Why our ‘second tier’ universities are responsible for social and economic change
Wickham, G. (2013) Why our ‘second tier’ universities are responsible for social and economic change. The Conversation, 7 July .
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The modern Western university has five major historical trajectories, four of which were dominant for more than 400 years. But the fifth, while spanning no more than 50 years, has been a crucial driver of an important historical and social change, especially in Australia.
The longest of the trajectories dates from the 11th century and was initially concerned with educating personnel for the Roman Catholic Church. It received a boost from the Christianising of Aristotle undertaken by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century: the main message of which was the need to strive for perfection in the image of a perfect God.
Not much of the perfect God component survives in today’s universities. But in the form of perfect reason, given to it by Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, it survives in a big way.
The second trajectory is almost as old. It is more practical than it is intellectual, involving the education of children of those with landed wealth. In the 18th and 19th century it expanded to include the education of the children of those with moneyed wealth, something which made it suitable for the United States.
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