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Baylor in the Year 2000

Editor’s Note: For now over 75 years, Baylor Line has been publishing vivid storytelling from across the Baylor Family. I don’t think our archives full of deep, inspirational features should live solely on shelves, so we are bringing them back to like in BL Classics. In this installment, enjoy a trip back in time to read what author William Carden and Baylor Line thought Baylor would (and should) be like in the 21st Century.

In an anecdote in a contemporary novel Destiny appeared several centuries ago on a small island and asked a single question of three inhabitants. The question was, “What would you do if you knew that tomorrow this island would be inundated by a tidal wave?” The first respondent was a religious man, a mystic. He said, “I would gather all my loved ones and retire to the sacred grove and there pray all night that the gods might avert this tragedy.” The second man was a cynic. He replied, “I would eat, drink and be merry all night long, for tomorrow I die.” The third man was a rationalist and loved reason. He pondered a moment before he answered. He said, “I suppose I would gather all the wise men of the island together and see if we could not discover some way to live under water.”

A tidal wave of change is threatening to overwhelm all the sacred orthodoxies, ancient traditions, and cherished assumptions of the modern world. Allow me to change the metaphor from a tidal wave to an explosion. Social scientists are fond of speaking of various kinds of explosions that are taking place in our world, explosions that shadow our future with foreboding and danger.

Demographers warn us of a population explosion that threatens to double the world’s population before the year 2000.

Educators speak of a knowledge explosion (I prefer to call it an information explosion). We are trying to contain this somehow with the computer. There was one commercial computer in 1950. It is estimated that by the end of this year there will be 70,000 commercial computers in operation. If information keeps increasing at the present rate, major libraries in the United States will double in the next eight years.

An explosion is taking place in the world of technology. One of the significant developments in the modern world concerns the idea of power. New concepts and breakthroughs have given man the ability to do almost anything with his physical world that he dares. Power has brought fresh water from the seas, power has extracted minerals from low grade ores that were formerly thought unprofitable; power has placed man on the moon. Another kind of technology deals with the micro-world. Man is now attempting to create life in test tubes and to alter his genetic inheritance, both hopefully for the good of humanity.

Another kind of explosion is an explosion of colleges. Last year in the United States, nearly seventy new colleges opened their doors. That is an average of more than one per week. Also last year in the United States over a dozen private colleges either closed their doors or became public institutions: that is an average exceeding one per month.

Still another kind of explosion is the student explosion. When Baylor University opened its doors for the first time in 1845, there were less than 100,000 students in the institutions of this country. Now, 125 years later, there are nearly eight million. This number is expected to increase to fifteen million by 1980.These revolutionary developments bring both promises and threats for the future.

What will Baylor be like 125 years from now?

Looking backward briefly, we find that when the doors of Baylor University were opened in 1845, Victoria was the queen of England, Nicholas the First was on the throne of Russia, Louis Phillippe was the monarch of France, and Germany and Italy were not yet nations. Texas was not even a state; there were no concrete ribbons that stretched from one coast to the other; there were no telephones to pick up and use to converse across the oceans; there were no airplanes streaking across continents; and only the foolish would have dreamed that 125 years later man would stand on the moon.

What can we dare to predict today about Baylor 125 years from now? If I had been predicting the future as recently as 1959 (when I graduated from Baylor) I would not have dared to suggest that in just ten years our nation would be so tragically divided over a war that in 1959 was merely a guerilla action involving American advisors. In 1959 I would not have guessed that our federal government would have moved into higher education and medical affairs in the way it has moved in the last decade. The future often makes fools of those who dare to assume the prophet’s mantle.

The very fact that change is so rapid and that there is such a large class of variables about which prediction is extremely risky means that education, all education, will increasingly have to be education for adaptation and flexibility. We cannot with any confidence predict birth rates, the date of significant inventions or important medical breakthroughs, or the length of women’s skirts (if any) or the next Baptist position on the separation of church and state.

Perhaps no age has been so interested in the future and so determined as our own to control it. Writers are flooding the bookstores with volumes about the year 2000; TV programs carry the serious imaginings of creative minds about life in the twenty-first century: and business, education and government every day make decisions with an eye to their impact on generations yet unborn. Today’s students will be in the prime of life when the twenty-first century arrives. The education they deserve is not one for the 70’s but for the twenty-first century. Some who now attend Baylor as students will teach here in the twenty-first century. Their children and their children’s children will be Baylor students in the twenty-first century.

