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CHAPTER 3 Rethinking Undergraduate Professional Education for the Twenty-First Century: The Public Policy Vantage Point Ray Thornton I have benefited tremendously by my association with people like those who participated in the conference, with people on the campuses where I have served, and with people who are con- cerned and interested in making our nation move forward strongly. Recently, one of my colleagues in the U.S. Congress asked me, "Why in the world would you leave, being president of the Univer- sity of Arkansas, to come to Congress?" I said, "I got tired of all the politics." Faculty members and administrators alike recognize that campuses are not immune from politics. AS Henry Kissinger said, "The reason that university politics is so fierce is because the stakes are so small." One of the things that we must constantly keep in mind in our universities, in agriculture, and in our nation is that when we divide the pie between competing groups, we draw artificial lines of de- marcation. As the president of a university, I never could under- stand exactly where the line between chemistry and biology ex- isted or why the battles were so fierce between those on either side of the line. Occasionally, we should step back from the arena of our daily contests and imagine what we might be able to accom- plish if we would set out with a new beginning to construct a different fabric to meet todays challenges. In INS, Congressman Jim Symington (D.-Mo.) and I chaired our committees (subcommittee on science, Research, and Technology and Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Plan- ning and Analysis, respectively) in a series of hearings on the na 35
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE ture of U.S. agricultural research, what direction agricultural science and technology should take to meet emerging needs, how well our system was responding to national needs, and what new means could be used to improve the agricultural research system. Orville Bentley, former U.S. Department of Agriculture assistant secretary for science and education, was one of those who testi- fied at our early hearings. He said, The system works, but it is incumbent upon us to make it work better" (Bentley' 1975:52). Out of those hearings came the idea of the National Agriculture Re- search, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977, which I intro- duced in the U.S. House of Representatives and of which I was the principal Democratic sponsor. The 1977 legislation contained mea- sures aimed at stimulating creativity and innovation in research and the application of knowledge. For the first time it set up competi- tive grants in agricultural research, and it opened the door for agri- cultural research to be performed by nontraditional sources. Fourteen years later, we are faced with great opportunities and challenges to forge constructive change in a partnership between industry, academia, and government. These new and complex chal- lenges have developed, in part, because of the remarkable changes in the world in the past few years. With the end of the Cold War and the truly remarkable military victory in the Persian Gulf, it is time that we develop broad, new, comprehensive strategies to ac- complish our national goals. From every success there emerges the challenge of a greater struggle. After World War 11, in a remarkable display of altruism and self-interest, we realized that for the security of our nation, Europe, including our former adversaries, and Asia, including Japan, must be restored to economic vitality and health as a bulwark against the fear that the Soviet communist system was going to sweep across Europe and, indeed, the world. With a massive economic investment approaching 2 percent of our gross national product, we developed the Marshall Plan for Eu- rope and the Truman Doctrine for Asia. The Marshall Plan was not just an application of money to solve a problem, however; it was a stimulus to those countries to do what they could to rebuild their infrastructures, to educate and train their young people and work force, to develop modern technologies and manufacturing skills, and to reinvest their own resources in themselves. It worked well. The Marshall Plan did not just provide economic help but was buttressed by the continuing dedication of U.S. power to ensure that the communist system did not break out of our containment policies to sweep across the world. We knew that wars and victo- ries on the battlefield might become a substitute for economic self- sufficiency within an aggressor nation. So we contained the threat of Soviet conquest, and the two competing economic systems met and locked in competition. Finally, the Western system of free 36
