Higher Education: Our Angsty Teenager

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Drawing of Harvard College in 1720!

I spent quite a while thoughtfully considering each of the events on the Historical Timeline of American Higher Education and even did a bit of independent Internet searching, but seeing as the provided timeline was twelve pages long, there were plenty of intriguing events to choose from. Just four events in, and I pinpointed the first that seemed particularly significant: in 1628, “the first printing press in the American Colonies was set up at Harvard College.”

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I recalled, during our first class period, when Dr. Morvant spoke briefly about the invention and utilization of the printing press in colleges in the United States. Students outnumbering textbooks was no more, and information was much more easily shared and transported; not to mention the fact that, as time went on, people who could not attend a university were able to get their hands on printed materials. Before the printing press, “books were reproduced by monks through the painstaking process of copying them by hand” which “made [them] very rare and expensive, meaning members of the lower and middle classes could not easily obtain them” (Brunelle). Without a lot of thinking, you can pretty well assume that literacy rates increased as people became better educated and more thoughtful with the new sharing of knowledge; further, scientific and medical research could be shared among scholars, aiding greatly in collaboration and further advancement. People of all economic and social standings were able to educate and entertain themselves with printed material, and this idea of educational equality is further emphasized in the next important event that I selected: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Leading up to the Civil Rights Act, discrimination was uncontrollable in the United States, particularly and most notably against African Americans. This made it impossible for education to be open to everyone, which created innumerable problems and hardship in every way imaginable. If blacks wanted to attend college, they were left with the option of attending an all-black university, and I always wonder how much better the academic environment could have been if all people were allowed to learn and collaborate together. Once the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, however, “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” was outlawed (Wikipedia). Though everything was not perfect as soon as this legislation was passed, conditions slowly got better, and in terms of higher education, the inclusion of ALL types of people only created a more diverse, creative, and capable group of learners. With technology also moving forward, the introduction of IBM’s first version of the personal computer in 1981 was my choice for the third most important event in the history of higher education.

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On August 2nd, 1981, computer model 5150 was released by IBM and was immediately a huge success. Much like the printing press, this advancement in information sharing completely changed and improved the ways in which people learned, and further, they could now be more in control and more curious! The internet today is a sort of infinite black hole of everything. You can spend a ridiculous amount of time exploring every single informative or perverse crevice and still know so little. It is incredible. IBM’s clunky computer helped to jump-start what we have today, and while there are undeniable (and arguable) cons to such an interconnected world, the benefits surely prevail in providing us with never-ending connections to people, places, and ideas all over our world. These benefits are found just as bountifully in higher education, where students now study abroad, email each other from other countries, learn new languages with apps, find endless information and resources for research and paper-writing, and enjoy the exciting opportunities that are made available by computers and internet. The exciting and eventful maturation of higher education is a testament to its importance; it is kind of like society’s little whining toddler with chocolate ice cream on his cheeks who has slowly and painfully matured into a young adolescent with a cracking voice and a hint of angst, still trying to figure out the ins and outs of life. I hope that, with time and effort, our teenager will mature into a fully functioning adult, more aware of what he is doing wrong and more able to take advice and correct it.

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Works Cited

Brunelle, Marcus. How the Printing Press Revolutionized Humanity (n.d.): n. pag. Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science.   Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

“Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

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