The future shape and substance of Baylor University to at least the year 2000 can be reasonably predicted in broad outline by examining its recent past and by observing general educational developments which are presently taking place. An attempt to look into the future of higher education in general and Baylor in particular is an occasion for both faith and despair. Faith because of the pragmatic ability of higher education to solve the perplexing number of problems it has faced in recent years—the influx of veterans, faculty salaries, the post war baby boom, and the Sputnik challenge.

Yet this faith is at the same time tempered by a nagging doubt that mankind can muster the intellectual and moral energy to govern itself in justice and dignity: and it is shadowed with the haunting possibility that we may not have the wisdom to avoid self-destruction.

I do not think any of us would deny there is ample, tragic evidence of a deep crisis in the human condition. Look at the past fifty years of the world’s history—this small planet has been shaken by a series of revolutions which have drastically altered the political, economic, and social structure of a majority of its nations—the USSR, China, India, nearly all of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and most of Latin America. In the same fifty years, the world has shuddered under two major wars and a major depression. In the last twenty years this nation has been caught in two major wars in the Far East, neither of which is officially concluded. More than two-thirds of the world’s population is either undernourished or on the verge of starvation. Even in the wealthiest nation in human history—the United States, 1969—many people are still struggling to emerge from poverty. In this university we struggle to live, to become and to create in the national shadow of misery, death and destruction.

The striking developments in science, medicine, and technology contrast starkly with the present quality of human life: We can nourish a man on the moon but we cannot adequately feed the children of Harlem or Watts. We can analyze the composition of remote stars —but we have not yet learned to understand our next-door neighbor. We have learned to survive under the oceans, but we have not yet learned to live peaceably on the land.

Maybe what I am trying to say is that it is generally safer to predict problems than to predict their solutions. The struggle for survival will continue to be man’s oldest and toughest problem, though it has taken on new forms in our time. The survival of life is threatened by civil disorder, overpopulation, air and water pollution, and the constant menace of thermonuclear extermination—a constant condition of modern life. The quality of life is threatened by the boredom that unused leisure generates; the menaces to sanity inherent in social strife; the collapse of once-comforting value systems; the pressures of overcrowding, speed, noise, and emotional strain; and the frustration of too much for most men to know, even about their own specialties and professions. Although we now see through a glass darkly, in the year 2000 our children and we ourselves will be face to face with the effects of the decisions we make now.

Let me briefly comment on several things taking place in our culture that will affect not just Baylor but all colleges and universities. I do not suggest these in any particular order of importance.

(1) The rapid development of urbanization will bring over eighty-five percent of the world population into perhaps three hundred metropolitan centers by the year 2000. The city has been historically the center of amusement and culture—the catalyst of progress and education. Urbanization has its values in cooperative living and easy accessibility of economic and cultural centers. On the other hand, such dimensions of urbanization will affect the dignity of man because of the impersonality of living in what is rapidly becoming a vast human ant heap.

(2) Our increasing contact with other cultures of the world holds both a threat and a promise. Our speed of communication threatens to outstrip our ability to relate harmoniously with others. The development of the transistor radio and television means that all who have little are increasingly aware of those who have much. On the other hand, this intercultural revolution makes it possible for us to learn from other cultures, to absorb some of their values into our own culture and thereby to reduce some of our own provincialism.

(3) It seems probable that the gap between affluence and poverty will grow greater before it is reduced. The level of affluence among the majority of our population is growing faster than our attempts to relieve the misery of those in poverty. Time is desperately needed to alleviate the deep-seated social and economic conditions that make poverty so destructive of the human personality. I personally think the contemporary social struggle in the United States will get much worse before it gets better.

(4) Young people in general are showing less and less inclination to rely upon the value of experience. Therefore, much learning of the future will be “horizontal” learning rather than “vertical” learning. By this I mean there will be less learning provided by the elder for the younger, and more learning from those who are closer in age to the learner. More learning will come from one’s peers than from one’s elders.

