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ERIC Number: EJ943359
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Aug
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2680
"City Blood Is No Better than Country Blood": The Populist Movement and Admissions Policies at Public Universities
Gelber, Scott
History of Education Quarterly, v51 n3 p273-295 Aug 2011
This article focuses on historical admissions policies and offers a more nuanced and more substantial treatment of the relationship between Populism and higher education. Prior accounts of admissions in the late nineteenth century have sensibly focused upon the tension between secondary school leaders who were mindful of their multiple constituencies and university administrators who were torn between desires for higher enrollments and higher standards. Alongside these actors, Populist leaders and newspaper editors provide a vivid proxy for the grassroots pressures that also fueled this conflict. As access to secondary schooling increased, Populist rants against college began to alternate with optimism about the empowerment of rural youth who attended land grant institutions. Concerns about severe rural-urban educational inequality (rather than mere hostility to higher education) fueled the Populist campaign for low entrance standards. Although motivated by a degree of demagogic anti-intellectualism, Populist leaders emphasized the obstacles faced by white rural students who attempted to meet admission standards calibrated to city high schools or private academies. Rather than tolerating the decrease in access that would occur between the imposition of new requirements and the growth of rural secondary education, Populists believed that land grant colleges should resist national standards until all of their constituents had access to adequate public high schools. In the meantime, Populists expected land grant institutions to maintain large remedial programs and permissive entrance examinations. Brief, intermittent, and regional, the nature of Populist influence hampers precise analysis of the impact of these preferences--especially because demands for college access were not unique to movement supporters. Nevertheless, retelling the history of entrance requirements from the Populist perspective emphasizes the early politicization of admission standards. While there are many reasons to be grateful that Populist ideals never won full sway over state universities, it is also important to recognize that Populists competed for influence with academic elitists who promoted other, perhaps equally troublesome, visions of public higher education. This history also documents how advocates for disadvantaged white students challenged the rationale for ostensibly meritocratic admission policies at state universities. (Contains 104 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Kansas; Nebraska; North Carolina