On College Presidents
Colleges and universities are in the business of discovering, creating, and disseminating knowledge. Human wisdom reliably expands over time, but in the near term it ebbs and flows, making the job of institutions of higher education a difficult one.
There was a shift, early in the twentieth century, from universities as places that taught orthodoxy to its students, to universities in which openness and inquiry were the rule in both research and teaching.1 University curricula moved from imagining that we already knew everything there was to know, and all that needed to happen was to push that knowledge into the minds of the young and upcoming, toward a more humble and, frankly, scientific perspective. Such a perspective acknowledges the shifting and incomplete nature of our knowledge, and rewards progress and changes in perspective as new information emerges. This is the university system in which we all came of age. It is also the university system that we need.
When institutions of...