Draft of a working paper for education at brown university

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Ira Magaziner


Elliot Maxwell


Eleanor Saunders

Jane Beckett

Cathy Johnson

Harlan Hurwitz

Kenneth Ribet

Arthur Grossman

Laurel Overby

Kathryn Au

William Salganik

George Lee

Elwood Carter

Laura Geller

Cynthia Breitberg

Bruce Blodgett

H Theodore Cohen

Susan Jamieson

Ross Mcelwee

Susan Boyd Bowman

We would like to express our thanks to Mark Augenblick for his helpful suggestions and his much needed prodding on the many occasions that we failed to meet our deadlines, and to Chris Sweck, Sharron Swol, and Joyce Reback for their help in preparing the report.

We would like to give special thanks to Dean Robert O. Schulze whose inspiration and advice have guided the writing of this report and whose financial support made much of the research and writing possible; and to Mrs. Winifred Sampson who braved illegible copy and almost impossible deadlines to type a manuscript of over four hundred pages.

Finally, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Mrs. Celia Lottridge without whose editorial help and comment, this report could never have been completed. It has been both intellectually rewarding and a great pleasure to work with her.

Copyright, 1968, by Ira Magaziner, Elliot Maxwell, et.al.

About this Copy of the Manuscript

This copy of the manuscript was re-typed into a digital format by Thom Hastings while attending Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts, from the book of reference number LD632 -M33 cop. 2, which was taken out from The Library of Brown University by his cousin Edgar Woznica on November 13th, 2007, and due back on January 31st, 2008. It was actually returned about a month later. A bar-code on the inside back cover reads: 3 1236 00021 6245.

This copy of the manuscript was originally typed in the .txt format on a computer running Ubuntu Linux. It is encoded in Unicode for the use of superscript in citations. This version has been converted to the .doc format, leaving superscript 1-3 in Unicode and formatting 4-9 and 0 into superscript by changing font, etc. (Test to see if you can view the characters: ¹²³4567890)

This copy of the manuscript has been changed from the original format in the following ways: 1.) Any observed typo-graphical errors and misspellings have been rectified.

This copy of the manuscript is to be distributed under the Creative Commons License 3.0 Unported with Attribution for Non-commercial use. Permission obtained from Elliot Maxwell.


We are assuming that the purpose of a preface is to allow the authors the opportunity to apologize to the reader for at least some of the mistakes which the reader will encounter, and to express the hopes which the authors harbor for their work. There are many things for which we must ask the reader's indulgence: the superficial treatment of many subjects and the omission of countless others; the omission of footnotes and a bibliography which will be remedied shortly; the inadequacy of the reproduction which, because of limited finances, had to be done on our vastly overworked mimeography machine; the typo-graphical errors and the duplication of page numbers 46 and 117 which were overlooked in our haste; and the lack of unity and coherence which is the result of attempting a work which confronts a large and complex subject and which necessarily was prepared in sections. Finally, we would like to apologize for the delay in time between when we first proposed to release the report and when it is finally reaching the public: this was the result of our efforts to prepare a working paper worthy of both the subject matter and the institution. Some of the previous problems are due to the nature of this work; it is and should be viewed as a draft of a working paper. For all of the problems however, we apologize.

We have worked too long on this report for it not to be an expression of many of our hopes. The most fundamental one is our desire to help initiate an informed discussion about higher education in general and about education at Brown in particular. We believe that the report may help both to clarify some of the problems involved in such a discussion, and to bring out others which have not previously been considered. But we would be less than honest if we did not assert that a major goal of this work is to achieve significant reforms at Brown. If it merely starts a dialogue it has not failed, but it must lead to major changes if it is to be considered a total success.


In the introduction to the mammoth work, The American College, Nevitt Stanford says, "One does not need any fixed conceptions of educational Goals in order to be convinced that American Colleges are failing badly. They fail to achieve their own stated purposes; and they fail by other reasonable standards of accomplishment." These sentiments, in one form or another, are shared by almost all of the people with whom we have come into contact through reading and discussion in the course of this study. These people have ranged from college presidents and deans, professors from a wide variety of disciplines and institutions, and students from all across the country, to philosophers, psychologists, and politicians. Their criticisms have ranged from the belief that the university is not only useless but even harmful, to the charge that it is at best adequate as an institution. Most of the critics however, agree that the university is not doing as good a job as it should.

After a year of study of the educational Process at universities, we have reached a similar conclusion. Unlike those who see the university as useless, we feel very strongly that universities can be sources of valuable educational Experiences for students. We are committed, in this report, to the realization of that possibility.