PUBLIC POUCH VANTAGE POINT enterprise and Individualism overwhelmed the state-managed eco- nomic system. Free societies demonstrated that they could suc ceed in the complex world In which we live. We are at that kind of historic moment today. For some months now I have been calling for a Marshall Plan for America, because it is time that our leaders carefully analyze our needs and, rather than continuing to build upon the prior traditions and structures of the past, develop a new way of thinking about the world and address- ing its current challenges. Agriculture is a very important part of that plan, and undergradu- ate education is a vital part of that new set of strategies. These strat- egies are not a product but a process of thinking in which we care- fully analyze what is required to accomplish three Important goals: maintaining our military and economic strength as a foundation for the lasting values of human dignity, responsibility, and democratic ideals. First, we must keep America the most mighty nation in the world militarily, recognizing, however, that military might can be attained with high technology and airlift and sealift capabilities and does not require us to place hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers across Europe in order to defend it. In analyzing the needs of the United States, the defense of Western Europe is bound to be addressed. In fiscal year lasso, the United States spent $135 billion defending Western Europe, but against whom? The Warsaw Pact has faded. I do not suggest that we withdraw from the world. We must partici- pate in the world, but we must also attain the strongest economic base that this country can have as we enter the next century. On a strong economic and military base we can achieve our goal of being the greatest nation with regard to the human values that are central to our democratic ideals. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Admiral Bobby Inman, and others have ana- lyzed Americas resources and strengths, and they report that there is no doubt that, properly employed, the United States can be the dominant economic force in the world and can benefit from partner- ships not only within this country but throughout the world. The appetites of less developed countries for agricultural goods will increase as they are stimulated to develop their economies. It will be very beneficial to U.S. agriculture for us to recognize the need to stimulate less developed countries to progress toward their own economic development. It will also be very important to recognize that energy is a vital part of our nationts future. Eighteen years ago, in April 1973, 1 addressed the U.S. House of Representatives with my first major speech in which I outlined the hazard that we were facing from not having a policy for alternative fuels and from not developing the energy resources we needed to attain a certain level of energy efficiency. I mentioned such things as fuel from grains and shale oil and solar and geothermal energy. 37
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE Mike McCormack (D.-Wash.) and I introduced the first six energy- related pieces of legislation to come into the U.S. House of Repre- sentatives, but they were ignored (this was several months before the Arab oil embargo of 1973). Everybody was saying, Hey, we don't have to worry. We're in good shape in this country. All we have to do is buy more." And then October of 1973 brought a stark recognlilon of our vulnerability. Many people remember the lines that developed in front of filling stations all across the United States as the oil embargo put a crimp into the domestic economy. Everyone said, "Why haven't we thought of thls7 Why haven't we done something?" They found, indeed, that Mike McCormack and I had been talking about the energy prob- lem. That is one reason why we both became subcommittee chair- men at the beginning of the next term of Congress, because we had isolated that problem and had begun to address it. Then, the nation began to address it. We developed strong programs for energy independence. And then the oil-exporting countries got smart: They lowered the price of oil. Because of the free market, we started buying more than we ever did before, and as a result, we are much more heavily energy dependent today. It is time that we consider what measures we should employ to make this country energy independent. Agriculture can play a big part, not only in the use of grain for alcohol production but also In providing the green solar energy converters the crops that are essential in making value-added agricultural products. New value- added products will be critical in replacing those that require ex- traordinary amounts of energy to produce. It is also vital that the agricultural system maintains a strong role in the United States. For years our policy has called on the nationts agricultural system to provide an abundant supply of clean, pure, and good food, and we have benefited enormously by the work that has been done to provide that food. Today, the rest of the world is catching on, just as they did during the Marshall Plan after World War 11, when they learned how to outbuild us in many areas of high technology. I am deeply concerned about the shift in competitiveness that is occurring today. In many areas we will have the dominant posi- tion, but in looking at the trends, as our congressional committees are doing, one can see that the U.S. position is slipping. In materi- als research, we are out of the game in the area of computer chips. An American invented high-definition television, but no U.S. com- pany can build television sets based on this technology without some help and partnerships with companies in other countries. We not only need to move our people into better jobs through manufacturing opportunities but we also need to discover new ways to harness the skills and abilities that our agricultural scientists can use to help the United States use its productive capacity to over 38
