Education and Democracy: The Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn, 1872–1964

Front Cover
Univ of Wisconsin Press, Mar 11, 2009 - Education - 440 pages
0 Reviews
"Intellectual biography at its best. Nelson has presented us with the whole Meiklejohn, warts and all." --E. David Cronon, coauthor of The University of Wisconsin: A History -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is the definitive biography of Alexander Meiklejohn, one of the most important and controversial educators and civil libertarians of the twentieth century. A charismatic teacher and philosopher with extrordinarily high expectations for democratic self-government in the United States, Meiklejohn was both beloved and reviled during his long life. Brilliant and dedicated, he could also be stubborn and arrogant, and his passion for his own ideals led to frequent clashes with prominent and powerful critics. The son of reform-minded, working-class immigrants from Scotland, Meiklejohn rejected the spiritually agnostic and politically instrumentalist philosophies of his Progressive-Era contemporaries, many of whom, he argued, simply took democracy for granted. As dean of Brown University at the outset of the twentieth century, he lamented the disintegration of the old classical curriculum and questioned the rising influence of amoral science in modern higher education. He served as president of Amherst College during the culturally turbulent years of World War I, a director of the famous Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin during the late 1920s and early 1930s, and as a delegate to UNESCO after World War II. An outspoken defender of the First Amendment during the McCarthy era, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. "Alexander Meiklejohn was a self-proclaimed idealist living in an increasingly pragmatic age, and his central question remains essential today: How can education teach citizens to be free?" "A splendid piece of work. It is a fascinating character study of an extraordinary figure in American intellectual and educational history. Nelson presents a very balanced portrait of the man, his strengths and weaknesses."--Charles W. Anderson, author of Prescribing the Life of the Mind Adam R. Nelson is assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University. Previously a lecturer on history and literature at Harvard University, he is currently working on a history of internationalism in American higher education.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


College Education and the Moral Ideal 19001911
The College as Critic 19121919
To Whom Are We Responsible? 19201924
A New College with a New Idea 19251928
A Most Lamentable Comedy 19291932
A Fresh Start 19331940
A Reply to John Dewey 19411947
What Does the First Amendment Mean? 19481954
The Faith of a Free Man 19551964
Education and the Democratic IdealThe Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn
Bibliography and Suggestions for Further Reading

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Adam R. Nelson is associate professor of educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is author of The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Boston’s Public Schools, 1950–1985.

Bibliographic information