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Identity and Change   an image of two women, classically symbolic in flowing drapery, graces the Macalester College seal. One holds a telescope; a compass lies at her feet. The other holds a Bible. In a peaceful outdoor setting, suggested by a nearby tree and grassy foreground, the two figures carry on a seemingly pleasant conversation . The motto that encircles the scene identifies the two figures: Nature and Revelation, the Twins of Heaven. Although this nineteenth-century image is now no doubt mystifying to many contemporary students and visitors, its message was quite clear when it was designed by the founder of the college: the study of the natural world—science—aligns perfectly with reverence for the Word of God, for Christianity. The laws of nature are one and the same as those of God. Empirical knowledge and belief in divine revelation are fully compatible. Negotiating a relationship between religious conviction and the pursuit of empirical knowledge ranked among higher education’s top challenges from the latenineteenthcenturythroughmuchof thetwentiethcentury.WhenMacalester College opened its doors in fall 1885, it did so smack in the midst of an ongoing debate about the role of religion—specifically, Christianity—in the modern world and its relationship to higher education and, particularly, science. Could Christianity, which embraced truths divinely revealed in the Bible, be squared with the increasingly sophisticated methods and discoveries in science, historiography , literary criticism, psychology, and other areas? In particular, the work of naturalist Charles Darwin on natural selection as the mechanism for change in nature (rather than divine will) had thrown into question the long-held conviction that God provided the requisite foundation of all knowledge and that,  | nature & revelation therefore, all learning was dependent on correct knowledge of God and, more specifically, knowledge of Christianity. ThisChristocentricepistemologyhadinformedmostinstitutionsof higher education in the United States in the nineteenth century, the vast majority of whichwerefoundedbyChristianreligiousgroupsanddenominations.Macalester College, too, advanced this position and adopted the previously described seal, which proudly signaled the belief that the natural world, the subject of science, wasfullyengagedwiththerevelatoryworldof thedivine.Whilethefoundersof MacalesterCollegeremainedsteadfastinthisconviction,subsequentgenerations of college leaders would modify it significantly in light of social, cultural, and technologicalchangeaswellashistorical,socialscientific,andscientificdevelopments . Over the course of the twentiethcentury, a numberof new understandings of the relationship between religion and education emerged, flourished, weremodified,andwaned.Tracingthechangingperceptionsof therelationship between religion and education is, in broad terms, the goal of this book. Transformation, then, is a key theme in the following pages. Both factors in the equation—religion and education—changed dramatically and repeatedly overtheperiodtobecovered.Thebasicoutlineof thetransformationsinreligion andtheliberalartsthatMacalesterCollegeunderwentbetweenitsopeningand thelatetwentiethcenturyisreadilysketched.ThissmallliberalartscollegeinSt. Paul,Minnesota,wasbornof theeffortsof EastCoastProtestantmigrantstothe frontier area to re-create the institutions of the East in the newly opening West. These founders espoused the notion that Christianity undergirded all knowledge and proclaimed that the institution delivered a distinctively latitudinarian ChristianeducationunmarkedbythesectarianconflictsthatdividedProtestant denominations—an education that suited all comers. Yet from its earliest days, the content of that Christianity and its role with respect to the college’s mission were negotiated. The college’s opening occurred only with the support of the Presbyterian Church, and the first official president of the college, a man who hadnotworkedwiththeoriginalfounders,promotedadistinctivePresbyterian identity and mission for the college, all but ignoring the latitudinarian commitment of the school’s original supporters. With its dominant Presbyterian perspective , the institution offered classes that focused on a traditional curriculum that emphasized moral philosophy, Baconian science, Christian apologetics, and classical languages as preparation for the ministry, law, and medicine— acurriculumthatwasdecidedlytypicalamongsmallcollegesduringtheperiod. Identity and Change |  Itsoutlookwasgenerallyconservative,anditsaspirationsweremoretowardpiety than intellectual achievement. A century later, religious conviction no longer played a role in defining academic epistemologies or curricula at Macalester College.Itsliberalartscurriculumembracedempiricalmethodsinbothscience and social science instruction; language and fine arts flourished; and politically engagededucationpredominated.Bythe1990s,Macalesterhadearnedanational reputation for its academic rigor and its promotion of international education. Moreover,incontrasttotheoriginalconservativecharacterof theinstitution,the college had developed an ethos of progressive politics and avant-garde student interests and lifestyles. Exploring this shift from the theologically grounded, politically and educationallyconservativeinstitutionof thelatenineteenthcenturytothetwentiethcentury institution apparently unconnected to any religious tradition and with a reputation for embracing learning for its own sake, liberal political views, and international education is our task. This trajectory of profound change raises a number of questions pertaining to the role and mission of the college. What caused these palpable, if gradual, shifts in character and identity? How did changes in the understanding of religion and education contribute to these transformations? What role did social and cultural change play in influencing them? As we explore the changing understandings of the Nature–Revelation relationship, we will shed significant light on the...

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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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