The University Record
University of Florida
THE OUTLOOK FOR EDUCATION
THE DAVID LEVY YULEE LECTURE
University of Florida
March 20, 1939
Vol. XXXIV, Series I
No. 9 September 1, 1939
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University of Florida
The lectureship under the terms of which the following address was delivered is fittingly
designed to perpetuate the memory of an eminent and revered Floridian. It was established
through the generosity of Mrs. Nannie Yulee Noble, who bequeathed to the University of
Florida a sum of money, the income from which should be used as a memorial to her father,
Senator David Levy Yulee. Under this bequest the David Levy Yulee Lectureship was made
possible. As a permanent contribution to the University's intellectual life, its object is to
bring annually before the faculty and student body of the University of Florida some dis-
tinguished speaker to deliver an address on the general theme of "The Ideal of Honor and
Service in Politics".
No more appropriate tribute could have been designed for him whose memory is thus
honored. The name of David Levy Yulee remains ever fresh in the minds of the people of
Florida, for it is writ large in the early annals of the commonwealth. Coming to Florida in
1824, David Yulee quickly gained local distinction at the bar. Soon, however, abandoning
law for politics, he was successively Clerk to the Territorial Legislature, Territorial Delegate,
and United States Senator. His lengthy service in the Senate, beginning with Florida's ad-
mission to the Union in 1845 and terminating with the dignified retirement of the Southern
members in 1861, was conspicuous for fidelity, tact, and energy. His services to his state,
moreover, were not confined to the duties of public office. As planter and railroad builder,
Senator Yulee was in the truest sense a pioneer, who by his dauntless courage and foresight
helped to hew out of a frontier region our modern State of Florida.
The lecture this year was delivered by Robert Maynard Hutchins, President of the
University of Chicago. Mr. Hutchins received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University
in 1921, an honorary Master of Arts in 1922, and his Bachelor of Laws in 1925. Several colleges
and universities have conferred an honorary degree upon him, and he has been decorated by
the governments of Italy and France. He served successively as lecturer, acting dean, and dean
of the Yale Law School before he assumed the presidency of the University of Chicago in 1929.
Mr. Hutchins is a member of honorary scholastic, forensic, and legal fraternities and has served
on several national committees whose activities were centered in the field of education. He has
contributed articles to legal and educational journals and magazines, and is the author of the
following books, "No Friendly Voice" and "Higher Learning in America".
Naturally enough it is the realm of higher education that Mr. Hutchins has made his
greatest contributions. With characteristic vigor and insight he attacked the problem of ed-
ucational policy and administration, and inaugurated what is generally known as the "Chicago
Plan of General Education".
In the present address "The Outlook for Education", which was delivered at a special
convocation of the students and faculty of the University of Florida on March 20, 1939, Presi-
dent Hutchins emphasizes that the purpose of education is the cultivation of the intellect. In
his own words, "The development of good intellectual habits will provide the rational justi-
fication for good moral habits and will sustain them in times of crisis". The address furthers
the purpose of the David Levy Yulee Lectureship by appealing to our American Youth to
acquire habits of intellectual activity which will serve them and the people of this nation in
the attainment of a better way of living.
THE DAVID LEVY YULEE LECTURE
The Outlook For Education
Robert M. Hutchins
HE QUESTION MOST OFTEN put to me is: "What is wrong with our educational system?"
The answer to this question is "Nothing." The educational system is operated by a
million loyal and self-sacrificing individuals who have put on the greatest demonstra-
tion of mass education the world has ever seen. I can think of no criticism of them. On the
contrary, they deserve the gratitude and support of the people.
The answer to the question asked me may, however, be given in somewhat more general
terms. There is never anything wrong with the educational system of a country. What is
wrong is the country. The educational system that any country has will be the system that
country wants. It will be, in general, adapted to the needs and ideals of that country as they
are interpreted at any given time. In the words of Professor Frank Knight, "Organized edu-
cation, democratically controlled, is on its face, as regards fundamental ideals, an agency for
promoting continuity, or even for accentuating accepted values, not a means by which 'society'
can lift itself by its own bootstraps into a different spiritual world." The fundamental pro-
position which I wish to advance is that whatever is honored in a country will be cultivated
there. A means of cultivating it is the educational system.
