Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not a School, A Flagship

Those of us “left behind” by the Rapture of Modernity when it came, gosh, I can’t quite pin down the date, need help in understanding what we read in the papers. I read in the papers this morning that Ohio State hired a coach who will receive $4 million a year in pay plus lots of extras. This led me to wonder, actually for the first time ever, what the difference between a state university (e.g. Ohio State) and the state’s university (University of Ohio) is. Well, good luck. State universities at least appear to be land grant institutions. And Land Grant institutions came about because the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 passed. The root of these bills was a movement, dating back to the 1830s, to establish agricultural colleges. Here is the purpose of these as initially formulated in the first Morrill Act (cribbed from Wikipedia):

[W]ithout excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. [7 U.S.C. § 304]

The emphasis is mine—and I find that phrase instructive. The Congress of 1862 clearly felt that there also were other classes in the United States, and here they’re singling out the industrial  classes and their several pursuits and professions. Well, as we can see, they’ve come a long ways, these industrial classes.

The Morrill Act left the identification of schools to receive funds under the Act to the state legislatures. And those institutions getting the nod came then to be called land grant institutions. The University of Ohio (founded 1804) is not, but the Ohio State (1870) is a land grant institution. By contrast, here in Michigan, both University of Michigan (1817) and Michigan State (1855) are. Both institutions, in Michigan, are also labeled Flagship institutions. That curious designation came into use, according to Wikipedia, citing Robert M. Berdahl, former Berkley chancellor, in the 1950s when a wave of post-war expansion enlarged the state university, read Morrill Act, school systems. The original land grant colleges were labeled Flagships, thus the old boys who, being older, merited greater respect. Do I get it, finally? I think so.

Now Ohio State excels in many, many ways. It is indeed a Flagship, not merely in having a pretty pricey new coach. Those still clinging to “the arts,” liberal and otherwise, will be pleased to know that Ohio State’s Wexner Center of the Arts is described as featuring “groundbreaking deconstuctivist architecture” and “being lauded as one of the most important buildings of its generation.” It’s most prized item is Picasso’s Nude on a Black Armchair. I’d like to show the image, but it’s surrounded by copyright protection. But if you must look at a nude today, here is a link.

The Wexner Center owes its name, and its Picasso, to the generosity of Leslie Wexner, Ohio State alumnus. Wexner himself is chairman of Limited Brands, a clothing company. Limited owns Victoria’s Secret, thus the thematic link to that nude is, in a way, present. Limited also own Bath & Body Works and La Senza, to strengthen that theme. Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont (1810-1898), who started life as a merchant’s clerk before rising to the House and Senate, knew what he was about when he engineered the future education of the industrial class.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of art and tasteful nudes, my favorite memory of Ohio State was when I was walking down whatever that main north-south thoroughfare is during Homecoming weekend in the late 90's and I walked past a young thing wearing nothing but black slacks and a "Cat in the Hat" topper.

    I reacted just like Picasso did.


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