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The commission appointed by President Conant to study the feasibility of establishing a Graduate School of Public Administration at Harvard has reported in favor of the experiment. Hence, under the terms of the recent gift of $2,000,000 from Mr. Lucius N. Littauer for the purpose, the university authorities are going ahead with plans for the new school based on the commission's recommendations, and the country is soon to witness a wholly new "educational adventure." We have no doubt it will watch its progress with the keenest of interest and with every hope of its success.
Public administration in the United States has always suffered from the ingrained democratic distrust of experts. Hitherto, perhaps, this distrust has had some justification. In the first place the typical expert with whom we have had experience in government has been nurtured apart from the realities and so given to fitting his task to his theories. Also, with a comparatively modest bureaucracy, we have been better able to afford the trial and error methods of the deserving partisan. But now government has so expanded its functions that it has become the country's major industry and the need of a trained personnel is magnified, and the Harvard program proposes a brand of expert whose pedantry is minimized.
"The school should not attempt to provide highly specialized preparation for individual branches of public service," so the commission believes. "It should seek to provide a thorough grounding in the fundamental principles and problems of public administration without reference to the branch of the public service which its graduates may enter. The student body of the school should consist mostly of promising young men already in the government service, studying on leave of absence, and of men with professional training who would acquire knowledge of public administration at the school in order to realize their fullest potentialities in the public service."
The curriculum proposed is to be practical rather than theoretical. Especially significant is its inclusion of a course in the actualities of politics. "Such a course," says the commission, "should not follow the usual lines of academic instruction by discussing such topics as public opinion, electoral procedure and formal party organization, but should endeavor to acquaint the student with the actual political situations which he is likely to encounter during his later career. It should aim to give him a clear insight into the workings of the politician's mind as well as an acquaintance with the politician's technique."
Whether knowledge of the sort can be adequately imparted in classroom will, of course, be the ultimate test of the school's usefulness. Many, no doubt, will snort at the idea, but since it has never had a trial it deserves one. Incidentally, it should be noted that Mr. Littauer is one of those private benefactors whom it has been the policy of the New Deal to discourage and that the occasion and object of his munificence is the New Deal itself. Rather a handsome return for disfavors. --New York Herald Tribune.
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