Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on April 28, 2014
The Soul of the Research University
they aren’t the same idea. Mass higher education, conceptually, is practical, low cost, skills oriented, and mainly concerned with teaching. It caught on because state legislatures and businesses saw it as a means of economic development and a supplier of personnel, and because families saw it as a way of ensuring a place in the middle class for their children. Research universities, on the other hand, grant extraordinary freedom and empowerment to a small, elaborately trained and selected group of people whose mission is to pursue knowledge and understanding without the constraints of immediate practical applicability under which most of the rest of the world has to operate. Some of their work is subsidized directly by the federal government and by private donors, but they also live under the economic protection that very large and successful institutions can provide to some of their component parts.
Tens of millions of Americans have a direct connection to higher education, and probably only a tiny minority of them are even familiar with the term “research university.” So universities themselves have contributed to the lack of public understanding of the centrality of research.
“You see then, here are two methods of Education; the end of the one is to be philosophical, of the other to be mechanical; the one rises toward general ideas, the other is exhausted upon what is particular and external,” he wrote. “Knowledge, in proportion as it tends to be more and more particular, ceases to be Knowledge.”
“The pursuit of science and scholarship belongs to the university. What else belongs? Assuredly neither secondary, technical, vocational, nor popular education. Of course, these are important; of course, society must create appropriate agencies to deal with them; but they must not be permitted to distract the university.”