The History of Plan II Honors
H.T. Parlin, Father of Plan II
H.T. Parlin was a graduate of The University of Colorado, where he received a B.A. and an M.A. (majoring in English) and from the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his doctorate on a "Harrison Fellowship" in 1908. He came to UT right after that. Interestingly, Dean Parlin was also President of of Austin Community College for 15 years, beginning at its formation in 1935, which is the same year he founded Plan II.
The Daily Texan
November 15, 1937
A president or dean of a state university seldom makes a speech justifying the cause of higher education without scoring the point that his university is training for citizenship. This sounds well, for if the university of Texas or any other tax-supported institution of higher learning is founded for one thing more than another it is to produce good citizens. But just what is meant by training for citizenship in a university of today? Some think that if we require a course in economics and government before any student may be graduated that this will do the trick. There is very good reason the claim that a citizen should know something of the economic set-up of the society in which he lives and particularly that he should understand and sympathize with the government under which he legally lives. But economics and government, important matters as they are, are not the whole equipment for citizenship of the highest order. The only good citizen destined by training at the state's expense for service and leadership in society is the enlightened and good man. For the highest sort of goodness is enlightened goodness. By enlightenment, I mean training in a university that includes information in important fields of knowledge, a vision that comes from seeing such knowledge in the perspective of past experience, and added to this a humane culture that will prompt a man to be responsible and willing to serve society in the interest of society as a whole.
Personally, I do not think the finest grade of professional training is justifiable in tax-supported colleges and universities unless it is accomplished by an even higher grade of liberal and cultural training such as I have indicated. The ideal is the enlightened man who is also well trained in some vocation or profession as a start in life. And I am frank to say that if either culture or training has to be scanted, professional training rather than enlightenment should be scanted in college. Lawyers and engineers, chemists and geologists, technicians and specialists are bound to get further training in their respective fields after they leave college, and quite fairly and properly at the expense of industry and the individual, but the whole meaning and inspiration of disinterested enlightenment such as I have in mind must be given to men and women when they are young and impressionable--that is, when they are in college and when the colleges are responsible for their teaching. The universities are not under the same general obligation to give the students all the professional training they want or will take within the same period.
Any one who has had anything to do with university management knows that in the effort to combine enlightened citizenship part of the professional training, the enlightend citizenship part of the combination nearly always gets the worst of it. In other words, the liberal arts curricula in our universities are too frequently affected adversely by the presence of the professional objective. I concede to the practical situation that students attending state universities are entittled to combine liberal education with a professional or vocational training which will give them real claims to a job when they leave college. But I still contend that the combination is open to the danger of professionalizing the liberal education and taking out of it that element of disinterested enlightenment--that humane something that alone guarantees any qualification for important leadership.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the University of Texas offers every student registered in the College the opportunuty to prepare for some sort of vocation. It offers curricula leading to specialization in the sciences, curricula leading to all the professions, opportunity to prepare for certification to teach in the elementary and high schools, every sort of preparation for a job, and along with this technical and professional training the College of Arts and Sciences as a part of the University's whole effort tries to give some education that has to do with a liberal outlook and some knowledge of the great cultural inheritance of our people.
But following its own special purpose further, the College of Arts and Sciences has in the last three years made available to students of superior scholastic attainment, the opportunity to get a four-year course in general education free from professional pre-occupation. This curriculum for the B.A. degree has a very uninspiring designation and is known as Plan II for the B.A. degree. Plan II is meant for students who want and are willing to spend four years on a liberal education. The course of study precludes all professional courses as such, and finds its chief purpose in a knowledge of science, a study of society, and finally an appreciation of culture and the arts. Its claims to attention are several. In the first place, the contemporary world is the focus of the curriculum, and during the four years of the student's college life the aim is to integrate the courses so that beginning with a sound orientation in the natural sciences and the social sciences, the student passes on in his junior year to the broadening and humanizing subjects of literature and philosophy, and under advice to other subjects that spring naturally from the student's interest and general temperament. In the senior year the student is offered a course in classical civilization or one of the modern foreign nations through courses in the departments of foreign languages. And finally to round out the whole four years of the student's course of study, a tutorial course (TC 60) in reading under the supervision of a professor or group of professors is being prepared. The aim of this course will be to fill in and round out the culture of the individual student and will end in a comprehensive examination, similar probably to examinations such as are given in many universities for students wishing to graduate with honors.
The liberal arts colleges of America have been criticized consistantly in the last ten years for their neglect of the superior student, for keeping this student from a personal contact with his instructors and their advice, for putting the competent man through a mill necessitated by mass education. All of these criticisms we are striving to meet under Plan II. Our experiments are encouraging and so far conducted in a fine spirit of cooperation with the student concerned. I wish to stress the claim that in the course of study outlined as Plan II for the B.A. degree, we are attempting a training in citizenship that ought to produce a student who at graduation is well prepared to begin a life informed by intelligent study, the ability to learn well by further experience in life, and a critical judgement that should work well in any situation demanding a commanding leadership in social or governmental matters.
Progress and a unifying purpose are the technical objectives of Plan II. Its educational objective is enlightenment, the best sort of preparation for citizenship. Plan II presupposes the importance of science and scientific methods, stresses the importance of the individual in society, and finally aims at an exploration of human values that ought to temper learning with human feeling, give a proper perspective, and as much humane experience as a young person can attain through books and study before he is twenty-one. The curriculum leading under Plan II to the B.A. degree is not perfect, never will be probably. But members of the University staff who are interested in producing a high type of liberally educated person are at work on the program of study. Improvement is bound to come as we experiment further with courses and methods in Plan II. Those of us who believe that there are students in Texas ready to spend four yeas in a sound preperation for life before asking society for a job or a living are greatly encouraged by our efforts so far.