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Author: Richard M. Lerner

Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations of Applied Developmental Science (ADS)

Parts 1 and 2: Introduction

  1. The Origins of Universities
    1. Universities began as institutions designed to educate the elite in society.
    2. University professors needed to be protected or cloistered from the community to produce pure/unadulterated knowledge (e.g. ethereal, transcendent knowledge not sullied by the vicissitudes of everyday life).
    3. Therefore, applied knowledge was considered "second class" knowledge.
  2. Land-Grant Colleges: The Genesis of a Focus on “Practical” (Applied) Knowledge in the U.S.
    1. Following the South’s secession, the North passed several laws that the South had blocked prior to leaving the union.
    2. Two such measures were the Homestead Act and the Morrill Act of 1862.
    3. The Homestead Act permitted citizens to receive 160 acres of public land and then to purchase the land at a nominal fee after living on the land for five years.
    4. Justin Morrill, a congressman from Vermont, initiated the Morrill Act, which gave every state that had remained in the Union a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for every member of its congressional delegation.
    5. The states could then sell this land and use the proceeds to establish colleges in fields such as engineering, agriculture, and military science.
    6. These colleges came to be known as “land grant colleges” and focused on creating liberal and practical knowledge for the industrial classes.
    7. While the existence of these institutions was premised on the idea that applied knowledge was essential, this view was not readily adopted, even in land-grant institutions.
  3. The Evolution of the Land-Grant College
    1. The tenure process discouraged universities from working with the community.
    2. Professors needed to publish to gain tenure, and these research articles were only valued when they appeared in peer reviewed journals that catered to the general scholarly community.
    3. Therefore, research pertinent to local conditions was not as publishable or valued as research that pertained to generalizable conditions.
    4. In 1896, the Hatch Act sought to address this issue by creating agricultural experiment stations to develop agricultural knowledge about local areas.
    5. These experiment stations received non-competitive grant money in perpetuity.
    6. Unfortunately, farmers paid relatively little attention to the research of these land-grant experiment stations, and the knowledge generated in these labs remained separated from the community.
    7. In 1914, the Smith-Leaver Act created a system of educators who could translate university knowledge to the community.
    8. This cooperative extension system connected land-grant universities to the counties and established county representatives, called county extension agents, for each university.
    9. In essence, this created a partnership between the university, the county extension agent, and the community
    10. There were two primary problems with the cooperative extension program: 1) many farmers continued to follow their established methods and ignored the extension agents, and 2) the county extension agents had trouble getting information from the university faculty because the agents lacked credibility and status among the faculty.
    11. The 4-H program was established to work with farm youth and to give this younger generation knowledge of improved farming techniques.
    12. Nevertheless, many 4-H extension agents were not able to collaborate with and receive the knowledge of youth development from the campus faculty.

Part 3: New Directions for ADS

  1. Fundamental Shifts in University-Community Collaboration
    1. By the 1990’s, communities were frustrated that universities paid little to no local taxes and were not helping them. In essence, they were not fulfilling their original role.
    2. In 1997, Graham B. Spanier, President of the Pennsylvania State University, proposed a revitalized outreach mission for land-grant universities; he proposed that the fundamental purpose of land-grants was to use educational resources to inform and improve life in the community.
    3. Spanier led the Kellogg Foundation's Kellogg Commission. This commission assembled 25 land-grant university presidents to revitalize the system.
    4. The commission agreed that scholarship must prove its worth by being useful to the community and to its children and families.

Suggested Readings:

  • Fisher, C. B., & Lerner, R. M. (1994). Foundations of applied developmental psychology. In C. B. Fisher & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Applied developmental psychology (pp. 3-20). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Lerner, R. M. (2004). Liberty: thriving and civic engagement among America's youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (Foreward, Preface, Chapter 1)