Robert Maynard Hutchins

Robert M. Hutchins has been deemed one of America’s most highly esteemed and most well known educators.  He was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York.  Hutchins was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio, before serving in the military during World War I.  He later completed his education at Yale university, graduating in 1921 and earning a law degree in 1925.  From 1927 to 1929, he was the Dean of the Yale Law School.  By the age of 30, Robert M. Hutchins became the President of the University of Chicago.  He remained at the university until 1951, and served as Chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1945 to 1951.  Hutchins then went on to become the director (1951) and President (1954) of The Fund for the Republic.  He served as Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1943 until his death on May 14, 1977.

As a prominent American educator, Hutchins himself credits the Yale Law School with beginning his formal education.  Yale’s curriculum introduced his to the study of the arts.  While serving as president of the University of Chicago, Hutchins claimed, “ the age of thirty two, my education began in earnest.”   The afore mentioned statement was in reference to a remark made by Hutchins’ colleague and mentor, Mortimer J. Alder.  Alder suggested that a university president‘s reading spans the scope of the telephone book.  Alder proposed that unless Hutchins preferred being an uneducated man, he had better to something drastic.  Therefore, he moved to progress his education and came to find,  The liberal arts are the arts of freedom.  To be free a man must understand the  tradition in which he lives.  A great book is one which yields up through the liberal arts a clear and important understanding of our tradition.  An education which consisted of the liberal arts as understood through great books and of great books understood  through the liberal arts...It must follow that if we want to educate our students for freedom, we must educate them in the liberal arts and in the great books.

It was there at the University of Chicago where something drastic began.  Robert Hutchins has been credited with some of the 20th century’s boldest and most influential educational reform.   Hutchins believed in order to educate students for freedom, that they must be educated in the liberal arts.  This belief gave way to the Chicago College Plan which consisted of a strict liberal arts curriculum at the University of Chicago.  He viewed the liberal arts as indispensable for preparing for life.  To Hutchins, teaching everyone to think, and to think well, was the ultimate in democratic education .

Robert Hutchins played a great role in philosophy of education.  His educational reform helped to define perennialism.  For it was Hutchins, the ultimate perennialist and idealist, who said, “Education implies teaching.  Teaching implies knowledge as truth.  The truth is everywhere the same.  Hence, education should be everywhere the same.”

Robert Hutchins gave hundreds of educational speeches a year, consequently leading the way to a controversial and dramatic reform.  His educational philosophies were accessible to the people through his many books and publications.  Some of his works are:
 1)  No Friendly Voice -University of Chicago Press, 1936
 2)  Higher Learning in America -Yale University Press, 1938
 3)  Education For Freedom - Louisiana State University Press, 1943
 4)  St. Thomas and The World State - Marquette University Press, 1949
 5)  Morals, Religion and Higher Education - University of Chicago Press, 1950
 6)  The Democratic Dilemma - Almquist & Wiksells Boktryckerri AB, 1952
 7)  Some Questions About Education in N. America - U. of Toronto press, 1952
 8)  The Great Conversation - Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952

 Robert Maynard Hutchins, Education for Freedom,(Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1943), p.8.
 "Hutchins, Robert Maynard" (July 10, 2000)
 "Hutchins’ University of Chicago" (July 10, 2000)
 John D. McNeil, Curriculum:  A Comprehensive Introduction, John D. McNeil - 4th ed. (Illinois: Scott Foresman, 1990), p. 90

Report Prepared by:
Tigia M. Finn