Edward Chase Kirkland, ‘The Higher Learning,”
from Dream and Thought in the Business Community, 1860-1900
LET us begin with certain statistics which are a matter of record. Following the Civil War, men of wealth greatly increased their donations to higher education. Whereas before that conflict Abbott Lawrence’s gift of $50,000 to Harvard had been of exceptional size for an institution at the college level, a merchant-banker, Johns Hopkins, gave by will in 1870 $3,5oo,ooo to found a university in Baltimore; Leland Stanford gave $24,ooo,ooo to a university named after his son and located on the family farm in California; and John D.Rockefeller, under astute guidance, contributed all in all$ 34,ooo,ooo to rescue the University of Chicago from obscurity and transform it into a great university. Officially he became “the Founder.” 1 As far as our time period is concerned, the great foundations which did so much for education were just over the horizon. Hand in hand with the dollar, the businessman marched into the potential control room of Academe. Whereas clergy men had once dominated boards of trustees, businessmen, bankers, and lawyers now took their place. Working with a very limited sample of fifteen private institutions of higher learning, Earl J. McGrath, later to become Commissioner of Education of the United States,found that from 186o I861 to I9oo-190I the percentage of businessmen on boards increased from 2 2.8 to 25.7; of bankers from 4.6 to 12.8; and of lawyers from 20.6 to 25.7. Perhaps to redress this .picture it should be added that the percentage of educators was at the same time increasing from 5 to 8.
Conceivably this business interest in higher education might be, as Veblen in his essay on The Theory of the Leisure Class implied, another evidence of the rich seek’:’ ing for merely honorific associations. Or it might be a response such as Abram Hewitt, steel master, son-in-law of Peter Cooper, and graduate of Columbia, expressed in dedicating the new Morningside Heights campus of that institution in 1896: “In this country patents of no bility are wisely prohibited, but a tide to immortality is surely within the reach of those to whom the trustees may finally award the privilege and the glory of erecting any one of these buildings.” 3 This appeal was honorific, too.
Occasionally prominent businessmen uttered cravings for learning. Commodore Vanderbilt, the consummate Philistine in matters of taste, once incautiously confessed to the clergyman his wife had introduced into the family to give a higher direction to her husband’s interests, “I’d give a million dollars to-day, Doctor, if I had your education!” Somewhat startled by the family surprise at this heretical utterance, the Commodore backtracked a little: “I seem to get along better than half of your educated men.” 4
More representative in all probability were the opinions of Andrew Carnegie. Granting that the old academic training was a necessary prelude for the learned professions, Carnegie regarded the latter with measured enthusiasm. True, these sought from life fame rather than the more “ignoble” material ism of wealth, hut all through the professions-politics, law, and religion-there was a flaw, a “narrow, selfish, personal vanity.” On whether the education given in an “academic’ or ‘literary” college was desirable for those going into business, Carnegie weighed no alternatives:
Men have wasted their precious years, trying to extract education from an ignorant past whose chief province is to teach us, not what to adopt, but what to avoid. Men have sent their sons to colleges to waste their energies upon obtaining a knowledge of such languages as Greek and Latin, which are of no more practical use to them than Choctaw…. They have been crammed with the details of petty and insignificant skirmishes between savages, and taught to exalt a band of ruffians into heroes; and we have called them “educated.” They have been “educated” as if they were destined for life upon some other planet than this. . . . What they have obtained has served to imbue them with false ideas and to give them a distaste for practi cal life. . . . Had they gone into active work during the years spent at college they would have been better educated men in every true sense of that term. The fire and energy have been stamped out of them, and how to so manage as to live a life of idleness and not a life of usefulness has be come the chief question with them.
Except for those who had “antiquarian” tastes and for those going into the professions, “the education given today in our colleges is a positive disadvantage.”
