The Idea of the University
Dear Concerned Alaskans,
After fifteen years of retirement from UAF, I decided to offer a second series of lectures at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Presented during the month of March 2012, these four lectures focused on “The Idea of the University.” I gave this historical topic for the first time back in the early 1960s and repeated it six more times, the last one delivered in May 1997 as a “good-bye” retirement lecture at UAF’s Salisbury Theatre.
I was prompted to offer this last shot from the old pistol after years of deep concern for the university. I spent 37 years of my life trying to contribute “ad summum” measured by the highest educational standards of our cultural tradition. I have, however, observed an accelerated process of building a corporate system of a
top-heavy, self-serving administration divorced from the service of educating our younger generation for the real encounter in the “world series.” As a nation we should never accept our poor world ranking in math and science, a ranking that belongs educationally to that of a third world country.
Aside from the national problems we face, our major concern has to be with our state of Alaska, whose oil income is quickly eroding. As a result, we face rapidly expanding deficits that will impact every segment of Alaskan life. The maintenance of UAF’s corporate system will be unsustainable and will have to be replaced with a simpler, all-around educational providing system of highly qualified professors and researchers. This new system of high education can be accomplished only hand in hand with changes in primary and secondary educational standards.
Among many contemporary world educators it is well known that the leaders we should listen to are in our geographical latitude – Finland and the Scandinavian countries. If Finland can rank number one in math, science and general education, they must be doing something right — and the do it for a disproportional expenditure compared to our system.
So here is my plea to you, Governor Parnell, Fuller Cowell, and members of the Board of Regents: please request the
Finnish Academy of Science to dispatch one of their educational experts to come for one year to serve as a joint advisor the to Governor of Alaska and UA Board of Regents for a payment of one year of his/her Finnish salary plus transportation first class from Helsinki to Alaska and back. Free housing can be provided by the Geophysical Institute or if not available, I would offer housing free of charge and include a car for transportation.
My memo to you is supported by the long-time seniors of the State of Alaska attending my lecture series “The Idea of the University.”
Editors Note: This letter was attached with a petition of 27 signatures.