You may be sure, therefore, that the American educational system will be engaged in
the cultivation of whatever is honored in the United States. Its weaknesses will be the weak-
nesses of American ideals. It may, of course, adopt methods of promoting those ideals that
are not always adequate; but mistakes of this temporary kind will shortly be corrected. When
experience shows that the people produced by the educational system do not honor what the
country honors, ways will be discovered of manufacturing those who will.
What, then, is honored in the United States? I am afraid we must agree that what is
principally honored in this country is external goods, and of these principally material goods.
Money is the symbol of the things we honor. We talk a good deal about freedom. It seems
on analysis to be the freedom to make money. We talk about equality. Under scrutiny it
often turns out to be equality of opportunity to make money. Where freedom is not used
in this sense, it seems to be used in the sense of anarchy, with the government posing as a
policeman to prevent the commission of the major crimes.
The love of money and the desire for freedom to make it and equality of opportunity to
pursue it are, I think, the current ideals of the United States. There is nothing new about
this in the Anglo-Saxon world. In 1776 Adam Smith proclaimed that these should be the
aims of the state. The refrain of Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist was: "If we mean to
be a commercial people . . When I was young the winning party's slogan was the full
dinner pail. It is only a few years since we used to hear about a chicken in every pot and two
cars in every garage. In the last campaign both candidates devoted themselves to explaining
how they would improve the economic status of our people if they received the suffrages
of their fellow-citizens. I heard few things that indicated that either candidate had much
idea what his audience was going to do or ought to do with the money he intended to provide.
If we look at the American Democracy, we are struck by the fact that the infinite variety
that was the chief characteristic of the democracies of Plato's day is missing from our own.
THE OUTLOOK FOR EDUCATION
De Tocqueville and Bryce devoted many pages to discussing the uniformity of Ame
life. The democratic man is not as Plato saw him, filled with all desires and all int
His chief desire and interest is making money. His principal desire is for financial st ;ess
and this produces the uniformity that has depressed foreign critics. We all know th- in
general the way to get ahead is to be safe and sound. Exhibitions of originality may
your superiors nervous. So De Tocqueville was finally forced to say: "I know of no c
in which there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in Am
Such modifications as De Tocqueville would now have to make in this statement
result of changes in other countries rather than our own. ".
I hope you will understand that, like all university presidents, I have a high op
money and am perfectly aware that without an adequate supply and distribution .
civilization can exist. I am talking about that excessive, overwhelming, and primary
for material goods that may be said to characterize our society. The discussion of so
political questions in this intellectual environment must revolve around the cost
anything about them. The cost of education is a valid objection to it if our people, i
the educators, admit that financial success is a test of a good education. If Mr. 1
were going to regard the enrichment of the populace as his aim, he could not ob o a
discussion of his plans in terms of the outlay involved. The rich can legitimately 'ain
at having their money taken away from them if the sole object of doing so is to m some-
body else rich.
This, then, is the setting in which American education operates. The ideas wh domi-
nate it are these. As a result, it is not enough, according to the prevailing theory, t develop
the intelligence of the student so that he can cope with the problems of practical ...e. That
kind of thing is too remote from the conditions of the economic struggle. What the pupil
must have is something that will help him make money, some sort of strictly practical, tech-
nical training in the routines of a vocation that will enable him to fit into it with a minimum
of discomfort to himself and his employer. So the tendency is more and more to drive out
of the course of study everything which is not immediately and obviously concerned with
making a living.
Dr. Alexander Massell, representing the New York State Department of Education, lately
told the National Retail Dry Goods Association that the State's educational program might
train employees for delicatessen or butcher shops, depending on the interest the industries
show. He said he thought the shoe industry might be the first to win recognition. '76 are
spreading the good news through New York City," Dr. Massell said, "and those ; o cone
first will be first served." The University of California has just announced a course in what'
is called cosmetology because what is called the profession of beautician is the fa- t grow-
ing in the state. The educational materials are supplied by the Beauticians' Associ. on. The
University of Wyoming has introduced instruction in dude ranching for a similar reason; and
Lehigh University now offers education in news photography.
