Cover of The California Idea and American Higher Education by John Aubrey Douglass
The California Idea and American Higher Education
1850 to the 1960 Master Plan
John Aubrey Douglass


480 pages.
from $32.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804731898
Paperback ISBN: 9780804757539
Ebook ISBN: 9781503617100

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Throughout the twentieth century, public universities were established across the United States at a dizzying pace, transforming the scope and purpose of American higher education. Leading the way was California, with its internationally renowned network of public colleges and universities. This book is the first comprehensive history of California's pioneering efforts to create an expansive and high-quality system of public higher education.

The author traces the social, political, and economic forces that established and funded an innovative, uniquely tiered, and geographically dispersed network of public campuses in California. This influential model for higher education, "The California Idea," created an organizational structure that combined the promise of broad access to public higher education with a desire to develop institutions of high academic quality. Following the story from early statehood through to the politics and economic forces that eventually resulted in the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, The California Idea and American Higher Education offers a carefully crafted history of public higher education.

About the author

John Aubrey Douglass is Senior Research Fellow for Public Policy and Higher Education at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley.

"This book offers persuasive and in many ways unprecedented history of the policy debates that gave California one of the most comprehensive and influential public university systems in the world. . . . Douglass's important work offers a basis for considering both the remarkable strengths of Progressive university building and the antidemocratic elements that, contrary to conventional wisdom, may be the source of its increasing weakness today."

American Literature

"Douglass has made a long-needed contribution. Those who study and work in higher education will profit from readitng this carefully constructed history."

Journal of the West

"California exceptionalism is a very real thing, but its essence has always been elusive. Not so in the case of John Douglass' treatment of California higher education. He has captured brilliantly the economic, political, and social roots of that remarkable system. His work will help us all."

—Neil Smelser, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California

"For those interested in the University of California, in higher education throughout the state, and—above all—for anyone concerned about life in this country's higher education systems, John Douglass' book is a must read. He brings history, thoughtful perspective, and marvelous creative intelligence to a very tricky set of issues, and we will be leaning upon his insights for many years."

—Barry Munitz, President, The J. Paul Getty Trust, and former Chancellor of the California State University system

"John Douglass has succeeded in one of the most difficult of scholarly challenges—presenting a large and complex topic with remarkable clarity, insight, and narrative skill. is fascinating history and a significant contribution to our understanding of the people and the forces that created California's renowned system of higher education."

—Richard C. Atkinson, President of the University of California

"No one has previously written a history of higher education in California comparable to this volume. Specifically, no one has ever written the history of public higher education in terms of its policy development . . . the scholarship is impeccable. Since higher education in California is such a vast multi-billion dollar operation, this book should prove eminently useful. . . . There is great drama in Douglass' telling of this crucial public policy and political story."

—Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California, Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Southern California, and author of the series

"[This book is] important for understanding events in California and the history of American Higher Education."

—Clark Kerr, President Emeritus, University of California and former Chairman, Carnegie Commission on Higher Education