Educating Republicans: The College in the Era of the American Revolution, 1750-1800

Educating Republicans: The College in the Era of the American Revolution, 1750-1800

Educating Republicans: The College in the Era of the American Revolution, 1750-1800

Educating Republicans: The College in the Era of the American Revolution, 1750-1800

Synopsis

"Institutions of higher education were thrust into the political arena in the 1960s, a not unique situation according to David Robson in his detailed, well-researched study of colleges during the era of the American Revolution... The author explores in considerable depth not only the political nature of the college curricula, but also the activism of both faculties and students. From their inception, colonial colleges were committed to training their students for public service, a legacy of their Engligh heritage. Steeped in the literature of the Commonwealth Whig ideology, students and faculty were ripe for involvement with the outbreak of hostilities, most on the rebel side, but some in defense of the Crown. Many of the 16 colleges (still in existence) founded in the 1780s and 1790s on the frontier differed somewhat from this model, for they had more of a religious and cultural mission but they were still activist. This is an important addition to our understanding of the history of higher education, adding an important dimension to the recent studies of Steven Novak (The Rights of Youth, CH, Jul '77), and Jurgen Herbst (From Crisis to Crisis, CH, Sep '82). Useful footnotes and a note on sources. Highly recommended for college libraries." - Choice

Excerpt

This study is the long-delayed result of a line of thought taken up while in graduate school at Yale University during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was, of course, a tumultuous era for the nation and its colleges. At Yale, meaningful integration and the first phase of coeducation merged with national party politics, civil rights, and anti-war protest, the galvanic trauma of Kent State, and New Haven's own cause célèbre, the Bobby Seale trial and its accompanying demonstrations. Endless debate, teach-ins, strikes, and disorders of various kinds took place almost continually for the better part of three years, during which Yale tried (more or less successfully) to encourage open minds and the presentation of contrasting opinions. Clear resolution of issues seldom occurred; ambivalence and ambiguity were more common. Perhaps the most anomalous spectacle was provided by some post-graduate acquaintances who, during the Seale trial demonstrations, would go out to serve an eight-hour shift with the Connecticut National Guard and then change clothes to join the demonstrators. One thing was sure; few students could use the ivy-covered halls of academe to shield themselves from politicization.

My academic interests at the time centered on the American Revolution and especially the then-emerging argument that its leaders subscribed to and were motivated by a political ideology that provided them a world view and a language to use to explain events. My curricular and extra-curricular interests began to mesh; as a result this project became inevitable. I started to look at early American college communities, to study them in a time of turmoil, and to conclude that colleges, then as now, were excellent windows through which to view aspects of the larger culture. in this case, the political knowledge, values, and practices which an older generation sought to inculcate and the extent to which the younger generation absorbed its lessons go far to inform us about the political culture of the larger society. They give us an extra dimension of understanding about the Revolutionary era.

A word about format is in order. Paradoxically, the book is long even though there were so few colleges. For the most part, trends could not be demonstrated by sampling. To leave out an institution might slight a section of the colonies or states, obscure the relationships among educators of similar or different re-

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