On 12 April 1951, the search committee of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago announced the replacement to Robert Hutchins as Chancellor of the University of Chicago: Lawrence Kimpton (1910--77)[corr]. A deeply obscure figure (his Wikipedia page doesn't even get his death date right), Kimpton was a successful chancellor and his life makes for a rich reading of a critical decade in technological and educational policy.On the morning of 25 April, 1951, 45 Field Regiment, RA, broke position to withdraw behind the Delta Line, stripping First Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, isolated far behind the PVA advance on Hill 235, overlooking the Imjin River, of fire support. Fifty-nine Glosters had been killed in action to this point, and 522 now went into captivity, of a total of 1091 casualties killed, wounded and missing suffered by the 29th Commonwealth Brigade in this single action.
Apart from happening in the same month, and the dominating influence over all news that month of the MacArthur dismissal, the two are not unrelated, a point brought to mind by a recent email correspondence with friend of the blog, Chris Manteuffel, over the last few days.
Time describes Kimpton as the son of a Kansas City lawyer, with a bachelor's and MA. The University of Chicago archives indicate a 1927 BA and 1932 MA, followed by a 1935 philosophy PhD from Cornell. The sequence seems strange, but the archives seem to know more about Kimpton's life than anyone else, so let's chalk it up to an early-century Stanford idiosyncrasy. The archives don't mention a standard anecdote from the other biographies which has Kimpton going from a psychology to a philosophy major, but it doesn't sound unlikely. It does clarify that Kimpton went directly from Cornell to Deep Springs College, California, where he "taught English, German and philosophy" until 1941, when he "moved to Nevada and briefly operated a cattle ranch" before joining the University of Kansas as dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 1942.
Time has Kimpton as the dean of Deep Springs College. I know that some people are a bit dubious about the academic roots of the American postsecondary administrative caste, but that seemed a bit ridiculous until I learned a bit more about Deep Springs, which seems to be some sort of combination of a "scared straight" boot camp and liberal arts college on an "isolated cattle ranch." At least Lawrence's gap year makes more sense as building on his work experience.
Kimpton's career at the Metallurgical Project is unknown to modern historians of the Metallurgical Laboratory. Arthur Compton headed the Project, while the Lab had a series of wartime directors, with Kimpton presumably acting as Compton's chief of staff at one higher administrative layer than the Lab proper. I infer, anyway, because confusion between "Lab" and "Project" (and between "Manhattan Project" and "Metallurgical Project) seems endemic. Anyway, Kimpton had had his time with Big Science by the time he returned to Chicago in 1951 as chancellor.
The brief archival biographical note summarises Kimpton's University of Chicago career as being focused on "reforming the University's bachelor degree, renewing the community surrounding the University, rebuilding the University's infrastructure, balancing the budget, and restoring the financial stability of the University." The Wikipedia biography, on the other hand, focusses on Kimpton's 1958 battle with campus publication The Chicago Review over its "beat edition," with excerpts from The Naked Lunch and Jack Kerouac. It is certainly interesting, but I have theories about who might have written the biography, and it was certainly not a Kimpton scholar, to the extent that there is any such thing apart from maybe me.Hutchins' two-year generalist bachelor's degree. Kimpton was forceful in pointing out the problems it presented, but Boyer has an even starker observation than any that Kimpton reported to the trustees. Other schools were beginning to reject as a transfer credit by the time of Hutchins' resignation. It is harder to imagine a blunter repudiation of Hutchins' experiment within the collegiate atmosphere of post-secondary education, and it is hard to believe that it would have happened without some spectacular flameouts of unprepared Chicago alumni. A Chicago education was not worth the money. The school's value was solely that it provided a home for "quiz kids," in Kimpton's phrase, "long-haired" freaks who couldn't do calculus; and who, Kimpton suspected, were not so much "bright but odd," as simply "odd.""tumultuous" five year battle to "dismantle Hutchins College."
Apart from problems with the degree, the University had a problem with geography. Its Hyde Park location is embedded within a "colourful urban neighbourhood," and by the Fifties it already had a reputation for intrusive street crime that led to the "urban renewal" that gentrified its immediate surroundings. The University represents this housing stock "renewal" as creating a racially diverse as well as prosperous neigbourhood, although apparently the statistics are being manipulated a bit. The flip side is that I live in a "densified" urban neighbourhood that has been colourfully diversified by the conversion of old housing stock into multi-residential dwellings, and it doesn't look like an urban ghetto to me. You don't have to have a PhD in Social Relevance to draw an unsavoury line between the lifting of racial covenants on Hyde Park housing in 1938, gentrification, the prevalence of underpoliced frats filled with too-young-undergraduates recruited as the next generation's intellectual elite, and complaints about an epidemic of rapes on campus in the Fifties and Sixties. I'm not going to hold Kimpton's feet to the fire on this one, if for no other reason than because it would take me too far afield, but it is definitely worth noting.
