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The American College and University

The American College and University: A History

Introductory Essay and Supplemental Bibliography BY JOHN R. THELIN
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 616
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  • Book Info
    The American College and University
    Book Description:

    First published in 1962, Frederick Rudolph's groundbreaking study, The American College and University, remains one of the most useful and significant works on the history of higher education in America. Bridging the chasm between educational and social history, this book was one of the first to examine developments in higher education in the context of the social, economic, and political forces that were shaping the nation at large. Surveying higher education from the colonial era through the mid-twentieth century, Rudolph explores a multitude of issues from the financing of institutions and the development of curriculum to the education of women and blacks, the rise of college athletics, and the complexities of student life. In his foreword to this new edition, John Thelin assesses the impact that Rudolph's work has had on higher education studies. The new edition also includes a bibliographic essay by Thelin covering significant works in the field that have appeared since the publication of the first edition. At a time when our educational system as a whole is under intense scrutiny, Rudolph's seminal work offers an important historical perspective on the development of higher education in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4257-3
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. RUDOLPH REDISCOVERED: An Introductory Essay
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    John R. Thelin

    Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Since Frederick Rudolph’s The American College and University: A History went out of print in 1986, higher education historians have suffered withdrawal pains. For over twenty-five years Rudolph’s book had been at the heart of courses that introduced the heritage of the American campus. “Out of print” has meant “out of luck” for most professors who teach seminars in the history of education as they experienced the immediate panic of what to do about textbook orders for the forthcoming semester. During this period of “life without Rudolph” I have spent each summer making...

    (pp. xxv-2)
    Frederick Rudolph
  5. 1 The Colonial College
    (pp. 3-22)

    On the eve of the American Revolution, England’s colonies in the New World were supporting, in one fashion or another, nine colleges, nine home-grown variations on a theme known in the mother country as Oxford and Cambridge. Whether the colonies needed the nine was another matter, just as it would always be a question of some controversy whether the United States needed all the colleges it would spawn in the centuries that followed.

    This proliferation of colleges—Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, New Jersey, King’s, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Queen’s, Dartmouth—all before 1770, this planting of temples of piety and...

  6. 2 Legacy of the Revolution
    (pp. 23-43)

    While the purposes of the colonial colleges were not narrow, the charge was sometimes made against them that their curriculum was stultifying, unimaginative, inadequate to the times—a veritable baggage of subjects, methods, and attitudes almost certain to keep the student and his world at a standstill. No curriculum, whatever its merits, has been spared comparable complaints.

    The curriculum of Harvard and the other colonial colleges was drawn from many sources. Had these colleges been only creatures of the Reformation, the emphasis would perhaps have been so overwhelmingly on the preparation of clergymen that the course of study would hardly...

  7. 3 The College Movement
    (pp. 44-67)

    On a cold drizzly day in January 1795, a two-story empty brick building that called itself the University of North Carolina was opened to the public. An unsightly landscape of tree stumps, rough lumber, scarred clay, and a bitter wind greeted the governor, who had wanted to be on hand for this important event. He was also met by the faculty which consisted of one professor doubling as president. A month later the first applicant for admission knocked at the door. In the same year, far to the north, the founders of a college that would be called Bowdoin were...

  8. 4 The Religious Life
    (pp. 68-85)

    Andrew D. White, the first president of Cornell, a man possessed by a dream of true university proportions, once referred to the pre-Cornell period in the history of American higher education as “the regime of petty sectarian colleges.”¹ From his vantage point above Cayuga’s waters, this was perhaps so.

    In many places, however, religion could thrive without petty sectarianism. A less dramatic but a more accurate description of the pre-Cornell era would be “the regime of the religious-oriented college.” This description allows for the variety that was fundamental to the American collegiate experience. It permits a variety that necessarily includes...

  9. 5 The Collegiate Way
    (pp. 86-109)

    William Tecumseh Sherman, who would be remembered for marching through Georgia, began his career in the South as president of a military college that became Louisiana State University. Reporting on the opening of the institution in 1860 he remarked: “The dullest boys have the most affectionate mothers and the most vicious boys here come recommended with all the virtues of saints…. Of course I promised to be a father to them all.” A Princeton alumnus, searching in 1914 for some way to define the Princeton spirit, decided that he could best convey his meaning by describing Princeton as a place...

  10. 6 Reform and Reaction
    (pp. 110-135)

    What is an American college? War, declining enrollments, the sudden instability of whole areas of knowledge, dynamic social and economic changes—these and a multitude of other developments have often thrown the American college back upon itself and forced upon it a moment, perhaps even an era, of critical self-assessment and redefinition.