This is the first generation in the history of mankind that has looked to its peers for guidance and approval rather than to its elders. The speed of technological and scientific change in our society has created an impression that what was true ten or twenty years ago has only a limited relevance today.

(5) Education will be increasingly seen as a lifelong endeavor. This means education will no longer be associated with any particular age level. Research has already suggested that the best age to begin formal schooling is age two rather than age six. Experiments have even been undertaken to begin the education of the child when it is still in the mother’s womb. By the same token education must continue throughout life if it is to keep up with vocational and cultural change. A recruiter from a major automobile manufacturer suggested to me last year that a new recruit in their corporation will have to be re-trained four times during his lifetime. He said that half of what the new employee knows at graduation will be outdated in ten years and half of what he will need to know in ten years has not even been discovered. This probably means that college education in the future will be an off and on forty-year affair instead of a constant four-year pursuit.

(6) There will be increasing uncertainty about accepted values. The vast multicultural interchange plus the enormous sense of sweeping social change brings a feeling that all values and standards are outmoded. The anxiety of today stems less from guilt over violated standards than from uncertainty about which standards should be upheld.

What does all of this mean for Baylor? What will it mean to your children and the other students who are here when the year 2000 arrives? Allow me to suggest two or three things, especially in the area of student life.

(1) The Baylor student body thirty years from now is probably going to be more heterogeneous than it is now. I would guess that sixty years ago ninety per cent of the Baylor student body came from homes within a hundred-mile radius of the university. The student body now represents all states of the Union and over forty foreign countries. It is a Baptist citadel, but it is shared eagerly and freely with Protestants, Catholics, Jews and nonbelievers. This diversity and variety will increase in the future.

(2) In the future there will be far less acceptance of the principle “in loco parentis.” This principle has already disappeared in state colleges and is being strongly challenged in private schools. Students will simply not accept the assumption that adults should tell them how to live. Young people are increasingly more mature and serious and demand the right to make the mistakes and achieve the victories as they struggle for personal meaning.

(3) Increasingly students will come to college to learn about life rather than to prepare to earn a living. Great numbers of students now come to college with a feeling of financial security and affluence. Therefore, they are looking for personal meaning and self-understanding rather than vocational readiness. Affluence has given this generation of young people perhaps the first opportunity given any generation to step back and take a critical look at the world, to evaluate it fully and to suggest possible alternatives to present structures and policies

(4) Finally, I believe that by the year 2000 student government as we know it will have disappeared. Students will be involved in some kind of participatory governance of schools. Young people will increasingly demand to participate in college policy making—policy making both in social living conditions and in the curriculum made available by the college.

Let me conclude by predicting two other developments.

(1) Private colleges and universities will continue to enroll a declining percentage of students. In 1950 over fifty percent of the American college students were enrolled in Private schools. Last year that percentage had dropped to approximately thirty percent. Private colleges in Texas now enroll only twenty percent of the state college students. By the year 2000 this figure is expected to lie less than five per cent. Only those institutions with distinctive creative programs will survive.

(2) Higher education will cost more. During the past ten years, as the national college enrollment has doubled, educational costs have tripled. This cost curve is continuing to rise at an alarming rate. It now costs over $40,000 per day to operate Baylor at Waco and it will increasingly cost more. Last year I did some research on college tuition charges. At that time there were only two private colleges in the United States with an enrollment of 3,000 students or more that charged less tuition than Baylor. Our tuition cannot remain this low if Baylor is to continue to provide that “plus” in education that makes it the best that Baptists have.

For 125 years Baylor University has, under God, made progress toward its goals with the generous support of the ex-students and the Baptist denomination and through the sacrificial labors of its own faculty, students and administration. It has made a significant contribution to the lift of the world by training thousands of men and women in a wide variety of Christian lay vocations. As Baylor begins its second 125 years of service, it looks forward to the future with hope and confidence, expanding its service and facilities to meet the educational needs of a growing number of young people. The brief but dramatic history of Baylor as a Baptist university stands as a stirring testimony to Him who said: “If ye continue in my Word, then ye are my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

We have a common mission, you and I, the building of a greater Baylor. I know I speak for both of us when I say it is a mission we welcome and in which we rejoice. 

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