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History of American Higher Education

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    History of American Higher Education: The Extra curriculum Importance from the Administrative Perspective

    “Most of those concerned with the problems of higher education have not focused as specifically on how students are managed, Thus, when pressed for answers, both the professional and non-professional sectors say better teaching is the answer without realizing that much of what they consider as better teaching is really better managing. (Glasser, 1990).

    This could be one critical factor why the process of providing a system of curriculum review requires an approach that will involve all sectors in the school community such as the school administration, students, faculty members, alumni and industry practitioners. The involvement of all stakeholders in any form of curriculum review appears to have taken some form of mandatory requirement in the hope of creating a good balance between and among the needs of the students:  the explicit curriculum which is to preserve and transmit the culture and traditions of the past and anticipate the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to function effectively in tomorrow’s society. (Sadker & Sadker, 2005); the extra-curriculum which are activities comprising sports, clubs, student government and school newspaper, hobbies or as athletes which cause students to be interested in and take part in society. (Lee & Bricault, 2003);  the implicit, or hidden, curriculum, which emerges incidentally from the interaction between the students and the physical, social, and interpersonal environments of the school. (Sadker and Sadker, 2005)

    Complementary to the role of faculty members, an administrator has an equally strong and compelling reason to actively participate and provide input into the curriculum review process. An administrator such as the Dean, Program chair, the accountant, or the non-academic personnel functioning within a school system are positions that has their own determinant and stake in the life of a student and a graduate. This means however, that administrators, having been given the authority and power to manage the curriculum and the student enrolled therein, do not encroach upon the roles of teachers in shaping and reshaping the lives of students. Both have distinct roles to play. Administrators are responsible for supervision, evaluation and control of teaching competence, faculty development programs, budgets and resource allocation for all forms activities, marketing of students, acquisition and maintenance of laboratories, library and capital equipment, hiring and training of support staff, to mention a few. Modern quality higher education need more than what the historical imperatives of the colonial universities had.

    The comprehensive history of higher education (Veysey, 1965) details the profound shift that occurred in the late nineteenth century, when the American college emerged as the American university (from the colonial university) and the concept of a research university as a hegemonic model of higher education came as a positive phenomena. Collectively with the work of Rudolph (1962) (Lucas 1994), these works represented almost the major reference, and indeed, the canonical texts in the history of higher education. Here, students were described as slowly moving towards activism realizing that access to higher education has not been realized as planned. Students took notice of the problematic social environment and reacted through the student demonstrations of the 1960s and the 1970s. (Lucas, 1994). The implication of this segment of history in higher education to the curriculum emphasized the need of students to undergo formative training on areas other than the curricular component.

    It is interesting to note that back in the 17th century, schools taught the “two Rs” and the three Rs” curriculum, emphasizing reading and religion and later writing. The only secondary schooling available was the Latin grammar school, which was open only to white male students who could afford the cost.  The eighteenth-century curriculum shifted toward the secular.  As a result of nationalism, democratization, and industrial development, the curriculum in the nineteenth century moved toward universal literacy, vocational competence, and preparation for citizenship.  In the first half of the twentieth century, however, the curriculum was influenced by John Dewey and the progressive movement. Creative expression, social skills, and a more integrated study of subject areas were stressed. By 1918, vocational course work had become an important part of the curriculum. In 1957, the poor performance of American schools was blamed for the country’s defeat in the race for space when Russia launched the Sputnik. As a result, the curriculum was revised, and toughened, particularly in math and science (Sadker, 2005) .

    The development of the extracurricular component of student involvements was opened by the need to direct the students’ training towards a more involved, active social life. Hence, from the classroom milieu of the teachers, the venue of student development integrates the out-of-the-classroom activities which necessitated the direct involvement and management of administrators.

    According to Lucas (1994), gone are the days when universities commencing from the 17th century colonial university were reluctant to move into the scientific inquiry area as well as the virtual refusal of universities to embrace new forms of knowledge or new ways of thinking, thus curtailing the inherent need of the students for a more comprehensive type of education. Although Lucas does not ponder on the reasons for such resistance, he offers his analysis on why faculties rebuff change making. The discussion of this reluctance is nevertheless intriguing. For example, when mentioning the failure of many seventeenth-century European universities to embrace science was due to very little interest in scientific discoveries. The curriculum then was limited by the educational priorities of the era.

    The role of administrators in curriculum review therefore must be established as a critical link in expanding the roles of students in the social and professional areas and how student will confront the challenges within.  This now brings to the open the need of the students to fully develop their emotional intelligence not so much in the classroom learning process but in the social application phase. Administrators are in the best position to conceptualize and implement social activities as means of holistic development. Here, this becomes more of student and activity management than classroom instruction. The latter serves to prepare and enhance the student’s social preparation.