This report has been written to serve as a working paper for discussion, study and change at Brown University. As a working paper it is designed to provide an orderly framework for the pursuit of answers to the questions that are being raised about education at Brown, and about higher education in general. It will also propose solutions which will serve as starting points for discussion. These solutions are only approximations, and do not even represent the main concerns of this report. Our main concerns are to express the need for a comprehensive study of the educational Process in the American university today, and to initiate this type of study at Brown.

After a great deal of study, talking, listening, reading, and thinking, we are convinced that the greatest problem facing administrators, faculty members, and students today is a lack of understanding of how to cope with the problems of the university. This lack of understanding springs from the failure to carefully consider the aims of the university, and the consequences of actions taking place within it. While a great deal of study is taking place at the university, focusing on almost all aspects of the universe, there is little study of the purposes of the university itself, of the aims of the education which it provides, and of the effectiveness, in practice, of these aims. Moreover, conversations and written materials about education are steeped in meaningless rhetoric, issues are only partly presented, not enough time is spend in considering basic questions, remedies are forced into an incoherent, patchwork pattern--all while the university continues to operate and grow without a fundamental knowledge of where, why, and how it is going.

If we can begin this process of study, if we can attempt to gain this fundamental knowledge, and if we can watch the attempt progress in a meaningful manner, we will feel that we have succeeded.

We do not intend to enter into a discussion of student power or the differing attitudes of today's students, from which it seems to flow, in this paper. While the issue of student power is one of enormous importance to the university, and should be examined critically by all members of the university community--especially the student body--considerations of power of any type are not relevant to this paper. What is most relevant and most important is the undertaking of a comprehensive study of education, and the proposal of solutions, resulting from such study, which will improve the quality of education at Brown, and perhaps elsewhere. We hope that the ideas in this report will be judged on their own merits--not degraded because students wrote them, or elevated for the same reason.

The report begins with a brief history of our efforts. It continues with an analysis of some of the fallacies involved in, and weaknesses of, discussions of education which now take place, and which must be eliminated if there is to be valuable exchange on the subject. Before defining what we feel are the purposes of the university, we attempt to describe the context of the American university in American society. This is begun with a brief history of the American university, which is followed by a discussion of the contemporary American university and the various trends which are affecting it. This ends the first part of the report.

The next part of the report consists of a theoretical examination of what we believe are the purposes of the university in American society--acquisition of knowledge, service to society, and the education of the Young. Though we will focus on the educational Function, we feel that the other Purposes should be examined at length, by others. We are especially sorry that we have had to neglect the area of community service and involvement, for this area is of prime concern today. After dealing with the first two purposes of the university, we begin to analyze educational Philosophies, and then propose a Philosophy of education for Brown University. This ends the second part of the report.

The final part of the report is composed of discussions of twelve academic structures of The University. Existing structures at Brown are evaluated, and proposals are then made to carry out the aims of the philosophy which we have proposed. The specific structures that we deal with are: curriculum, testing, grading, teaching methods, calendar, leaves of absence, departments, counseling, course and teacher evaluation, catalogue, extracurriculum, and foreign study. The report then ends with a brief discussion of possible implementation of our recommendations.

Our examination of structures has been curtailed by lack of space and time, but we hope that the discussion is adequate as a Foundation for Future Study. We have also been forced to leave out many structures which greatly influence the educational Function of the university. Thus we have not dealt with decision-making, buildings, admissions, student conduct, academic freedom, technological innovation, faculty hiring and firing, etc. We hope that others will examine these areas in the coming year. We also hope that the two other purposes of the university--acquisition of knowledge and service to society--will receive more extensive study in the future.

We are not completely happy with this working paper and we hope that it will improve throughout the year. To this end we will be constantly revising it. Until we are satisfied with it, the reader is asked to remember that it is a working paper and to accept our apologies for its shortcomings. With these apologies given, we will begin.


