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The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson

The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson: From College to Nation

Edited by James Axtell
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson
    Book Description:

    InThe Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson,James Axtell brings together essays by eight leading historians and one historically minded political scientist to examine the long, formative academic phase of Wilson's career and its connection to his relatively brief tenure in politics. Together, the essays provide a greatly revised picture of Wilson's whole career and a deeply nuanced understanding of the evolution of his educational, political, and social philosophy and policies, the ordering of his values and priorities, and the seamless link between his academic and political lives.

    The contributors shed light on Wilson's unexpected rise to the governorship of New Jersey and the presidency, and how he prepared for elective office through his long study of government and the practice of academic politics, which he deemed no less fierce than that of Washington. In both spheres he was enormously successful, propelling a string of progressive reforms through faculty and legislative forums. Only after he was beset by health problems and events beyond his control did he fail to push his academic and postwar agendas to their logical, idealistic conclusions.

    Contributors: James Axtell, College of William and Mary * Victoria Bissell Brown, Grinnell College * John Milton Cooper Jr., University of Wisconsin * Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University * W. Bruce Leslie, SUNY-Brockport * Adam R. Nelson, University of Wisconsin * Mark R. Nemec, Forrester Research * John R. Thelin, University of Kentucky * Trygve Throntveit, Harvard University

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3211-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    James Axtell

    Woodrow Wilson needs no introduction. As the twenty-eighth president of the United States, his is a household name, and his top-ten, often top-seven, ranking by historians and political scientists is well established. But he is also the object of much misunderstanding and sharply divided opinion. A highly effective leader and agent of change, he also possessed a complex personality, sporadically affected by ill health, that was often hard to read or to love. Scholars have endlessly scoured and dissected his political career as governor of New Jersey (1911–13) and president of the United States (1913–21), but the general...

  5. The Educational Vision of Woodrow Wilson
    (pp. 9-48)
    James Axtell

    Before being elected governor of New Jersey and president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson was indisputably the most eloquent, influential, and perhaps controversial American university president in the first quarter—and arguably the first half—of the twentieth century. In leading Princeton to full university status and prominence between 1902 and 1910, he produced large numbers of polished and often witty speeches and writings on academic reform that generated as much national news and serious rethinking on other campuses as they did amazement and, eventually, alarm on his own. The boldness of his leadership and the imaginative consistency of...

  6. Woodrow Wilson on Liberal Education for Statesmanship, 1890–1910
    (pp. 49-73)
    Adam R. Nelson

    Throughout his years at Princeton, first as a professor and later as president, Woodrow Wilson asked one central question: how, in an era of rapid change, could the university prepare students for lives of national service, or, as he often called it,statesmanship? This question framed Wilson’s sesquicentennial address, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service” (1896), as well as his inaugural address, “Princeton for the Nation’s Service” (1902). This essay traces Wilson’s struggle to answer this question from the time he joined the Princeton faculty in 1890 to the year he left the presidency in 1910. A close look at his...

  7. Princeton in the National Spotlight: Woodrow Wilson in the Era of the University Builders, 1880–1910
    (pp. 74-96)
    John R. Thelin

    University presidents in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were praised by journalists (and themselves) as heroic builders and pioneers. A century later this presidential cohort still elicits envy and awe from contemporary presidents of the prestigious research universities that belong to the Association of American Universities (AAU). The circle of university presidents from a century ago persists in projecting an iconography of “giants,” with the inference that they set the standard by which today’s university presidents measure their own stature as academic leaders.¹ This conclusion prompts us to ask: What were the public images of the various institutions...

  8. Dreaming Spires in New Jersey: Anglophilia in Wilson’s Princeton
    (pp. 97-121)
    W. Bruce Leslie

    After his first day in Oxford, Woodrow Wilson breathlessly reported to Ellen that “a mere glance at Oxford is enough to take one’s heart by storm. . . . I am afraid that if there were a place for me here Am[erica] would see me again only to sell the house and fetch you and the children.”¹ Six years later, reporting from his Princeton University–funded European fact-finding trip, Dean Andrew West confided to Wilson, “If I could forget Princeton anywhere, it would be here in Oxford.”²

    These are clearly serious cases of Anglophilia. This diagnosis is unsurprising, but the...

  9. Conservative among Progressives: Woodrow Wilson in the Golden Age of American Women’s Higher Education
    (pp. 122-168)
    Victoria Bissell Brown

    In the spring of 1894, near the end of his ninth year as a college professor, Woodrow Wilson responded to an old friend’s query about the merits of coeducation. Reformers at the University of Virginia, the allmale institution at which Wilson had begun his study of the law, were considering the admission of women as undergraduates. Charles William Kent, a law school fraternity brother and now professor at Virginia, sought Wilson’s view of the matter. Speaking from his safe perch as a teacher of Princeton’s all-male student body, Wilson claimed “just enough experience of co-education to know that, even under...

  10. Politics and Wilson’s Academic Career
    (pp. 169-184)
    John Milton Cooper Jr.

    Woodrow Wilson remains the only president of the United States who has risen to the very top in a profession removed from public life. In fact, he rose to the top in two private callings. He became one of the leading scholars of his time in any field, and he still ranks among a small coterie—slightly more than a handful—of truly great political scientists whom America has produced. He also became the outstanding educational leader of his era, and he still ranks among another small coterie—again only slightly more than a handful—of truly great university presidents...

  11. The Unappreciated Legacy: Wilson, Princeton, and the Ideal of the American State
    (pp. 185-206)
    Mark R. Nemec

    Despite its interdisciplinary ambitions, this essay remains a product of its disciplinary home, political science, and its subfield, American political development. American political development posits that three major forces drive public policy and political action: interests (individual and collective), institutions (governmental and societal), and ideas (public and private). At the confluence of the later two, institutions and ideas, my larger work on universities and the leaders who guided them has resided.¹

    In assessing Woodrow Wilson’s impact upon the development of American higher education and its relationship to the American state, one is reminded of Emerson’s declaration that “an institution is...

  12. The Higher Education of Woodrow Wilson: Politics as Social Inquiry
    (pp. 207-243)
    Trygve Throntveit

    As a young man Woodrow Wilson dreamed of a political career, of living a life through which his generation, as he put it in 1889, would write “its politicalautobiography.”¹ Years before Wilson wrote those words that life began to seem out of reach, and he turned to scholarship and education as a substitute. As historians appreciate to this day, that decision proved enormously significant to the development of American higher education, but it also had momentous consequences for the course of American politics. Wilson’s political dream had always been to lead as both a student and educator of the...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 244-250)
    Stanley N. Katz

    My task in writing the afterword to this fascinating volume is to comment briefly on how Woodrow Wilson’s educational vision has stood up on his own campus over the course of the century that has passed since his presidency. The task is daunting since, although I teach in the school of public policy named for Wilson and the university uses a version of his most famous phrase as its public slogan, it is not at all clear how Wilsonian my university remains. Take the two specific references that persist. First, the Woodrow Wilson School is surely a unit that President...

  14. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 251-256)
  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 257-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-268)