             More importantly, the implicit, or hidden curriculum called extra curriculum as advocated by Sadker, emerges incidentally from the interaction between the students and the physical, social, and interpersonal environments of the school. Although a voluntary part of school life, the extra curriculum has become a central part in the culture of American schooling, with 80 percent of all students participating in such activities as athletics, musical groups, and academic clubs. Proponents of the extra curriculum argue that it encourages student self-esteem and civic participation, improves race relations, and raises children’s aspirations, despite some sectors seeing extracurricular activities as having very little, if any, positive effect on achievement and personal development. (Sadker & Sadker, 2005) But ultimately accepting the role of the extracurricular in the total development of the students, brings the administrators along the firing line in active participation.

                Sadker however cautions administrators when the formal curriculum and the extra curriculum clash and controversy develops. Some states have instituted a “no pass, no play” rules, excluding low-achieving students from participating in varsity sports. Since these rules tend to affect minority students disproportionately, many people see these rules as making the extra curriculum exclusive and discriminatory. Others criticize the degree to which schools pour resources and attention into athletics, when that support could be going toward academics. Lucas, thus, outlines how the higher education curriculum adopted social subjects as well as application one such subject as agriculture. (Sadker, 2005)

                Thus, from the colonial era of the universities commencing from the Harvard establishment era, the shift of thinking particularly enters the modern era where key words clearly indicate the tone and scope of the subjects covered: multiculturalism, political correctness, loss of community, malaise, academic standards, and neglect of undergraduate studies, careerism, and fragmentation. The fact that many of these topics are frequently stories in major newspapers indicates the timeliness of the issues. (Lucas 1994).         Further, Lucas reminds us that until well into the nineteenth century, colleges used religious doctrine as a criteria for hiring or firing professors and presidents, antebellum southern colleges dismissed professors who espoused anti-slavery positions, pro-union stances cost professors their jobs at the turn of the century, and, as recently as the 1950s, the anti-Communist zeal of McCarthyism threatened academic freedom again. From the lay reader’s perspective, these factors may be the most relevant to the transition that faced universities.

                The need and the ultimate inclusions of the extra-curricular component in American education found some of its staunch adherents even back in the 18th century when Thomas Jefferson realigned state education. This helped ensue the period of the American brand of Enlightenment even if such advocacy took hold only towards the Civil War period through the Morril Land Act of 1862. (Thelin).  At the center of his philosophy was the belief “that education should reinforce republican politics by teaching citizens and leaders their rights and responsibilities” (Thelin on Addis, 2003). This 19th century era helped strengthen the need to include the liberal arts and sciences, the liberation from denominational and religious teaching and the recognition and expansion of the rights of marginal students such as women and the black minority as well as the period of elitism and inclusive education.

                For administrators, the preceding discussion, clarify their roles not only in the review of the curriculum, but also in the management and the initiatives needed to produce highly competitive graduates, highly employable ones, and ultimately strong decision-makers in a constantly evolving complexities in the world. Quality of education, it is believed and practiced, is not just an internal perception and certification of best practices and good standards of teaching. Best practices in instruction, faculty, community involvement, student services, laboratories, physical plant, library system and the administration component often represent the indicators of quality accreditation certification.  Such practices and standards should pass the periodic objective scrutiny of third party validation called accreditation in various levels. Considering that administrators are expected to be primarily responsible of setting the tone of the quality of the educational environment in the school, they are considered equally significant critical components of quality education just like the faculty area and instruction.  Education and the accompanying curricular management practices, from many observers produces higher quality results. (AACSB 2008). The synergy of curricular and extracurricular dimensions helps foster sensitivity and flexibility toward cultural differences in a global context. That is, students are given the opportunity of exposure to cultural practices different than their own.

    List of references

    AACSB (2008),  Eligibility procedures and accreditation standards for business accreditation, Florida: AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

    Glasser, W. (1990).  The quality school: Managing students without coercion, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.

    Lee, H. & Bricault, Dr. (2003 Apr 24), Comparison of extracurriculum in Korea and United States: ESL 0980 Advanced Structure, Retrieved from the internet October 29, 2008, Website:

    Lucas, C. J. (1994) American Higher Education: A History, Second Edition, New York Barnes and Noble, John Hopkins University Press, Retrieved October 31, 2008,Website:

    Rudolph, Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University: A History (New York: A. Knopf, 1962; reprint, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990); and Laurence R. Veysey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).

    Sadker, Sadker. Teacher, school, society. 7th Edition, On Line learning Center Retrieved October 31, 2008,website:

    Retrieved from “”

    Categories: School terminology


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