Judgments such as these were echoed by other than businessmen. A labor agitator from the mid-West announced: “We have no objection to the education of rich men’s sons-too proud to work and too lazy to steal-at private schools and colleges, to become law yers, doctors, preachers or what not.” 6 And Henry George, counseling his namesake son on whether he should go to Harvard or the Brooklyn Eagle, concluded, “Going to college, you will make life friendships but you will come out filled with much that will have to be unlearned. Going to newspaper work, you will come in touch with the practical world, will be getting a pro fession and learning to make yourself useful.” 7 In sum, from the business point of view the indictment against the American college was that it delayed the start in business life, taught what was useless, and gave students bad habits and bad attitudes, the worst of which was a desire to live by wit rather than work and a disbelief in the dignity of labor.8 Those with these fears were hardly reassured by two articles in the North American Review of 1888: “The Fast Set at Harvard University” and a rejoinder to it almost as disturbing as the original indictment.
If this disfavor for college education is coupled with the flood of donations and the infiltration of college directorates by businessmen, a natural inference would be that business had a systematic, concrete transforma tion which it wished to effect throughout higher educa tion. Of its paper power on the premises there was little doubt. Charters and laws gave to presidents and trustees embracing authority in matters general and detailed. One trustee of Northwestern University, a patent law yer and an officer of the Western Railroad Association, declared,
As to what should be taught in political and social science they [the
professors] should promptly and gracefully submit to the determination
of the trustees when the latter find it necessary to act. . . . If the trustees
err it is for the patrons and proprietors, not for the employees, to change
either the policy or the personnel of the board.
When an outsider polled some trustees at Chicago, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania, and American University, he found that their opinion agreed almost unanimously with the oracle from Northweatern. But it was one thing to assert a power, another to exercise it. In actuality the revolution which business desired was not brought about at the guillotine. In 1930 Arthur O. Lovejoy, one of the founders of the American Association of University Professors and one of the earliest and doughtiest champions of academic freedom, could write in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences: “The greater gifts to American education have, however, usually been notably exempt from formal restrictions upon freedom of teaching; and in a number of privately endowed universities, it [academic freedom] has been better assured than in many state institutions.” 12 That more heads did not roll was partly due to the fact that the guild of scholars and teachers was in general conservative and had mastered the adroit arts of com promise, postponement, and evasive action.1a
The easiest way for innovators, therefore, was to start · de novo,-to establish a new institution with new purposes, and if possible a new faculty, recruited from academic progressives. A clear need for a nation depend ent upon steam, electricity, and invention was technical or engineering instruct:on. “Every college,” asserted Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune, “should have a department of mechanism and a chemical laboratory to impart the secrets of nature and the sources of force.” 14 Existing colleges sought to adjust to such demands and new institutions came into existence to meet them. The obligation to create and finance these experiments was at the outset, as so many addresses put it, one for private philanthropy. Well before the Civil War, at Harvard and at Yale foresighted administrators or devoted teachers had undertaken instruction in science applied to arts and industries. Usually no funds were available. But in I 847 Abbott Lawrence, merchant, manufacturer, and railroad builder, made the first of his donations to the Harvard enterprise. The Lawrence Scientific School was intended to be an engineering one. A decade later, Joseph E. Sheffield of New Haven, promoter, financier, and builder of railroads in the mid West and in New England, took pity on the struggling efforts of Yale to provide instruction in applied science and gave a building and an endowment to the Sheffield Scientific School.15
Like so many things in Boston, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a compound of business enterprise and vaulting culture. Taking advantage of the fact that the state was filling in the Back Bay, a region which eventually became Boston’s “West End,” William B. Rogers, a Virginia-born scientist, and others conceived of asking the state for a land grant in that area on which to construct a civic cultural center. The Massa-chusetts Institute of Technology was a covering term for a Society of the Arts, to be devoted to research and publication, for a museum for the Boston Society of Natural History, and for a School of Industrial Science. Although the petitioners asserted that “in the recent progress of the Industrial Arts, including commerce and agriculture, as well as the manufacturing and more strictly, mechanical pursuits-we meet with daily-in creasing proofs of