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PostStanford Alumni Association: Hail, Stanford, Hail!! (Ronald Hilton, USA, 01/16/01 7:32 am)
Old age has its obvious disadvantages, but it has at least one advantage, that of a third dimension, namely time. I recall how much countries, institutions and customs have changed over the decades. I grew up in a society where higher education was reserved for the select few, and even in America Ivy League universities viewed the doctoral system, introduced by Johns Hopkins, with suspicion and scorn. It was thought, not without reason, that it would produce narrow specialists. Formal education stopped with the B.A. Again, it was thought that any interested in research could work on their own. Again, there was some justification for this attitude. The vast majority of Ph.Ds never do any research after they have got their degree. When I came to this country in 1937, the idea of continuing education was just being formulated. In the age of science, which become obsolete in five years. obviously education must be unending. Some time later the expression "post.doc" was invented to designate those engaged in advanced research.
One of the most striking changes has been the development of alumni associations. They were unknown in Europe, and have been introduced recently after the American pattern. In the US, they were concerned almost exclusively with the football team, and were generally despised by the faculty, who viewed them as collections of boobs, ready to demand the resignation of the president if the football team did poorly.
The extent to which things have changed is illustrated by the Stanford Alumni Association, which is moving into its big new building, a move this piece celebrates. It actively promotes continuing education, and it produces a splendid magazine, STANFORD, the latest issue of which has an article on Alexander Kerensky. It will be the subject of a separate posting dealing with the Kerensky, whom I knew while he was at Stanford.
WAISers have debated whether tourism promotes international goodwill and understanding. There is plenty of evidence that much of it simply annoys or even infuriates the "natives". Tours like those organized by the Stanford Alumni Association are different from the ordinary tourism. They are called "Stanford Travel Study Programs,"and they are conducted by Stanford faculty members. A session at our July conference, organized with the cooperation of those programs, will take up this subject. As in the case of sports, we are looking for devil's advocates, people who will present the negative aspects of a popular activity. To judge from our earlier discussions, there are plenty of devil's advocates. They are invited to step forward. The task of devil's advocates was to present the negative case against candidates for beatification by the Vatican. The post has been abolished, so that candidates for sainthood will have an easier passage. Although it is on the side of the angels, WAIS keeps its devil's advocates, but in the case of the Stanford Alumni Association, they will be easily defeated by the promoter of the cause.