President Lowell And The New Harvard -- By: A. A. Berle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:265 (Jan 1910)
Article: President Lowell And The New Harvard
Author: A. A. Berle


President Lowell And The New Harvard

Reverend A. A. Berle

The inauguration of Abbott Lawrence Lowell as president of Harvard University marks the beginning of an educational revolution in America. The most commanding figure in college life for a generation, and the most exclusive and self-determining personality which has brought a policy to the question of education in this country, passes out of active control of our oldest university, leaving behind him not merely a clearly defined pathway but also an equally determined body of disciples and devotees who are integrated into every department of the university of which he was so long the head. It is too early to estimate the precise value of President Eliot’s work, because he ruled Harvard with an iron hand from the moment he appeared as its head; and, as the superfine product of a long line of successful Boston merchants, he brought a business skill to the administrative work of university building, which, coinciding- with the period of the country’s commercial development and expansion, made him and his university stand out conspicuously for growth in resources and power; while, on the other hand, he grasped earlier than his contemporaries the natural alliance between such a policy and the American commercial instinct behind it and the German system of education with its highly concentrated and specialized intellect, and made Harvard the representative in this country of them both. At the same time, his policy offered practically no resistance to a type of education,

which, however cultural and interesting and therefore of supreme interest to those who had no interest in his policy per se, but which lending itself to personal enrichment without intellectual responsibility, sent to Harvard, to make use of the unrestricted elective system, many youths who neither wanted a liberal education nor had the capacity for receiving it. Many educators in America saw this clearly enough, who had no quarrel with the elective system as such. But they could not get the attention of the American public, because the brilliant administrative policy at Harvard set the commercial instinct into an astral radiance, which of itself it could never have attained, and gained the assent of the mercantile world. Education in the strict sense thus became subordinated to the commercial administration of the University, and to the very last the commanding fact at the university gatherings was the President’s masterful and striking statement of the additions to the resources of the institution.

In this period, also, the great state universities, which have in their own domain created substantially a new educational problem and interest, had not risen to their present eminence. A...

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