Constructing the Past


This paper examines the theory and practice of the general education movement in twentieth century American higher education, especially its influence upon the curriculum development of Illinois Wesleyan University. The paper first delineated the origins of the theory of educational perennialism and its initial application in higher education in America. Then, by noticing the chronological coincidence of the IWU Humanities program with the rise of the general education movement nationwide, the paper argues that the IWU Humanities program was started under the influence of the national general education movement and the theory of educational perennialism. The national phenomenon and the IWU program shared commonality in both their specific policies as well as philosophical foundations. By extensively exploring and examining the primary sources in the Tate Archive of the Ames Library, the author carefully traced the history of the IWU Humanities 301/302 program, from its initiation to its demise. The final section of the paper was dedicated to the discussions to find out the reasons of the decline and fall of the Humanities program. In addition to perusing old university catalogs and faculty curriculum council meeting minutes, the author conducted personal interview with former director of the program and also consulted memoirs of former university presidents, in order to provide a possible answer to the question of why the IWU Humanities program declined in the 1980s and 90s, thus concluding a narrative of the history of the IWU Humanities 301/302 program.