the happy influence of scientific culture on the industry and the civilization of nations,” and although they enlisted among their sponsors the Bos ton Board of Trade,16 the Legislature was unfavorably· impressed by the amorphous character of their proposals. Eventually, however, the General Court gave a grant of lands on condition the promoters raise $ 1oo,ooo. The largest of the donations discharging this stipulation came from Doctor William J. Walker of Charlestown, Massachusetts, who had retired from medicine to accumulate a fortune in railroad and manufacturing stocks in order that he “could contribute to education.” On his death his millions were distributed to his family and forty feminine friends and to three educational institutions. Harvard had earlier refused a g1ft to the Med1cal School because this most piquant of donors, cannily aware of the prerequisites to innovation, had insisted upon a faculty acceptable to him.17
The Massachusetts General Court also came to the rescue by assigning a portion of the national land grant under the Morrill Act to the Institute as a College of Mechanic Arts. This good luck apparently gave more urgency to the proposal for an industrial and practical institution. Edward Atkinson, cotton capitalist and member of the Board of Government of the Institute, confessed years later that he and his associates “were qualified . . . to direct that institution by what we did not know more than by what we did.” 19 Nor did they have the only word in the matter. William Atkinson, brother of Edward and a professor at the Institute, was writing in 1866, a year after the school was opened, that the faculty were debating whether Tech should be limited to the special sciences taught “with a modicum” of English, French, and German, or whether through a curriculum of English and scientific courses Tech should replace the classical one of older institutions, but still “aim as they do, to give a well-proportioned liberal education.” 20
Among the most persistent correspondents of Francis Amasa Walker the second president of the Institute and its real founder, was Governor Leland Stanford who, seeking for some therapy to lift the grief of himself and his wife over the death of an idolized son, had deter mined to found at Palo Alto a university for the children of California. Despite the myriad consultants to whom he applied, Stanford had an accurate idea of the kind of institution he wanted. Ordinarily reserved, on this matter he talked freely:
I have been impressed with the fact that of all the young men who come
to me with letters of introduction from friends in the East, the most
helpless class are college men. . . . They are generally prepossessing in
appearance and of good stock, but when they seek employment, and I
ask them what they can do, all they can say is “anything.” They have no
definite technical knowledge of anything. They have no specific aim, no
definite purpose. It is to overcome that condition, to give an education
which shall not have that result, which I hope will be the aim of this
University. … Its capacity to give a practical not a theoretical education ought to be accordingly foremost.
Of the first ten appointments to the Faculty made and accepted, there were only two not in engineering and science; of these exceptions one was a college administrator and another, Andrew D. White, “Non-Resident Professor of History.” 22
For many schools other than M.I.T., the Morrill Act of 1862, the charter of the land-grant colleges, provided stimulus and means. There is no need for me to re emphasize how its receipt in New York State enabled Ezra Cornell and Andrew D. White to establish Cornell University with its motto-“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,” including science and engineering.23 So much atten tion has been directed to the Morrill Act in terms of the type of institution that developed, the “people’s colleges,” that not enough emphasis has yet been directed to the background of the act, aside from the agricultural influence. Not surprisingly in view of his location in an industrial state, President Wayland of Brown University seems to have been an early expositor of the advantages of industrial education, in the narrow sense of that term; Justin Morrill, the Vermont Representative whose name the act honored, also admitted that “as the son of a hard-headed blacksmith/’ he “could not overlook mechanics.” 24 Perhaps one explanation for the neglect of this phase of the Morrill Act is that, as President Francis Amasa Walker said later, the “exigency” for the Morrill Act was not “very great.” 25 Certainly after it, as before, men of business continued to found and support schools of applied science and of engineering. It would be a mistake, however, to feel that wealthy men were the only founders. As Walker said of schools of technology, “They were created through the foresight, the unselfish devotion, the strenuous endeavors of a few rich men, and of very many poor men, known as professors of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and geology.” 20
Obviously enheartened by their success with schools of technology and engineering, some business leaders began to consider the possibility of establishing colleges for instruction in business, institutions of more repute and higher standards than the proprietary “business colleges” of the day. Some businessmen were, to be sure, given pause as to what such institutions of higher business learning should teach-an enduring problem.
