History of the History of the Morrill Land Grant Act

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“We have schools to teach the art of man slaying and to make masters of ‘deep-throated engines’ of war; and shall we not have schools to teach men the way to feed, clothe, and enlighten the great brotherhood of man?”

— Justin Smith Morrill

Speech of Honorable Justin Morrill. Justin Morrill’s Speech April 19th, 1858



In the mind of many educators, colleges created by the Morrill-Land Grant Act of 1862 have come to represent the vehicle to the American dream. When created, they boasted “flexible entrance requirements, free tuition, expanded courses of study, and democratic atmosphere [which] were unprecedented in universities in the United States or anywhere in the world” (Cross). No scholar denies that the signing of the Morrill Act was itself historic. The missions of Land Grant institutions were explicitly aimed at creating non-elite colleges where members of the working classes could obtain a practical and liberal education. Historians, during both the centennial and sesquicentennial anniversaries of the Morrill Act, were motivated to interpret how higher education has evolved as a result of this legislation.

Given the context in which these histories were written — the early 1960’s and then again in 2012 — it would be a fair assumption that different stories would be told upon its 150th anniversary than on its hundredth. After all, hindsight is 20/20. It is surprising then, that in a fifty year period historians provide rich descriptions with more similarities than differences when interpreting this Act. This paper is an exploration of the Land-Grant Act and how four different historians– two centennial, two sesquicentennial – have explained it.

The Land-Grant Act of 1862 provided states with a grant of land or land scrip amounting to 30,000 acres for each senator and representative to fund colleges in each state with the distinct purpose of:

… the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. (The Morrill Act)

Named for its sponsor, Vermont statesman Justin Smith Morrill, the act is officially titled “An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.” Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862, sixty-nine colleges were funded with a tripartite function- instruction, research, and extension.

The Act initially included a provision excluding any state that was in rebellion or insurrection against the government. However, in the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, former Confederate States and eventually all states and territories were included. Presently, as the outcome of subsequent legislation, there are one hundred and six institutions with the Land-Grant designation. These institutions provide 85 percent of Bachelor’s degrees, as well as 70 percent of graduate degrees and 50 percent of doctoral degrees, respectfully. Thus, without the Morrill Land-Grant Act, the  landscape of higher education as we know it today would not exist.

Around its 100th anniversary, two of the most widely acknowledged works on the history of the land-grant college movement  were written: Edward D. Eddy’s Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land –Grant idea in American Education (1957) and Allan Nevins’ The State Universities and Democracy (1962).  Eddy and Nevins regard the movement as an inevitable product of the educational demands within a growing democracy. They consider the Morrill Act a pivotal piece of educational evolution in the United States. Both historians attribute educational reform as a response to demands of farmers as being the principle motivation for this legislation. Centennial historians, by and large, agree that the chief motivating factor in the passage of the Morrill Act was educating the “ordinary person”.

In anticipation of the Act’s centennial anniversary, Eddy published the first general account of development in Land-Grant Colleges. This book offered the first account of the Land-Grant movement from its beginnings to the point at which it was published. The foreword to the book was written by Executive Secretary of the American Association of Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities, Russell Thackerey. Thackerey credits Eddy with writing the most thorough synthesis to date. He acknowledges that much had been written about these institutions, but none have dealt with the Land Grant movement as wholly as Eddy. Eddy represents the dominant view held by historians of his generation. While there were some dissenters, his work is still cited by many today.

Eddy’s book is a success story of the land grant colleges, whose several thousand facts range from the number of books in select land-grant college libraries in 1876 to the number of research projects undertaken in 1920. While Eddy lays out facts and figures, he places even more emphasis on his supposition that the Morrill Act was merely an idea on which a nation built– what we know now as the “people’s colleges”. This simple idea was to train the sons of farmers and mechanics as the next phase in the development of a new type of freedom- an American freedom. This freedom maintained the credo that opportunities must be given to all; as all individuals have supreme worth.

Resulting from the flexibility of this idea, institutions were empowered to move from institutions of limited dedications to “instruments of broad public service to every class and kind … as universities in purpose and fact” (Eddy). Therefore, they were able to dedicate themselves to the trilogy of American ingenuity in an autonomous fashion.

The dominant theme of Eddy’s work, as well as the work of his peers, is the democratic nature of these colleges. Written in the context of the Cold War, democracy screams out to the reader on almost every page. Nevins’ historical perspective rests on the premise that the passage of the Morrill Act was an “immortal moment in the history of higher education in America” and that the most important idea in the genesis of the land-grant colleges and state universities was that of democracy, because it had behind it the most passionate feeling” (Nevins) Further supporting this focus on democracy, Eddy and Nevins histories argue that the federal government passed this legislation as a response to demand. The people ask, and the governments’ response is democracy in action. Both historians shy away from examining how this act was an important piece of federal economic policy.

Eddy makes no attempt to pretend to fully comprehend Morrill’s purpose in introducing this bill. He acknowledges that Morrill, a practical man, argued that this educational framework was necessary because of certain conditions such as the inadequate existing offerings of collegiate education, the rapid dissipation of public land to private interests and the way in which America was lagging behind demonstrated success in Europe— courtesy of agricultural and industrial schools.  While Morrill’s name has become synonymous with land-grant colleges, Eddy, too, credits the perseverance and enthusiasm of Jonathan Turner, “a disappointed schoolmaster and an academic jack-of-all-trades” (Eddy) with laying the foundation from which the movement arose. Turner’s name in the works of latter historians has merely been reduced to a footnote.

