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tv   Book Discussion on The Founders and the Idea of a National University  CSPAN  July 4, 2016 11:00pm-11:21pm EDT

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on the jesus trained with my uncle ted. >> may be the last two questions a month or more. one, what is your issue that you care the most about, the policy issues and two police tell us about making that movie. [laughter] >> i policy issue i care the most about is to be -- defeating isis. i care the most about defeating isis because until we do that i won't feel like we have achieve the greatness in the country that we can and we have to prove to the world that we care about everybody, that we are not just the selfish americans who sit on her high horse and think we are better than everyone else. that is not who we are. we love people and we care about people and we are the strongest country in the world so it's our responsibility to take care of those who can't take care of themselves.
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that's my issue. in the movie, i was just a joy every single day. was fantastic. as much fun as you see us as much fun as we had every day on the set. we joke and we laughed. we never had an argument or a fight and on our film that's very rare, really rare. but we all jelled and fit together and be like a heart. it was like a heartbeat. that was her genius in casting. in the casting process needed to read with each other before she chose us. see how your chemistry is with that person and we all have amazing chemistry. i believe it was the movie that was blessed and i'm so proud to have been a prop -- a part of it. it was so much fun. so much fun. i miss britney though. that was a sad thing but that's
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the thing about hollywood. if any of you want to be actresses come i don't know. how many of you want to be an actress? oh good. that's fantastic. it's not as great as it seems. my acting coach told me it has to be your only option. it has to be the only thing you can ever see yourself doing in order to withstand what you go through before you make it. you will get a lot of projections. [applause] >> great job. >> thank you. back when i tune into it on the weekends usually as author sharing new releases. see how watching the nonfiction authors on booktv is the best
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television for serious readers. on c-span they can have a longer conversation delved into their subjects. >> tv weekends, they bring you author after author after author it's the work of fascinating people. >> i love booktv and i'm a c-span fan. >> you are watching the tv and c-span2 and on your screen is clermont mckenna government professor george thomas whose book is called "the founders and the idea of a national university". here's the cover. professor thomas, what is the national university? >> guest: well a national university was an idea put forward by a number of founders. george washington, james madison, benjamin franklin, thomas jefferson and the idea really in short was that the new constitutional order created
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which we take for granted in our day was really in the process of being built and they turned to education as ones have a way of trying to foster further the kind of political culture, the kind of idea of the kind of education they thought was necessary to sustain that constitutional order. >> host: what would it look like? what would it teach? >> guest: what is really unique about the idea of a national university at the time is i mean first we have to sometimes go back two centuries and think what did our educational systems look like in today and by me think about what are now national institutions of education and by and large secular institutions of education harvard yale and princeton that's not what they look like at the time to get the time they were by and large baruk deal sectarian institutions and theology was
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organizing the basis of the curriculum and so against that backdrop there was an idea we had a profound mismatch between our educational institutions and the republican form of government that we created. no western who started calling for national university prior to the constitutional convention of 1787 set our educational cetaceans are sort of remnant of an older and monarchy colon the aquatic political and we need to to alternate date them in the national university was one idea that was floated in a way to alter education. >> host: today as you said that we have several national universities that are of the ilk that was discussed? >> we do in large form. in fact i ask who started counting as i was doing the research the number of times that people when they heard about the project, don't we are
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to have a national university and they would quickly say harvard before yale and columbia. those institutions these days are national and reach and they share at least some aspects of what the national university would do and certainly how the rear provides their own understanding of knowledge in the curriculum like over the 19th century was in some ways to follow in the footsteps who first thought of performing institutions and particularly the curricula along those lines and actually in the late 19th century when the idea was still floating president charles elliott of harvard was one of the great opponents of the national university worried that it might place an emerging place in harvard and the educational hierarchy. there is i think sort of one facet that is not clearly front
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and center with their current situations. that is how did they speak to civic understanding, public leadership and the like, a lead educational institutions and how leadership and political leadership and civic leadership of various forms is something that is central to their mission but they don't always self-consciously think about what forms of civic knowledge might be essential to public and civic leadership or something that we sometimes are in short supply of. >> host: was good to other countries of the so-called national university and would you consider mcgill and canada >> guest: i think other countries, it's interesting. you have australia has a national university specifically and ireland and they do speak to more specifically educational
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needs in the idea being that they really are there to support national political institutions. they don't necessarily work always quite enough fashion and one of the interesting ones that was floated fairly recently along those lines the european university institute in florence which was initially put forward as part of the european conscious national -- constitutional project and necessary to supplement forging a shared european identity but again, they don't always work quite in conjunction and there's probably something really good about that in a way. the national university would also have problems and those who floated the idea in america often were conscious about -- you know supposed to be a supplement to american political institutions. the idea was it would need to
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maintain its independence. you would want to be captured by politics or partisanship in any way so it is probably good that there has been a healthy distance and we would benefit from the fact that we have educational institutions that take care of this in a much more pluralistic fashion these days. >> host: what was george washington's -- what did he say about a national university? >> guest: part of it with washington to get a little bit of this with wilson. you think of america at the time , it was a deeply important revolution particularly a spec to play and they seem to have an acute sense of a new world that they were trying to bring about but they were also looked down upon by most europeans in particular and not having the cultural educational institutions that you found in england on the continent so that motivated washington but