    Fundamental to this phenomenon of changing definition has been the dynamic quality of American life. The likelihood was remote that the American college would enjoy stability while everything else experienced growth, flux, and ferment. The United States in the early decades of the nineteenth century was exchanging Republicans...

  11. 7 The Extracurriculum
    (pp. 136-155)

    The American college, for all of the pervasiveness of the Yale Report of 1828, was unable to stand still. To an increasingly disenchanted public, the American college continued to present itself as little more than a body of established doctrine, an ancient course of study, and a respectable combination of piety and discipline. Within the college, however, there was taking place what might readily be called the unseen revolution. For the American college, if it could not be reformed from the top, could be redefined from the bottom. If it was not seriously reshaped by the Jeffersons, Lindsleys, Ticknors, and...

  12. 8 Academic Balance of Power
    (pp. 156-176)

    The vigor of the extracurriculum was proof that the undergraduates had succeeded in assuming significant authority over college life and that as a result they had become a remarkably important element in the power structure of the American college. That they were able to do so was in part a function of the American tendency to favor the young, whatever their endeavors, but also operative was a conscious policy of laissez faire, an administrative acquiescence in, if not approval of, these student excursions into the world of the extracurriculum. Faternities and organized athletics especially disturbed many college authorities, but with...

  13. 9 Financing the Colleges
    (pp. 177-200)

    During the War of 1812 military forces of the United States commandeered the only building of the University of Vermont for use as a barracks. The university necessarily called off classes and waited for peace. For its troubles it received a government check in the amount of $5,600.¹ Few American colleges would not have benefited from a similar misfortune. The American college, when open, was often on the verge of bankruptcy. Vermont had discovered, when closed, how to experience prosperity. But the War of 1812 did not solve the financial problems of the American college. War and misfortune and Uncle...

  14. 10 Jacksonian Democracy and the Colleges
    (pp. 201-220)

    The Yale Report of 1828 gave expression to one of the most durable positions on the nature of the American college, but another event of the same year was of more lasting consequence. In 1828 Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency of the United States. Jackson did not tangle with the professors of New Haven nor, probably, did that unschooled orphaned soldier so much as express himself on the subject of American higher education. Jackson, nonetheless, symbolized and furthered tendencies in American life that would in the end spell defeat either for the Yale Report or for the American...

  15. 11 Crisis of the 1850’s
    (pp. 221-240)

    The American college did not find the answers to the questions raised by the rising tide of democracy until after the Civil War. Nor did it, until then, begin effectively to grapple with the question of quality, of standards, of excellence. Whether higher education in the United States was going to serve the people was one question; whether it was going to serve learning was another.

    The old-time college had been willing to serve both, but on its terms, which meant that the people must take from the colleges what the colleges had decided was good for the people and...

  16. 12 Dawning of a New Era
    (pp. 241-263)

    One day in 1867 Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote into his journal an observation that anticipated how thoroughly higher education in the years after the Civil War would differ from the era of the colleges. “The treatises that are written on University reform may be acute or not,” suggested Emerson, “but their chief value to the observer is the showing that a cleavage is occurring in the hitherto granite of the past and a new era is nearly arrived.”¹ The new era, which was about to dawn, would pass the old-time college by or perhaps convert it into a precious preserve...

  17. 13 The Emerging University
    (pp. 264-286)

    Higher education in the United States after the Civil War was transformed by more than one agency of innovation, but surely none came closer to representing fundamental developments in American social and intellectual life than did the land-grant college movement. “State College” would come to have as homely and honest a ring about it as any of the numerous institutions identified with agrarian America. State Fair. Fourth of July picnic. Church social. Saturday night in town. None of these came any closer than “State College” in evoking an appreciation of wholesome rural values—clean, hard-working, honest young men and women,...

  18. 14 The Elective Principle
    (pp. 287-306)

    A few days after the Battle of Bunker Hill a Harvard undergraduate wrote in his diary: “Amid all the terrors of battle I was so busily engaged in Harvard Library that I never even heard of … [it] until it was completed.”¹ A hundred and fifty years later professors who complained of apathetic students were advised by Knute Rockne, the great coach at Notre Dame: “Make your classes as interesting as football.”² Obviously some time between the Battle of Bunker Hill and the titanic football struggles of the 1920’s at South Bend there had developed in the American college what...

