class learning; learning
from the intellectual and cultural
environment of the university."
UNIVERSITIES must help the
student become adjusted to a
life of scholarship, Perkins main-
tains. He even goes so far as to say
(Concluded on Next Page)

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__________________Iii

TV ES DAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1959

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