Education has always been considered as one of the most important aspects of life that should be given undivided attention. For this reason, any country’s economic and political growth is highly dependent on the education curriculum. Knowledge gained from education is a key factor that helps raise a generation of high intellectual capacity (James, 1930). In the United States of America, education is one of the country’s components that have been given high priority. This is evidenced from facts observed from the history of some of the famous education institutions such as the Harvard University. Charles Eliot was an American citizen who outstanding transformations to the education system of the United States and specifically Harvard University. His passion for the need for quality education is one of the contributory factors to his achievements.
Charles Eliot was an American academician who was born on 20th March 1834. He was born in Boston and his family was wealthy therefore able to cater for his education needs effectively. He graduated from Harvard University in 1853 after which he didn’t have a clue of ever becoming the president of the University at one given point. After a lot of politics in the governing of Harvard University, Eliot was appointed President of the University in 1869 and he was amongst the America’s youngest college president. Harvard was a college institution at this time. Change is an imperative component for any kind of growth in life (Morison, 1936). Eliot made outstanding changes to the system which proved to be worth because it transformed the University into a college. The major reason why he decided to change the education system was basically due to the fact that the quality of education in the country at the moment was low. He brought in the transformations by changing the governance of the University which was being done by clergy men at the moment. The curricula offered nothing important and hence businessmen were reluctant to sending their sons to school. Therefore, by changing the governance of the University from business to intellectual people who understood the value of education, Elliot was able to save the slowly fading college and transforming it into a University instead.
Elliot was able to bring many changes to the college before it was fully transformed into a university. During these changes, the nature of business in the United States was very high and most people preferred business to education. The changes the Eliot made to the education curriculum changed this notion and American citizens were able to value and appreciate education. One of the major changes that he made was expanding the curriculum. This was imperative because it expanded the level of knowledge amongst the students. Eliot advocated for the right to education to the minorities: European Americans and African Americans. This would bring America to a high level ground and hence increase the knowledge of its citizens to higher levels. Amongst these reforms, he advocated for women to get the same level of education as men. Women were discriminated against at the period and were denied the right to education. Eliot reformed the teaching methods to a more professional level that encouraged high level performance and competition amongst the students. Most of the tactics Eliot presented were based on aiming for higher standards in the American education system. These factors were highly significant in transforming the college into one of the best Universities in America. The college was transformed into a preeminent research University in the United States. This was achieved by the strong emphasis that Eliot created on scientific subjects such as chemistry which promoted high degrees of research.
Eliot’s trip to Europe had great impact to his view on the education system in the United States. He was able to learn from other countries and this prompted him to come with strategies of improving the education curriculum in the America. His trip to Europe included France and Germany where he learnt that most education institutions in these countries gained support from the countries’ federal governments. These countries valued education and this motivated him and gave him a vision for change on the American curriculum. He compared the government supported education institutions in Europe to the education support in the United States which was by the wealthy. He however did not advocate for the American government to support the education system in the country. His notion was based on freedom and outstanding the American enterprise to education as the key factors towards changing the American education system (Hawkins, 1972).
One of Eliot’s main goals in pursuing education was to determine the correlation between education and economic growth. He had contrasting views to most American clergy men who viewed education as a waste of time and considered wealth instead. Most of these wealthy men did not take their sons to school because they viewed wealth as the only important aspects in their lives. His view on education was that it was one of the most important aspects in any country’s economic development. His argument was based on the need for artists, architects, scientists, lawyers, nurses and engineers amongst others who would be important characters in the country’s economic growth and development. These people would only be molded through education (Morison, 1930). Eliot therefore considered education to be the most important aspect that would propel the country’s economy to greater heights. To change the misleading mentality of America’s clergy men who were in charge of the education curriculum in the country, Eliot had to start initiating his changes from a specific point and this was Harvard. The changes that he would make in Harvard would later on be adopted in other education institutions and this was what to change the American education system. Eliot managed to make changes to the college which was finally considered to be America’s best University which offered education to all American citizens without discrimination of any kind. His changes to Harvard led to changes in America’s secondary education as well. Business success before Eliot’s changes to the Harvard education system was not very good. However, it came to transform after the changes he made in the education curriculum were implemented not only in Harvard but to other institutions of higher learning as well.
The changes that Eliot made to the education curriculum at Harvard were received in contrasting views by different people of whom some were key role players at the University. Some stakeholders found his way of governing the university as ineffective and inappropriate as well. However, despite the critiques, others appreciated his great work in transforming the education curriculum. Some the critiques disliked his way of operating the education system due to his strong objection to games and sports. Eliot considered rowing and tennis as the only legible games in the University. He dismissed games such as football and considered it as a fight that was not good for students. The other games that he dismissed which attracted a lot of critism were hockey, baseball and basketball amongst others. Despite these critiques, the education system in Harvard changed greatly making it one of the best Universities in the world and it is considered to be one of the few world class universities up to date.
Change is imperative in any aspect of life as can be proven by Charles Eliot’s change to the education curriculum in the United States of America. This is because the changes that were made in the education system in the country propelled the country’s economic and political growth to higher levels. This gives the implication that education is a very important aspect to any country’s welfare and should hence be given utmost attention. It would be the pride of any country to raise a population of high intellectual capacity gained through knowledge.
Hawkins H. (1972). Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W.
Eliot. New York: Oxford University Press.
James H. (1930). Charles W. Eliot – President of Harvard, 1869-1926, Cambridge, MA:
Morison S.E. (1936). Three Centuries of Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Morison S.E. (1930). The Development of Harvard University since the Inauguration of
Eliot, 1869–1929. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.