How did American universities end up being seen as the best in the world?
My guest today, David Labaree, argues it was the very decentralized and autonomous structure of the higher education system that allowed universities to develop an entrepreneurial ethos that drove American higher education to become the best. Today, America’s universities and colleges produce the most scholarship, earn the most Nobel prizes, hold the largest endowments, and attract the most esteemed students and scholars from around the world
The messy structure of American higher education was not planned, however. There was no strong state or strong church directing the system from above. Rather higher education developed in a free market where survival was never guaranteed. Such a system produced unintended consequences that would make American higher education the envy of the world.
David Labaree is a professor of Education at Stanford University. His new book is A Perfect Mess: The unlikely ascendancy of American Higher Education, which was published by the University of Chicago Press earlier this year.