Monday, December 19, 2011

On the work of some philanthropic foundations

From David Warsh' review How Business Schools Got to Be the Way They Are of "The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War" by Mie Augier and James G. March:
"Augier and March begin their account with a chapter on Abraham Flexner. It was Flexner’s 1910 report on medical education in the United States and Canada, Bulletin Number Four, from the Carnegie Foundation, that guided foundations’ investment in medical schools for a crucial twenty years after it appeared. The US was suffering from “a century of overproduction of cheap doctors,” Flexner wrote. Universities, not commercial establishments, should train physicians. Fundamental knowledge of science and medicine, not apprenticeships, should be the basis for their education. Professionalism, meaning peer review, should be the rule.

It worked. Within a decade of Flexner’s prescription, the number of medical schools declined dramatically; the quality of students, faculty and instruction in the remaining schools substantially improved; and science, biochemistry in particular, became pervasive in the curriculum. Not surprisingly, in the 1950s and ’60s, the Flexner Report became a model for foundations wishing to reshape the business schools.
It was RAND Corp. that provided the most stimulating incubator of change in the years after World War Two. An acronym for Research And Development, RAND was a private facility originally chartered by the US Air Force to explore ways of organizing scientific and technological knowledge for military purposes. Its first Pentagon boss was Gen. Curtis LeMay. But RAND’s Southern California headquarters, across the street from the Santa Monica pier, quickly grew into a kind of universal think-tank, spinning out important work on strategic thinking, decision making, organization theory and economics of all sorts, much of which found its way into business school curricula.
None of it would have happened the way it did without the Ford Foundation. Chartered in 1936, the philanthropy in the 1950s supported a number of liberal causes, among them public broadcasting in the United States, nation-building in Asia and support for the social and behavioral sciences. ....And so it was that the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh – a small, unranked, and unaccredited school at a second-tier engineering institute, as the authors put it – became a poster- child of the new management education.
There is, after all, a distinct possibility that the attempt to improve the intellectual environment of the business schools overshot and produced something else instead. In any event, the book ends on a note of disappointment:

"As the scholars and policy makers who grew up during the Great Depression and the Second World War and launched their careers in the 1950s and 1960s were gradually removed from the scene, they were replaced by individuals who grew up in different times and were imbued with different, less academic, and more self-interest-oriented perspectives. The “golden age” was transformed to a significant extent into an era of the glorification of huge fortunes and of those who accumulated them, the anointing of greed as a social virtue, and the substitution of the lessons of experience for the lessons of analysis and research.

But, briefly, there was a Camelot.""
Reading this review, I was reminded of Edward H. Bernan's book The Ideology of Philanthropy: The influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations on American foreign policy which takes a less charitable view of the vision of these foundations. A recent discussion of the book by ichael Barker at 'Dissident Voice' The Ideology of Philanthropy says "Seen through the eyes of their elitist foundation executives, democracy only functions when it is ran by the few for the many. Education thus takes a key place in the successful promotion of elite governance both on domestic and international planes of action; and although not well known, Edward Berman, professor emeritus of the University of Louisville, has written an important book that examines just this subject. By reviewing Berman’s study The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy (State University of New York Press, 1983), this article aims to publicize his vitally important, though oft neglected, ideas on the anti-democratic nature of liberal philanthropy."

An interview with Edward Berman and an excerpt from the book with references to education in India

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