Friday, July 27, 2012

Educational Wisdom (IV)

Unlike previous posts in this sequence, which have been century-old observations that seem very fresh today, this one seems hopelessly anachronistic, alas.

Like the captain of industry, or the political ruler, [a university president] must have skill, capacity, and knowledge; must be inventive and constructive in his thinking; and must welcome care and responsibility. His inducements to laborious and responsible service are, however, different from those which are effective with other sorts of leader. A high salary, or the prospect of luxury for himself and his family, will not tempt him. These inducements will not draw the right kind of man into university administration any more than into teaching or research. Hie cannot be induced to do his best work by offering him any money prize, and he will manifest no desire whatever for arbitrary power over masses of human beings, or for what is ordinarily called fame or glory. The effective inducements will be the prospect of eminent usefulness, public consideration, the provision of real facilities for his work, enough relief from pecuniary cares to leave is mind free for invention and fore looking, long tenure, and income enough to secure healthy recreations. He will not wish to receive a salary so high as to distinguish him widely from his colleagues the professors, except so far as the proper discharge of his functions involves him in expenditures from which they are exempt. He will want to work with a group of associates whose pecuniary recompense and prospects are not very unlike his own. -- Charles W. Eliot, "Academic Freedom," Science, Vol. XXVI, No. 652, pp. 1-12 (July 5, 1907)
It cannot be inconsequential to the health of the academy that university presidents by and large do not fit this pattern today.


  1. This quote is directly in agreement with Dan Pink's talk on money and motivation as animated here
    He has evidence that shows that those who are rewarded financially for performance tend to perform poorly versus those who are self-motivated.

  2. Wow. Thanks for that. I wish the talk had footnotes so I could find the papers!

    I particularly liked his phrase "Enough money to take the money issue off the table," which resonates strongly with Eliot's "enough relief from pecuniary cares to leave is mind free for invention and fore looking." Later in the article Eliot has several more sentences that could have been drawn from that video: "This educational expert will set a high value on freedom for himself. He will hope that trustees, faculties, alumni, and the supporting public, will permit him to carry out his own plans and provisions, or those which he espouses. … In all fields, democracy needs to develop leaders of high inventive capacity, strong initiative, and genius for cooperative government, while put forth their utmost powers, not for pecuniary reward, or for the love of domination, but for the joy of achievement and the continuous, mounting satisfaction of rendering good service." There you go -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose.