Concurrent with Dean Hanford's statement that almost one-third of the upperclass college is concentrating in the social sciences comes the publication of five volumes on the subject of a liberal education. In stinging words Iowa's Norman Forester claims that students neither go to college to be educated nor are they educated there. Following up this dogmatic assertion, he is convinced they go for a degree, which he calls "a passport to economic success," and to participate in activities. In general agreement are Presidents Wriston of Lawrence, Angell of Yale, and Butler of Columbia--who feel that the majority enter college for social and vocational purposes. Like President Hutchins, Mr. Foerster complains that the university has become a buge department store in which every kind of ware is offered to every type of buyer. As may be expected, the solution to these evils is found in the resurrection of the lost ideal of a "liberal education," defined in various ways, but involving in all the maintenance of academic freedom.
At Harvard no one wants a liberal education and academic freedom more than President Conant, yet in the recent past the University has restricted the latter by discriminating among teachers and the trend to the social sciences by Dean Hanford has seemed to confine for Harvard the former. If by a liberal education is meant an emphasis on the teaching of intelligent citizenship, which, in the words of Ernest Bates, is "knowledge of the nature of man, society, and government," then Harvard appears well on the way to its accomplishment. It by such an education is meant the broad cultivation of a man's intellect and social awareness with development of the mind as possibly the only tangible result, then Harvard is tending away from this ideal.
Educators who favor an education based upon the social sciences look for vocational studies as its inevitable corallary. Yet making Harvard a vocational school would not only be contradicting the respectable cultural traditions of past presidents, but also those of the University's present head. President Conant has made it plain that he desires a return to the "liberal arts"; he has spent much effort to develop a program whereby both the student and the public may become conscious of our American civilization and interested in its general progress. It does not seem that neither he nor even the Harvard student wants the college to become a school for learning only the principles of good citizenship or the trades. It should not be the business of Harvard College to train students for jobs.
Harvard's system concentration eliminates the "department store" of some universities. But at the same time this system presents the danger of concentration for concentration's sake; in time the presence of too many students in the social sciences may subvert Harvard's current idea of education to that of a vocational school. The theory of education here transcends the social sciences; in doing so, it does bring students here to be educated, and, contrary to Mr. Foerster, to a certain indefinable extent every student who graduates is educated.