tv Book Discussion on The Founders and the Idea of a National University CSPAN August 10, 2016 1:19am-1:40am EDT
just so many people in flyover nation although they are targeted you have this back and forth in one direction or another and it goes back to the need to show up a certain way to vote into the divide is kind of scary because now it's whether we are going to be able to affect ourselves against a threat. >> the schools and other institutions that are supposed to help are the places that are criminalizing black girls. >> and go to booktv.org for the complete schedule. our focus on education continues with the claremont college professor george thomas on his book the founders and the idea of a national university. this is about 20 minutes.
>> on your screen is claremont government professor george thomas. his book is called the founders of the university. what is the national university? it a number of leading a factors, thomas jefferson and the idea in short was the constitutional order created we took for granted in our day was in the process of being built and they turned to education as a way to foster and further the political culture and ideas to
sustain the constitutional ord order. >> what would it look like and what would it teach? >> we go back centuries and look at what they looked like in the day and now the national institutions and by and large secular institutions of education, harvard, yale, princeton. that's not what they looked like at the time. at the time they were by and large parochial sectarian institutions, and theology was lost in the organizing basis of the curriculum. so it gets a backdrop and there was an idea that we had a profound mismatch between our educational institutions and republican form of government he hahave created. in fact, noah webster, prior even to the convention of 1787
said that our educational institutions are remnants of an older and monarchical and theocratic political order and we need to alter and upstate them and the national university one idea that was floated was a way to alter education. >> so today a as you said that,e have several national university of that which was discussed? >> be due in large form. i started counting as i was doing the research a number of times that people when they heard about the project said don't we already have a national university. then they would quickly say harvard. those institutions be staged our national and reach, and they share some aspects of what the
national university would do and how they would reorganize their own understanding of knowledge in the curriculum particularly over the 19th century was in some ways to follow in the footsteps of those that were reforming the institutions into the curriculum along those lines and actually in the late 19th century when the idea was still floating, president charles eliot of harvard was one of the opponents and worried that it might displace the emerging place of harvard and the sort of educational hierarchy in the scheme. but i think that there is one facet that is not clearly front and center with our current institutions. there's not always front and center and that's how they speak to pacific understandings and public leadership to help the leadership and civic leadership
that's central to their mission but they don't always self-consciously think about what forms of knowledge might be essential into something we are in short supply of. >> do the >> do they have the so-called national university? >> i think other countries do and dimension is interesting. they do speak to more specifically those sorts of educational needs and the idea being that they really are there to support the national political institutions. they don't necessarily work always quite in that fashion and one of the interesting ones that was floated rather recently
along those lines is that european university institute in florida which actually put forward as part of the european constitutional project and thought of education across europe to supplement the identity, but it can -- they don't work in conjunction and there's something good about that in a way because the university would also have problems and they floated the idea in america and often were quite self-conscious about wanting to maintain a supplement to the political institutions. the idea is they would need to maintain its independence. you wouldn't want it to be captured by the politics or the purpose and should in any way and so there's probably been very good of the distance. maybe we benefited from the fact that we have educational institutions that take care of this in a more pluralistic
fashion. >> what was george washington's reason, what did he say that the national diversity? >> you get a little bit of this from somebody like james wilson as well, the national greatness. if you think of america at the time, it was a deeply important revolution particularly retrospectively and they seemed to have an acute sense of the world they were trying to bring about the also looked down by most in particular as not having the kind of cultural institutions that were found. but washington was also as they put in the farewell address in attempts to call for the founding of the national university, he was also deeply aware that the republican government would need to cultivate a certain kind of knowledge and he would have to
speak not just on the leadership class that self-consciously thought about this sort of knowledge, but the citizenry that carried forward these ideas and so education for him became a way of speaking to the nation he helped create and seeing that it would carry forward the amount of the experiment and looking back, we tend to presume its success and get those are the founding generations that we are definitely aware that they often failed and they weren't aware of the fact. they sustain what he helped create. >> when you look back and think of the curriculum that often seemed like they were in the business of creating the clergy.
