Changing Values in College: An Exploratory Study of the Impact of College Teaching
reviewed by Philip H. Phenix - 1958
In these days of unprecedented expansion in American higher education the worth of the undertaking is largely an unquestioned article of faith. The evidence is unmistakable that persons with a college education stand to gain economic and social advantages over those without it. Hence the scramble for admission and the acute pressure for more facilities. It is also certain that students do grow in knowledge and skill through their college experience. But what difference does college make in students' values'? What is the effect of higher education on interests, beliefs, commitments, and attitudes? In short, how does college influence character? It was to help answer these questions that the study under review was made.
This book is not a report of new field research, but a critical interpretive summary and analysis of existing research data, comprising some 354 items listed in the annotated inventory at the conclusion of the study. Professor Jacob has skillfully marshaled the large amount of available evidence about the value impact of college teaching and has presented it with unusual clarity, wit, and candor.
The conclusions leave no room for complacency. They will come as a shock to educators who have assumed that college teaching has a direct and decisive effect on student attitudes and values. The evidence indicates that by and large the formal curriculum has little such influence, regardless of type of institution, courses taken, quality of teaching, or methods of instruction. That is to say, the variables which are generally thought to make a major difference in educational outcomes in fact appear to be largely irrelevant to the creation and transformation of values.
According to well-authenticated research findings, American college students exhibit a remarkably homogeneous pattern of values. The large majority are contented, self-centered, tolerant, traditionally moral, conventionally religious, obedient to government yet politically irresponsible, both optimistic and gloomy about international affairs, and convinced of the great vocational and social advantages of their college education. The effect of the college experience on values is chiefly to socialize the individual, bringing him into conformity with this standard college pattern. Moreover, this influence is not produced by the formal curriculum, but through the impact of the total college environment.
The study was initially intended as an investigation of the value outcomes of general education courses in the social sciences. It was found that students in these courses were not influenced in significantly different ways from other students, except sometimes for a redirection of academic or vocational interest as a result of such study.
In contrast with these generally negative conclusions was the evidence of the peculiar potency of certain collegesmostly smaller private onesin effecting changes in students' values. A consistent and powerful tradition, spirit, or climate pervades these institutions and tends to produce a distinctive outlook in their students. This finding is both encouraging and suggestive because it shows that colleges can make a significant difference in values and because an analysis of the potent institutions may supply some hints about the conditions for such effectiveness.
While the material relating to the insignificant value influence of the teacher and to the irrelevance of teaching methods is particularly depressing, there is some encouraging evidence that now and then an unusual teacher may profoundly affect his students' attitudes and that certain value-laden learning experiences in which students directly and responsibly participate may be deeply influential. These exceptional cases also suggest directions in which the search for educational efficacy should be pressed.
A final section of the study reports on research relating student values to certain personality patterns, especially those of the so-called "stereotype personality." Some useful suggestions are made regarding an approach to the remedial education of such persons, of whom there are a great many in institutions of higher learning.
Reading the Jacob report will surely serve to relieve college educators of smugness concerning the impact of their work on students' character. It should also impart a due modesty concerning the role of formal courses in personal development. Above all, it should make abundantly clear the long-term effect of the entire social milieu, both before college and during college, on the formation of the student's character and value structure.
I think I must say that Philip Jacob's report is one of those rare publications that everybody in higher education ought to read. Not that it is a "great book." It was never intended to be that. It is an important summary of important studies of an important problem. Furthermore, there is no excuse for not reading the book. It is short, well arranged, and written in an engaging style. The author makes clear the limitations of his materials, yet he does not so hedge on his conclusions that they Jose their force. He rounds out the study with a concluding "note on further inquiry" which provides some stimulating suggestions for next steps in value explorations. This provocative and absorbing book is required reading!
PHILIP H. PHENEX
Teachers College, Columbia
THE LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE: A CHAPTER IN AMERICAN CULTURAL HISTORY
GEORGE P. SCHMIDT
New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1957. ix + 310 pp. $6.00.
Perhaps the most distinctively American feature of higher education in the United States is the liberal arts college. From the founding of Harvard in 1636 until about 1870 it was almost the only kind of institution for advanced study in the country. And in the period from 1870 until the present, during which the liberal arts college was obliged to compete with new and rival professional and technical schools, it has remained the basic undergraduate type of institution. During this latest period in which the primacy of the liberal arts college was challenged, its fundamental nature has changed so markedly that a graduate of the class of 1858 would scarcely recognize his alma mater, were he to look in on it a century later.
In the book under review George P. Schmidt, professor of history at Douglass College, has told the story of the emergence of the college in colonial times and its sometimes chaotic growth and development during the century and three quarters of our national life. Professor Schmidt is no novice in the field of the history of higher education; he is also the author of The Old Time College President, a fine study published when good books about colleges and universities were much more rare than they have been in recent years.