Charles Elliott Perkins in the nineties wrote Henry L. Higginson, the Boston banker,
You might teach hotel keeping at Cambridge, but you can’t teach
railroading, because it involves too much. You can teach branches of it,
as you do now-engineering and draw ing, for example. But the
commercial part of it-how to save part of every dollar you get in and
how to get in all you can-that you cannot teach at school.27
Yet already a Philadelphia merchant, Joseph Wharton, had submitted a plan to the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and accompanied it with a gift of $ 100,000. In 1888 the Wharton School of Finance and Economy was opened. The motives were in part honorific-Wharton wished to commemorate a “family name which has been honorably borne in this community since the foundation of the city”-but in greater part educational. Wharton was particularly impressed by the plight of young men who inherited wealth. Since they could not be reclaimed by hard work, as their fathers had been, higher education of the right sort was the answer. We aim to produce “educated young men with a taste for business, vigorous, active workers, of sturdy character and independent opinion, having a lofty faith in all things good, and able to give a reason for the faith that is in them.” The proposed course of instruction was superior to the apprenticeship in business which Carnegie was to celebrate; apprenticeship resulted in narrowness and empiricism, nor was it systematic.28
Among the five professorships Wharton foresaw for his school, only two seemed strictly vocational the professorship of accounting and that of mercantile law. The others-professors on money, banking, industry, commerce, and transportation-were clearly to provide a “liberal education in all matters concerning Finance and Commerce.”
This was liberal in the sense of general, for the donor specified in formidable detail what was to be taught. The professor of money and currency was to teach “particularly the necessity of permanent uniformity or integrity in the coin unit upon which the money system of a nation is based” and “the advantages of an adequate precious-metal fund for settling international balances as well as for regulating and checking by redemption the paper money and credits of a modern nation.” For his part, the Professor on Industry, Commerce, and Transportation should demonstrate how a great nation should be as far as possible self-sufficient, maintaining a proper balance between agriculture, mining, and manufactures, and supplying its own wants; how mu tual advantage results from reciprocal exchange of com modities natural to one land for the diverse commodities natural to another, but how by craft in commerce one nation may take the substance of a rival and maintain for itself a virtual monopoly of the most profitable and civiliz ing industries; how by suitable tariff legislation a nation may thwart such designs, may keep its productive industry active, cheapen the cost of commodities, and oblige foreigners to sell to it at low prices while contributing largely toward defraying the expenses of its government.29
The gospel of protection appears again as one among several items prescribed in a section entitled “general tendency of instruction.” 30 The curriculum drawn up under these injunctions included philosophy, a course in the history of relations between church and state, and heavy doses of government and history, the latter with a list toward the social and economic.31 Probably the Wharton School was in the light of modern educational practice largely a device to give students at the University of Pennsylvania a major in history and the social sciences.
Probably the fact the school did not lead directly to a career, along with its reputed easiness, was the reason it was only “moderately successful” and that “the most vigorous young men went elsewhere.” 32 At least these were the admissions of William H. Rhawn, a Philadelphia banker, who toward the end of the eighties, began a campaign to put the American Bankers’ Association behind the idea of improved business instruction. His apostle for the new gospel was Edmund J. James, Professor of Public Finance and Administration in the Wharton School. James delivered a series of papers before the bankers and elsewhere and talked and organized personally to such good purpose that he became president in turn of Northwestern University and of the University of Illinois.38 Meanwhile Rhawn secured from the American Bankers’ Association a resolution “most earnestly” commending “not only to bankers but to all intelligent and progressive citizens throughout our country the founding of schools of finance and economy for the business training of our children, to be estab lished in connection with the universities and colleges of the land upon … the Wharton plan.”34
Actually all this exhortation and exertion resulted up to the new century in the establishment of only two such institutions -one at the University of California and a second at the University of Chicago. At the former institution a committee of the Regents was wildly enthusiastic over a school which met the “demands of practical men,” made “successful business men,” and “kept them at their career.” The California situation was unique. The state was isolated, and since its production was “far beyond the consumption of our people” new markets must be developed, particularly “in the Pacific Ocean which invites us to the greatest commercial con quest of all times.” A School of Commerce was a means to this end.35 At the University of Chicago, where all things were new, the administration made haste slowly because of “the desire of the authorities being not to lay too great emphasis upon work of this character, in con trast with the longer-established college work, in the early years of the University.” 86
