The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980


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The numbers of women studying in such nontraditional fields as law and medicine have not been matched by proportionate numbers of tenured female professors in these fields. At the end of the twentieth century, more part-time faculty members, and many women and members of minority groups, fell into this category of low-paid instructors. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, curricular offerings and types of higher-education institutions diversified as well.

Partly a result of student protests during the s, colleges and universities expanded offerings in such subjects as the history, music, and religions of non-Western cultures and literature by women and members of minority groups. The number of such academic departments as women's studies and African American studies increased, and some colleges and universities introduced racial or ethnic studies requirements to guarantee students the exposure to ideas outside the traditional white male European heritage. Critics dubbed this new wave of interests "political correctness" and argued that it inhibited dialogue, that the expanded curriculum was less rigorous than the traditional curriculum and therefore poorly served students and intellectual life.

Best-selling books expanded the discussion beyond academe. Beginning in the mids there was also a diversification of institutional structures. Community colleges expanded and many public institutions and some private colleges offered evening and weekend classes and courses via cable television and, in the late s, via the Internet. More institutions took their courses to the students, offering courses in prisons, on military bases, and at community centers.

At the same time, more colleges distinguished themselves from the mainstream. Historically black colleges and a few remaining women's colleges clarified their missions, advertising racial or single-sex atmospheres that fostered more success among minorities and women than racially mixed and coeducational schools.

Similarly, new tribal colleges served Native American students.

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At the end of the century, public universities continued their missions of teaching, research, and service to society, with research receiving much attention. As federal expenditures for research increased, the popular press criticized universities for spending research money unwisely and professors for spending more time on research than teaching.

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As a result, more stringent teaching requirements, downsizing, more efficient business practices to lower tuitions, and elimination of academic tenure were some of the solutions proposed by state legislatures and some university administrations. Along with diversification of colleges and universities came inflation of grades and educational credentials, making some bachelors' and graduate degrees of questionable value. At the same time employers required more and more extensive educational backgrounds. All of these factors guaranteed that colleges and universities would be important, and contested, territory for years to come, as the United States adjusted to post-Cold War educational and economic conditions.


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Brickman, William W. A Century of Higher Education. New York: Society for the Advancement of Education, Brubacher, John S. New York: Harper and Row, Chamberlain, Mariam K. Women in Academe: Progress and Prospects. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. New York: Knopf, Garden City, N. Kerr, Clark.

The Great Transformation in Higher Education, — Parsons, Talcott, and Gerald M. The American University. Cambridge, Mass. Riesman, David and Verne A. Stadtman, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, Rudolph, Frederick.

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The establishment of institutions of higher learning in America was fostered by the central assertion of Puritanism that laity should possess the ability to read the Bible and understand theology. This principle made New England one of the most literate societies in the world during the seventeenth century; and it was upon this premise that Harvard College, the first denominational college in the English colonies, was established in A little more than thirty years later, Anglicans established the College of William and Mary in Virginia in order to educate the laity—male laity—to carry out their errand in the New World.

Similar denominational institutions of faith and learning soon followed with the establishment of Yale, Princeton, Brown, Pennsylvania, and King's College now Columbia early in the eighteenth century. In , largely through the efforts of Bishop John Carroll , Roman Catholics established their own institution of higher learning with the founding of Georgetown College. Other Catholic institutions such as St.

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Joseph's College and St. Louis College soon followed. By , American Catholics had founded fourteen colleges. The curriculum in both Protestant and Catholic colleges mirrored the medieval educational model with students studying the Bible as well as ancient languages and the classics. During the course of the next two hundred years, approximately nine hundred colleges were founded throughout the nation with heavy concentrations in the northeast and midwestern states.

With the advent of the Civil War, however, few of these institutions of higher learning remained operable. Of the one hundred and eighty-two colleges that remained, some one hundred and sixty of them were denominationally related institutions. In part, this growth was attributable to the decentralized ecclesiastical structures of Protestant denominations that encouraged lay participation, a concern for educated leadership, and fund-raising. Not only were the percentages of denominational colleges growing during this era, but their curriculums and student populations were expanding as well.

The year saw the publication of "Original Papers in Relation to a Course of Liberal Education," in which the Yale report recommended that the curriculum of colleges should be extended beyond educating the nation's male citizenry in Christianity, the classics, and republicanism. At the same time, European schools of thought began to take hold in America.

Scottish common sense realism, a philosophy widely espoused at colleges such as Princeton, held great sway in schools during this era, but so did the teachings of the Enlightenment and German idealism. Further efforts to educate the populace were taken in with the establishment of the interdenominational Society for the Promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education at the West.

Ordained clergy often presided over these institutions, which came to reflect and articulate the ideals of the Protestant establishment.


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Other religious institutions, such as Oberlin College , resisted some of the social conventions of the day. Founded in , Oberlin soon gained the support of the popular revivalist Charles Grandison Finney and attracted students charged with being bound together in a "solemn covenant" and pledged to "the plainest living and highest thinking.

The first class consisted of twenty-nine male and fifteen female students. In , the college conferred bachelor's degrees upon three female students, making it the nation's first institution of higher education to do so. Such egalitarian measures were extended to people of color as well. By the mids Oberlin was advertising the admission of any youth "irrespective of color.

Several social currents contributed to the proliferation of denominational colleges in the late nineteenth century. Foremost were the country's industrial development and its geographical expansion. This growth, albeit modest at first, resulted in the expansion of the upper class , many of whom regarded higher education as a symbol of status. A result of these class assumptions was the increased numerical demands on the nation's institutions. But these market forces also helped to modernize the nation, consequently increasing its need for so-called "human capital formation.

Yet in the post—Civil War decade, only five hundred colleges were still solvent. To stem the emerging demand for education, Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant Act of that helped establish more than seventy land-grant colleges. While seemingly inconsequential to the life of denominational colleges, the passage of this act helped to break the monopoly held by churches in higher education.

Further loosening this stronghold was the growing internal bureaucracy found within denominations. With this latter development came two important changes.

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First, the creation of internal bureaucracies tended to distance educational institutions from their sponsoring denominations. This increased distance affected the shape of the curriculum and the way the mission of the school was carried out. Second, as these structures grew more complex internally, there tended to be less interdenominational cooperation. The balkanization of education agendas unwittingly served to severely undermine the cultural dominance several mainline Protestant denominations had attained.


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  4. At the same time, societal demands for an educated class were rapidly changing; this led to the development of an appreciable gap between both Catholic and Protestant curriculums and the needs of an industrializing nation. The long-standing "classical" curriculums of Latin, Greek, ethics, and rhetoric offered by these institutions did not meet the demands of the new economy.

    While the curriculums of a number of Protestant institutions gradually changed to meet these demands, Catholic institutions were slower to change. Their resistance was due in part to structural issues. Unlike Protestant institutions, Catholic colleges in America remained modeled on a European Jesuit system of instruction that combined secondary and collegiate education into a seven-year program.

    It would take several decades before the educational programs of Catholic colleges had adjusted to the prevailing patterns of American secondary education and economic change.

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    Protestant denominational colleges underwent a period of consolidation in the early twentieth century. Typically, the educational mission of schools fell under the auspices of appointed boards whose ideas of a religious-based education were often more broadly construed than those of the respective churches.

    Although some boards produced specific guidelines in determining the character or definition of church-related schools, among them Presbyterians, others simply sought to develop "Christian gentlemen" among their students. Protestant colleges were increasingly divesting themselves of their specific Christian heritage in order to serve the public at large.

    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980
    The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980 The Great Transformation in Higher Education, 1960-1980

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