In the first portion of the volume the author emphasizes the religious impulse which underlay the founding of nearly all colleges before 1870. In a notable chapter he delineates the role of the college president, who prior to the past eighty years was in nearly all cases a clergyman. The influence of religion on every aspect of collegiate life was insured and enforced by the long lines 3f clergymen presidents.
If the colleges founded prior to 1870 were almost always controlled by religious denominations, their curricula were also remarkably similar. The spell of Greek and Latin lay heavy on them, and the classics along with mathematics and spoken and written English comprised the standard academic fare until late in the nineteenth century.
After 1870 the story is one of the breakdown of the old order in higher education. The classical tradition was successfully challenged and varied curricula emerged to replace it. New secularly oriented institutions under private or public auspices arose and other religiously centered colleges evolved into independent, secular institutions. The highly trained specialist replaced the old-time college professor who, besides being a clergyman, taught perhaps half a dozen different subjects.
In the transformation of the college in the last decades of the nineteenth century professor Schmidt singles out three forces which appear to have had the greatest impact in forcing change. The first of these vas the rise of the Midwestern state university: "In such a school not only the classical student laying the foundations for the ministry or the law, but the farmer, the mechanic, the merchantin short the peoplecould find the kind of training and information they needed."
The second force which brought about fundamental change was the importation of German concepts of the scholar and scientist. No longer was the academic settee of the old-time college professor respectable; only the specialist with his Ph.D. from a German university would do. Before long some American colleges were adding graduate schools, changing their names to universities and producing Ph.D.'s also. The third force which made for change in the colleges was the introduction of the theory of evolution into American academic life. The most fundamental tenets of many clerical professors and presidents seemed threatened by this strange doctrine which eventually became almost universally accepted in American colleges.
In discussing the liberal arts college in the twentieth century, the author stresses the ideological battles which raged between the rival schools of thought represented by John Dewey and Robert M. Hutchins. In this chapter one sees especially clearly the fair-minded objectivity and thorough knowledge of the subject which characterize Professor Schmidt's book. He knows the American college scene thoroughly, as he demonstrates both in his narrative and in the notes and bibliography. This reviewer can recall no source of any consequence which Professor Schmidt has overlooked. His final chapter outlines the growth of the concept of academic freedom in American colleges and universities.
The Liberal Arts College is a first-rate study by a highly competent and seasoned scholar. It is written simply and clearly and in an informal manner. This reviewer has noted only two items "which he would question. The first, a minor matter, is the statement on page 196 that Harvard and Yale have never had chapters of national fraternities. Both institutions have, in fact, had chapters of national fraternities sometime during their history. The second is the observation on page 234 that not much expansion of honors programs can be expected in the near future. There is at present considerable stir in the large state universities in this area, and it is the reviewer's belief that honors programs may flourish during the next decade in the state universities, where with only a few exceptions very little has been accomplished until recently.
Professor Schmidt's book is both an excellent account of the fundamental unit of the American higher educational system and a distinguished contribution to American cultural history.
FREDERICK H. JACKSON
Carnegie Corporation of New York
BOOKS RECEIVED FOR REVIEW
Archer, Clifford P., Elementary Education in Rural Areas. New York, Ronald Press, 1958. 448 pp. $5.00.
Berkson, I. B., The Ideal and the Community. New York, Harper, 1958. 302 pp. $4.50.
Gross, Neal, Ward S. Mason, and Alexander W. McEachern, Explorations in Role Analysis. New York, Wiley, 1958. 379 pp. $8.75.
Halverson, Paul M. (ed.), Frontiers of Secondary Education II. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 1957. 71 pp. $2.25.
Hickman, Cleveland P., Health for College Students. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall, 1958. 402 pp.
Hillway, Tyrus, The American Two-Year College. New York, Harper, 1958. 276 pp. $3.75.
Pelone, Anthony J., Helping the Visually Handicapped in a Regular Classroom. New York, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1957. 99 pp. $1.55.
Phenix, Philip H., Philosophy of Education. New York, Holt, 1958. 623 pp. $5.75.
Preston, Ralph C., Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary Schools, rev. ed. New York, Rinehart, 1958. 382 pp. $5.00.
Rummel, J. Francis, An Introduction to Research Procedures in Education. New York, Harper, 1958. 413 pp. $5.50.
Schneider, Ben Ross, Jr., Wordsworth's Cambridge Education. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1957. 298 pp. $6.00.
Taylor, Griffith (ed.), Geography in the Twentieth Century, 3d ed. New York, Philosophical Library, 1957. 674 pp. $10.00.