Front Page Titles (by Subject) Schooling and Subordination - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1
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Schooling and Subordination - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Schooling and Subordination
“Expansion and Exclusion: A History of Women in American Higher Education.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 3 (Summer 1978): 759–773.
Highly educated women in America had greater opportunities at the end of the nineteenth century than they now have in the mid-twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1950 higher education shifted from relative unimportance to the center of American values. While student populations grew significantly and higher education institutions changed organizationally as well as ideologically, these shifts actually diminished opportunities for educated women.
The late nineteenth-century woman teacher was a middle-aged unmarried woman, absorbed in study, and withdrawn from the ‘real’ world of commercial competition. Characterized by an innocence and unworldliness which rendered her unable to manage well in practical affairs, she was permitted to participate in higher education.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the educated person was one who had attended college. Between 1875 and 1925, diverse forms of higher education competed with one another, giving women a variety of educational pathways ranging from normal schools to land grant institutions, and Catholic colleges emphasizing a unified curriculum to Protestant colleges emphasizing character formation. Women seized the opportunities: by 1919–1920, 47 percent of American undergraduates were women; in 1930, 32.5 percent of college presidents, professors and instructors were women, and women constituted 45 percent of the professional work force.
However, by 1925 the Ivy League inspired a single conception of higher education in which the university as research center triumphed. An institution became one in which scholars conducted investigations that required extensive funding, elaborate laboratories, and expensive equipment. ‘Lesser’ institutions copied the Ivy League's adoption of elective courses, and specializations multiplied everywhere. Of course Ivy League schools admitted and hired no women, and those who imitated them often sought to enhance their own prestige by also excluding women students (if they could afford it) or at least by excluding women faculty members.
When only a small proportion of the population was college educated, the few outstanding females within that tiny elite did not seem likely to undermine the natural order of things (i.e., the ‘natural’ sub-ordination of women to men); nor, since teaching could be viewed as a nurturing activity, did the central concern of the nineteenth-century female faculty member seem inimical to her ‘womanly’ character. On the other hand, when many are educated and many women prove exceptional, the perceived threat to the order of things is much greater.
Concurrent changes in higher education and in the ideals of womanhood help to explain why women were relatively absent from academic and professional positions in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Recent changes in women's attitudes toward themselves and their careers, and the expansion of ‘continuing’ or ‘lifelong’ learning may point in a new direction. The monolith of the research university may be demolished, giving way to more diversity in higher education and more equal opportunity for women similar to that prevalent in the late twentieth century.