A History of American Higher Education

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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Colleges and universities are among the most cherished institutions in American society - and also among the most controversial. Yet affirmative action and skyrocketing tuition are only the most recent dissonant issues to emerge. Recounting the many crises and triumphs in the long history of American higher education, historian John Thelin provides welcome perspective on t Colleges and universities are among the most cherished institutions in American society - and also among the most controversial.

Recounting the many crises and triumphs in the long history of American higher education, historian John Thelin provides welcome perspective on this influential aspect of American life. Thelin draws on both official institutional histories and the informal memories that constitute legends and lore to offer a fresh interpretation of an institutional past that reaches back to the colonial era and encompasses both well-known colleges and universities and such understudied institutions as community, women's, and historically black colleges, proprietary schools, and freestanding professional colleges.

Thelin also addresses the role of local, state, and federal governments in colleges and universities, as well as the influence of private foundations and other organizations. And through imaginative interpretation of films, novels, and popular magazines, he illuminates the convoluted relationship between higher education and American culture.

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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Dec 06, Tayler Steele rated it really liked it. I used this textbook in my History of American Higher Education graduate course. For a textbook, it was pretty enjoyable to read.

American Higher Education, Second Edition

As others have said, Thelin does ramble sometimes, but the material is easy to read, understand, and digest. My only issue with the text came from using it for a historical timeline assignment - I realized as I flipped through every chapter looking for specific dates that the book is excellent as a general overview of higher education, but it was hard to find informat I used this textbook in my History of American Higher Education graduate course.

My only issue with the text came from using it for a historical timeline assignment - I realized as I flipped through every chapter looking for specific dates that the book is excellent as a general overview of higher education, but it was hard to find information on specific dates and events. There were a lot of passages that would state generalities of certain decades and say, "From the ss, such and such trend But, as an overview of the history of American higher education, it was a pleasant and informative read.

Mar 10, Sam rated it liked it. In nine chapters, Thelin describes episodic trends in national history with institution-specific examples. Those chapters include colonial era colleges, the earliest American colleges, post-Civil War college growth and expansion, the generation of administrator college-builders, the growth of student enrollment up to World War One, the further institution expansions through World War Two, Cold War era federal education and research policies, the late Cold War funding and demographic shifts, and the financial constraints of the s through the present.

This book is a helpful resource with a challenging organization of content. While some readers will not find the book's thematic organization helpful for understanding chronological trends in higher education, other readers might appreciate the breadth of issues presented. Readers with an interest in historical research of U.

Readers unfamiliar with U. May 08, Gregory Jones rated it it was amazing.

American Higher Education, Second Edition - A History | Christopher J. Lucas | Palgrave Macmillan

It covers the basic narrative really well. In terms of over view, I don't think you could do much better. Folks interested in specific niches within higher ed might be frustrated that there's not more on this or that, but it works for its purpose. It does a nice job of keeping a neutral stance without leaning too heavily toward any political or ideological stance. Well-written, well-researched history of the U.

Coverage of HBCUs and other MSIs , women's colleges, and the relationship between slavery and the development of higher education neglected, however, while the author shows a fondness for early 20th century white male fads on traditional university campuses. Soon to be updated with a third edition in April Feb 25, Katelynn rated it really liked it.

This was actually a pretty good read. It was written in a way that was easy to read and not too scholarly to understand.

John Thelin on Higher Education in America

He then discusses Socrates, the primary philosopher who opposed the sophists, and defines the Socratic method of instruction. Lucas next introduces Plato, with his beliefs in the "philosopher-king," and then Aristotle, guiding the reader through each man's philosophic contributions to Western thought. He continues through time to Europe, tracing the rise of scholasticism, humanism, and the impact of the Protestant Reformation on higher education.

A related theme that Lucas explores on several occasions is the changing nature of the purpose and perceived usefulness of a college education. The objective of education and curriculum are highly interrelated issues, and Lucas does an admirable job of integrating the two concepts. From ancient Rome to the modern university or community college, a tension exists between the dual goals of a university — to train the mind or the soul for enhancement of intellectual satisfaction on the one hand, and to train the student for a viable occupation and respectable place in the labor market and society on the other.

Throughout history, some have seen these two ends at great odds with each other; others have seen them as distinct, but mutually reinforcing. Lucas recounts this tension as it appeared in various contexts; for example, the debates surrounding the role of the emerging American university as a pure research institution versus the more utilitarian approach adopted by the land grant institutions p.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion of this topic is again in Part One of the book. Therefore, some readers may imagine that before the mid-twentieth century, higher learning was perhaps pure and unsullied, clearly emphasizing the classics. This is a myth that Lucas dispels commendably. Lucas also examines the frequent reluctance of universities to embrace new forms of knowledge or new ways of thinking.

Although he rarely ponders the reasons for such resistance or offers his analysis of why faculties rebuff change, the discussion of this reluctance is nevertheless intriguing. For example, when mentioning the failure of many seventeenth-century European universities to embrace science, Lucas comments: Not surprisingly, universities displayed little interest in scientific discoveries. Just as traditional institutions of higher education had been slow to incorporate elements of humanist scholarship within their programs, universities tended once again to insulate themselves from the ferment surrounding new forms of knowledge.

