Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Drie has been reading an introduction to a collection of books we have that was published back in 1952. It is a western canon up to that time, and has a few added resources like a syntopicon and the introduction, The Great Conversation, The Substance of a Liberal Education by the Editor of the set, Robert M. Hutchins. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, coincidentally the publisher of the library has this to say about Mr. Hutchins:

A controversial administrator, he attempted to reorganize the departments for undergraduate and graduate study at Chicago. His Chicago Plan for undergraduates encouraged liberal education at earlier ages and measured achievement by comprehensive examination, rather than by classroom time served. He introduced study of the Great Books. At the same time, Hutchins argued about the purposes of higher education, deploring undue emphasis on nonacademic pursuits (Chicago abandoned intercollegiate football in 1939) and criticizing the tendency toward specialization and vocationalism. The university abandoned most of his reforms, however, after his departure and returned to the educational practices of other major American universities.

Hutchins was active in forming the Committee to Frame a World Constitution (1945), led the Commission on Freedom of the Press (1946), and vigorously defended academic freedom, opposing faculty loyalty oaths in the 1950s. After serving as associate director of the Ford Foundation (from 1951), he became president of the Fund for the Republic (1954) and in 1959 founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (Santa Barbara, Calif.) as the fund's main activity. The Center was an attempt to approach Hutchins' ideal of "a community of scholars" discussing a wide range of issues--individual freedom, international order, ecological imperatives, the rights of minorities and of women, and the nature of the good life, among others.

Intriguing, no? He apparently began his term as president of the University of Chicago at the age of thirty.

Anyway, the set he edited included and was instrumental in publishing during the paranoid fifties included a generous volume of Marx and Engels, number fifty in the library. It was missing from the collection we bought at an antique store down in Elsinore, Utah. I reckon the individual who originally bought the books didn't have the same inclusive mindset that Mr. Hutchins demostrated in that era. Another curious thing is that the previous volume, number forty nine by Darwin, remains in our set. Perhaps the owner wasn't as affected by the twenties' furor over evolution as he was over the flap over communism, much more present to his time .

Many of Mr. Hutchins' concerns for society and education seem to parallel mine. Though some of his methods and politics may not sit well in my mind, this may bear further study. He has probably done some good thinking for me.

Now, on the subject of actual problem solving...

Ha haha.

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