MODELS OF KNOWING AND LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A CASE STUDY
Timothy K. Conley
In 1997 Bradley University celebrated its centennial with a symposium de voted to The University as Learning Community, a title conveying the model of Bradley as a cooperative village in which members of fairly equivalent standing are engaged in roughly similar pursuits of knowledge. The presentations at this symposium included both a range of disciplines (education, health sciences, history, physics, theater, economics, biology) and a range of disciplinary perspectives on "learning." This range of disciplines and perspectives suggested that higher education may be less a community than a battleground. "Learning," as several papers argued, may be influenced not only by unfettered access to disinterested knowledge but also by institutional structure and programs, by political and "global" forces, by textbook design and marketing, by educational philosophies (which often have been in conflict, not in concert), by cultural forces (which too often have been repressive rather than liberating), and by the interaction of technology and history.
What we find in the exploration of this particular academic community is not then limited to a tradition of excellence, everprogressing innovation, and everwidening prospects. Bradley, like many American institutions, in fact resembles a specific site of conflict just as much as it resembles a community of shared interests. This "institutional genealogy" sets out to describe the various and competing ways of knowingthe ways in which Bradley has understood itself, structured its academic programs, and justified changes.
An analysis of Bradleys field of academic discourse reveals four institutional models. First, we find a model of knowing and learning based upon capitalist notions of investment and management. Closely related to the terms and institutional practices of this capitalist model is a second way of knowing, an athleticmilitary model which envisions education as a competition to be won through manly discipline. The history of the Parsons School move also provides evidence of the emergence of the growing legend of the maternalphilanthropic figure of Lydia Bradley. This figure is vital to two models of institutional identity which in part contradict the capitalistmilitary models: a familial model which relies upon benevolent moral supervision and a religious model which focuses on a mission to be followed according to the (changing) tenets of a sacred text expressing the founders intent. I argue that none of these models embodies an essential or primary way of knowing for the University. I also argue that none of these models is unique to Bradley. At the same time, however, Bradleys historical experience of the interactions among these educational is unique. This genealogy, then, follows the complex course of descent at a specific institution and, in so doing, suggests a method of inquiry for other institutions.II. Powerful Ways of Knowing: The Case of the ParsonsBradley Horological School The 30 March 1892 agreement among Lydia Bradley, the owners of the Peoria Watch Company, and J. R. Parsons, "Proprietor of Parsons Horological Institute at La Port, Indiana" and "owner of the tools and machinery, equipment and supplies of said Institute," provided for the formation of a stock company which would control what would become the Bradley Horological School. This agreement stipulated "that Lydia Bradley will subscribe and take Thirty Thousand Dollars of the stock of said company to be paid for in cash, and the money to be used to carry the supplies necessary to conduct the business of said school and factory." The agreement also stipulated that Parsons would "conduct the school in its new quarters" (as Principal) and that Lydia would advance Parsons the funds necessary to purchase the school building in LaPorte.
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