My desire to draw these blog posts back to a more process philosophy, “Whiteheadian” orientation keeps getting hijacked by current events. But in this particular instance, the Whitehead connection is not entirely lost. That is because Alfred North Whitehead was not only a beloved educator and professor, but a highly respected administrator at London University, where he finished his career as a specifically British academician. Many of Whitehead’s most important essays on education are collected in the volume The Aims of Education. But one of the things not discussed in great detail in that collection is the administration of higher education.
In Whitehead’s case, this is most likely due to the fact that when and where he came up through university, when and where he taught, did his research, and performed his administrative tasks, it was in a university system with roots that stretched back to the early medieval times, and that was present at the birth of the modern university in the late 18th C. Facing forced retirement from the English university system, Whitehead (who was not ready to retire) came to the U.S., where he was confronted by a very different system of administration. Over a century ago (and years before Whitehead arrived) Thorstein Veblen was condemning the well-established forces that were trying to mutilate the comparatively nascent American system of higher-education into a profit-stream oriented business. So Whitehead’s educational writings never had much chance to address the trends, as the very thought of them was completely alien to his thinking, and his thinking was oriented toward the most significant development in speculative philosophy of the last 2300 years. Continue reading