Theology, Ethics, and the Nineteenth-Century American College Ideal Conserving a Rational World

Author: Frank, Thomas
This study argues that some of the best-known religious and educational figures of the period from 1880 to 1920 were deeply conservative of an older nineteenth-century synthesis composed of three major elements of certainty: the dependability and comprehensibility of the laws of nature, the universality of moral principles, and the supremacy of Christianity. It also brings back into scholarly scrutiny the works of three college presidents, William DeWitt Hyde, Henry Churchill King, and William Jewett Tucker, major interpreters of contemporary issues in theology and education. Lastly, it challenges typical assumptions in the history of higher education that the Progressive era was the age of universities. The three presidents insisted that colleges were distinctive in their capacity not just to teach students new information but to mold character, a conviction that was inherited from previous generations and continues to sway many educators today.


"After a brief biographical introduction for each president, Frank outlines the key elements in the intellectual worldview. . . which antebellum colleges sought to teach students - and through which they sought to influence the affairs of the nation. This chapter is the best available introduction to this often confusing and easily caricatured subject matter. . . . Frank's work offers a useful corrective to that of earlier historians, for the latter tended to focus exclusively on the differences between traditional nineteenth-century educational orthodoxy and the progressive educational reformers, or between theological orthodoxy and liberal Protestantism. . . . valuable contribution to American educational, intellectual, and religious history." - Koinonia