Here as elsewhere, failure is sometimes more revealing than success. In the late nineties the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York entered into negotiations with Seth Low, one of its members who was also President of Columbia University, about the establishment at the University of a course in commercial history, commercial geography, domestic and foreign commercial law, and accounting, which the Chamber would finance with $I o,ooo.87 Years later announcing the establishment of a business school, Professor E. R. A. Seligman of the Department of Economics revealed how the academicians had successfully blighted this early courtship. Anyone who has listened to faculty discussions can hear the familiar overtones: students of quality and a faculty of competence could not be recruited, and more importantly the “Department of Economics and others realized the real obligation was graduate work and research rather than professional teaching.” The best policy was “wait and see.” 88 Business meanwhile had to find such comfort as it could in the School of Political Science with its general and philosophical studies.89
Actually, of course the establishment of technological and business schools with concrete practical programs was not the nub of the matter. The real issue was the transformation, if any, that the vision and demands of businessmen wrought in the literary colleges and their traditional curriculum. That the business community should continue to display an interest in higher learning of this sort certainly challenges explanation. As will be revealed later, Veblen’s theory that the leisure class in a pecuniary culture wanted this higher learning pre cisely because it was useless does not square with what was going on. Businessmen did not want to sacrifice their sons to any Deity “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” 40 One businessman father rejoiced that his son had failed the examinations for the College of the City of New York and had thus been saved from a life of “elegant leisure.” “Whenever I find a rich man dying and leaving a large amount of money to found a college, I say to myself, ‘It is a pity he had not died while he was poor.’ ”
Still it might be argued that the refinements, resulting from a classical education, had a practical value. Commodore Vanderbilt’s unexpected allegiance to the life of the mind was the voice of experience: “I’ve been to England, and seen them lords, and other fellows, and knew that I had twice as much brains as they had maybe, and yet I had to keep still, and couldn’t say anything through fear of exposing myself.” 42 Once when James Caldwell, Tennessee utilities magnate and banker, came North to see Morgan “on a matter of business,” he had to wait while the “superintendent of the Art Museum of New York” and the banker opened and examined a treasure which had just arrived from Europe. It proved to be a plain-looking picture, executed upon a board, and called the “Fra Angelica.”It clearly was antique, and no doubt very rare piece, but not pretty, and to me, who am no art critic, it seemed·quite ordinary; but he and the art superintendent took on over it mightily and it was quite some time before we could get him back to “business.” 43
Clearly something more than accounting or commercial law was required to impress a banker who preferred to deal with “gentlemen” who could be invited on board his yacht and into his library.44
Though some sacrifice was probably desirable in order to be at ease with contacts, the interest of businessmen in literary education was usually remote from calculations of loss and gain. Higher education simply was “a good thing,” and they wished to finance it; let able educators determine the detailed objectives of expenditures. Of Johns Hopkins, Daniel Coit Gilman, first president of the Baltimore Gottingen, wrote, “Fortunately, the founder . . . did not define the distinguished name that he bestowed upon his child, nor embarrass its future by needless conditions. Details were left to a sagacious board of trustees whom he charged with the duty of supervision.” 45 In the nineties Rockefeller’s ideas on higher education were probably some what similar, though it is hard to disentangle them from the opinions of the swarms of solicitors and counselors buzzing around him. The University of Chicago, the destination of his great benefaction, was to “help the world” and “to do the world more good.” The implementation of these vague and lofty purposes, what the age knew as “uplift,” was left to “the management.” 46
On those rare, celebrant occasions when the oil king was tempted to the Midway campus and cajoled into giving speech, he explained his philanthropy to the institution on the grounds of Christian stewardship and advised students that some must be followers and fill the “humblest positions uncomplainingly and acceptably.” Find your niche. “Whatever position this is, it is the highest position in the sight of good men and in the economy of God.” Certainly this is one of the few echoes at the college level of the argument heard for lower education that it served the safety of the status quo. Even here the connection is inferential.47
Most businessmen did not resort to Christian and Platonic generalization to justify the changes they wanted in higher education. In their eyes, the greatest waste of time in college was the very core of the curriculum-the classics. In spite of Senator Pugh of Alabama, who felt Latin and Greek disqualified students “from all industrial pursuits,” 48 there were distinctions between the languages. In 1897 among the businessmen of Chicago polled by Professor Thurber, no one believed Greek had “any practical value,” one thought that for those employed in business law, collections and credits, or in executive departments handling correspondence, Latin was “highly advantageous,” though salesmen and buyers did not need it.49 Over a decade earlier Charles Francis Adams, Jr., president of the Union Pactfic, speaking in the consecrated spaces of Sanders Theatre , informed the Harvard Phi Beta Kappa that the worship of Latin and Greek was a college fetich.
