What knowledge is useful?
Learning from the Law School
“I think we could learn a great deal from the most successful of our professional schools,” Harvard government professor (and future president) A. Lawrence Lowell wrote in a December 1906 letter to his colleague Frank Taussig, “that is, the Law School. Its success is, I think, due very largely to the fact that it takes mean without any previous requirements, save a liberal education in any field, and then teaches them law, not jurisprudence; and it has been coming across my mind that if we are to have a successful school of business we must do the same thing. We must take men without regard to what they have studied in college, and we must teach them business, not political economy . . .
“Could we create a school which could teach certain branches of business,—let us say railroading and banking,—on such a basis? If we could, I think we might make a great success, and mark an era for education in business. But I feel very doubtful whether any such idea would commend itself to the economists any more than a law school of our type would ever commend itself to professors of jurisprudence.”
Lowell’s prescient analysis anticipated a productive tension that would emerge almost as soon as HBS opened its doors: how can knowledge be put in service to a profession? What knowledge is useful?