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Three leading figures in American education agreed last night that education in the country in now in the most critical period of its history. They differed widely on both the area and degree of crisis.
President Pusey, speaking on "The Changing University" before the Law School Forum in Sanders Theatre, stressed the pressures born out of sharp postwar changes in the American economy, the problem of admitting the best possible students into the University, and finally the problem of obtaining competent teachers to maintain the desired quality of instruction.
Henry Steele Commager, professor of History at Amherst College, objected to the present "quantitative approach" to educational problems. He claimed that efforts on the part of young people to "learn everything" even "citizenship and values," in courses at the college and even high school level are having a disastrous effect on American education.
Robert M. Hutchins, controversial president of the Fund for the Republic, took perhaps the most radical stand of the evening when he called for a reevaluation of our educational system in terms of the question, Does the system under consideration successfully perform the function of criticism, "which is the sole justification of education"?
The problem, naturally raised by Hutchins' proposal, of what one will find upon reevaluation of educational system, was most extensively discussed by Commager, who tied this problem in with the question of how a university might cut down its expenses.
Much of the "paraphernalia" of modern educational practice should be done away with, Commager said. Large scale athletic programs, formal courses, grades, and many other costly and time consuming operations should be forsaken infavor of a self-educational approach, involving a more European attitude towards the learning process, he asserted.
Another major problem put forward by Commager involved the growing distinction between a "first-class and a second-class" education. He termed this academic boundary line "a very grave danger, far more so than most people realize."
He did not believe that America would be able to find the 500,000 competent teachers who will be needed in the coming decade and that as a result of this, many colleges would have to be satisfied with inferior products while the few so-called "big name" colleges would attract the good men.
Along these lines, Pusey called for an increased drive to produce more candidates for the Ph.D. in graduate schools of arts and sciences in an attempt to increase enormously the present yearly number of 5,000.
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