Like the frontiersman of old, Harvard University has set itself the task of hacking its way through a wild and tangled wilderness, the poisonous growth of a century-old spoils system. The newly forged weapon for this attack is the Graduate School for Public Administration.
Before sallying forth, it would be well for the University to take stock of the situation. The roots of the spoils system are strong and firm. In these days of Curley and Roosevelt, the wilderness has won back much of the hard-fought ground gained by the first hardy pioneers, as recent reports of Civil Service League amply affirm. There are even some supposedly sane-minded observers who believe that the wilderness should be preserved for its original denizens, unscrupulous politicians, in order, we hear, to preserve the party system.
On the credit side of the ledger, however, loom items of importance. During the last fifty years there has been a sharp upward curve in the registering of employees under the Civil Service, with relatively minor slumps during depressions. True, the real plums are still reserved for politicians, but many can be won. And, surprisingly, the English people have managed to maintain the party system, even with a great Civil Service system.
One cannot be anything but hopeful about the new graduate school. It is ambitiously, but well-planned. The fact-finding committee, under President Dodds of Princeton, is an absolutely necessary adjunct to the School's organization, for its foundation is not a question of bricks and mortar, but of ideas and men.
"To educate men in a broad way for public service" is a fine ideal. Whether they will find a suitable place, after education, is another, and serious matter. The School is taking a bold step, but it may, by its very foundation influence events in its own favor. Like most individualists striking out on a new path, the new School will find many obstacles, but with growth and age it is sure to acquire strength.