English schools under the direct influence of Bacon and Newton did show some interest in the physical and biological sciences, but otherwise European universities were not at all receptive. When he moves through the history of the American curriculum in Parts Two and Three the results are not quite as smooth, although he continues discussing the theme of knowledge and curriculum. He proceeds throughout in a straightforward manner to offer explanations of intellectual movements and the responses such movements engendered.

He explains the classical curriculum at the colonial college, the early nineteenth-century struggles for change, and the defense of classical learning offered by the faculty of Yale in In describing the rise of the university, Lucas discusses the introduction of new subject matter such as agriculture, and the eventual and overwhelming endorsement of science. The text is most captivating, however, when Lucas engages the more troublesome aspects of curricular innovation.

For example, he reminds the reader that the phenomenal growth of science led universities down the path of appealing to the government and other agencies for research dollars, thus leaving institutions vulnerable to charges of the possible loss of objectivity or integrity p. Lucas eventually brings up the most recent curricular debate in the United States — expanding the canon beyond Western European traditions, which is often dubbed "political correctness" — and briefly mentions the impact of postmodernism on U.

Had he offered a theory of why universities resist change and applied that theory to the modern context as well as the historical, the entire discussion of curricular innovation would have been enhanced.

In its absence, the reader is essentially left with a collection of facts, albeit interesting ones, about the fluctuations in what is taught and valued in our colleges and universities. Despite Lucas's ability to bring up recurring topics that are salient throughout history, the episodic format suffers from three flaws that, as mentioned above, can be quite disturbing. First, Lucas rarely sets the stage or informs the reader of where he is going or why. For example, in his discussion of higher education in ancient Greece, he speaks of the cultural and political importance of eloquent speech and the consequent development of rhetoric as an integral part of the Greek curriculum p.

A reader already quite familiar with educational history would immediately understand why Lucas included this information, recognizing the place of rhetoric in the classical curriculum of American colonial colleges and the nineteenth-century struggle over its demise on U. But would the lay reader, the author's target audience, make such a connection? Lucas occasionally clarifies the connections among various pieces of information at the end of a chapter or section. When discussing the rise of residential colleges in medieval Europe, for example, he concludes by explaining that Oxford and Cambridge clung to the college tradition after it had fallen off in Europe.

This is why Harvard, whose founders and early professors were typically graduates of those institutions, was formed on the residential model. More often than not, however, Lucas's text lacks introductory paragraphs that could provide important contexts for the material about to be presented. Such paragraphs would add both clarity and sense of direction, especially for nonhistorians, for whom Lucas purports to write. A second problem with the episodic nature of the book is understanding the relative attention Lucas gives various topics.

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Lucas states that his goal is to illuminate current issues in higher education for the lay reader, yet he gives approximately the same amount of space to Charles Eliot's Harvard president from to introduction to the elective principle, for example, as he does to the origins of the historically Black colleges and universities. While both topics are important historically, and Lucas does revisit both of them later in the book, it seems that institutional racism and the relatively low rate of African American participation in higher education are more pressing contemporary problems than the use of electives in undergraduate education.

Given the stated objective of the author — to assess the current issues in higher education by examining its past — it would seem that the former warrants more attention than the latter. Because Lucas does not inform the reader of his direction, does not explain his reasons for including or excluding particular topics, and fails to argue any particular point of view, the book lacks a clear sense of narrative voice and purpose. In the penultimate chapter, Lucas presents a litany of current complaints leveled against higher education by students, politicians, the media, and the general public.

This chapter, in which Lucas attempts conspicuous demythologizing, is arguably the strongest in the book. Words in his chapter subheadings clearly indicate the tone and scope of the subjects covered: multiculturalism, political correctness, loss of community, malaise, academic standards, neglect of undergraduate studies, careerism, and fragmentation. The fact that many of these topics are frequently stories in major newspapers indicates the timeliness of the issues. In chapter nine, the final chapter, Lucas returns to a few key issues that he examined previously in the context of his discussion of the development of curriculum, the changing nature of the student body, and the evolving role of the faculty.

Allowing three to five pages per topic, he provides a synopsis of the historical development of each, illustrating either the continuity or discontinuity of history. He speaks of the myth of "the college or university as a kind of secular monastery. He reminds the reader that until well into the nineteenth century, colleges used religious doctrine as a criteria for hiring or firing professors and presidents, antebellum southern colleges dismissed professors who espoused anti-slavery positions, pro-union stances cost professors their jobs at the turn of the century, and, as recently as the s, the anti-Communist zeal of McCarthyism threatened academic freedom again.

From the lay reader's perspective, this last chapter may be the most useful and informative. Understanding the influence of these will help you better contextualize policy proposals, challenges, and opportunities facing American higher education. Since the earliest days of higher education in the New World, debates regarding vocationalism and what we today call liberal arts have existed. While prior incarnations may have been about learning Latin instead of English, the debates are remarkably similar. Should higher education focus on job specific skills? Should the focus be on citizenship and preparation for leadership in society?

What is the goal and purpose of higher education? Recent trends in this debate center around whether the government should pay for majors that do not have obvious career outcomes. In the end, we have not- and may never- settle the debate between the liberal arts and vocational curriculum. Higher education has long struggled with the question of who attends and to a lesser extent how admissions decisions are made.

From wealthy sons in the beginning to increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities, colleges and universities constantly deal with who attends higher education.

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