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Going to College in the Sixties

Picture going to college in the sixties: the protests and marches, the teach-ins and sit-ins, the drugs, sex, and rock 'n’ roll—hip, electric, psychedelic. Not so fast, says bestselling historian John R. Thelin. Even at radicalized campuses, volatile student demonstrations coexisted with the "business as usual" of a flagship state university: athletics, fraternities and sororities, and student government.

In Going to College in the Sixties, Thelin reinterprets the campus world shaped during one of the most dramatic decades in American history. Reconstructing all phases of the college experience, Thelin explores how students competed for admission, paid for college in an era before Pell Grants, dealt with crowded classes and dormitories, voiced concerns about the curriculum, grappled with new tensions in big-time college sports, and overcame discrimination. Thelin augments his anecdotal experience with a survey of landmark state and federal policies and programs shaping higher education, a chronological look at media coverage of college campuses over the course of the decade, and an account of institutional changes in terms of curricula and administration.

Combining student memoirs, campus publications, oral histories, and newsreels, along with archival sources and institutional records, the book goes beyond facile stereotypes about going to school in the sixties. Grounded in social and political history, with a scope that will appeal both to a new generation of scholars and to alumni of the era, this engaging book allows readers to consider "going to college" in both the past and the present.

About the Authors

John R. Thelin, who went to college in the 1960s, is a University Research Professor and a member of the Educational Policy Studies Department at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education, A History of American Higher Education, and Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics.

Endorsementss

"Full of key events, vivid anecdotes, and fascinating stories about real people, this book's compelling chapters emphasize life on campus as experienced by the vast majority of students, most of whom were not involved in activism or were involved for only a portion of the 1960s. No single volume does as much to truly cover the college experience and influences of the sixties on higher education—well beyond the headlines and drama of the era."

- Katherine Reynolds Chaddock, University of South Carolina, author of Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College

"For those who automatically know the phrase, 'All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray,' Going to College in the Sixties is a trip down memory lane. More importantly, for all of us, John Thelin’s history offers a reflective moment to consider what we want our colleges and universities to be today. Thoughtful. Engaging. Scholarship at its best."

- William G. Tierney, University of Southern California, editor of Rethinking Education and Poverty

"John R. Thelin’s Going to College in the Sixties is a walk through the thoughts, antics, fears, and dreams of students. His use of memoirs brings to the forefront riveting firsthand stories of life for college students and makes them relatable and engaging."

- Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania, coauthor of Educating a Diverse Nation: Lessons from Minority-Serving Institutions

"With his characteristic mix of erudite scholarship and personal reflection, John Thelin crafts a portrait of American colleges in the 1960s—their students, institutional forms, finances, curricula—and how they interacted with each other and the federal government across this powerful and influential decade. Almost uniquely among our foremost scholars of higher education, Thelin combines the perspectives of scholar, historian, practitioner, and observer in this analysis of how American higher education chose to make and withstand change during the volatile 1960s."

- Linda Eisenmann, Wheaton College, author of Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945–1965

"People who have spent time reminiscing with peers about their student lives in the 1960s may wonder if they all went to college in the same era! Going to College in the Sixties clearly identifies factors within and outside an individual’s control that shaped her or his experiences and recollections. Given today’s social climate, it is a must-read."

- Janet H. Lawrence, University of Michigan, coauthor of Faculty at Work: Motivation, Expectation, Satisfaction

Reviews

"John Thelin tells this story of rising enrollments and growing administrations in his new book, Going to College in the Sixties. In doing so, he joins an ever-expanding list of historians who urge us to abjure the hippie nostalgia that so often still defines the 1960s. He lifts campus protest out of its purple haze and relocates it amid the emerging trends of shifting undergraduate demographics and the data-driven expansion of university bureaucracy. This approach makes sense of our present far better than the more familiar tale of a student revolution that failed. Instead, he shows that '60s students of all political stripes and demographic backgrounds participated in a historical shift that replaced one set of contradictions with another."

- Mark Garrett Cooper and John Marx - LA Review of Books
Johns Hopkins University Press
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A History of American Higher Education, third edition

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