PUBLIC POLICY VANTAGE POINT come the unfavorable balance of trade that we have had in recent years. You will understand my parochial reason coming from Arkan- sas, which Is the largest producer of rice in the United States why 1 feel upset when we cannot even put a box of Riceland rice (Riceland Foods Inc., Little Rock, Ark.) on exhibit at a Japanese worlds fair. Yet, I do not know how many products that people in Arkansas and throughout the nation buy from Japan. There needs to be a more level playing field on which we are allowed to compete. Finally, it is Important to think about what the role of government should be. Clearly, the role of universities is vitally important, and I think we should listen well to the words that Justin Smith Morrell, a member of the U.S. Congress, wrote in 1859, prior to the 1862 adoption of his legislation. He said, The modern achievements of skill, enterprise, and science, new ideas with germs of power must be recognized and diligently studied, as they have brought and will continue to bring daily competition which must be met. If the world moves at lo knots an hour, those whose speed is but 6 will be left in the lurch" (National Association of State Universities and Land- Grant Colleges, 1 987: 1 ). Undergraduate education In agriculture is absolutely essential to any strategy of meeting the new forces of world competition. We should recognize that governments role Is limited, but it is impor- tant. Timothy S. Healy, former president of Georgetown University, said, "Great universities are not made by governments, they are made by learned men and women who are free to think and dream and by bright students who are free to learn. Governments first obligation is to trust that freedom, and its second is to help nourish it." I subscribe to those thoughts, although there is a reciprocal duty upon a university to be accountable and trustworthy in the application of public funds. Government has a role similar to that of agriculture and industry: to trust our institutions and individuals and encourage them to be- come more competitive. I sometimes think that in this country we are like Gulliver, bound down by thousands of threads on the beach at LillipUt. Our free enterprise system and our agricultural capabil- ity are the greatest in the world, and yet, we sometimes find our- selves harnessed and shackled by long delays. It is more speedy today for a U.S. inventor to license his or her invention overseas and watch it come back onto the market in this country than it is to go through the hurdles that are placed in the way of an inventor in the United States. We need to find ways of letting government help to clear the line of scrimmage, to "block" for U.S. agriculture and U.S. business, to spot some particular demonstration projects, and to announce to the world, "we are coming through this hole." It might be high- definition television. It might be fiber optics. It might be the devel 39
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE opment of a new strain or a new germplasm that will provide U.S. farmers with the opportunity to be more competitive with farmers in other countries. Then we establish a base to succeed in those efforts. In the United States, we have a great opportunity to harness our inventive genius to the marketplace. That is a role that universities are well suited to doing, through the patent legislation that gives inventors some access to the fruits of their own inventions. We should find ways of persuading U.S. companies that it is all right to work with each other in limited areas in order to put U.S. workers on the line building products for sale around the world. A lack of such leadership encourages, for example, our automobile manufac- turers to enter into such partnerships with integrated manufacturers in Japan or Germany. We need to do some careful thinking. There is no simple solution. H. L. Mencken once said, There is always an easy solution to every human problem neat plausible, and wrong" (Mencken, 1 949:443). The problem that I am describing is not a simple problem, but our resources are equal to the task. Those of us in government should step back from the traditions and structures of the past and grasp the marvelous opportunity that is ours in the closing decade of this century. We need a Marshall Plan for America a compre- hensive and interconnected strategy to employ all of our best skills and abilities to make this country militarily mighty and economically strong, so that we may continue as the government that provides the greatest degree of individual freedom, competitive education for all, and the other elements that make it possible to protect and respect the qualities of human dignity. References Bentley, O. 1975. Agricultural Research and Development: Special Over- sight Hearings. Committee on Science and Technology. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Mencken, H. L. 1949. A Mencken Chrestomathy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. 1987. Serving the World: The People and Ideas of Americas State and Land- Grant Universities. Washington, D.C.: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. 40