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washington was also as he puts it in his farewell address and several attempts to call for a national university he was also deeply aware republican government, he said we really need to cultivate a certain kind of knowledge and it has to speak not just to leadership klatt -- class this self-consciously thought about this sort of knowledge for the citizenry that carries forward these ideas so education for him became a way of speaking to the nation that he had helped create and seeing that it would carry forward the american experiment. looking back we tend to pursue him its success and those in the generation were really vividly aware that performing government often fails. certainly they were aware that they had decayed. washington i think thought of it as a way to help nurture and
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sustain what he had helped create. >> host: how sectarian were universities at that time? >> guest: when you look back and think of the curricula they often seem like they were really in the business of creating the clergy and theology really centered, the organization of the curriculum and knowledge generally and at the same time most people weren't necessarily going into the clergy at the time and these were the institutions that educated based on enlightenment and the founding generation in itself. so those institutions really were a process rethinking how they treat theology and the place of theology and it really ranges as you get arguments about the relationship between
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the church and state. what are really at the time public institutions and we think of these as private now but they were funded by the public purse. they were educating the public in ways. they were often even founded by the public great it's just that this was the prior order where church and state weren't separated and that's one of the things that the founding generation had to wrestle with overtime well into the 19th century you get struggles like william and mary and dartmouth and harvard on the nature of the institution. some reformers are already arguing in those institutions that they need to be much less sectarian whereas others still continue the sectarian commitment to that william and mary hugh have to subscribe to 39 articles of faith. you have to be committed in religious terms to professors take on the clergy. they can't get married for
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instance and so the remnants of the theological commitments are pretty thick until well into the 19th century at some of these institutions. >> host: how close did this country come to having a national university? >> guest: the truth is probably not very. there were a number of calls for it beginning before the constitutional convention. it comes up at the constitutional convention. james madison in particular and james wilson say we need a national institution of education and one that would be a sectarian commitment in washington comes for a number of times for the congress to hold the house and the senate and the senate said yes we support development of arts and literature and the understanding is really much broader. this is education in sweeping terms. it's really liberal education as we now think of it and knowledge is really important.
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so there is lots of discussion and there are some very serious debate in the 1790s and the 18 teens the early 1800's. it doesn't really ever get -- there was actually ground at one point given in washington. there's approval of funding but when one starts searching the congressional record it doesn't really happen and it comes up on multiple occasions in our history. it comes up in debates about the founding a situation which is a quest from an englishman who had never set foot on american soil and wanted an educational situation. they are serious debate in congress about this but then we end up establishing the smithsonian institute and partly founded because it's not quite the national university. it comes up again after the civil wars you can imagine when you are torn by not sectarian
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conflict and the idea would help unify. we have lots of congressional hearings and debates and lots of advocates over the years but it doesn't ever really come particularly close. >> host: as a government professor at fairmont mckenna what are your personal feelings about a national university? >> guest: the way i look at it is i think it's an incredibly interesting idea and one can really see why the late 18th century and early 19th century and on were captivated by it. we really did need to form educational institutions. the curricula was problematic and mismatched against the emerging republican or democratic disparagement which really did remove theology from our proper places in the public sphere so one can see the temptation but i look at it, i'm
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not really sad that it didn't develop and certainly the day is long then. there wouldn't be a good reason to support it now but i think it's most interesting because it reminds us of two things that i think we tend to forget and that is that when we think of a public leadership class for a lack of a better word that something that doesn't come out of nowhere. that's something that really needs to be nurtured and sustained and democratic institutions depend on and when we think about the ideas that citizens hold that are necessary to carry forward a democratic or republican disparagement we need to speak to those that cultivated and i don't think they just happen out of nowhere. we often do that but we do it in
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some sense less self-consciously than self-consciously than they could then sell the national university idea comment if remises of those features. really briefly political institutions set in motion two centuries ago don't sustain themselves. >> host: from your book you write the formation of the national science foundation in 1947 takes up many of the tasks that would have been taken on by the national university. explain. >> guest: well i mean the national university as i said was not just about political knowledge or it wasn't just about speaking about politics and government. it really was an argument that a certain kind of firebird -- vibrant modern commercial society would depend upon expanding knowledge and a
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forward-looking sense of commercial and economic development and science was very much a part of that. there was an understanding that the government might have a role in trying to foster the conditions under which scientific knowledge would really thrive and the government does impart it into this business in the latter half of the 20th century like the national science foundation funding scientific research is a crucial part of it. if you look at the great educational institutions we have that are in the business of doing scientific research it exploded in the second half of 20th century with lots of governmental grants and funding. >> host: to the military academies come close to what would be a national university? >> guest: the military academies are ingesting in that
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regard and really sort of speak to the self-conscious mission of creating a particular kind of leadership. west point is really remarkable in that regard and those institutions come up and debate. thomas jefferson who help west point brought into being although he thought we needed a constitutional member to establish a national university and he speaks of west point to say although west point for jefferson is the most important scientific terms at the time of the scientific development. >> host: is there to send aloud at military academies? >> guest: yes and that a place like west point, it encourages is maybe too strong a word word but it's a genuine liberal arts education and general liberal
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arts education means that all they want to cultivate certain understanding of politics and certain habits of mind that will be essential for leadership part of it in a liberal democratic country are going to be very open-ended and subject to serious questioning and that is something that those who think about the national university are acutely aware of early on. they want to really sort of teach the range of ideas about politics and government and even while trying to cultivate a particular understanding of think you see some of that west point. we have seen that beyond west point in many ways. we are very open when we teach in terms of liberal arts about the varieties of political experience and we really want to be critical of the little colon "there goes my social life" chen's and yet most of us and most of the institutions themselves

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