Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century

By Ruther, Nancy L. | The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, April 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century


Ruther, Nancy L., The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century. By Christopher P. Loss. Princeton University Press. 344pp, Pounds 24.95. ISBN 9780691148274. Published 28 December 2011

People who dwell in architectural masterpieces generally ignore the design's importance in their day-to-day pursuits. Here, Christopher Loss shows why academics should stop ignoring the higher education system. It has shaped American political development, not just as a tool and partner in statecraft in the first half of the 20th century, but to a growing degree since the 1960s as an institutional counterweight to government in shaping the nation-state.

Loss considers the government-university partnership that was founded around common cause and mutual benefit, and saw bureaucratic consolidation and national growth in the Great War and the New Deal era. Jointly focused on building democratic and global citizenship around reciprocal soldier- student national service notions during the Second World War and the Cold War, this partnership deepened via the implementation of the 1944 G.I. Bill of Rights and the 1958 National Defense Education Act. With the impetus of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Higher Education Act, the partnership fractured, with diversity and identity politics flourishing in the cauldron of the 1960s, and it was re-set around private-market citizenship notions starting in the 1970s.

In four chapters covering 1900-1960, Loss keeps a laser focus on democratic citizenship as he weaves a fascinating history of the interactive growth of higher education and the American state. This partnership developed along with the conviction that the best citizen was an educated citizen. Tracing the impact of social-science fields, Loss foregrounds psychology and the way its tools enabled the partners to confront national challenges of war and the Great Depression. The new personnel perspective helped to reinvent government and campus bureaucracies; psychological testing and personality adjustment improved recruitment and promoted well-functioning platoons and campuses with in loco parentis responsibilities. Public-opinion research confirmed education's value for troops in the Second World War and expanded through the Cold War. …

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