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Describing the university as "an amazing institution which does everything and will do it for everybody," Robert M. Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago, proposed a "Possible Reorganization of Colleges and Secondary schools" in a speech yesterday to over 1000 delegates of the New England Association representing those educational institutions at the Hotel Statler.
Every university can claim it's doing a wonderful job because no one knows what it's supposed to do," he declared. Present-day universities are "extraordinary mixtures of specialization and general education."
Hutchins suggested that students without definite abilities should not be allowed to go beyond the sophomore year. In order "to induce people to leave" at that time, some degree will have to be given them. Since degrees are meaningless anyway, the Bachelor of Arts might as well be given then.
He warned that business will not be able to employ all of the adolescent population and suggested education as an alternative to employment. We cannot transport the young people to penal colonies "however gratifying that might be."
And so our educational facilities must be enlarged and changed to take care of "more students for more time." Hutchins proposed a new plan which would involve six years of elementary school, four years of high school, and four years "more or less" of cultural or technical training.
Under this system, the first two years of higher education would be spent in junior colleges, and the latter two universities which would thus drop their freshman and sophomore classes. Recalling the commanding position of New England institutions he asserted that the new plan would effect them also, "whether they like it or not."
Such a reorganization requires the development of the junior colleges which are at present "ambiguous in aim and unsatisfactory in organization." All they accomplish now is to "keep young people from doing things that would be worse for them." However "housing is not an educational ideal."
Hutchins also attacked the grade schools remarking that they take eight years to do six years work. The eight-year plan started when Horace Mann "went to Germany to find a school to imitate and imitated the wrong one."
Pointing out that "you can't measure education by hours," he advocated a plan of general examinations which students would take "when they thought they were ready for them." No time limit should be put on the "incarceration" in school. The credit system, whereby graduation depends on the number of courses passed, is the "curse of education."
Furthermore "grades don't show anything." Many students find that "by studying the teacher they may not need to study anything else."
Speaking as a "battle-scarred veteran" and out of a vast abyss of experience," Hutchins concluded that "it's bad enough to be an educator anyway. We can't tell whether our students succeed because of us or in spite of us." If they are successful "we take the credit and if they fall--they shouldn't have been admitted in the first place.
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