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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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“To Spread Throughout the Land, an Army of Practical Men”

“To Spread Throughout the Land, an Army of Practical Men”

Agriculture and Mechanics in the Midwest

(p.73) 4 “To Spread Throughout the Land, an Army of Practical Men”
For the Common Good

Charles Dorn

Cornell University Press

This chapter discusses the emergence of a social ethos of practicality in higher education by the end of the nineteenth century. Throughout the antebellum era, the expansion of scientific and technical knowledge joined with the rise of political populism to lead existing institutions to add practical studies to their curricula. Many advocates of practical studies, however, were not satisfied with simply incorporating courses or appending schools to already-established colleges and universities. They sought to break with tradition by establishing a new kind of higher-education institution, one that would teach students scientific and investigative principles while also requiring the application of those principles outside of the classroom, both on the farm and in the field. This new institutional type would contribute to the common good by being unprecedentedly accessible and affordable to agrarian and laboring youth. The chapter then looks at the establishment of the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan.

Keywords:   practicality, higher education, antebellum era, scientific knowledge, technical knowledge, political populism, practical studies, Michigan Agricultural College

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