"Smashing the Looking-Glass"
William H. Allen
Director New York Institute for Public Service
Will higher education be surveyed? By whom? How? How will results be reported? How reviewed? These questions are brought to the fore by the reports of the University of Wisconsin survey and by Prof. George H. Mead's review of them in a recent issue of this magazine.
There are over six hundred degree-granting institutions of higher learning in this country. Nearly 350,000 men and women are registered for regular courses. Not counting student time, the capital directly invested in higher education is over five billion dollars.
Were there no indirect investments and effects -- benefits, losses, injuries -- this huge direct investment would cry out to be studied. Possible benefits are incalculable, so are possible social losses and social injuries.
It is not enough that this investment "pay." It should pay utmost possible dividends. A small percentage of waste means colossal total waste -- an imposing subsidy of anti-social forces operating in disguise. But the indirect effects of higher education are more numerous and more potent than direct effects. What colleges might do for people who never go to them is vastly more important socially than what they do for the few who go to college.
That our taxpayers, contributors, parents, employers and educators will continue taking it for granted that higher education is an unmixed blessing whatever it does, or that it is doing the best it can, or that only generalities and destructive criticism will help us understand its potentialities and its needs, is unbelievable. Higher education, wherever and whatever it is, will be surveyed, will be studied analytically, and its promise and opportunity compared with its achievements.
Colleges would be surveyed even if there were no outside pressure. Insiders are challenging, asking help in analyzing, demanding the right to be adequate.
Outside reasons would bring surveys even if strong college men did not want them. Students, parents and employers demand adequate training of men and women adjusted to democracy's aims and needs. We cannot afford to undo or redo what colleges attempt; we must get results through them. Competition for money, for students, for continued existence is forcing self-analysis and analysis by donors, students and competitors. This pressure is naturally greatest and frankest upon publicly supported institutions. Taxpayers want to be served and told more before they are taxed.
Who Will Survey? How?
Who will survey? How? Insiders will survey. Outsiders will survey.
The best survey is the continuous "auto survey" by responsible insiders. But outside survey -- of methods, organization, program, personality, result -- will be employed. Within ten years several hundred colleges will be both "auto surveyed" and "outsider surveyed."
How? Twenty steps taken in the University of Wisconsin will, I believe, be generally employed:
- Financial supporters initiated the survey.
- Outsiders were for local reasons asked to direct the study; insiders have been directing surveys of Minnesota, Oberlin, Smith, Miami, Yale, etc.
- University officers were consulted in outlining scope, plan and method.
- Faculty, officers, students, public were told the plan and asked tosuggest lines of inquiry and to submit facts.
- Questions were tentatively formulated.
- President, regents, deans, chairmen, alumni officers were shown proof of tentative question and asked for suggestions.
- Suggestions were incorporated, and
- Issued by the governor and survey committee chairman.
- Every faculty member was given what the president wrote was "a fair opportunity" to present facts and suggestions; many volunteered five, ten or twenty pates after answering questions.
- Matter marked "confidential" was strictly segregated.
- Helpful suggestions were followed up and interviews or further written testimony sought.
- Important allegations were tested.
- Answers were digested, keyed, tabulated and
- Submitted to the university for constructive use and comment.
- Findings were submitted in sections.
- Where error or need ofr further study was shown the necessary changes or study were made.
- Sections were taken up with the stat board, university regents, faculty, etc.
- Formal questionnaires were supplemented by innumerable conferences, field inspection and examination of official reports.
- The fact base was stated for reports.
- Facts, not opinions -- checkable facts, -- were submitted; wherever possible faculty testimony was directly used.
It was agreed in advance that classes for training teachers should be visited; all such classes were visited. The president said this was fair because in them the public had a right to expect the university's best teaching. The department of education was asked to visit with us and did visit twelve classes. What happened in class was described in detail, comment being in most cases separated from description. Both comment and description were submitted to university officers and to the teachers involved.
Descriptions were reported in pairs without names, points needing administrative attention with contrast, and points needing administrative encouragement with contrast. In addition, syllabi, term reports, student papers, examination papers, Ph.D. examinations, graduate theses were studied, students interviewed and written testimony of 3,000 students and alumni read.
Effort was made to begin building at the outset without waiting for the published report. "Pay-as-you-go" questions were asked; numerous faculty members repored that they had done more thinking on educational questions over our questionnaires than for years
(603) preceding. Interim reports were made. In many instances regents adopted findings and incorporated them in the university's program, e.g., study of buildings, revisions of room directory, saving registration time, etc. Wherever possible the survey reported improvements effected rather than conditions needing correction.
