Relation between Intelligence and Scholarship at the University Level and the Definition of an Experimental College

Meiklejohn opens his argument by describing Abraham Flexner’s findings on the link between intelligence and university.  He stated that German industry discovered the value higher education not through high-performing employees trained in a specific field such as physics or chemistry, but employees who were able to think intelligently and apply their skills to any field.  Flexner believes that American universities have not learned this lesson (implying that American universities tend to focus on teaching one subject instead of the ability to apply their skills in any field).  Although there is an infinite amount of definition for “intelligence”, I believe that one of the best definitions, at least in regard to higher education and industry, is having the ability to apply your knowledge to an unfamiliar field (or even a specific and unfamiliar problem) effectively.


One great quote from the Intelligence and Scholarship reading is on page 17 when Meiklejohn writes “scholarship does not gain affiliation with intelligence by refusing to be ‘practical.’  It would rather lose than gain connection by so doing.  No institution in our whole scheme of education is more deliberately, more persistently practical than is the liberal college” (Meiklejohn 17).  This idea is similar to the “teach a man to fish” argument in that it is ultimately more efficient to teach students to be adaptable and be able to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar problems than make a student a master of one single subject or trade (Meiklejohn frequently brings up Business and Law schools as examples of this).


In Meiklejohn’s mind, an experimental college would focus on making students efficient thinkers who are adaptable, because trade schools were so prevalent in the 1930s when this text was written.  An experimental college today would carry a different definition, as would an experimental college 50 years from now because educational norms are constantly changing.  In 2015, an experimental college would have to solve the most pressing problems in education (including but not limited to student cost, adjunct faculty, and the use of non-vocational requirements)  in unique ways.  Furthermore, the experimental college of 2015 would probably take place in a different medium than a traditional college campus.  This is obviously not a requirement, but it is hard to see newer traditional “brick and mortar” campuses succeeding in present day due to the costs of creating and running a traditional residential college.

Overall, the definition of an experimental college changes as new norms arise, and the most effective experimental college of 2015 would have to solve the main issues facing higher education today in unique and sustainable ways.  


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