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Text Box: Vol.6, Issue 10
Text Box: October 21, 2013

I. W. Parkins

Front Page

American Political Commentary

 

Veritas Veneratio Virtus

THE ENEMY OUTSIDE

By Ivan W. Parkins

                 By the end of the 1950s, burgeoning college enrollments and consequent shortages of qualified faculty members pretty nearly assured that professors would enjoy reasonable pay and freedom.  The Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 touched off a wave of public emotion in the United States, focused upon shortcomings in American education.  An unfortunate aspect of new quality education emphasis was that “quality,” apart from selective admissions and competition, had no clear meaning.  Especially in higher education, the meaning that emerged was often designated “liberal arts,” and it extolled culture for its own sake after the European tradition.

           I spent the late 1950s and early 60s at a small institution in the South.  Led, and sometimes driven, by an energetic young president, who had previously been a professor in a liberal arts college, we were attempting to convert a community college into a university.  Increasing the liberal arts component of the curriculum was the key to our plan of improvement.

           Much of the struggle to improve education in our institution was a struggle against the community.  The struggle against an enemy outside contributed to unity within.  On the one hand there was a constant search for financial support; the community donated parsimoniously, and with all the condescension of charity, the difference between existence and some improvement.  On the other hand there was harassment by right wing extremists, some of them affiliated with the KKK and John Birch Society.  They thought us subversive, and they were well represented among our trustees.  Our president took an unflinching stand against their charges, a stand embellished by his Silver Star, several Purple Hearts, and other decorations.

           We talked in our faculty committees of quality education and the liberal arts.  Insofar as that talk implied an effort to make our lectures more thoughtful and our assignments more meaningful, it may have contributed to better education.

Actually, we were a somewhat extended community college, offering vocationally useful but not especially profound education, in spite of an uncomfortable relationship with the community that we served.  If we sometimes looked down our “enlightened” noses at the community, at least that particular community deserved it.  Among other things, its entire public school system was disaccredited, and every member of the city commission indicted, within the next few years.

Next to the president, whose outspoken courage shielded me, I fought more verbal battles with off-campus groups than any other member of the faculty.  In dealing with pseudo-patriots, I usually took the position that contemporary America was both more successful and more true to its past than they gave it credit for being.  Over several years of devising such arguments I became quite committed to the point of view.

I was due for a shock.  Early in 1963, a dean of students from the state university addressed a convocation of our institution.  He was, I now realize, ahead of his time.  The man was a former speech professor, adept at the art of rhetoric.  My emotions alternated between anger and disbelief as I sat among my faculty colleagues on the platform.  The dean’s appeal was remarkably similar to that of the radical rightists whom I had been opposing.  Contempt for the present state of American culture, distrust of our political institutions and policies, and a general impugning of American character were all included.  It was cast, however, as a liberal and intellectual appeal.

           When the speaker concluded, the student body rose in a standing ovation; the faculty, with one shocked exception, joined them.

 

©I.W. Parkins (09/16/70)

 

QUALITY EDUCATION?

By Ivan W. Parkins

                 By the end of 1963, Americans had a new reason for grief and fear.  One of the most confident and charming Presidents in American history was dead by assassination.  No replacement uniting so much political sagacity with a gay and sophisticated life-style was in sight.  New programs of social improvement, including subsidies to higher education, might be initiated, but voices of gloom and hysteria would assault the spirit of America, from the intellectual left as well as the right.

             For me, there was the promise of escape.  The man who had been my dean was appointed president of a small college in a geographically beautiful and socially tranquil environment.  Again, it was a two-year community college to be converted to a four-year academic program.  This time, however, there was state financing, an enlightened board of trustees, a community relatively free of extremist elements, and the settled goal of creating a liberal arts college.  Nothing outside stood in the way of academic success.  I became ranking faculty member, head of social sciences, and a member of the principal committees.  

             The reality soon turned as bitter as the dream had been sweet.  What is a liberal arts college?  What is quality education?  Allowing that the community makes little active effort to interfere, to what extent should the community be considered?  The president and I disagreed about nearly everything.  The question regarding community was particularly crucial there, and it is to the discussion here.