I may remark at this point that vocational education as we have understood i in this
country is one of the cases where the means temporarily chosen by the educational system
are not adequate to achieve the end in view. There is little evidence that vocational instruc-
tion of a strictly practical, technical, and routine kind is useful in enabling the graduate to
fit into the vocation with any degree of success. As a matter of fact, instruction of this sort
is likely to unfit him to meet the new and unforeseen problems raised by technology and
social change. Rube Goldberg's cartoon of the boy who learned arithmetic for the wrong
reason, namely, in order to add figures in a counting house, and who found himself thrown
out of work by the adding machine has a present or potential application to almost every
THE DAVID LEVY YULEE LECTURE
S, ul occupation. Think of the havoc that may yet be wrought among the stenographers of
tion, carefully trained in the public schools, if the dictaphone becomes the standard
mu.,.pd of handling office correspondence. Think of the fate of California's beauticians if
se appAutification for ladies becomes as simple a matter as it is for men. Or if this happy
J iall not arrive, think what will happen in that great state when so many graduates of
diversity y of California have been educated as beauticians that no one of them can make
"g in competition with all the rest.
Le hear a good deal today about vocational education in the rural areas. Some people
S o feel that a child in the Georgia countryside should be taught how to make a living
The figures suggest that the child may never try to make a living in the Georgia
.side, but may be found not later than age 18 in Atlanta or New York. In many rural
the most difficult courses to persuade the boys to enter are those in vocational agri-
Their instinct is correct, for most of them will not stay on the farm. The mobility
population means that it is doubtful whether we can hope to frame a course of study
I to make the student successful in any localized economic environment.
S course young people must be trained in gainful occupations. The question is how.
In : -try 95 per cent of them are trained on the job. If this is regarded as too haphazard
a Ii: '-'ure, an apprenticeship system can be instituted. Part-time arrangements, perhaps
like 't of the Engineering School at the University of Cincinnati, suggest an intelligent
division f responsibility between education and industry. And when a student has actually
entered t vocation something can be said for having him return to school for parts of the
day or pr to acquire further proficiency. This has been done in Minnesota with a series of
local vuiitional agricultural schools. These devices, however, are quite different types of
vocational education from those which assume that, beginning in infancy, the school should
attempt to give vocational instruction on a full-time basis under its own roof.
Vocational education is receiving new emphasis now because of the changed situation
the schools confront. Formerly when a pupil failed industry absorbed him. If he fails now,
we must keep him still because he can't get a job. We don't know what to do with him. He
can't handle the present course of study, and we can think of nothing else except imitations
of vocational activity. But I suggest that the problem here is one of communication, not of
content. The standard curriculum still rests on reading. It is probably fair to say that most
of the pupils who have failed up to now were pupils who could not read. We have made great
progre in developing new methods of teaching reading. Perhaps if the schools used the
best m' -a'ods now available they could communicate with those whom they have been unable
to reach a far. Certainly they could materially reduce the number of the functionally illiter-
ate. It,, -doubtful whether they should rush into a vocational curriculum as an alternative
to one t, requires reading. The CCC may do a better job, pending the application of more
effective ways of teaching reading, than a vocational course can do. In the meantime we
should try to frame a course of study that is good for any pupil and focus our attention on
develop'Fi the methods of transmitting it to those we cannot teach today.
A second consequence of American ideals in American education is that we have a tend-
ency to toase the curriculum on obsolescent information. Ideas, which are, of course, the
instruments of knowledge, do not seem particularly productive at first glance. If you can
teach a boy how to become a second-rate bookkeeper, you have done something that is grati-
fying to him and satisfactory to you. To discuss with him the nature of justice, or the theory
of the state, or the problem of truth, or the existence of God does not seem to have a very
direct bearing on his economic future. If you succeed in modifying your and his financial
interests somewhat and say that you are going to fit him into the contemporary world, you
THE OUTLOOK FOR EDUCATION
and he are likely to feel that the best way to do this is to give him lots of obsolescent informa-
tion about the contemporary world. This is known as adjusting the young to their environment.
It is important to notice, however, that the environment is symbolic; it is not immediately
intelligible. We do not understand it merely by looking at it. It presents itself to us as a
mass of confused, unrelated, and incomprehensible items. John Dewey has lately said that
the social studies are suffering greatly from what he calls the dead hand of the worship of
information that still grips the schools. The only way that we can understand the environment,
natural or social, is by using ideas to understand it.
