Charles Eliot is credited for having reformed the educational system in the Harvard University. Eliot was a Harvard alumnus and was President of the college. The reforms he implemented in Harvard had profound effect on all the educational institution thereafter. His insistences for educational reforms are driven by the experience and situation around him at the time. His interests in wanting to bring a change in the education system in United States are realized during his trip to Europe. Eliot advocated that education was not simply for the sake of bettering oneself but he realized that education and economic development went hand in hand.
At about this time, United States was rapidly transitioning from agrarian society to industrialized society. The nature of business at this time was the booming railroad industry, fueled mostly due to vast migration of people to the west. Railroads became a profitable industry; and bank seized on this opportunity and availed significant loans to aspiring businessman, which lead to it’s the eventual downfall during the panic of 1857. The panic of 1857 was caused by the decline of the international economy and the overexpansion of the domestic economy. This had both financial and emotional impact on Eliot. Eliot reasoned that insufficient knowledge and lack of standard education contributed to economic downturn in the 1857. Most business failed during the panic because they were unable to make an informed decision.
Higher education in the United States at this time is of great concern. The colleges were mostly based on classical curriculum that embraced religious teaching as its central theme. The colleges continued to disregard the industrializing nation, offering few courses in the much need subjects such as science, modern language, history and political economy. The college had only few graduate schools or programs. Many businessman and wealthy individuals were hesitant to send their children to such college, where no relevant knowledge pertaining to the growing commercial society can be obtained. Eliot was concerned with the diminishing popularity of the college and sought solutions that might help create an educational system were students are better able to utilize their knowledge for the betterment of rapidly developing society. He looked to Europe to help him find solution to the growing problem in the United States. During this time Europe was transitioning from manual labor based economy to machine based manufacturing economy.
Eliot’s approach to European education was unusual; he did not limit his investigation to simply educational institution within Europe, but studied the nuance of education in every aspect of national life. He showed keen interest in every aspect of institutional operation from curriculum to methods of instructions that encompassed physical arrangement and custodial service. Moreover, he was particularly concerned with relation between education and economic...