The following speech was delivered last night by Dean Roscoe Pound L. '90 of the Law School before the students of the University of Indiana at their Commencement Exercises:
Indianapolis, Indiana, June 9.--So far as outward manifestations go, in buildings, in institutions, in devotion of the material resources of communities to its purposes, and in its hold upon popular faith and the popular imagination, organized education has the place in American society of today which organized religion had in the society of the Middle Ages. . . . Nothing commanded the devoted support of all conditions of men as did the religious foundations of the time. The extent to which accumulated wealth was put aside to set up and maintain religious foundations in the Middle Ages is unique until the great educational foundations of twentieth-century America. . . .
In the later history of the religious foundations of the Middle Ages four points stand out which are of special relevance for our purpose. In the first place, the Abbott, the head of the house, had come to be a great territorial lord. He sat in parliament. He moved in the highest circles of society at court. Often he held great offices of state. It was complained that he was autocratic; that he was wont to act without consulting the chapter, and to use the seal of the foundation as if it were his own. Even more, complaint was made that he had come to be a politician and a man of the world, more busied with government and politics and society than with the objects of the foundation over which he presided.
Secular Duties Absorb Energies
Again, the religious house became a huge business organization. Its financial affairs were involved . . . The secular affairs absorbed the time and energies of the abbott and of the brethren at the expense of the spiritual concerns for which the foundation had been endowed. . . .
In addition to the extra-mural interests and activities which distracted the head of the house, there came to be a special source of distraction affecting the brethren. In earlier times, in the golden age of monasteries, only those with a calling or even a genius for monastic life entered religious houses. . . . But in time men came to take up monastic life for other reasons. . . . It has been said that in the later Middle Ages men began to enter monasteries "as a profession". Thus many came to religious houses who were unsuited to the life and lowered its standards. They let the traditions of learning die out. . . . Thus the social features of the house tended to take on undue importance. . . .
Distracted By Outer World
Not only was there a relaxing influence in the invasion of the monasteries by large numbers whose primary purposes were different from those for which the houses had been founded, but along with the internal worldliness went more and more contact of the brethren with the world without, which distracted from the real work of the foundation and in the end defeated their purposes. . . .
More than one movement for reform of religious congregations and of religious houses for a time held back these destructive tendencies. But in the end they undermined the usefulness of the great medieval religious foundations and destroyed public confidence in them, so that when the royal despoiler set his hand on them in England after the Reformation, and the popular despoiler seized them in revolutionary France there was hardly a protest. . . .
Already we may see the beginnings of something not unlike the foregoing picture in current criticism of our educational foundations. . . . Experiments in education and new types of educational foundations are no numerous as experiments in organization of religious congregations and new types of religious houses in the later Middle Ages.
Presidents in Great Demand
Just as the head of the religious life became a figure in public life, subject to extra-mural demands of every sort, to which he was more and more required to give his best energies, so the head of the educational foundation of twentieth-century America is continually drawn outside of his institution and into the general life of the community. . . . He is in demand for addresses and speeches on all manner of occasions, academic and non-academic. . . .
As the religious house became a business organization with ramified business connections and often engaged in agricultural or industrial or even commercial enterprises, at the expense of its real tasks, in like manner the American University of today is on one side a huge business concern, with increasingly complicated administrative and financial organization, engaged in many incidental activities which are sometimes hardly to be differentiated from business activities. Its rulers are much concerned with the raising of money, and elaborate extra-mural organizations and campaigns for funds absorb much of their attention. . . . It is likely to be much easier to procure an appropriation of five thousand dollars in order to paint a building which is in no great need of paint, than to get authority to spend five hundred dollars upon a rare and costly book which is only needed for scholarly research. It is significant that those who rule our universities sometimes actually think and speak of them after the manner of business enterprises. . . .
Nor are preoccupation with the social advantages of the University and its consequences much less marked than preoccupation with the social possibilities of the monasteries on the eve of their dissolution. Monastic ignorance is quite paralleled by the ignorance that lurks about institutions of learning. . . .
Study fares little better in the university of today than did the service in the monastery. Study tends to become a perfunctory ritual and learning a vanishing tradition in an atmosphere of organized athletics and campus activities and social functions, which are coming to call for the best inventive resource and most solicitous thought, and largest serious expenditure of time on the part of teacher and student. . . .
It is no less significant that in the current student talk of the day the thing most valued is the social contacts of college life. Men go to college not for the things of the college, but for its social opportunities and for the social prestige attached to education. . . .
Pressure of large numbers and the revelations of psychology have been giving us pause as to the underlying theory of American university education as it was accepted in the immediate past. It did not seem possible to teach the crowds of students who pressed at the doors of the universities. Also some have suspected that it may not be worth while to try to teach them all even if it were possible. . . .
American educational foundations, with all the defects which are involved in their operations under the conditions to which they have yet to be adapted, are justified many times over, and the endowments that are lavished upon them are more than justified by the service they render and the character of the services they may yet render to society.
Let us welcome the flood of criticism of our universities and the diversity of projects for the reform of college education. These projects, coming from the colleges themselves, show us that those who are charged with the direction of American educational foundations, if overwhelmed with distractions no less than those which diverted the abbott of the late Middle Ages from the true work of his house, are neither in different nor timid