Moreover, if the aim of education is the communication of information, we may as well
abandon the enterprise at once; for we shall be forced to the conclusion that Hendrik van
Loon announced three months ago. He said: "In the present state of the world the edu-
cators might as well admit that there is no stable or valid knowledge that can be communi-
cated to the young generation." Mr. van Loon is right: if knowledge is information about
the contemporary scene, we should withdraw from education. I may add that if this is the
aim of education our task is hopeless because we can never complete it. Professor William
F. Ogburn has pointed out that our:information is increasing so rapidly that in order to get
time to pour it all into the student we shall have to prolong adolescence until at least age 45.
But today, because we are interested in information and vocational training, when we
teach the fine arts and literature, for example, we cannot stop to ask what the arts may be.
But since they must ornament any reputable curriculum, we must proceed to teach them.
We cannot discuss the true or false. There can be no principles to which we can resort. There-
fore there are two standard methods that we employ: history and the communication of
ecstasy. The historical method happily frees us from any consideration of the works them-
selves. We understand a poem by learning about the social, political, economic, and domestic
conditions under which it was written. It is one of the conventions of the time. And it is
to be understood in terms of the poverty, of the conjugal infelicity, or the ductless glands
of its author.
The communication of ecstasy is less laborious for the teacher than the historical method;
but it is likely to be even more wearing to the pupil. Reduced to its lowest terms it may be
described in the words of one of my professors at Yale now happily retired who told us that
the excellence of a work of art could be measured by the thrill it sent down your spine. This
may be called the chiropratic approach to literature. Persons with spines of peculiar
rigidity or toughness would thus be denied the privilege of artistic comprehension, and an
X-ray examination of the vertebrae would be a prerequisite to employment as a literary critic.
At its best the communication of ecstasy leads to a certain appreciation of a work of art
which lasts as long as the communicator is present, but which neither he nor his pupils can
explain. This has a tendency to promote the development of private cults about the arts and
to give support to the notion that in this field at least everybody is entitled to his own opinion.
A further consequence of current ideals in American education is that intellectual de-
velopment is sacrificed to that practice in vocational techniques and that acquisition of
information to which I have referred. The intellectual tradition in which we live receives
merely incidental attention. There is no particular reason for talking about intellectual de-
velopment if what you are concerned with is financial success, for there is little evidence of
any correlation between the two. I do not deny that the law schools have manufactured some
very crafty fellows and that the engineering schools have graduated some smart mechanics.
I do not deny that either the public schools or the universities are devoting themselves to pro-
ducing people who have had genuine intellectual discipline and who have acquired those
intellectual habits which the ancients properly denominated virtues.
THE DAVID LEVY YULEE LECTURE
We have lost the intellectual virtues. We are no longer aware of our intellectual tradi-
tion. We have forgotten that we have an intellectual tradition and that we are living in it today
whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not. This tradition is what Mr. Butler
of Columbia has called our "common intellectual denominator." Describing the results of
omitting it from education he says:
"The youth thus deprived of the privilege of real instruction and real discipline is sent
into the world bereft of his great intellectual and moral inheritance. His own share of the
world's intellectual and moral wealth has been withheld from him. It is no wonder that
the best use he can so often find to make of his time is to try, by whatever means he can devise,
to share the material wealth of some of his fellows."
The striking fact of modern life is not the novelty of our problems but their antiquity. If
we assume that the object of education is to enable the student to cope with contemporary
problems, we must familiarize him with the intellectual tradition in which he lives. Plato,
for example, discusses almost every question that agitates our society from nudism to com-
munism. You can even find in the Republic remarks about the difficulties of getting the
rich to pay taxes; and Aristotle has some interesting observations on the life tenure of the
Spartan Supreme Court. The ideas that are found in the books of great writers through the
ages may be important in understanding the environment today.
In case you think these are merely the words of old reactionaries, I remind you that Karl
Marx read Aeschylus through every year and I beg to report that on August 8 in the great
newspaper of Soviet Russia, Pravda, appeared the following:
[We condemn] those vulgar sociologists who try to reduce the content and
significance of writers to a classification of the social origins and earnings
of the author . The great artists of the past belong to the working people.
