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Saturday, June 30, 2007

What was the university like before the 1960s?

The recent post at Unqualified Reservations, "The ultracalvinist hypothesis: In perspective" has been a spash at Econolog, gnxp, and here. The "ultravalcinist hypothesis" holds that contemporary American atheism is actually a variant of Mainline Protestantism. One Unqualified Reservations post, found by PurpleSlog via Econolog, argued that even the leftist political correctness that comes out of academia is merely a continuation of the same religious clap-trap that's been going on for centuries:

You may or may not buy this story. But I hope you can agree that the Harvard faculty in 2007 by and large believes in human equality, social justice, world peace and community leadership, that the faculty of the same institution held much the same beliefs in 1957, 1907, 1857 and 1807, and that in any of these years they would have described these views as the absolute cynosure of Christianity. Perhaps I am just naturally suspicious, but it strains my credulity slightly to believe that sometime in 1969, the very same beliefs were rederived from pure reason and universal ethics, whose concurrence with the New Testament is remarkable to say the least.

All well and good. However, I previously featured the Weekly Standard's claims that American academia used to be liberal, as opposed to leftist:

It is plain in retrospect that the American university changed as fundamentally in the decade or so after 1965 as it did in those formative years between 1870 and 1910. The political and cultural upheavals of the period, spurred by the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam, combined with the demographic explosion, brought about a second revolution in higher education, and created an institution (speaking generally) that was more egalitarian, more ideological, and more politicized, but less academic and less rigorous, in its preoccupations than was the case in the preceding era. It was in this period, from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, that the left university emerged in place of the liberal university.

So which is it?

Did the 1960s see the collapse of liberal academia and the raise of leftist orthodoxy? Or did Mainline Protestantism reign throughout the period, only changing which denominations (Episcopalian? Atheist?) the professoriate claimed as their own?

The answer's beyond my knowledge, but perhaps some historians who read this blog might answer...