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as this absorbing and beautifully written study makes clear, the history of Macalester College involves a highly instructive moral problem familiar to all of us: the paradoxical necessity to negotiate and, simultaneously, to resist. On one hand, ever since Macalester’s founding, the college has made a consistent and convincing case for its mission to prepare students for lives that standagainstconventionalwisdom,questionprevailingnorms,andactonmoral convictionsthatempowerlifetimesof servicetothecommunity,thenation,and the world. The college has insisted that its responsibilities extend far beyond providing a classroom education. Students’ horizons must be expanded to encompass questions of justice, equity, and human rights. Macalester has always promotedanethicalandempatheticconcernforothers,wherevertheymightbe found.Ithasalwaysstoutlyresistedthepropositionthatacademicstudyissimply preparationforthepursuitof personalself-interest,andasunbrokengenerations of Macalester alumni readily attest, this lesson took hold long ago. The college has consistently graduated an impressive number of resistance-minded people, whose lives have truly made an important difference. On the other hand, Macalester’s history reveals a college deeply sensitive to the necessities of negotiation. Over the decades, it has constantly sought to deepenitsmission,broadenitsappeal,andbolsteritsfinancesbyreshapingitself inresponsetothedominantculture’sshiftinginfluencesandexpectations.Atits inception in the 1880s, and during its formative decades, Macalester conformed wholeheartedly to the injunctions of the nation’s Protestant establishment by committing itself to evangelizing the world. Close to a century later, a largely de-Christianized Macalester responded to the expectations of a much more diverse America by jettisoning its chapel requirements, overhauling its religion department (revamped as a pluralistic Department of Religious Studies), and Foreword vii abandoning its Presbyterian identity in favor of multiculturalism. By the same token, for most of its history, the college tailored its curriculum to meet the practical needs of its working- and middle-class Minnesotan student body by sustainingawidevarietyof explicitlyvocationalprogramsthatdidnotrequirea highlyspecializedfaculty.Bytheearly1960s,however,thecollegehadeliminated these programs in response to the expectations of increasingly sophisticated donors,thedesiretoattractacosmopolitanstudentbody,andtherequirements of a higher education establishment that prized the pursuit of knowledge and the fruits of original research for their own intrinsic value. Negotiation, in this instance,ignitedthecollege’saspirationsfornationalpreeminencebyempowering it to recruit an impressively credentialed faculty, attract an outstanding student body, and finance much improved facilities for scholarship and teaching. AuthorJeanneHalgrenKildemakesplainthatthistensionbetweenconflicting imperatives—resistanceandnegotiation—goesfartoexplainwhyMacalester’s historyfeaturessuchacompellingmixof highambition;greataccomplishment; and,onoccasion,stunningvolatility.Asheranalysisof thiscounterpointmakes clear, there was nothing foreordained or consistent about the college’s centurylong trajectory toward the elite national status that it achieved in the mid-1990s. Instead, she insists, to understand that trajectory, one must focus, above all, on thewaysinwhichthecollegerespondedtotheunpredictableworldbeyondit— to transformations in the nation’s economy and demographics, in religious and scientificthought,ineducationalphilosophy,inpoliticsasrelatedtosocialjustice, in wars and their humanitarian challenges, in values that determined student behavior, and in relationships between philanthropists and higher education. KnowingMacalester’spast,accordingtothisbook,requiresunderstandinghow thecollegedevelopedinnegotiationwithandinresistancetochangewithinthe nation and around the world. This ambitious approach ensures great rewards for its readers and explains whythisvolumesoconvincinglyexceedsconventionalexpectations.Inaddition to offering absorbing accounts of the college’s influential leaders, its defining moments, and the evolving circumstances of students and faculty, this book develops quite substantial encounters with social, intellectual, cultural, and political history. Making no concessions, it assumes that its readers share precisely the attributes of Macalester’s best graduates—that they are intellectually critical , alert to moral questions, resistant to easy answers, and personally engaged in lifelong learning. And precisely because this volume is so much more than a conventional narrative, it holds obvious interest for academic readers outside viii | foreword the Macalester community, particularly for scholars of religious and cultural history. Whether alumni or not, such readers will find themselves challenged and instructed by substantial analyses of, for example, American Protestantism ’scomplexspiritualevolutionfromthe1880sonward,science’severtroubled relationships with claims of faith, and the theory postulating that processes of secularizationbestexplaintheemergenceof ourpostmoderncondition.Forthese reasons and many more, this book is a truly substantial scholarly monograph in its own right, even as it doubles as a highly readable history of a unique and truly important liberal arts college. In the final analysis, this is most of all a book for Macalester people because it addresses head-on the college’s most mythology-shrouded questions. For example, during his undergraduate years, did the college’s most munificent financial supporter, Reader’s Digest founder DeWitt Wallace, actually coax a cow into the bell tower? Many decades later, in the late 1960s, did the same DeWitt Wallace terminate his financial support and pitch Macalester into crisis because of his objections to the college’s abrupt turn to leftist politics? Was it true that thecollege’sunprecedentedinitiativetoattractdisadvantagedminoritystudents, its Expanded Educational Opportunity program, was an academic failure and that its costs drove the operating budget into enormous deficit? While Jeanne HalgrenKilde’sanswertoeachof thesequestionsisanunqualifiedno,Macalester readers...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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