Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2014 Issue »

    Revising the Declension Narrative

    Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities, and Honors Programs, 1870s–2010s

    BRUCE A. KIMBALL
    This article examines the prominent narrative asserting that liberal arts colleges have continuously declined in number and status over the past 130 years. Bruce A. Kimball identifies problems in this declension narrative and proposes a revision positing that the decline of liberal arts colleges began only after 1970. Further, he maintains that the fraction of the U.S. population enrolling in collegiate liberal arts programs has remained surprisingly consistent over the past two centuries. That same fraction continues after 1970 because universities began to replicate the liberal arts college by establishing honors programs, and student enrollment after 1970 shifted from liberal arts colleges to the new subsidized honors programs in universities. Kimball concludes that this shift does not ensure that the fraction of enrollment in collegiate liberal arts will continue to remain consistent in the future. There is reason to doubt the long-term commitment of universities to supporting honors programs devoted to the traditional liberal arts college mission of fostering culture, community, and character, although this mission grows more important and complex as access to and diversity in higher education increase.

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    Bruce A. Kimball, having served as dean of Morse College at Yale University and as-sociate director of the Honors Program at the University of Houston, is a professor of educational studies at Ohio State University, where he studies the history and philosophy of higher education. His forthcoming work includes “The First Campaign and the Paradoxical Transformation of Fundraising in American Higher Education, 1915–1925,” Teachers College Record; “The Rising Cost of Higher Education: Charles Eliot’s ‘Free Money’ Strategy and the Beginning of Howard Bowen’s ‘Revenue Theory of Cost,’” Journal of Higher Education; and, with Daniel R. Coquillette, On the Battlefield of Merit: Harvard Law School, the First Century, Harvard University Press.
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    Summer 2014 Issue

    Abstracts

    In Here, Out There
    Professional Learning and the Process of School Improvement
    JAMES NOONAN
    How Students’ Perceptions of the School Climate Influence Their Choice to Upstand, Bystand, or Join Perpetrators of Bullying
    SILVIA DIAZGRANADOS FERRÁNS and ROBERT L. SELMAN
    Rewriting the Rules of Engagement
    Elaborating a Model of District-Community Collaboration
    ANN M. ISHIMARU
    Agency and Expanding Capabilities in Early Grade Classrooms
    What It Could Mean for Young Children
    JENNIFER KEYS ADAIR
    Revising the Declension Narrative
    Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities, and Honors Programs, 1870s–2010s
    BRUCE A. KIMBALL
    Editor's Review of The Learning Brain
    Memory and Brain Development in Children
    Laura A. Edwards

    Book Notes