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The California Idea and American Higher Education: 1850 to the 1960 Master Plan.

By John Aubrey Douglass. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, xvi, 460 pp., $55.00 cloth.)

The heart of the story told by John Aubrey Douglass concerns the often messy and sometimes spontaneous politics of centralized planning in California higher education since statehood. Douglass refers to the achievements of this process as the "California Idea," defined as a nationally unique state effort initiated early in the twentieth century to create high quality institutions and to increase access to higher education. Standing as a lasting tribute to the planners--and those who executed their plans--is the California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960. Abit more than half of the book is devoted to the accelerated planning, institution building, and enrollment growth that occurred after 1930.

Like other Western states, California after 1868 had a state university, one that embraced--albeit not without some internal identity conflict--both the historically respected liberal traditions of learning and practical subjects, such as agriculture and mechanical sciences emanating from the Morrill Act of 1862. Also similar to the national pattern, beginning in 1862 and continuing through the first two decades of the twentieth century, California developed a steadily growing number of state-supported normal schools. By 1921 most of these had evolved into teachers colleges, and by 1935 into state colleges, with curricula broader than teacher education. However, unlike other states, beginning in the 1910s leadership from faculty and administrative officers at the University of California and Stanford University enabled the state to pioneer in the creation of junior colleges. These new institutions offered lower division collegiate instruction, with programs intended to prepare their graduates for transfer to the University of California and, in the early years, also to Stanford.

The heart of the story told by Douglass as well and as completely as possible in the space allotted concerns how these very diverse institutional creations were fashioned into a large and coherent state mission of higher education. While the master plan was the culmination event, it was preceded by the work of numerous study commissions and legislative actions spanning nearly thirty years, not to mention the usual displays of community and regional advocacy that led to the creation of many new campuses. In the end, no institution or force was all-powerful. The creation of the University of California as a public trust, with constitutional autonomy for deciding its own direction after 1879, gave it the greatest share of power and financial resources. Yet, the university was not powerful enough to stop the creation of new state college campuses nor frustrate for very long the expansion of their instructional missions. The great population growth in California after World War II, taken with a large state budget surplus accumulated during that war, produced unprecedented public pressure to build new campuses. Equipped with ample incentive and resources, university leaders, several state college presidents, and public officials representing the larger state budget interests were able to negotiate plans that produced a coherent tri-partite mission for public higher education. This is their story as presented by Douglass.
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Author:Hendrick, Irving G.
Publication:California History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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