How will findings be reported and reviewed? Facts will be more sought than judgements; opinions will be reported fact-base first. About teaching, for example, colleges will want to know not merely
(a) What the syllabus advertises;
(b) What the dean would like;
(c) What associates imagine is happening;
(d) What the instructor believes he is doing or his scholastic qualifications;
(e) What instructors talk over at lunch or conference;
(f) What an occasional cynic or enthusiast among students says:
(g) What the teacher says or requires in class;
(h) How he says it;
(i) What the student gets, and
(j) Particularly what the student is led to do because of each course.
If the looking-glass says that conditions need correction -- i.e., that the face needs washing -- colleges will wash faces and not smash looking-glasses.
Frankly analyzing and reporting the truth about higher education will be the condition of licensing higher education to interpret other education and other life to students.
To conceal survey facts from the client -- public, regents, faculty -- wukk be considered as unprofessional as calling pneumonia a bad cold. Prescribing silence and flattering generalities will be considered malpractice analogous to prescribing alcohol for consumptives.
Reviewers of surveys will report methods, findings, denials, etc., as scientists report what they observe in the laboratory. They will photograph or scientifically describe what is there and not tell what the surveyor thinks about himself, the surveyed and education, or what the surveyed thin about themselves, surveyor and education.
Democracy's must expensive education agency, after studying itself and its own field, will become the most vital, most progressive, most productive, most public-spirited.
Answer to Professor Mead
To my mind Professor Mead's article on Madison, in THE SURVEY for December 25, symptomizes three social diseases of nation-wide importance: (1) Wisconsin's inability to get the truth about its university from university officers; (2) other states' inoculation with "press agented" or "personally conducted" allegations about Wisconsin; (3) a method of investigation which inherently misses truth and reports untruth or partisan fractions of truth.
Weinmanism Dies Hard in Wisconsin
Misrepresentation or overstatement by university officers is called Weinmanism in Wisconsin, after a series of eulogistic articles on the university signed by "Karl B. Weinman" -- ostensibly an outside, impartial analyst. Time: political campaign of 1914. Conceded purpose: to divert taxpayers' attention from unpopular expenditures to popular services. The articles were, unknown to regents, paid for by the university as proposed by the president: syndicated by the chairman of the university board of visitors; OK's for "color" and claim by university officers; and written by the university's official press agent whose name was not Weinman.
When the university survey refused to suppress these facts it was first advised, then requested, then wheedled, and finally threatened with cumulative attack.
That's Wisconsin's Weinmanism.
University press bulletins charged the survey with events which occurred two years before it began. A regent committee chairman demanded retraction. Instead, the false charges were "rubbed in."
That's Wisconsin's Weinmanism.
Professor Mead's article is known to University of Wisconsin officers to misrepresent Wisconsin's taxpayers, politics, legislation, governor, and university survey. Yet that article is being officially circulated as if true.
That's Wisconsin's Weinmanism.
Instead of consulting official stenographic notes of the Senate hearing which he completely misrepresents, reviewer cited what "persons present" told him. Were they Weinman's "wife's cousins?" These notes record attempted "end runs" like this which Weinmanism always forgets to remember:
President Van Hise: "We can, however, discontinue at once all our extension work in agriculture, home economics and [farmers'] institutes [page 5] . . . I do not see how it can be done without cutting out items of that kind [page 6] . . . . I should recommend it to the regents and urge it upon them" [page 9].
Senator Ackley: "Isn't it a fact, Doctor, that farmers' institutes [etc., as above] are covered by (a) different statute[s] and have nothing to do with this bill at all?"[page 9].
Reviewer told you that the university sympathetically bowed to the state-wide demand for economy and to a cut of $765,000 from its "retrenchment" estimates. Reviewer did not tell you that this advertised "renunciation" left intact an increase for current management of no less than $585,000m or that in the 1915 expenditures which the "renunciation" budget was to double, the university had included, without telling either the legislative finance committee or regents, a thirteenth month's salary roll which inflated the allowance to $100,000!
The chairman of the Board of Public Affairs stated at a public dinner in March, 1915, that there was "no substantial disagreement as to the facts reported by the survey."
The board rejected one survey recommendation and urged that two others be further studied; substitution of voluntary for compulsory military drill, page 34; substitution of state for Carnegie pensions, page 15; substitution of Madison for university control of the model high school, page 33.
The board's report "coincided," or outdid, in other particulars, where it took any position. For example,
Require a full justification before organizing small classes, page 34
"Accounting systems not in accord with modern methods," pages 124, 126
Decrease "high percentage of non use of space," page 62.
Correct deficiences of extension division organization, management and personnel, page 36.
Improve organization and management of the model high school, pages 33.
Provide regular course without foreigh language requirement, page 32.
Supervise research work and reduce soldiering, page 13.
Increse teaching efficiency by observing classroom work, page 16.
Strengthen social science departments, page 14;
Provide mor practical field work, page 14.