  19. 15 The Education of Women
    (pp. 307-328)

    Given the conditions of American life, it was inevitable that the college classroom should one day be blessed with the charms of femininity and graced by the presence of aspiring American womanhood. But it would take time. Yale, in 1783, examined Lucinda Foote, age twelve, and found her “fully qualified, except in regard to sex, to be received as a pupil of the Freshman class of Yale University.”¹ But the doors were barred, and even the giving of an examination was something of a cruel joke. Imagine a twelve-year-old girl, on the edge of adolescence, examined by the illustrious divines...

  20. 16 Flowering of the University Movement
    (pp. 329-354)

    In a spirit of optimism appropriate to the age President James B. Angell of the University of Michigan looked out upon the collegiate world in 1871 and concluded, “In this day of unparalleled activity in college life, the institution which is not steadily advancing is certainly falling behind.”¹ The little sleepy colleges, the reluctant universities, the friends of the status quo—if they did not hear this call to action from one of the important new spokesmen for American higher education, they could not avoid the growing evidence that indeed there had never before been an age of such stirrings,...

  21. 17 Progressivism and the Universities
    (pp. 355-372)

    During the decades when the friends of the university idea in the United States were fed only by dreams, anticipation, and frustration, they indulged their fancy by answering the question, “What should the American university be?” Their answers revealed a variety that was surpassed only by the variety which history itself provided. For the university idea was a configuration far more complex than the college idea; it took root when financial resources were available for the support of a remarkable assortment of schemes; and it came to fruition in the United States under the auspices of a wide range of...

  22. 18 The Rise of Football
    (pp. 373-393)

    Football of sorts was played in tenth-century England, where it was largely a matter of kicking a skull or a cow’s bladder between towns. The Princeton-Rutgers game of 1869, which inaugurated American football, was in this tradition. During the next decade, initially at Harvard and at Yale, a shift occurred from the soccer or kicking style of play to the Rugby or running style of play. American football, therefore, was a cultural adaptation of the English game of Rugby.¹

    It took a few years for the game to catch on, but its growth was extraordinary. In 1873 football seemed sufficiently...

  23. 19 Academic Man
    (pp. 394-416)

    In the mythology of American education the old-time college professor, if nothing else, was a character. Beloved or unloved, tyrannical or permissive, stern or playful, tall or short, skinny or fat, young or old—he might be any of these things, but one thing for sure, he was a character. He was someone whom students played tricks on, and if he found a cow in his classroom one morning, somehow he would find some telling way of turning that disaster into a personal advantage. He was probably famous for college generations for that special lecture of his, the one that...

  24. 20 The Organized Institution
    (pp. 417-439)

    The American colleges and universities, in their development from simple institutions to complex organizations, not only replaced the old-time professor with the academician, that trained specialist who knew the rights and privileges and responsibilities of a profession and who in so many of his experiences was indistinguishable from other organization men, but the colleges and universities also required a new kind of executive officer, new methods of financing, new areas of administration. Growth fed upon growth, and the answer to the problems of growth—unless it was to be chaos—was organization.

    The extent to which university presidents themselves now...

  25. 21 Counterrevolution
    (pp. 440-461)

    Organization, with all of its characteristic paraphernalia—committees, departments, hierarchies, codes, standards—often manages to choke the last bit of life out of an enterprise, frustrate almost every tendency toward originality and imagination, and militate against decision and responsibility. But it is a narrow and self-blinding look which only sees the organization, its structure, its fascinating capacity for process and technique. For any accounting of organization must get beyond process and consider some of the concrete results. While it was true, therefore, that by the First World War the American college and university had become an organized institution, some attention...

  26. 22 An American Consensus
    (pp. 462-482)

    The continuous search for purpose and definition on the American campus led to a revival of collegiate values in the 1920’s, but university ideals were not in any serious way rejected because Harvard and Yale made dramatic efforts to deal with some of the problems of growth or because various new curricular proposals rested on English models. The innovations were expensive, so expensive that not even Harvard and Yale were able to afford the faculty, the tutors, in other words the intellectual equipment, which their new residential patterns encouraged. The Harvard and Yale residences never achieved the intellectual record of...

  27. Epilogue
    (pp. 483-496)

    “When Adam walked with Eve in the Garden of Eden he was overheard to say (presumably by the angel just arrived with the flaming sword): ‘You must understand, my dear, that we are living through a period of transition.’”¹ This story, from the repertoire of President Lotus D. Coffman of the University of Minnesota, after World War II assumed a peculiar appropriateness for the history of higher education in the United States. One era was over—the era of university growth and rationalization, and another awaited definition and recognition.

    The years after the war unquestionably one day would be distinguished...

  28. BIBLIOGRAPHY Historiography of Higher Education in the United States
    (pp. 497-516)
    (pp. 517-526)
  30. INDEX
    (pp. 527-563)