Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/543

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


THE LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT
By Professor GRANT SHOWERMAN
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

THERE are no doubt a great many easily attainable data which the general public or its individual members, in the effort to improve civic or industrial affairs, may well employ some one to collect and set in order for them. There may even be some justification for the existence of the professional investigator, though there is the greatest danger that as a class and in the long run he will do more harm than good by seeing too much or seeing awry.

It is safe to say, however, that not even the professional investigator will ever fathom the mystery of the college professor—and of course I mean him of the less demonstrable sort, the professor of liberal arts. Man is an ingenious animal, and the professional investigator is a superman, but there are limits to human capacity.

If the professional investigator ever compiles an intelligible report on the college professor, it will be either because he himself is a college professor, or because he takes the word of the college professor; and even then it will satisfy neither professor nor public.

It would be surprising indeed if a college professor—a real college professor, I repeat, one of the useless kind; not one of the kind whose services are so easily translated into money and who are really nothing but business men—it would be a great surprise if a real college professor ever undertook a "survey" of his fellows. He knows too much about the nature of their calling. Next to the ministry, or even beyond it, the profession of liberal arts is removed from the rough business of life, and occupies itself with the affairs of the mind and soul. The religious life and the intellectual life have always set their own standards, and always will. Both of them know and feel what they are aiming at, and they alone really know. The world may indeed fix the manner and amount of college receipt and expenditure, but the purposes and methods and results of liberal education have never been susceptible of "scientific management," and never will be. The world's inability to set standards, or even to comprehend them, is proved by its very attempt to investigate. Investigation is really an avowal of the intention to force the liberal arts into the moulds of worldly business. Were the intention to succeed, the result would be, not liberal education, but worldly business.

It would be quite as surprising if the college professor attempted to give "scientific" answers to the questions of the professional investigator. The last thing that either the professor of liberal arts or his disciples would attempt is a scientific or "practical" demonstration of