Week VII – The Truth About the HEA

These weeks seem to be flying by. I am very close to actually starting my research paper, I can’t believe 7 weeks have passed already! This past week has been, by far, the most productive week in terms of my research. I’ve skimmed about 10-12 books that are actually going to be very useful for my actual paper.

But my assignment for this week was a historiographic essay. For this that do not know–historiography is the study of what historians have said about a topic. For my paper, I did a historiography on what historians have said about the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. I am mostly concerned with a specific title of that act, but this paper had me looking at all the good secondary sources I could find on the act.

For those that have been following my journey from the start, this has been a difficult task. It seems that there are way more primary sources on the topic than there are secondary ones. People have had a lot to say about higher education policy and examine how it has changed. But not much has been said on the original Act, and its repercussions. There always seems to be a side-note on the topic, describing the purpose of the Act and how it is reauthorized every four years.

The few sources I did find though, were very useful and had the same recurring theme–LBJ had some great ideas, but not enough padding to keep them afloat in the future. If he had any idea for policy, he wanted it to be done–he did not think of repercussions and unintended consequences of his Great Society programs.. While most of this has been said as a generic response to the Great Society. There is no specific analysis of how the HEA failed, if it has, or succeeded. More credit seems to have been given to those that reauthorized it than the person who first laid it out.  As the title of one of the books I’m reading says, LBJ had “the best of intentions” but while the HEA opened up access to colleges for more students, it did not improve the quality of education in the United States.

I found this last part very interesting. The quality of education in the United States falls behind many other countries, especially in the sciences. Should we focus on putting more students in school, or improving the quality of our education? Is there any way to do attain both?

Hmm, maybe I should ask these questions at another time–when our government is not shutdown because we cannot decide on a federal budget.

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