There is typically less there than meets the eye


Senior Member
Hello,everyone.The following is from the book Perspectives on Higher Education: Eight Disciplinary and Comparative Views by Burton R. Clark (Editor),On p.5 it goes:

Learned professors, studious and rigorous in their own fields, often discuss higher education without much preparation, much as busy medical doctors offer opinions on hospital organization and the state of their profession. Able administrators meet to engage in shoptalk on the latest problems, tackling issues on an ad hoc basis, first clinging to one post and then another as they lurch down the road of understanding.It is often deemed sufficient to have a philosopher-statesman restate the ideals of higher education, with all those assembled warmed by affect rather than informed by analysis. There is typically less there than meets the eye.

It is pity that I don't understand the meaning of "There is typically less there than meets the eye." and in "those assembled" ,"those" refers to "those people assembled in the meeting, for example, the administrators, not refers to "the ideals", am I right?
  • LokoM

    English - BE
    The idiom is "There is more than meets the eye", meaning that a situation may appear simple on the surface, but it is actually more complex, more difficult, more profound than it appears.

    With "less than meets the eye", the writer is ridiculing the efforts of "those assembled" [= the people taking part] with the implication that they are treating a simple problem as if it were a complex or difficult issue.

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Those assembled" are the "able administrators" meeting to engage in shoptalk and other things.

    I am not sure I agree with LokoM over the meaning of "less than meets the eye"; I think it refers to their self-belief: that they, with the benefit of their philosopher-statesman (an allusion to Plato's ideal leader), have a full understanding, whereas actually they have very little. However, the writer is hardly making himself clear.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "All those assembled" - I assume it's the "able administrators" who meet and are addressed on a theoretical and vague plane by a learned professor, who I take to be the "philosopher-statesman" .

    "Less than meets the eye" - it all sounds good on the surface, but the reality is less good than one would expect. The learned academic is only superficially involved, and those who are involved at ground level don't have an overall grasp of the problems and how to integrate their efforts to solve them. There isn't a clear common goal and way of proceding to it.
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