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For the Common GoodA New History of Higher Education in America$
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Charles Dorn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452345

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452345.001.0001

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“Literary Institutions are Founded and Endowed for the Common Good”

“Literary Institutions are Founded and Endowed for the Common Good”

The Liberal Professions in New England

(p.15) 1 “Literary Institutions are Founded and Endowed for the Common Good”
For the Common Good

Charles Dorn

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines Bowdoin College, which was supported by district elites who worked to erect a regional center of higher learning to which they could send their sons rather than incur the cost of dispatching them south to other colleges. On the morning of Bowdoin's opening, appointed president Joseph McKeen pronounced the college's primary mission: “That the inhabitants of this district may have their own sons to fill the liberal professions among them, and particularly to instruct them in the principles and practice of our holy religion, is doubtless the object of this institution.” This conception of higher education's function in American society drew heavily on a social ethos of civic-mindedness that assigned priority to social responsibility over individuals' self indulgence. Characterized by the practice of civic virtue and a commitment to the public good, civic-mindedness provided social institutions, including those dedicated to higher learning, a source from which to derive their central aims.

Keywords:   Bowdoin College, higher learning, Joseph McKeen, liberal professions, higher education, civic-mindedness, social responsibility, civic virtue, public good

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