Earlier this month Princeton University’s Board of Trustees resolved an issue that in the fall of 2015 provoked angry student protests, including a 32-hour sit-in demonstration in the university president’s office led by a group called the Black Justice League. The most controversial question dealt with the legacy of Princeton past president Woodrow Wilson, who is honored in many ways, including a public policy institute and one of its residential colleges that are named for him. Students from the Black Justice League demanded several changes be made, the most contentious being the removal of Wilson’s name from all places of honor at the university on the grounds that Wilson was a bigoted racist.
Writing a comprehensive history of American higher education from colonial times up to the Second World War is a monumental undertaking, but if anyone is up to the task it’s Penn State University professor Roger Geiger, perhaps the country’s leading scholar on the history of post-secondary education in America. Geiger’s new book The History of American Higher Education is the most fact-filled treatment of its subject to date, and will likely remain the standard work for years to come.
Russell K. Nieli’s new essay tells the story of the increasing loss of purpose and focus suffered by American universities over the ages.
Nieli, a lecturer in Princeton University’s politics department, has authored an important study of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, written numerous articles on public policy topics and edited an anthology of writings on affirmative action. Nieli graduated summa cum laude from Duke University and received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1970. He previously authored a Pope Center research paper in March 2007, “The Decline and Revival of Liberal Learning at Duke: The Focus and Gerst Programs.”
A new essay from the Pope Center fills a critical void in understanding today’s university. “From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker” reveals how the nation’s universities lost their coherence and purpose and became fragmented and over-specialized.
This beautifully woven history reports on the major transformation that began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and received new momentum during the late 1960s.
Two academic programs at Duke University are helping undergraduates experience a well-rounded education, and these programs could be copied by other universities. This is the message of a new report from the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, “The Decline and Revival of Liberal Learning at Duke: The Focus and Gerst Programs,” by Russell K. Nieli.
Duke is responding to a problem that afflicts many universities: There is no longer a “core curriculum. “ Students round out their education by selecting courses that meet loose “distribution requirements,” but the resulting education can be fragmented, limited, and incoherent.
Duke has countered this fragmentation by forming the Focus and Gerst programs.
To view the executive summary of the report, click here.