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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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Introduction: Catholic Higher Education in 1900

Introduction: Catholic Higher Education in 1900

Introduction: Catholic Higher Education in 1900
Contending with Modernity

Philip Gleason

Oxford University Press

A great many Catholic colleges existed in the United States at the opening of the twentieth century. Exactly how many it is impossible to say with certainty because any answer presupposes agreement on the answer to a prior question: “What should be counted as a college?” The Catholic Directory for 1900 listed 10 universities, 178 “colleges for boys,” 109 seminaries, and 662 “academies for girls.” According to this count, there were no Catholic women’s colleges at that time, although the College of Notre Dame of Maryland graduated its first baccalaureate class in 1899 and is included among the 128 colleges for women listed in U.S. Commissioner of Education’s Report for 1899-1900. The same Report, however, listed only 62 Catholic institutions among the 480 included under the heading: “Universities and colleges for men and for both sexes.” No doubt some Catholic colleges simply failed to provide the information necessary to appear in the Commissioner’s Report. But their failure to do so is in itself significant; and even assuming that is what happened, it still leaves an enormous gap between the Commissioner’s figures and the 188 colleges and universities reported in the Catholic Directory. Moreover, many of the “colleges for boys” could, with equal justice, have been called academies, since elementary- and secondary-level students made up the majority of their student bodies. As the case of Notre Dame of Maryland indicates, Catholic “academies for girls” were beginning to upgrade themselves to collegiate status. Had the word college been more freely applied to non-Catholic institutions for women at an earlier date, a good many of these academies would probably have called themselves colleges long before, for they did not differ all that much from the “colleges for boys” in terms of curricular offerings and age-range of students. While the situation of Catholic institutions was particularly murky, the question “What makes a college a college?” engaged the attention of practically everyone involved in secondary and collegiate education at the turn of the century.

Keywords:   Americanism, Commercial courses, English language, Geography, Humanistic cycle, Latin, Mathematics, New York Review, Parochial schools, Rhetoric

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