The 1930s were not a great era for the American economy, but they were wonderful for experiments in higher education. In 1933 the New School for Social Research began its Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, its “University in Exile” for Italian and German intellectuals seeking intellectual asylum from Nazism and Fascism. Robert Hutchins transformed the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Chicago, and it in turn was adopted by a small college in Annapolis that was on the verge of closing—St. John’s College is now famous for its “great books” curriculum. Down in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, Black Mountain College taught art as the central pillar of a radical and interdisciplinary approach to the liberal arts; and up in Vermont, Bennington College was founded as a women’s college emphasizing self-directed learning and hands-on experience. Though some of these experiments failed, all of them changed the culture of higher education, to one extent or another.
Strange that for the last several decades, that there have so few experiments in higher education. My guest today aims to correct that. David J. Staley is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Humanities Institute at the Ohio State University. His latest book is Alternative Universities: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education is filled with suggestions of how we might re-envision college. Warning: you’re going to hear some odd things in this podcast.
For Further Investigation
The web page of David J. Staley at the Ohio State University