I’ve changed my preliminary plan of the lecture in Skolkovo today and instead of the theory of strategy (as it was planned before) told to my audience about the Californian Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960. Which I described as the most successful and influential strategic document in the sphere of education in human history. And about dramatic career of its main ideologue — Clark Kerr.
The editors of Time magazine always had some sense of historical moment — that’s why Kerr’s face was on the cover of 1960’s October issue. But before the plan itself started to accomplish its historical mission — i.e.produce the new generations of world economy’s captains — Kerr (at time the president of the University of California) had already became a victim of historical fate. His program and himself personally was elected as one of the main targets for criticism by the famous Hollywood actor who started his political career — his name was Ronald Reagan. Blaming Kerr for unnecessarily “liberalism” Reagan won the governor’s elections in 1966 — and enforced Kerr’s retirement immediately after taking office. His blames, however, were on bold grounds in the eyes of conservative voters — the higher education system was in those years the main recruiting base for the groups of political activists protesting against Vietnamese war.
Kerr’s core conception was “multiversity” — as a basic approach to higher education school. He insisted that the mission of higher school cannot be described only in simple mottos like “growing broadly-educated gentlemen” or “training well-qualified specialists”; it is very complex institution which includes many different communities, and each of them is pursuing very different, even contradictory goals and the administration must take all of them into account.
In my lecture I’ve also remembered the remarkable discussion of 2012 between G.Casper and J.Hennessy, at that time previous and actual presidents of Stanford University. It was about the place of liberal arts in the curriculum — and, more widely, about the contradiction between two different goals: to supply the market with well-hirable specialist and to educate broad- and diverse-minded, creative person. And the brief summary of this discussion published in the New Yorker magazine, which I also commented on my blog at that time.
Kerr’s book is worth reading. It’s fifth edition was issued in 2002, a year before his death. And on its pages he is also critically observing his own views of 1960-s, as… too optimistic.