Latin I will not stop to contend over. That is a small matter. Not only is it a comparatively simple language, … but it has its modern uses. Not only is it directly the mother tongue of all southwestern Europe, but it has by common consent been adopted in scientific nomenclature. Hence, there are reasons why the educated man should have at least an elementary knowledge of Latin. . . . The study of Greek-as a traditional requirement-is a positive educational wrong. It has already wrought great individual and general injury, and is now working it. It has been productive of no compensating advantage. It is a superstition.60
What to put in their place? French and German, “working tools” of the modern age, perchance even Spanish. “There is a saying that a living dog is better than a dead lion; and the Spanish tongue is what the Greek is not, a very considerable American fact.” 61 James Caldwell, who could not afford to be as bold as an Adams because · he was not as cultured, thought the classics should be studied first in translation: “By the way, I think Dryden’s translation of the Aeneid is as remarkable and shows as much talent as Vergil did in the original.” 52 Unwittingly, L. C. Armstrong, the masterful principal of Hampton Institute, put the antithesis in a nut shell: “The darkey,” he wrote, “prefers Greek to common sense-like everybody else.” 153
Veblen to the contrary notwithstanding, the business banner read, “Greek must go.” And it did, first as a requirement for admission, then for the degree of A.B. This successful outcome, it should be pointed out, owed quite as much to college administrators, like Eliot of Harvard and Hyde of Bowdoin, as to businessmen inside or outside of boards of trustees.55
One motive for the drive against Greek was the desire to find room for something else. Curriculum builders and tinkerers always come up against the hard fact that four years have only so much time. The business com munity, which, as we have seen earlier, was relying upon political economy and even developing the discipline’s resources, might have been expectd to aprrove the insertion into the curriculum of more instruction in this and related subjects. Unhappily for the academic prosperity of these subject matters, businessmen feared them as foes or sought them as allies to their prejudices. Thus an independent oil operator anticipated if students would devote themselves to social science rather than “pouring over musty dead languages, learning the dis gusting stories of the mythical gods, and all the barbarous stuff of the dead past, . . . then a Standard Oil Company would be impossible.” 56 Others dreaded, and quite rightly, that free-trade textbooks would be used.57 With his customary acumen, Charles Elliott Perkins penetrated to a deeper, troubling question.
