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Other People's Colleges: The Origins of American Higher Education Reform

Date and Time: 
Friday, February 4, 2022. 03:30 PM - 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Education and the Humanities
Meeting Description: 

Please join us for our next Education and the Humanities Workshop with Dr. Ethan Ris. We will be discussing the introduction and first chapter of Dr. Ris's new book, Other People's Colleges: The Origins of American Higher Education Reform.

In recent years, “higher education policy” has been synonymous with “higher education reform.” A consensus unites business, government, foundations, and political sentiment from across the spectrum: American colleges and universities must change. To earn the right to survive, they must become more efficient, more accountable, and more useful to both students and society. We have been here before. A century ago, a powerful cohort of elite reformers made the same demands. The “academic engineers,” a group organized around philanthropic foundations bankrolled by the Carnegie and Rockefeller fortunes, sought to dominate American higher education and make it more accountable, practical, and efficient. Despite their wealth and power, they did not get their way. American colleges and universities maintained their autonomy, enshrined academic freedom, and doubled down on the glorious inefficiencies that allowed them to become the dynamic, multifaceted envies of the world after World War II. The struggle between the academic engineers and their foes also led to a mid-century consensus about the form and function of higher education that set up American colleges and universities for stunning success as both temples of knowledge and engines of the economy. According to this novel vision, social efficiency and liberal learning can be bedfellows, and a liberal education at an autonomous institution is the ideal locus for crafting economically productive, democratic citizens.  


About the Speaker

Ethan Ris is an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a historian of American higher education. His research has been sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, and the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society.

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