Insistent Change: Columbia’s Core Curriculum at 100


1950s: The Cold War & the Golden Age of General Education

Amid rising Cold War tensions abroad and at home, Columbia exemplified what former Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower called "education for democracy." Throughout the 1950s, Columbia served as a model for general education. As with the War Issues curriculum, the sourcebooks that faculty prepared for use in CC-A and CC-B were also adopted nationwide. 


The Humanities staff also enjoyed a much broader fame in the post-war years. Along with Jacques Barzun and British poet W.H. Auden, Columbia's Lionel Trilling discussed literature on television and touted a popular book club. Barzun appeared on the cover of Time magazine, as did Mortimer Adler, an alumnus of Erskine's General Honors who developed "Great Books" education at the University of Chicago and St. John's College, and also co-founded the Aspen Institute – an international nonprofit think tank. Perhaps no work reflects this decade's mingling of high culture and popular format better than Adler's 54-volume Great Books of the Western World set, which was sold door-to-door by encyclopedia salesmen.

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