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Upton Sinclair – The knowledge most worth having

October 3, 2014

“Modern industry is an enormously complicated thing, and specialized teaching of industrial processes is just as necessary as any other kind of education. I would not give anyone the impression that I object to the teaching of advertising or foreign trade or finance, any more than I object to the teaching of plumbing or manicuring fingernails. My point is that all these arts should be taught in trade schools, and they should be taught as trades. For example, the International Harvester Company maintains an excellent school for training its employees; it does not pretend that this school is a ‘university,’ it does not call the turning out of harvester machines a ‘profession,’ and it does not constitute a high-speed steel worker a ‘doctor of science.’ It is when these schools of commerce and departments of trade crowd into universities, and take to themselves academic honors and dignities, and exploit themselves with high-sounding phrases of religion and social idealism, that I am moved to protest; as when I see some parasitic vine climbing a beautiful shade-tree, spreading out over the surface of the tree, blocking its light and air and choking it to death. …

It was Harvard which started this vile business, with a College of Commerce and Administration; Columbia followed suit, and the plague has spread from Maine to California. I consult a few college catalogues at random, and I find that at the University of Illinois they are teaching millinery, also at the University of Nebraska and the University of Southern California. At the University of California they have a ‘costume laboratory,’ also a course in ‘jewelry.’”

(from The Goose-Step [1923])

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