The Path to Public Service at SEAS


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Considerable comment both favorable and adverse has been circulating among those interested in Harvard affairs in regard to the proposed use of the Littauer bequest. The new School of Public Administration, although still in an embryonic state, has at last been defined and planned out. It has been argued by many who profess to be authorities on the subject that the only way to train men for government service is to apprentice them to those in public offices. This method is the only one which has been tried out, and its results do not preclude the possibility of the even greater success of a newer and perhaps more progressive training.

The position of institutions of higher learning in the life of every modern nation is far different from that which existed a century or so ago. Then, it is true, universities were solely for scholars or possibly teachers. But certainly the thought of extending them to any other profession was not considered. Medicine, law, and the other branches of professional careers were taught by practise. Today, however, it is unquestioned that these fields can only be developed by men who have first of all a firm background of the sciences and technical training which is primarily obtained in universities. In governmental departments this should be particularly applicable.

The most frequent source of criticism of the new School of Public Administration is a misunderstanding of its purpose. The primary concern of the school is to give capable men training in the knowledge and understanding of the precepts and mechanisms of government. Such training would prove invaluable to any governmental official.

The happy combination of the theoretical and the practical aspects of training is the only medium whereby effective management of the many branches of government may be achieved. Civil Service examinations in many of the lower brackets are a step towards putting positions which require knowledge and training in one specific field in the hands of those who possess them. The Littauer School proposes not to replace these, nor even to give the training necessary to pass them, and it is designed neither to supply theoretical and general education, nor to omit these from its curriculum.

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