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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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Awaking to the Organizational Challenge

Awaking to the Organizational Challenge

Chapter 1 Awaking to the Organizational Challenge
Contending with Modernity

Philip Gleason

Oxford University Press

Even while they were distracted by the ideological fireworks of the 1890s, Catholic educators began to realize that changes in the organizational realm presented a more immediate challenge than did the conflict over broad issues of ecclesiastical policy. The most important features of this organizational challenge were: the emergence of the free public high school as the characteristic agency of secondary education; the marked increase in collegiate enrollments, which included unprecedented numbers of women attending both coeducational institutions and women’s colleges; the breakdown of the classical curriculum and the proliferation of new fields of study; the rise of the research university as the dominant institution, which was accompanied by a general professionalization of learning and the beginnings of a vast expansion of employment opportunities in the “knowledge industry”; and the development of voluntary associations of educators which acted as quality-control agencies by establishing and enforcing standards of performance at every level of education. Taken together, these and related developments constituted a veritable revolution which reshaped American higher education in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth. The Catholic response to these developments constituted a form of modernization, since what Catholic colleges had to do was bring themselves into line with contemporary norms in respect to institutional structure, curricular organization, and articulation between secondary, collegiate, and graduate levels of education. This organizational modernization took place unevenly over a span of several decades. The establishment of the Catholic University of America was a decisive early event, but the general movement did not get under way till around 1900. Thus the first quarter of the twentieth century saw American Catholic collegiate education assume the modernized shape it still retains. Graduate education, too, was being introduced in Catholic institutions; but consideration of its development is best postponed for a later chapter. Catholic educators did not, of course, undertake this organizational modernization simply because they wanted to be up-to-date. On the contrary, most of them were deeply conservative on matters methodological and curricular; they certainly did not regard being modern as a virtue to be sought for its own sake.

Keywords:   Articulation, Boston College, Duquesne College, Entrance requirements, Harvard University, Irish, Languages, Mathematics, New subjects

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