These great artists are alive for us. Their works have not been in vain; their
best works have stirred the minds of the people and have emancipated them.
The classics, which are warm with the breath of life and the best of the human
heart, can help our youth understand not only the past, but also the present.
It is the primary task of education to connect the individual in ever increasing ways
with his tradition.
Now this vocational-informational philosophy of education that is coming to prevail is
always defended on the ground that it is scientific, experimental, and liberal. Any critic
of it is anti-scientific, reactionary, literary, and probably a Fascist. On the contrary, he who
proposes that education be concerned first of all with ideas, with principles, with the abiding
and the permanent, is the true scientist and the true liberal. He is the true scientist because
he understands the permanent questions with which science is concerned. He is the true
liberal because he understands not merely the conventions of human society, but also the
nature and possibilities of mankind. At the moment those who hold that obsolescent informa-
tion is the only proper study would have the greatest difficulty in criticizing the situation in
Italy. The trains, we are told, run on time. The beggars have disappeared. There is less
crime than there is in the United States. Italy has gained power and prestige. But it is only
when we understand the nature of man that we understand the nature of the state. And when
we understand these we understand that the Italian state is not a state at all. It is an organ-
ization of force. It rests on a misconception of the purpose of the state. It denies the proper
end of the person. It distorts the relation that should obtain between the person and the
state. Standards of criticism, either in art or in politics, cannot be derived from vocational-
As a result of our interest in vocational training and current information, there is today,
THE OUTLOOK FOR EDUCATION
nothing to be taught except things obviously not worth teaching. Therefore, the general
conclusion of anti-intellectuals is that we must have great men and women to do the teaching.
Only they can make the insignificant significant. If the student learns no subject matter,
his life will at least be illumined by the radiance of these great personalities. Pay no atten-
tion to what you should teach. Get Solomon in all his glory to sit behind the desk and your
pupils will get an education.
I think they would. The trouble is that there is only one Solomon, and he has been a
long time dead. What chance have ordinary teachers like us to light up the dark recesses of
the cosmetic industry or enliven the reports of the Census Bureau? What we really have
here is the formula of educational futilitarianism.
If the question is, then, what is wrong with the educational system, the answer is still:
"Nothing." If the question is what can be done about what is wrong with American society,
the answer is very difficult. Education provides the great peaceful means of improving society;
and yet, as we have seen, the character of education is determined by the character of so-
ciety. In the United States, even if we were to assume that education could be better than
society, it is hard to see how education alone could effect any substantial change. The reason
for this is the competition of the newspapers, the radio, the movies, and the home. The total
influences outside the school are as strong as they ever were, no matter how some of them
may have been weakened as against some of the others. If we could construct an ideal edu-
cational system, it might have little effect on the tone of American life unless we could
change the tone of these other agencies at the same time. Still we must not assume a de-
featist attitude. The alternative to a spiritual revolution is a political revolution. I rather
prefer the former. The only way to secure a spiritual revolution is through education. We
must therefore attempt the reconstruction of the educational system, even if the attempt
seems unrealistic or even silly.
We must first determine what ideals we wish to propose for our country. I would remind
you that what is honored in a country will be cultivated there. I suggest that the ideal that
we should propose for the United States is the common good as determined in the light of
reason. If we set this ideal before us, what are the consequences to the educational system?
It is clear that the cultivation of the intellect becomes the first duty of the system. And the
question, then, is how can the system go about its task? The only way in which the ideal
proposed could ever be accepted by our fellow-citizens and by the educational system would
be by the gradual infiltration of this notion throughout the country. This can be accom-
plished only by beginning. If one college and one university-and only one-are willing to
take a position contrary to the prevailing American ideology, and suffer the consequences,
then conceivably, over a long period of time, the character of our civilization may change.
I am asking you to think, therefore, what one college and one university might do to
establish for the country and the educational system the ideal of the common good as de-
termined in the light of reason. I suggest again that the primary object of institutions with
this aim will be the cultivation of the intellectual virtues. I suggest that the cultivation of
the intellectual virtues can be accomplished through the communication of our intellectual
tradition and through training in the intellectual disciplines. This means understanding the
great thinkers of the past and present, scientific, historical, and philosophical. It means a
grasp of the disciplines of grammar, rhetoric, logic, and mathematics. It does not, of course,
mean the exclusion of contemporary materials. They should be brought in daily to illus-
trate, confirm, or deny the ideas held by the writers under discussion. Topics of current
interest are topics with which great books deal. These books have the advantage of dealing
with topics that are always of current interest.
