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ERIC Number: EJ813351
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Aug
Pages: 25
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2680
Establishing a Democratic Religion: Metaphysics and Democracy in the Debates over the President's Commission on Higher Education
Schrum, Ethan
History of Education Quarterly, v47 n3 p277-301 Aug 2007
World War II stands as a defining moment for American higher education. During the crisis of international relations that existed by the late 1930s, American thinkers of various stripes felt compelled to mobilize the country's intellectual and educational resources in defense of democracy, thus creating "a great ideological revival of democracy that accompanied the war." The war aims of the United States--as enunciated in the Atlantic Charter and popular portrayals of the "good war" in which the United States fought to free the world from the grips of evil dictatorships--gave tremendous legitimacy to these efforts, which built into a national discussion on the goals of higher education. Between 1943 and 1947, at least five major reports on general education or liberal education appeared, three of which explicitly treated the relation of such education to "democracy" or "free society." As the United States emerged from the war seeing itself as the world's beacon of democracy, this discussion reached such a fever pitch that Harry S Truman called a President's Commission on Higher Education (1946-48). The Commission's report, "Higher Education for American Democracy," cited a "crisis in human history" and argued that "the future of human civilization depends on the direction education takes." Of all the reports, it probably attracted the greatest attention, and therefore stimulated the most extensive debate about the meaning of democracy and its relation to specific educational policies and practices. In this article, the author demonstrates that the Commission's proposals for funding public higher education and for promoting a form of general education inspired by John Dewey's ideas were met with fierce opposition from educational leaders representing religiously affiliated and other private institutions. He analyzes how this opposition reflected a deep disagreement about the philosophical foundations necessary for democracy. He concludes with a discussion on the failure to establish a democratic religion. (Contains 97 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A