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D.G. Hart / Edward E. Ericson, Jr.
Princeton in the Nation's Service: Religious Ideals and Educational Practice, 1868-1928
by P.C. Kemeny
Oxford Univ. Press
353 pp.; $45
Do Christians make the best citizens? This question, which has prompted a variety of responses from ethicists, philosophers, and political scientists, has rarely in formed the work of historians writing on American higher education. But as P.C. Kemeny shows, the civic functions of Christianity were as much responsible as the growing prestige of the natural sciences for the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century transfer of academic authority from Christian liberal arts colleges to secular research universities.
Kemeny's narrative covers Princeton University (until 1896 the College of New Jersey) during the 60-year period (1868-1928) in which James McCosh, Francis Landey Patton, Woodrow Wilson, and John G. Hibben presided over the school—a period during which, de pending on one's perspective, Princeton suffered or benefitted from the way that Anglo-American Protestants had appropriated the Enlightenment. The Presbyterians who sponsored Princeton came to believe that they could have it all: maintain orthodox Christianity, advance the cause of scientific discovery, and contribute to the creation and preservation of a Christian republic.
What brought the curtain down on this juggling act, Kemeny concludes, was not the imperial claims of science, as many historians of higher education have argued. (In fact, as Princeton's president from 1868-88, McCosh kept the pieces of Protestant educational philosophy together in the face of Darwinism and higher criticism's challenges to the synthesis of Christianity and science.) Rather, it became increasingly difficult for Protestant educators to reconcile their responsibility to serve a religiously diverse nation with their traditional conception of a curriculum leavened by the distinctives of Protestant Christianity. Gradually the imperatives of civic duty led administrators to scuttle the ...