             That community included a national depository for weather, coastal survey, and geodetic records, as well as a state geological laboratory.  Because of those unique resources, I recommended that an earth sciences program be among the first things that we developed.  The prospect of an especially strong science program did not appeal to the president.  He insisted that the humanities are the heart of liberal arts, and he recruited a faculty heavily weighted in that direction.

             When we began designing our four-year curriculum many of our students were already enrolled in business and other vocational areas under the old curriculum.  Business being within my jurisdiction, I submitted a proposal calling for a small number of business courses within a new department of economics and business, an arrangement borrowed from the most prestigious college in the state.  My plan was rejected by the liberal arts purists on the curriculum committee.  They felt that retaining any business courses would defile the program.  (Three years later, prompted by static enrollments and growing impatience in the board of trustees, the president initiated changes similar to those in my original plan.)

             Our enrollment situation was especially revealing.  The students already enrolled in our college, and most of those who showed an interest in coming, were not the kind likely to succeed in a program that lacked vocational motivation.  At no time in the initial planning was there a study of the numbers and interest of students likely to attend.  Later, on a committee assignment, I attempted to gather data on the numbers and academic qualifications of students available in the area; my estimates were replaced by others based upon the desires of the president.  Once, in a moment of exasperation, I remarked that I thought we were agreed upon the desirability of a liberal arts college, but that we differed over whether to build it from the ground up or the clouds down.

The point of this reminiscing is that I am now convinced that many of my academic colleagues, especially those who pretend the greatest commitment to liberal arts, are “clouds down” people.  They want not merely freedom from censorship of their views and from harassment; they seek to live apart from the practical considerations and responsibilities that are concomitants of life in society.

While the meaning of liberal arts is disputed, it has clear negative implications for many academics.  In the college that I helped to develop, secretarial science was easily disposed of, business courses were ruled out (though they had to be restored), journalism was excluded, the nurses program was killed, drama was permitted a brief and tenuous existence, physical education clung to life, and a minimal teacher’s certification program was tolerated.  All of those were judged to be to “practical,” or vocational, for a liberal arts college.  New courses were literally, and sometimes successfully, defended before the curriculum committee with the argument that they had no possible practical applications.

The facts that education in our college was costing the people of an impoverished state much more than that in other state institutions, that we served few students, and that we produced no very unusual changes in those who came to us, seemed not to matter.  We did not allow such considerations to affect the purity of our humane objective.

 

©I.W.Parkins (9/23/1970)

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CREAKING CREATIVITY

Or the Jig is Up,

the disinformation of the left

By Ivan  W. Parkins

 

    An old philosopher said: those who do not study history are condemned to relive it.

     To that, I add: but, that drowns the joy of feeling creative while repeating old errors.

     In 1952 (we) Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson, age 52 of Illinois, as our presidential candidate.  Like Barack Obama, he was a charming and eloquent man.  He was the favorite of most intellectuals, especially young college graduates. 

    Stevenson differed from Obama in that he had been a special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Knox during WWII; had, at the request of the Department of State helped to promote the United Nations, and later become our Delegate there; had won the Governorship of Illinois by the largest popular plurality in the state’s history, and made significant reforms there.

     Also in 1952, (our) Democrat Platform called for: greater reliance upon the UN; increased nuclear disarmament; more spending for social welfare; “a full and integrated program of development, protection, management, and conservation of all of our natural resources;” plus, greater peaceful use of nuclear power.  It denounced Republicans as “amateurs” and as “dominated by representatives of special interests.”

     Of course, Stevenson and Democrats were at a disadvantage compared to Obama today.  Eisenhower was still the revered “old soldier.”  And, the great disinformation machine that has now grown out of television, huge college faculties and student bodies, and the celebrated Hollywood Left was in its infancy.  But, that machine’s glory years were 1968-2000; it is now beginning to creak.

I.W.Parkins 91208

EDCUCATION: ITS SOCIETAL IMPACT

The following two articles were written over 40 years ago, but are illustrative of todays educational system.  They both are from Dr. Parkin’s book, Culture Power and Mass Media