Higher Education: A Condensed History
Humanity in the digital age: an oxymoron that appears to be thrown around in recent years than ever before. Turn on your television, open your web browser, or unlock your home screen on your newest smart phone and chances are you’ll find a multitude of news stories centered on war, famine, disease, crime, corrupt government, or an endless political banter between democrats and republicans. In fact, we’ve become so accustomed to the presence of apocalyptic negativity in mainstream media that we have forgotten how to communicate with one another. Some of us “check out” due to fear, regret, jealousy, or even emotional/mental exhaustion while others become complacent: lacking a sense of inspiration or drive to march onward.
Couple the loss of communication with the advent of technology and the intra and interpersonal divide between humans is exponentially wider than ever before. Individually and collectively, we have either lost our way in understanding how the world works…or we are ‘waking up’ to deeply-rooted patterns of behavior that were passively passed on from generation to generation, that prevent humanity from the next evolutionary frontier. It is not my job to persuade your viewpoints on any human social issue, only to point you in the direction to discover the answer within yourself. What I will say is that the world needs a deeply spiritual, highly personal, humanitarian overhaul. A revolution of the heart, mind and soul to discover ‘new’ ways of human understanding in order to coexist harmoniously with one another.
History of Higher Education
Traditionally, modern higher education institutions serve as harbingers of knowledge where individuals “rent” a space for a period of time (typically four years) in order to gain a holistic understanding of oneself and the world we live in. Stepping back further into the history of education in the United States, the inception of the American higher education system started with the founding of Harvard University in 1636. The model of American colonial colleges mirrored that of Oxford and Cambridge University in Britain with the intent to educate and preserve various religious theologies and related constituents. As is common on the American Frontier, whispers of change spread throughout the New England colonies that challenged the fundamental purpose and instruction of American Education.
The Age of Enlightenment and The Great Awakening swept across the New England states during the 17-1800’s which shifted the philosophical underpinnings of education from a theological base to more of a democratic secularism which ultimately led to the separation of church and state. The premise of the ‘new age’ education was to allow room for more fairness and equality of individuals with dissenting ideological beliefs. Naturally, there were pockets of resistance as is common when dealing with complex social change. The passage of The Morrill Act of 1862 created land-grant institutions of learning designed to emphasize the development and sustainability of more practical degrees. The passage of this legislature led to a significant increase in student diversity on all fronts. Due to the changing student demographics, the role of college student personnel evolved to meet those demands.
The Revolutionary War, Age of Enlightenment, and The Great Awakening revolutionized the role and function of higher education in America. Prior to these historical events the primary role of faculty members were to act as “in loco parentis” or “in place of the parent”. This meant faculty members embodied paternalistic roles and served as holistic points of contact regarding student interaction in both public and private life, on and off campus. However, with the increasing diversity of students and their needs staff responsibilities shifted and a new culture of Student Affairs Professionals was born. In 1937, a report published by the American Council on Education (ACE) published a report titled Student Personnel Point of View which shifted the role of college staff as individuals who developed a students holistic identity through a developmental approach to education.
Student Affairs Professionals in the 21st Century
The role of a Student Affairs Professional continues to evolve to meet the demands of faculty, staff, and students. During the years of World War II, college student enrollment grew dramatically, inviting the field of Student Affairs to (once again) redefine their role on a college campus. The influx of students with unprecedented types of need allowed for the proliferation of psychosocial development theory that continue to inform our practice today. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s increased access to historically underrepresented students in higher education. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 addressed social inequality by ensuring educational access for students of color, women, first-generation college students, and students who come from low-income backgrounds.
The history of Student Affairs Administrators continues to inform our daily practice in the 21st century. Collectively, we are the individuals on a college campus who advocate, educate, and tolerate the continued push for increasing student diversity of all biological and social backgrounds. Professional standards published by NASPA and ACPA in 2010 set forward a list of professional competencies to become proficient in working in Student Affairs. From the founding of Harvard in 1636 to the expansive collection of over 3,500 colleges and universities in 2016, the approach to higher education is built on an exclusionary model of educational access, attainment and human equity.
The Next Great Awakening
Understandably, the targeted audience of the collective work we do in higher education focuses on the students we admit. However, colleges and universities are at physical capacity and do not have geographical or financial privilege to grow and expand buildings and facilities. Moreover, the advent of technology continues to revolutionize educational instruction. It is not only about the students we ‘include’ on our college campuses, but what about society at large? There is more room for growth and the potential to impact the lives of individuals who are ‘denied’ a good quality education. Instead of trying to fold human beings into a particular mold of the type of student we are looking for, why can’t the field of higher education, including the colleges and universities who populate the industry, inversely fold itself into mainstream society? For once, can we ask ourselves as a profession NOT what a student can do for us but what we CAN do for the general public? It’s time to redefine our role as Student Affairs Professionals and expand the conventional definition of the student to include every human soul and flesh.
This is the reason I am starting an online, docuseries, YouTube channel targeted towards the general public audience. My videos will focus on many of the same issues of diversity, inclusion, and arriving at equity of the human experience as a physical college or university currently undertakes. However, I will translate those concepts and apply them in unconventional ways to transform lives by tapping into the vast population of the world. My hope is to share the rich, transformational experiences I received at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Southern California with everyone willing to listen AND interact with me in an online setting. Most importantly, all of my professional endeavors will be FREE to the public and open to constructive feedback. I am passionate about understanding the holistic human experience and understanding my many privileges, and disadvantages, to equitable share unearned power to arrive at true equality for everyone.
Over the next two weeks, I will feverishly prepare my first online YouTube video to build an online community dedicated to developing an unparallelled ethic of care and increase collective intelligence to arrive at a more just and fair society. We will explore social issues mentioned in the beginning of this blog along with many other humanitarian and social justice lens of online education. So join me in ushering in “The Second Great Awakening” and lets wake up to new-found understandings of what it means to be human through online modalities and educational instruction that are truly inclusive to all individuals…on and off campus…at no financial cost to anyone. Let’s take the exclusionary, elitist, “Ivory Tower” of higher education and turn it into a “Collective Grass Roots” movement. I believe in humanity, I believe in love, I believe in you, and I believe in @HumanityInWe!