Uncertain Futures of the Past: “Repurposing” American Higher Education, 1945–1965

On the one hand, the United States after World War II built a higher-education system that became the envy of the world. On the other hand, the construction of that system provoked such intense student backlash that it nearly fell apart. While the story of global student protest during the late 1960s is well known, this lecture considers the causes and consequences of student alienation during the early 1960s, when many students became increasingly critical of the mass institutions – including the “multi-versities”– they inhabited. As they expressed their fears of an “uncertain future” marked by seemingly inexorable technological change (from industrial automation to nuclear proliferation to environmental degradation), they saw the university as both “the problem” and “the solution”. This story may hold lessons for global university leaders today.

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Posted by IAFOR