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Contending with ModernityCatholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century$
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Philip Gleason

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195098280.001.0001

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Assimilative Tendencies and Curricular Crosscurrents

Assimilative Tendencies and Curricular Crosscurrents

(p.235) Chapter 11 Assimilative Tendencies and Curricular Crosscurrents
Contending with Modernity

Philip Gleason

Oxford University Press

Besides its massive impact on the institutional side of Catholic higher education, World War II affected the thinking of Catholic educators. We have already touched upon this dimension in noting how the war and postwar growth required them to expand their horizons and redouble their efforts in research, fundraising, and administration generally. Here we look more closely at how Catholics were affected by the great ideological revival of democracy that accompanied the war. This kind of influence was sometimes explicitly noted by Catholic leaders, as when Archbishop Richard Gushing of Boston called attention to the “neo-democratic mentality of returning servicemen and the university-age generation generally”; others recognized that it created problems since the Catholic church was so widely perceived as incompatible with democracy and “the American way of life.” We shall postpone examination of controversies stemming from this source to the next chapter, turning our attention in this one to the assimilative tendencies reflected in Catholics’ new appreciation for liberal democratic values, and to the major curricular concerns of the era which were also affected by the war. In no area did the democratic revival have a more profound long range effect than in the impetus it lent to the movement for racial equality and civil rights for African Americans. The publication in 1944 of Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma marked an epoch in national understanding of what the book’s subtitle called “the Negro problem and modern democracy.” Myrdal himself stressed the importance of the wartime context, which made it impossible to ignore racial discrimination at home while waging war against Nazi racism. At the same time, increasing black militance, the massive migration of African Americans to northern industrial centers, and above all the great Detroit race riot of 1943—reinforced by the anti-Mexican “Zoot Suit” riots in Los Angeles the same summer—suddenly made the improvement of race relations an imperative for American society as a whole. By the end of the war, no fewer than 123 national organizations were working actively to “reduce intergroup tensions,” and the civil rights movement began a steady advance that led directly to the great judicial and political victories it won in the fifties and sixties.

Keywords:   Academic administration, Concord magazine, Ecumenicalism, General education movement, Harvard University, Labor issues, Marygrove College, Newman movement, Pax Romana, Race issues

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