There were many changes that affected higher education in the United States in the nineteenth century. The issues in controversy include, 1. Church versus state control of higher education, 2. the value of the college versus the university, and 3. classical curriculum versus the principle of election. The third issue is the purpose of this report. Should the traditional curriculum of higher education continue? Up to this point the rigid classical curriculum of higher education had resisted change. Then, as now, institutions of higher learning were more resistant to change than were elementary and secondary schools. The strength of the conservative view was centered at Yale University. The Yale Report of 1828 was written to rebute critics who were challenging the classical curriculum.

What should the student study? The growing concern about the question of curriculum in higher education was in large part due to the industrial revolution and the increase in agriculture in the period of the nineteenth century. Advocates for change believed that college should prepare a man for living, may it be through banking, farming, or industry. The curriculum should offer vocational education. Under this plan for reform, students would be able to pursue a specific plan of study so that he could learn a trade and become a positive contributor to the community in which he lived. Advocates for change believed that curriculum should be relevant to commerce, industry, and agriculture.

On the other side of the debate was the view that traditional curriculum should stay. Heading up this side of the debate were the leaders at Yale University. Yale University concluded that the old way was the best way and to uphold this view wrote the Yale Report of 1828. According to the authors of this report, education would be composed of four disciplines in order to create the truly educated man. First, education would act in a manner of parental control. This discipline would enable the educated man to act in an appropriate manner in the absence of supervision. Secondly, education would provide a man with mental discipline. This discipline would help a man make it through the difficult times. The third necessity education would provide was to vigorously exercise a man's mental faculties. This would make a man think not only about the why of the problem but also the how. Finally, the report stated that classical education would form a proper character. This discipline would make a man a gentleman. As well as these disciplines of education the Yale Report emphasized teaching the classics through Latin and Greek. "Only the classical languages could provide the necessary disciplines and furniture of the mind." Advocates for traditional curriculum believed that exercising the mind and providing a general foundation common to all was more important than providing specialized education for a particular profession.

The Yale Report of 1828 was a major historical happening in the debate about curriculum in higher education. Despite the strength of the leaders of Yale University, reform of curriculum began to change by the end of the nineteenth century. However the classical approach remained strong in several New England states.


1. The American School in Transition, William Drake.

2. A History of American Education, Macmillan.

Prepared by Julie Kern