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The Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 12,No. 1,Spring 1981 ToMake the University Safe for Morality: Higher Education, Football and Military Training fron1the 1890sthrough the 1920s Michael Pear/mall In 1913, United States Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood inaugurated his famous citizen-soldier military training camp at Plattsburg Barracks, New York.At the time, his government would give him neither money for equipment nor conscription for enrollment. College students, for whom the camp was founded, would therefore have to volunteer to pay for the privilege of spending their summer vacations obeying drill instructors. The General, obviously needing all the help he could get if he was to gather a respectable number of recruits, appealed to the presidents of America's most eminent universities, telling them that military training would improve their students' citizenship, discipline and character.' Except for Columbia's Nicholas Murray Butler, a self-proclaimed pacifist, all those whom Wood contacted, from Yale in the East to the University of California in the West, "enthusiastically applied their support." Because the General might not have mustered a hundred recruits without their help, these men probably saved his experiment in military training from a swift termination. 2 The following essay explores the pedagogical arguments made for army drill by placing them within the larger history of higher education. It maintains that the martial attitude of educators and alumni cannot he understood without focusing concurrently upon the decline of the college and the rise of the university, the new role of the president and his old interest in moral 38 Michael Pearlman uplift. This institutional context reveals that universal military training (UMT1. as a course in discipline, was a response to an identity crisis felt by higher education on the eve of World War I. In the late nineteenth century, academic institutions which sought financial solvency had to accommodate America's desire for practicality and production. To secure enrollment, they changed their basic structure from denominational colleges stressing moral nurture to secular universities teaching occupational expertise. Before WWI, however, many educators who still cherished Christian traditions of instruction had not yet fully adjusted to this recent reorientation. They therefore tried to graft moral requirements onto the university system that generally emphasized utilitarian electives. At first they sponsored a program of conservative humanism featuring uplift and discipline through mandatory courses and social supervision. When this failed, these educators tried to preserve a Christian environment via extracurricular activities like religious revivals and football. Finally, when football also failed because it turned commerical, some of these pedagogues adopted military training as an antidote to the contemporary university's moral neutrality. Toeducators and alumni who emphasized traditional didactic duties, army drill became a twentieth-century opportunity to express nineteenth-century beliefs that higher learning had a moral responsibility. I The most active member of the Plattsburg camp's Advisory Committee of College Presidents was its secretary, Henry Sturgis Drinker (born in 1850. appointed President of Lehigh University in 1905).J This descendant of Philadelphia's merchant grandees was a civil engineer, an attorney and now head of a school of railroad and mining technology. But whatever his occupation, paternalism was his true profession. Having joined academia to "look after boys" once his own grown sons had left his home, he declared that "the development of sturdy manliness [was his Ihighest Iconceivable Iduty." So despite lineage from colonial Quakers jailed for pacifism and his own involvement in the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, in 1913he became "intensely interested'' in the ··enormous educational value" of military training. Thereafter the promotion of this ''hard disciplinary experience in obedience and regular clean living" became "the most important business Ithat he had l in the world." In fact, the Advisory Committee's Chairman, John Grier Hibben of Princeton, said that Drinker's efforts on behalf of Plattsburg were largely responsible for ''all that we were able to accomplish in assisting General Wood." Moreover, that assistance outlived Wood himself. In 1932,Drinker still was praising military camps for ''their great value in the training of our young men. "'4 Although Drinker was the most active, he was only one of many presidents who promoted Plattsburg training as a course...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 37-56
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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