Improve student adviser system, page 17.
Increase contact between younger students and strong members of faculty, page 32
Encourage junior colleges, page 29.
Change purpose of high school inspection from accrediting to help in, page 31.
Yet reviewer says the state board did not "sympathize with" the survey, did not find facts established, but "coincided in some particulars."
The model high school which reviewer sys lay "outside the scope and capacity of the survey" was specially included in the scope and capacity specified by the state board after agreement with the university president, before the investigators were selected, page 595.
If "Mr. Allen leaves the impression that classroom instruction consumes on the average eight hours a week," it is only because reviewer did not read page 300 which classifies the hours and ranks "time spent on instructional purposes with students."
"Mr. Allen has one formula continually repeated -- supervise and eliminate." Our formula reads: "Opportunity to help, not appraisal, purpose of observations," page 263.
The best answer to reviewer's allegations and philosophy about classroom
(604) visiting is that the university is not having classrooms visited.
USE OF UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS
Regents asked the university survey to loan an investigator and the chairman of the constructional development committee is quoted by Mr. Allen as stating publicly that "this study alone would have paid for the survey many times over."
|Regents asked the university survey to loan an investigator and the chairman of the constructional development committee is quoted by Mr. Allen as stating publicly that "this study alone would have paid for the survey many times over."|
Survey method of computing per capita and research costs, reviewer misstates in so many ways that space limits prevent even listing. For example, he did not tell you that the two bases used for research cost were quoted directly from President Van Hise (page 818) and he apparently never read pages 171-173, 815-819.
Instead of being unwilling to correct errors, the survey eagerly sought and used evidence as emendations show. Regarding the only reports which were ever made the subject of conference, no difficulty was found in securing either, (a) complete agreement, or else (b) partial agreement plus a statement by the survey of the university's position and the survey's reason for not accepting it; e.g., pages 265, 278, 624-635, 676, 691, etc.
University Survey's Task
Reviewer asserted that "Mr. Allen's contact with the actual university life that he was studying was slight." Slight? Judge for yourself.
There were nearly forty of us -- "university bred," including thirteen University of Wisconsin alumni and two former faculty members. For eight months we had daily interviews with faculty members, officers and students; attended regents' meetings, examinations for higher degrees, student rallies and round tables; received written communications from 500 faculty members and 1,000 students and alumni; reviewed detailed personal letters from 2,200 students to the university board of visitors; made 432 classroom visits, 432 more than the president and dean combined.
Many strongest men in the university told us what they were afraid to tell president and dean, or what they climed would not be heeded. Regents, business managers, graduate students, visitors, alumni told us what official Weinmanism has been trying to conceal from the Wisconsin public.
Taxpayers demanded a university survey which would not Weinmanise, but would answer truthfully, plainly, publicly, twelve questions. The survey plan was adopted before any investigator was appointed.
When did controversy develop? The sixth month -- except what was manufactured before the survey was started -- when it became apparent that the report was not to be a Weinman flow of flattery. Because of the president's insistence a method was adopted on October 2 which so inevitably insured personalities, misrepresentation and confusion that I wrote offering to work two months for nothing on completing the record, if the state board would find some one else to follow the new plan for submitting the report.'
The files show that repeatedly I sought by appeals tothe president and regents to protect the genuine part of the university against Weinmanism. As I once told the president: "To claim that there are figures in those columns (to show small classes) when you see with your own eyes that there are none, cannot possibly hurt me or the survey, but will certainly hurt the university."
"University Comments" on Final Report
The final survey report embodying corrections, instead of being given to the legislature when ready, in January, as it should have been, was held back until May and only an ultimatum from the legislature got it then. As late as March the university was writing, revising and rewriting -- a fact concealed and denied until December, 1915, when a dean publicly acknowledged it.
The university regents -- in session, by vote -- refused to approve the original socalled university comments. the present comments were never seen by regents, visitors, state board, advisory committee, or surveyors until published.
Sections announced in October by the president to the co-operating boards as agreed upon were attacked in the final report.
Survey statements that were quoted from faculty written answers were attacked as due to "ignorance," "lack of sympathy with university ideals," "desire to injure."
A former faculty member, alumnus and Ph.D., had been connected with activity he reported upon ever since its establishment. he worked out every step with dean and faculty. After he had gone over the results of faculty testimony verbally with the dean, the latter asked that he write the results; the university paid for the writing; the report was not submitted to me. Yet this faculty member's evidence was first attributed to me and then called "grossly unfair", "destructively critical," "absolutely untrue," "unsympathetic," "false insinuations," etc.
Befor 50 faculty members say one line of the report, 600 were advertised as opposing it unanimously.