My idea of teaching is that you have got to know some thing before you
begin, & that it is for that reason that the world has settled down into a
belief that the classics are the best studies for training the mind…. No
two doctors would agree about what is called political economy, of which
the late Francis Walker, and, say, Professor Perry may be taken as
distinguished teachers, & yet diametrically opposed to one another on
the most important question political economy deals with, and that is the
question of money and its influence on the affairs of mankind.5s
President Andrew D. White exhibited his usual guilefulness as an administrator when he established instruction in economics at Cornell. He had lecturers on both sides of contested opinions. Even then “sundry good people” complained “it was like calling a professor of atheism into a theological seminary.” 59
However much curriculum changes undermined the business indictment that college learning was useless, they were a minor factor in overcoming the assertion that colleges inculcated wrong attitudes and habits. What was really important was a change in the morals and tone of these institutions. This was not a matter of compulsory chapel. As far as one can see, when chapel went under, as it sometimes did, business-minded trustees or alumni hardly murmured. Furthermore in the technical schools the requirement of compulsory chapel attendance was waived, perchance on the ground that the scientific course was ill adapted to the saving of souls.60 Yet it was these very schools that led the way to a new dispensation in morals and habits. Francis Amasa Walker, surveying the possibilities of the affiliation of M.I.T. with a university, concluded that the advantages would be dearly bought
if the technical students, through association with a university, are to
come habitually in contact with young men who have not seriously taken
up the work of their lives, who regard college merely as a place in which
to have a good time or to indulge in sport or dissipation, who have no
settled purpose and no manly aims, and especially if the technical
students are to. come habitually in contact with young men who regard
labor as degrading, who look upon the rough clothes and the stained
fingers of the laboratory and the workshop as badges of inferiority in
character or in social standing.61
And the Boston Herald saluted M.I.T. as a place with out , hazing, lawless behavior, foppery and frivolity wh1ch are so often associated with college life.’ It was a place of work and self-help.62 That institutions of a different sort should strive for a similar one was evident from Joseph Wharton’s meticulous instructions for his school: “The students must be taught and drilled, not lectured to without care whether or not attention is paid; any lazy or incompetent student must be dismissed.” Nor were donors the only ones pushing h1gher education in the direction of “hardness ” Faculty, flowing back from the German universities, introduced new standards of performance and individual responsibility.64
Much more difficult to interrelate with business attitudes were the extracurricular activities, like athletics, which during this period became an enduring characteristic of college life. Even Veblen, for all his derision of sport and fraternities, came up with ambiguous conclusions. After first blaming the “barbaric” phenomena of sports and the “predatory impulse” of fraternities on the students, he pointed out that both were related to the “‘sporting and gambling habit” which he had ascribed earlier to the leisure or wealthy class.65 Such uncertainty arose perhaps from Veblen’s effort to be both historian and systematic schemer. The responsible state ments of businessmen about athletics, for instance, are in reality few. Wharton wished to encourage them at his school within moderate limits “as tending to vigor and self-reliance.” 66 But with all his omniscience in the design and construction of his university plant, Stanford failed to provide a gymnasium and playing fields.67 Though it is implausible to believe that undergraduate activities were a part of a business design for transforming the higher learning, their adventitious appearance on campus might make college education more acceptable to the business community. In certainly one of the most penetrating reminiscences of undergraduate life ever written in America, Henry Seidel Canby recalls the Yale of the nineties:
There never was a more strenuous preparation for active life anywhere
than in the American college of those days. . . · The cry in our
undergraduate world was always “do some thing,” “What does he do?”
Freshmen hurried up and down entry stairs seeking news for the
college paper, athletes, often with drawn, worried faces, struggled daily
to get or hold places on the teams, boys with the rudiments of business
ability were managers of magazines, orchestras, teams, or co-operative
pants-pressing companies. Those who had a voice sang, not for sweet
music’s sake, but to “make” the glee club… No one that I remember did
anything that was regarded as doing, for its own sake. No, the goal was
prestige, social preferment, a senior society, which would be a
springboard to Success in Life. We were prepared to create a trust or
organize a war, not to control the one for human uses and to stop the
other before it began.
At the college as at the school level,, the emphasis upon character and upon the nature of the moral and mental training received made a good share of the arguments over the subject matter, once the strictly vocational was disregarded, an irrelevance. Along the line of discipline and trainmg alone, the college could appeal to business. Charles F. Thwing, president of Western Reserve and one peculiarly sensitive to impulses from the outside world, announced:
The four qualities most needed in practical concerns one might say
are judgment, energy, tact, patience. They are the foundation on which
the four-square house of business is built. The college helps to construct
each of these walls. It builds the wall of judgment, for it trains one to
see to· discriminate, to relate, to infer. It builds the wall of energy, for
it creates and conserves strength, enlarges resources, dissipates fear,
and enriches power. It builds the wall of tact for it trains the gentleman.
It builds the wall of patience for it lifts the heart away from the impact
of to-day onto the appreciation of yesterday and the vision of to-morrow.