Again, causality, for the degree, the neighbourhood, the misogynistic atmosphere on campus, are all perhaps overexplaining something that could never have been helped: The Silent Generation.
It's not as helpful as it could be, in that it misses the chance to tell us the size of the Greatest Generation, because, besides having no agreed definition, it is no longer included in the Pew summary presumably used for the above, but a Bureau of Labour survey shows a drop of a million people in the 25--34 labour force cohort from 1950--1960, which gives us a sense of the enrollment decline that faced all college presidents in 1951, and not just Kimpton.
So what has that to do with the Battle of the Imjin? The answer, I suggest, is two-sided. On the one hand, you cannot draft boys who don't exist. On the other, deferments. Over on the Congressional side, we've seen the GOP delegation struggling to find a coherent national security policy. Robert Taft dallies with the isolationists (and the egregious Herbert Hoover), who want to keep US land forces out of Europe; a cap on the total size of the Selective Service army is entertained, and rejected; the GOP surrenders on the 70 group air force as numbers push towards 90 and Republican Congressmen play with a 250 group air force --Which, I can't help it, here comes that B-47 again.
At this point, the numerical strengths that people are talking about --the six million man armed forces-- are testing the limits of American demography. This is "1914 Europe" talk. Eric Grove brought out the tensions between manning the fleet and training of endless classes of National Service conscripts in his history of the postwar Royal Navy a generation ago, and the same would have applied in the United States, with the additional challenge of finding engineers as graduating classes shrank. Unlike in WWII, there was no room to retrain the unemployed as engineers. There were no unemployed. Talk of accelerated college classes earlier in the year have given way to resignation. There are simply not the bodies.
On the other hand, you can force young men to go to college. (Or have families.) This is most obvious for the Vietnam era, when selective service deferments alone might account for a 2% increase in college enrollment rates. On their introduction, college study deferments had an eminently state security-based rationale. A small number of "superior students" would be spared the draft so that they could do STEM studies and become the scientists and army surgeons of the future. In practice the technocratic implications of this were fought off, and the requirements of the educational-research-national-security state extended to the liberal arts. Yay!
So Chicago (and Stanford) were saved. At the heart of the ongoing disaster, apart from the Hutchins-era deficits that had much to do with physical over-expansion, was that enrollment decline I referred to above. 1953/4 might have been the nadir, with a pathetic enrollment of only 275 frosh plus 39 lonely transfer students, giving a total enrollment of 1612 undergraduates and 2830 graduate students, compared with 3144 and 2719 in 1939. And if we want to talk about urban decay around Hyde Park, where is the cause, and where the effect as these rents and this spending is withdrawn from the community? Numbers are important, and Kimpton's strategy for reviving the University of Chicago was all about the numbers. If it could hit an enrollment of 10,000, including 5000 undergraduates, by the mid-1960s, it could hit the numbers. To get there, it needed the biggest fundraising drive in American college history, hitting a target of $32.8 million. Since the campaign only raised $22 million, a third of it from the Ford Foundation, one can see why Kimpton blew up at the Chicago Review when it acting up, especially considering the problem with "odd" students. (You know, because Ginzburg was gay, not to be subtle here.)9ff) This effect was particularly marked after the end of the Korean War, as the armed forces' manpower requirement fell, and the services sought to increase the slice of "high quality" enrollees. Only pushing through to graduate studies offers any protection.
The cynic would suggest that college presidents have been bought off. The future of American education and (take a bow, Stanford and the University of Chicago), neo-conservatism has been secured! The irony here is the gestures that neo-conservatism has made towards the Hutchins-style "general education," in the form of the Great Books approach. This post's title is a tribute to Allan Bloom's dubious Closing of the American Mind, which, in a final layer of irony, is in part a potted history of philosophy, and exactly the kind of book a teacher could assign instead of the Great Books, in order to have more time for specialised studies. (Specialised studies, of course, lead to research papers with which to beat the Commies.)1939 Fleet Shadower.