Earmarks of progress and efficiency were noted by the survey before any defect was mentioned. In reporting classroom observations, defects were contrasted with excellences found in the university itself, sometimes in the same teacher's work. Weinmanism has tried to spread the false impression that the survey overlooked strong points. One of the tragedies in Wisconsin is that genuine work by faculty and students is subordinated to braggadocio and Weinman politics.
Some Survey Findings
The following undisputed facts are typical of thousands which help explain Weinmanistic attacks on the university survey by sensitive responsible officers seeking to divert public attention from facts to persons:
Advising a hamlet of 230 to employ a full-time paid secretary of adult recreation was characteristic of the over self-advertised, admittedly incompetent social center bureau.
Of 792 officially reported "inquiries answered and reports made" by the municipal reference bureau, 698 were not inquiries, but were circular letters, etc., sent out.
One hundred and twenty-five flie taken from one milk can at the model dairy and an angle work found tilling
(605) the soil inside a model strainer, were photographed.
The salary cost per period per student ran as high as $2.70, $5, and $10 -- facts reported to neither regent nor taxpayer.
Of 389 advertised graduate students, only 16 without faculty connection (34 with) were doing exclusively freshman and sophomore work.
When a promised -- and financed -- increase of 1,350 student years turned out to be an increase of 195, the legislature was not told this truth but was given figures showing enormous increases. Of the president's method of reporting enrollment to legislature and public (pages 71, 801), the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching wrote: "The classification is like that of the Kansas farmer who sold his place along with '30 head of stock,' When inventoried the stock consisted of 2 horses, 1 cow, a pig and 26 hens."
Ph.D. candidates who failed in modern language tests were within two weeks certified as qualified.
Over one-tenth of the advertised correspondence students never started courses; 758 communities in Wisconsin have never furnished one student in six years, facts not known to officers.
One chairman made 108 of 140 visits to the president reported by over 300 faculty members. He also reported that 200 students prepared to teach in Wisconsin high schools added $500 each, or $1,000,000 annually to Wisconsin's wealth -- a padding of $900,000. The 200 multiplier turned out to be 63 actually teaching.
Of general faculty meetings, Profs. F.L. Paxson, C.S. Slichter and C.D. Munro wrote in June inter alia as follows:
"Here, as in collegiate faculty, a greater attendance and more vigorous leadership would be of advantage.
"More value would result if we could substitute 'education' for some of our foolish business.
"[There should be] less routine business, which should be done by committees and results sent to us in typewritten form fo our approval or rejection. A bulletin of business proposed [should be sent out in advance.]"
Faculty members reported 183 different standards of grading, five in quiz sections of one class (page 492).; marks on elementary chemistry papers were "raised"; incorret formulae and answers were given full credit.
A freshman was marked 73 on final examination and 78 on second term English work whose paper contained inter alia the following definitions;
vapid - moist or damp
debilitate - to reckon or classify
altruistic - trusting in all things
penitence - gentle or kind-hearted
odium - odd or not matured
forensic - not published or of a foreign nature
copious - act of taking from or copying
Many faculty members wrote that teaching was sacrificed to talk about research.
No method existed for making excellences in one department or college known elsewhere.
When reviewer said that six these were "sent by the university to competent scholars in other universities who quite fully justified the respective departments in the University of Wisconsin in accepting these theses for the doctor's degree," he did not tell you sample truths like these:
Outside scholars were not told what the survey had found, or that the survey had criticized these theses; one, at least, was asked to revise his first opinion and make it milder.
One thesis, a Columbia professor wrote the university he would not accept; a Harvard professor would mark 6 1/2 if 5 were failure (page 357).
A second, Professor Jenks of New York University, would require rewritten before accepting, and Professor Reeves of Michigan would mark 7 if 6 were failure (page 358).
A third, clipped generously from other sources, had not been read by the professor who accepted it, and had mistakes like the following in the first six pages: "Raliegh, coust, varity, varities, annuall, homogenious." "Average temperature for the state . . .show the mean annual temperature to be ..."
A fourth is admitted to contain one whole chapter from an English work and to follow very closely a thesis accepted by the University of Paris in 1876.
A fifth the reviewer admits was plagiarized. This the graduate dean and president vehemently denied for weeks. They said the survey's question proved survey's ignorance.
At my request two regents and the graduate dean compared two theses with original sources and found pages, chapters and sections plagiarized. The dean said: "Before I am influenced by this I want to see the two young men and know what their motives were." In the final report he speaks of one almost wholly plagarized thesis as "vitiated by unintentional [sic] or conscious plagiarism . . . [extending] to only a small part of the thesis" (page 356).
Time is called! Space is gone!
Evidence is hardly been sampled!
When you hear the University of Wisconsin survey Weinmanized, will you ask, "Please show me?" If I can answer questions, permit me.