Gentlemen and Scholars: College and Community in the "Age of the University," 1865-1917

Gentlemen and Scholars: College and Community in the "Age of the University," 1865-1917

Gentlemen and Scholars: College and Community in the "Age of the University," 1865-1917

Gentlemen and Scholars: College and Community in the "Age of the University," 1865-1917

Synopsis

Historians have dubbed the period from the Civil War to World War I as "the age of the university," suggesting that colleges, in contrast to universities, were static institutions out of touch with American society. In Gentlemen and Scholars Leslie challenges this view by offering compelling evidence for the continued vitality of colleges, using case studies of four representative colleges from the Middle Atlantic region - Bucknell, Franklin and Marshall, Princeton, and Swarthmore. A new introduction to this classic reflects on his work in light of recent scholarship, especially that on southern universities, the American college in the international context, the experience of women, and liberal Protestantismas impact on the research university.

Excerpt

With American power in relative decline, debates over the meaning of the American experience assume new urgency. Those looking for "American exceptionalism" can scarcely find a better example than its colleges. They are remarkably visible institutions. Bumper stickers, window decals, and T-shirts proclaim college loyalties. Prominent highway signs directing motorists to campuses are testimony that colleges are places of public interest. Gaining admission to and paying for college is a primary concern of most upper middle-class American families. Colleges are also conspicuous in popular culture. Campuses have been a favorite Hollywood setting since the 1920s. Millions watch college football and basketball teams perform rites complete with popularly recognized anthems and totems. College football bowl games and parades are the center of attention on New Year's Day. Many who have never attended a college feel pride in the athletic, architectural, or academic prowess of "their" college or university.

The cultural prominence of American higher education is unparalleled. By contrast, the British institutions that spawned the first American colleges are relatively invisible to the public. Except for an annual boat race, even Oxford and Cambridge receive little public exposure and remain obscured in mystique. Higher education, remote to most Europeans, feels familiar to most Americans.

The visibility of American colleges reflects the reality that middle- class American youths come of age differently from their counter- parts in other industrialized countries. Whereas the average European youth leaves school by the age of seventeen, almost half of American youths go on to higher education, and about one-third of . . .

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