Synopses & Reviews
Lessons in Progress provides a detailed look at how progressivism transformed higher education in the New South. Orchestrated by an alliance of northern philanthropists and southern intellectuals, modernizing universities focused on practical, utilitarian education aimed at reinvigorating the South through technological advancement. They also offered an institutional vehicle by which a new, urban middle class could impose order on a society in flux.
Michael Dennis charts the emergence of the modern southern university through the administrations of four university presidents: Edwin Alderman (Virginia), Samuel C. Mitchell (South Carolina), Walter Barnard Hill (Georgia), and Charles Dabney (Tennessee). He shows how these administrative leaders worked to professionalize the university and to knit together university and state agencies, promoting a social service role in which university personnel would serve as expert advisors on everything from public health to highway construction.
Dennis also explains how the programs of educational progressives perpetuated traditional divisions of race, sex, and class. The Tuskegee/Hampton model favored industrial education for blacks whose labor would support the South's expanding urban industrial complex, while education for women was careful not to disturb conventional notions of a woman's place. White workers found themselves subject to an increasingly centralized system of education that challenged their traditional independence.
State universities in the New South were not isolated enclaves of classical learning but rather were inextricably tied to social reform initiatives. Seeking a more practical and socially responsible form of education, university modernizers succeeded in establishing the framework of a more modern, bureaucratic state. Despite their accomplishments, however, they failed to generate the kind of economic progress they had envisioned for the South.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 257-266) and index.