Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso
2. Higher Education, the Professions, and the Place of Expertise
DANIEL R. DENICOLA
The day for debating whether higher education should remain “celibate,” focusing only on learning for its own sake, or “mate itself with action” and embrace professional education—that day is long gone.1 Not that its echoes have died, for it was indeed a glorious debate. In the United States, it began when Harvard adopted a medical school in 1780, but its full volume was reached in the first half of the 20th century. Business was especially at issue. Abraham Flexner, who did not find much to praise in American education, asserted that compared with undergraduate schools of commerce (which were “poor substitutes for a sound general college education” anyway) the Harvard Graduate School of Business is “[m]ore pretentious and for that reason more dangerous.” Business, although “a phenomenon of major importance” and perhaps worthy of detached study as such, simply was not a learned profession.2 Alfred North Whitehead, the mathematical logician and philosopher who authored the celibacy quip, championed the Harvard Business School, famously spoke at its silver anniversary, and advocated professional schools as necessary stimulants to sustain the liveliness and imagination of higher education, the “adventures of ideas.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, retorted sternly that “the danger of American universities is not celibacy, but polygamy.”3 Three decades later, philosopher Robert Paul Wolff argued for “the Draconian proposal that all professional schools and professional degree-granting programs should be driven out of the university and forced to...
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