Like radio and television in communication or refrigeration and microwaves in the food industry, there have been events and revelations that have changed the American higher education system lastingly and formed it into the bureaucracy the United States knows today. The earliest significant event in creating the American university as it currently is was the establishment of the first American institute of higher learning. Another impacting change was Charles William Elliot’s renovation of the college system. The most important shift to the educational system has undoubtedly been the way in which information is conveyed.
The strides that the United States has made in regards to educating our citizens would not have been possible had our ancestors not had the determination that all citizens be literate, mainly so they could read the bible. As conveyed in the letter to the alumni quoted by Kevin Carey, after establishing necessities for livelihood, government, and worship, the leaders turned to establishing a system for educating the citizenry. With this determination, they were well on their way. A university was established in 1936, and after receiving a partial sum of John Harvard’s estate in 1938, Harvard College was built. Harvard College, including their alumni fundraising practices, had and will continue to have a lasting affect on the prestige and practices of American universities.
A significant adjustment came to American Universities when Charles William Elliot became president of Harvard, changing the structure of university with others following suit. As president Elliot believed that even those specializing in law, medicine, architecture, and the like should be trained in general knowledge before entering their professional school. A Bachelor’s degree became a requirement for professional schools at Harvard and quickly other schools followed the example of the first American college. This shift altered students approach to academics and has shaped the levels of higher education seen today.
The most profound impact to date on education has been the ever-changing methods of exchanging information. From pre-Gutenberg lectures to 20-pound textbooks to digitalized homework and Google, the way professors and students communicate has undergone quite an evolution. While the educational system has been slow to evolve with technology, clinging to tradition, it has done so. My parents remember walking to classes on campus and physically signing your name to “sign-up” for a class. Now, I sit at my laptop and click three things to sign up for all of my classes. Lap-sized computers, the internet, and an explosion of technology-oriented education companies have changed the way in which things are taught and learned. The transformation has and will continue to have the biggest impact on education in history.
Many events could have been included as having significantly changed higher education. Many things over the centuries have impacted how, why, who, and even what is taught in American education. How America got where it is important. These events that forever changed the course that scholars would take to achieve their hopes and dreams are important. Most important though, is realizing where we have been, where we are now, and deciding where we need to go from here.