Section 1 History of GISP Page

Section 2 Difficulties of Educational Discussion Page

Section 3 Brief History of the American University Page

Section 4 Trends of the Modern University Page

Section 5 Research at the University Page

Section 6 University and Service to Society Page

Section 7 Examples of Philosophies of Education Page

Section 8 Evaluation of These Examples Page

Section 9 Proposal for a Philosophy for Brown Page

Section 10 Introduction to Educational Structures Page

Section 11 Review of Brown Curriculum Changes, 1944-Present Page

Section 12 Evaluation of Current Brown Curriculum Page

Section 13 Free University and the Experimental College Alternatives Page

Section 14 Other Curricular Alternatives Page

Section 15 Proposals for Curriculum I Page

Section 16 Proposals for Curriculum II Page

Section 17 Testing Page

Section 18 Grading and Evaluation Page

Section 19 Teaching Methods, Course, and Teacher Evaluation Page

Section 20 Calendar; Leaves of Absence; Foreign Study Page

Section 21 Counselling; Extra-Curricular Activities; Departments Page

Section 22 Catalogue; Self-Study Procedure Page

Section 23 Implementation and Feasibility Page

Section 24 Conclusion Page

Section 1

History of GISP

The study that has led to this working paper had its genesis last September when a number of students at Brown University interested in improving the education they were receiving met to decide how to go about it. (Proposals had already been submitted for change at Brown, ranging from a no-course, no-grade four years to extra-curricular seminars.) In view of the success of the student-initiated experimental schools, particularly that at San Francisco State College the group began with a definite orientation toward immediate action. After some intense discussion sessions of varying degrees of thoughtfulness, most of us saw that meaningful action was impossible until we became better informed about what has gone on and what is going on in education. Thus, to the dismay of several of the original participants, it was decided to spend a semester in the study of education. By this time, the seventy students at the original meeting had dwindled to twenty-five. At this stage, most of us felt that the study would lead to the establishment at Brown of an experimental school somewhat like that at San Francisco State.

The group began to compile a bibliography and to write to other universities for information. Soon, a number of ideas about what was wrong with education began to form, but the more talking, listening, and reading we did, the less clear-cut our ideas became. By the end of the semester, most of the fifteen remaining students were less certain about education than they had been in September. Although nearly half of this group was still primarily interested in the fairly immediate goal of establishing the experimental college, it was decided to continue and to formalize the study of education further during the second semester. The discontent with the educational process remained and was perhaps even more intense than in September, but the reasons for the discontent, and possible means of solving the problems that caused it had become more elusive.

To the surprise of those remaining, some eighty students and fifteen professors registered for the second semester project, which had acquired the less-than-apt name of GISP (Group Independent Studies Project). From the size of the registration and the interest expressed by others, it seemed obvious that those interested in curricular reform were far from being a small and isolated group of malcontents. Those registering for the course included people from every section of the student population, freshman to senior, fraternity and independent, physics major to history major, and students on academic probation to Phi Beta Kappa members. There was also a diversity of faculty members ranging from language, English professors to a professor of engineering.¹

At the first meeting, the registrants decided to divide into six smaller groups and to examine the philosophy of education, evaluate existing educational structures, and make suggestions for constructive change. It was decided that the beginning point for each group would be a discussion of what an educational experience should be, and three books, Aims of Education by Alfred North Whitehead, Between Man and Man by Martin Buber, and Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community Scholars by Paul Goodman were suggested for reading. The bibliographies which had been compiled first semester were distributed for reference, but each group, indeed each participant, was encouraged to plan his own problems for study and his own method of approach.

A clerical staff helped coordinate the activities of the groups during the semester. Speakers such as Harold Taylor and C. L. Barber discussed education with GISP participants and other interested members of the University community.

It is very difficult to list and discuss the successes or failures of this semester of study as they are the personal impressions of the individuals who participated. Sometimes a long and boring bull session can teach the individual something about the need for structure or focus in a group, the value of which cannot be measured by the number of people who attended discussion, or by whether or not a good time was had by all. Equally, the fact that most of the groups lasted all semester and that the drop-out rate was fairly small cannot attest to success. Two of the groups ceased meeting, and two issued reports at the end of the semester. It did become apparent to many of us that our thinking during the first semester had been very simplistic and that a great deal of work, research, and thinking was necessary before we could understand the problems that were plaguing us and before we could make suggestions for improvement. We were left with the feeling that something was definitely wrong with education at Brown, and that we could make suggestions which might improve matters, and we decided on a summer of research and discussion and writing to carry out our plans.

This paper, then, is a crystallization of a year of work. Our ideas and plans have changed quite often over the year and they still change with every new book and every new discussion about education. Yet, the degree of change is diminishing, and for the first time since our original black-and-white thinking was demolished, we feel that we have enough of a grasp of the situation to make concrete proposals and begin working for a change in a satisfying direction.

We would like to emphasize that this is a working paper. Although its scope is rather large, it is by no means complete. Several factors which influence university education have not been considered and others have not been considered in as thorough a manner as is needed. Also, the necessity of examining the great mass that is university education in some coherent manner has forced us to dissect the topic along certain lines. Although we believe our approach to be a logical one, we realize that a different method of attack could reasonably be taken. And although we feel our suggestions are good ones, we recognize that there are other good suggestions to be made, and we hope that they will be made. We have spent the greater part of our lives involved in the educational process and have spent the past year in the objective study of university education. Our study is not yet complete, but we present this paper now because we feel that larger discussion is needed. We hope that the ideas presented in this working paper will be considered on their merits and that this paper will serve as a basis for discussion and as an impetus for creative change at Brown.

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