What knowledge is useful?
Former Dean John McArthur on changing methodologies
I did agree, and many people did, I mean, that we had — we needed to do better with our research, and we needed some different kinds of people in the faculty to do it, provide the leadership for young people. And I just — I wanted to try and have this balance, at least as we started down that track. Because I’d watched people fighting, and I didn’t want to waste, you know, to consume what limited good will I might have arbitrating ongoing squabble, internal squabble, and between us and some alumni, and so on. . . . .
And a lot of this squabbling that was going on, and that was sort of ignited by the Anthony Committee report, and these Ford and Carnegie reports, you know, it was people that never did ever, at any point, know what it was — what our roots were, and what we believed in, and what the founders had set out to do, in a very distinctive way.
And so, you know, I tried to think, and get my colleagues to think of a bunch of things that we could do that would at least try, for a period of years, to get a better understanding, a shared understanding of where we came from, and what we’re all about, and what our focus ought to be . . . .
And, you know, the idea was to remind people, in my mind mainly right here on the campus, that we had some fantastic research that had gone on here, and had made huge contributions to the knowledge base that had shaped business education in those years. . . .
And but the kind of research that mostly it had been based on, you know, going out and doing field studies, I mean, it just doesn’t lend itself to large scale samples. It’s more like the jury trial system where you, you know, you have a case in front of you, and you get twelve angry men and women. And they listen to the story, and then they say, “Oh, here’s what happened.” Well, it could be total bullshit; you don’t know what happened. But, I mean, that’s that day, under the leadership of that teacher, the judge, they came to a view that what they’re looking at is such and such. And that’s been accepted for a long time in the Anglo-Saxon world as a valid way to come to the truth.
And that’s kind of what we do in our world. And it was okay. And the people that did other, you know, what would get characterized as more rigorous work, which it isn’t — it should be equally rigorous — should be respected too. So, I mean, you did a number of these things that were part of a course I was trying to teach about us, and why there were some towering peaks in this range, and a lot of, you know, in the foothills that wasn’t really — in the long run didn’t have a huge impact.
And then with the younger faculty, you know, after I got going in a few years, in the mid ‘80s, I began talking to some of them about — I mean, I viewed it as playing pickup sticks to try and tweak them out of their — whatever the homeroom was that they were attached to, and encourage them to run the gauntlet. That they could get tenure if they pursued the thing they wanted to pursue. And they apparently couldn’t do it with the blessings, most often, or very often, of the senior professors in their own group.
And so I was able to persuade some of them that that was a bet worth taking. And I continued to keep the homerooms every morning, so people could come in from the suburbs, and feel comfortable with who was in their room. And these young people could set out in their own little rowboat, and create all the things that that generation did.