that center at the knowledge and at the same time they were educated based a lot on the enlightenment on the foundation itself. so those institutions themselves are in a process of rethinking how they treat theology in the place of theology and it ranges because you get arguments about the relationship of the public institutions. they were funded by the public purse and it's just that it was
a prior order where the church and state were not separated and that's one of the reasons why the founding generation had to wrestle with overtime well into the 19th century you get college is like william and mary, dartmouth and harvard on the nature of the institution and so some reformers were already arguing within those institutions that they need to be less sectarian where others continue favoring sectarians. so they have the articles, the faith, you have to be committed in religious terms and take on the clergy. so the remnants of the theological commitments are pretty sick and to the 19th centuries. >> how close did the country come to having -- connect the truth is probably not very.
there were a number of calls beginning before the constitutional convention of. one would be devoid of sectarian commitment for both the house and the senate yes we support the development of the arts and literature and the understanding is much broader than politics. there's lots of discussion and very serious debate from the 1790s and the 18 hundreds. it was at one point given in.
to start searching through the congressional records it doesn't really happen. the smithsonian institution was the request by an englishman who had never set foot on american soil and wanted to establish an educational institution and better are very serious debate in congress about this but we ended up establishing the smithsonian institution and partly it sounded because it's not quite the national university when you are torn by not sectarian conflict to help unify advocates over the years that h it doesn't come particularly close to.
>> it wa >> it was an interesting idea and one could see why.. they were captivated by it and didn't need to reform the educational institutions in the curriculum is problematic and the republican or democratic experiment that the dream of theology. you can see the temptation and understand it. it was a daylong done and it would be a good reason to support it.
there are things we need to forget and when we think of a public leadership class may be for the lack of a better word that's something that doesn't come out of nowhere. it needs to be nurtured and sustained and democratic institutions depend on when we think of the idea of the citizens hold that are necessary to carry forward undemocratic and republican experiment. we often do that but we do it in some sense much less self-consciously than we could. the idea is interesting to remind us of the features to put it briefly the political institutions set in motion they don't sustain themselves.
>> from the book you write the formation of the science foundation in 1947 takes up many of the tasks. >> the national university wasn't just about political knowledge. it was about religion and things close to him that it was an argument that a certain kind of vibrant, modern, commercial society would depend upon expanding knowledge and a forward-looking sense of commercial and economic development and science was very much a part of that. so there was an understanding that the government might have a
role in trying to foster the conditions under which scientific knowledge is such that it would thrive and the government does in part get into this business in the latter half of the national science foundation and funding scientific research is a crucial part of it. and if you look at the great educational institutions we have doing the scientific research, it's exploded in the second half of the 20th century with lots of governmental grants and funding. >> do the military academies come close to what would be the nationanational university clacs >> the military academies are interesting in that regard and speak to the self-conscious mission of creating a particular kind of leadership. it's really remarkable in that regard. and those institutions come up in debate.
thomas jefferson who helps bring west point into being although he thought he speaks of west point in the same way also for jefferson it's more important in scientific terms of the time of the development that would come out of it. >> is their dissent allowed at military academies? >> yes. and in a place like west point, encouraged is maybe too strong of a word that it's a liberal arts education and a general liberal arts education means that while we want to cultivate certain understandings of politics and certain habit of mind that will be essential for leadership part of the habit
will be subject to questioning and that's something that those who think about the national universituniversity are aware oy dawn. on. they want to really sort of each the range of ideas about the politics and government and even while trying to cultivate an understanding and you see some of that at west point and beyond west point in many ways we are very open when we teach liberal arts about the varieties of the experience and we want to be critical of the institutions and get most of them themselves are committed to a form of democracy. it's not like we are saying we don't mind if we produced students that are monarchists. he would have done something wrong along the way.
>> with the decline overall in the country are we losing civics? >> that should be a concern to us. at the end of the book i posed a grave challenge is the commercialization an and turn tm towards education which threatens to eclipse more robust liberal arts elements and when you think of how the biggest threat in some sense might have been from religion in our day the biggest threat seems to be the commercial nature which is probably because of the success of american constitutionalism. the forward-looking version wanted to create a thriving commercial society and we've
done that but no do we need to correct back and attend more public life and civic obligations and have the institutions ask whether they have civic obligations and whether they want to nurture those in their students. >> george thomas government professor at claremont college founders and the idea of the national university constituting the american mind is the name of the book. this is tv on c-span2.