THE DAVID LEVY YULEE LECTURE
As Professor Whitehead has said, "Fundamental progress can be made only through the
reinterpretation of basic ideas." This curriculum makes fundamental rather than superficial
The course of study that I have described so far is one to which all students, when they
have learned to read, should be exposed. Those students who demonstrate in this period
of general education that they have the intellectual qualifications for advanced work should
be permitted to go on to the university, which I think of as beginning at about the beginning
of the present junior year. Those students who have not distinguished themselves or who
do not wish to go on should be encouraged to betake themselves to practical life. This is
the actual situation in every country of the world but this. In England, for example, not
more than 40 per cent of the graduates of the great public schools like Eton, Harrow, and
Rugby proceed to the university. The reason is that what establishes a boy's social position
in England is attendance at a public school, which he leaves, ordinarily, at about the end
of our sophomore year. Graduation from a university adds nothing to his acceptability. It
is the old school tie that counts. In this country the moral equivalent of the old school tie
is the Bachelor's degree. Among other reasons, I am in favor of awarding that degree at
the end of the period of general education, that is, at about the end of the sophomore year,
in the hope that those students who have hitherto gone to college merely to confirm or
acquire a social position will be induced to withdraw on receiving the document they came for.
In a university, therefore, we should have students interested in study and prepared for
it. If the ideal of the country and of the educational system is the common good as deter-
mined in the light of reason, vocational instruction will disappear from the university.
Courses designed solely to transmit information about current affairs will disappear as well.
Such research as merely counting telephone poles will also vanish. Professors whose only
interest is in dealing with immediate practical questions will vanish too. These excisions
would leave us with a group of professors studying fundamental intellectual problems with
students equipped to face them.
These intellectual problems fall roughly into three fields: those underlying problems
that we call philosophical, including those called metaphysical and theological; those prob-
lems called scientific, including those raised by medicine and engineering; and those we find
in the social sciences, including those presented by law and public administration.
The consideration of principles in these fields in a university might make these principles
explicit. It might make the professors and students conscious of them. It might make them
aware that these principles are ordering and clarifying. It would make them see that these
principles, like all knowledge, are derived from experience. In the words of a mediaeval
saint who was as sensible as he was saintly, "The human intellect is measured by things, so
that a human concept is not true by reason of itself, but by reason of its being consonant
with things, since an opinion is true or false according as it answers to the reality." These
principles, then, are refinements of common sense. They are methods of understanding and
interpreting the symbols through which we know the environment. They are the basic ideas
by the reinterpretation of which Mr. Whitehead believes fundamental progress may be made.
The graduates of a university so organized and so conducted should after three years of
study have some rational conception of the common good and of the methods of achieving
it. They might have learned how to use their heads. They might understand how to use them
on the problems of the contemporary world. They might have established moral as well as
intellectual standards. Their moral standards might endure because they would be based on
reason and not on authority and precept alone. They would be aware of the intellectual
tradition they had inherited. They should be consciously equipped with the intellectual
THE OUTLOOK FOR EDUCATION
instruments which we now unconsciously employ. They might be ready to take their place in
a community devoted to the achievement of the common good through reason.
But we know that the United States is not a country devoted to the achievement of the
common good through reason. We know that we are a people devoted to the acquisition of
material goods by any means not too outrageous. What will be the fate, then, of our grad-
uates? They will be, in my opinion, as well equipped for financial success as our graduates
are today. But they may not want it; and they should be quite unwilling to use some popular
methods of attaining it.
I am afraid, therefore, that I am proposing some notable sacrifices on the altar of reform.
The first few generations of graduates of my educational system might suffer the same fate
as the martyrs of the early church. They might be that phenomenon horrible to American
eyes, financial failures. Yet it is possible that if the one college and the one university for
which I hope could persevere, the blood of martyrs might prove to be the seed of an enlight-
ened nation. Like the early church this ideal college and this ideal university might gain
strength, power and influence. They might slowly alter the aspirations of our people. They
might become a light to this country, and through it to the world.