It is evident that higher education in the United States has gone through a tremendous transformation since its origins in the mid 1600’s. From schools whose only function was the training of ministers to the contemporary university of free and open access, both society and culture have had tremendous effects on the evolution of higher education in America. This paper will explore those transformations as related by the themes woven through the ten generations identified by. It will also offer evidence to support the identified theme of each generation.
The first generation of higher education in America saw the development of colleges as adjuncts or outgrowths of their respective churches. The original three colleges of the colonies Harvard, Yale and William and Mary all sought to educate their students as ministers. It was the belief that preparation for the ministry was predicated by a liberal education that included studies focused on classical languages and the three philosophies of ethics, metaphysics and science.
The second generation of higher education in America saw a break from the purely religious institutions of the first generation to a more secular model of education. In addition, the teaching model moved from one of tutors to one of more competent instruction. Instead of primarily educating men for the clergy as in the previous generation, the existing colleges also now sought to educate a growing class of gentlemen who pursued professional and merchant careers. (Geiger, 2005)
In this generation of higher education in America, several elements gained paramount importance including the idea of a republican education coupled with influences from the Enlightenment. At this time, the concept of combining education with the republican ideals of selflessness, patriotism and virtue took root. In addition, Enlightenment learning including especially the truths afforded by science and reason became important facets of the collegiate education.
In the early 1800’s, higher education in American faced not only serious problems, but serious questions as well. The highly touted republican education of the previous period was being replaced by an “upsurge of religious spirit.” In addition, serious questions were raised as to the curriculum, ownership and mission of institutions of higher learning. In addition, the end of the period saw the introduction of the private denominational college.
According to Geiger this generation saw great attempts at reform, but also introduced the robust model of the private denominational college as the characteristic institution of the United States. While some reform efforts were failures, the establishment of the denominational colleges as the institution characterized by higher education in America was successful. In addition, this period saw colleges evolve from a strict code of discipline to one in...