Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats: Parasitism of Universities

1. Anyone who will take the trouble to investigate universities will shortly discover that, as institutions of learning, so-called, they are bankrupt. Not only are they useless to human aspiration, they are actively pernicious, and their theory of operation is a fraud on the commonwealth that supports them. Their teachings are one long continuous imbecility. They are feudal to the core of their dried-up medievalism, although freedom pays their bills and houses and feeds them. They are essentially parasitic–sucking the juices of healthy tissues and breeding more parasites.

2. But who made the professors blind? Their predecessors! The professors had his professor, and that professor his, and on and on backwards in a thin single-foot line, to the pettifoggers of the middle age, the men who knew nought of reality and cared less. These old-timers hated the light, they hated Nature that makes the light, they hated freedom, they worshipped rule and precept, they loved in their cadaverous way the schoolroom and distrusted the world.

3. If an institution whatsoever were to receive healthy lads, and after four years of “care” return them mentally and physically crippled, broken-winded, weak-hearted and infected, there would be hue and cry. But, when precisely such young men are taken in by an institution, so-called of learning, and, in four years, are turned out of it mentally dislocated, with vision obscured, hearts atrophied and perverted sensibilities–who cares! And why? Because it is not so easily seen.

4. The need of the hour is for men! The appalling lack of the hour is true education: education that will make men. I am tired of man-shadows, and I detest these schools as they are now conducted, because they make shadow-men.

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3 Responses to Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats: Parasitism of Universities

  1. Plato’s academy and medieval monastry are the direct ancestors of the modern university. All of them wall themselves off from the life around them contemptuously to contemplate eternal forms, and then assert their higher prestige for doing so, and collect heavy spiritual and material payments for it.

  2. John Gillis says:

    Man-shadows. A great term for the truncated mental lives of most “graduates” of higher learning.
    It’s interesting that the denigration of the the academy has been going on “forever”. Louis can do it in 1901, and we can certainly do it in 2001 and 2011 (and I think one can find such criticisms in AD100 and BCE300. Also, in our day, there are those who decry the current state of affairs at universities but assume there was some great golden age of university-dom. But I suspect there never was. And while the university has its important place in the pantheon of human life, it is far overrated and given far too much respect. Remaining skeptical of their often mind-numbing aspects is important. Stop the march of the shadow-men!

  3. And to think this was written when the Kantian influence was just beginning to affect American universities!

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