Eddy is clear that this is a story of evolution, “a gradual, slow, but steady evolution reflecting the needs of the nation. Sometimes the colleges were ahead of need, sometimes behind, but almost always they responded in some fashion to national demands and changes” (Eddy).  Similarly, the sesquicentennial historians agree that progress was slow. However, when discussed by contemporary historians, the subtle difference is that they indicate a long a period of stagnation due to external factors. These factors are the hindrance of funding to build and improve these colleges as a result of the Civil War. Additionally, two subsequent acts were ratified within this time frame which flooded the market with federal land and caused compensation for the sale of the land to be disadvantageous.

The sesquicentennial anniversary arose at a time when America’s economy finds itself in dire straits. Therefore, funding for the institutions created by the Land-Grant Act are constrained by limited resources and are being asked—more than ever—to prove their worth.  At the start of 2013, President Barack Obama unveiled his “College Score Card”. Created by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, these scorecards are intended to help potential students find more bang for their buck when it comes to pursuing their college education. Given the context of this anniversary, it is not surprising that historians’ view of Morrill institutions has become even more idealized and romantic.

In 2012, a collection of essays commemorating the 150th anniversary was published titled, Precipice or Crossroads? Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Daniel Mark Fogel, former President of University of Vermont, penned the introduction to this compilation. Coy F. Cross, a professional historian, wrote the chapter entitled Democracy, the West, and Land-Grant Colleges. Additionally, Cross wrote the only recent biography of Morrill, Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant Colleges (1999).

Cross refers to the Nevins work multiple times within his essay. Even though neither mention Eddy by name, his romantic themes of democracy and meritocracy by and large persevere. These historians though, go beyond just reinforcing the earlier perception of the impact of the Morrill Act. They argue that “our great public universities are under threat, and some would say they are facing their hour of maximum peril.”(Fogel) Fogel and Cross drive home upon their readers that these institutions represent the most important sector of higher education and they are facing challenges unlike any that Nevins could have imagined when he wrote his history.

Cross’ piece provides a full timeline of the development of the legislation. Similar to the centennial historians he emphasizes that it was an inevitable outgrowth of westward expansion. Expansion to Cross, was tied to the belief held by 19th century Americans that opportunity and democracy were the American ideal.  Education and democracy were hand in and hand. It was the responsibly of the American government then to avoid the oppression and appalling conditions “urban, industrial life had on British factory workers” (Cross). This would be accomplished by not only instructing farmers and elevating agriculture to a science but as the children of farmers and mechanics became educated, democracy would strengthen as more of the citizenry became educated voters.

Fogel offers the opinion that “without the extensive capacity they provided after WW II to receive returning veterans and, later, the children and grandchildren of the veterans’ generation, America’s postwar prosperity and power would have been unthinkable and unattainable.” (Fogel) Therefore concluding that for America to regain its economic prestige, greater investments must be made in land-grant institutions and thereby American democracy.

The historiography of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 has evolved only in the sense that its impact and successes are now seen as even more vital and far-reaching. In the big picture, whether through the lens of democracy or the economy, both sets of historians argue that this legislation forever changed higher education in America for the better. While there are slight differences in the way they prove their points, centennial historians by pointing to the fulfillment of the American Dream and sesquicentennial historians by the sheer number of students enrolled, the interpretation of this event has not shifted. The work of these historians point to the idea that “democracy could not survive unless every man had the opportunity to pursue any occupation to which he aspired, without restriction” (Cross). Therefore, these land-grant institutions are the paradigm of equality, democracy, and opportunity for all- the values which America hold near and dear.


Works Cited

Cross, Coy F. “Democracy, the West, and Land-Grant Colleges.” Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Albany: SUNY, 2012. 46-61. Print.

Eddy, Edward Danforth. Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land-grant Idea in American Education. New York: Harper, 1957. Print.

Fogel, Daniel Mark, and Elizabeth Malson-Huddle. Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Albany: SUNY, 2012. Print.

Morrill Act of 1862, 37th Congress, 2nd Session. 2 July 1862, sec. 4.

Nevins, Allan. The State Universities and Democracy. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1962. Print.

Speech of Hon. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, on the Bill Granting Lands for Agricultural Colleges 1858;. By Justin S. Morrill. 1858. Congressional Globe Office Washington. Web. 03 May 2013.


The Life of the Land Grant Act

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Research Question:

How did advocates of the Morrill Land Grant Act envision its goals in the 1860s, and how have historians interpreted its outcomes over a century later?


2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land Grant Act prompting many historians, policy makers, education reformers and higher education administrators to reflect upon the role and mission of Land Grant Institutions which explicitly were aimed at creating non-elite colleges where members of the working classes could obtain a practical and liberal education. The Morrill Act gave federal land to fund colleges in each state with the distinct purpose of

without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

At the time the Act was established farmers were the majority of the nation but now they constitute less than two percent of the United States labor force. As our population has become urbanized and suburbanized and as our workforce has become corporatized and industrialized have these institutions changed their mission in remaining the “people’s universities”? Is it necessary for them to revisit their original purpose? How do land grant universities fit into our new technology dependent global society? Funding for these universities is declining and on its sesquicentennial anniversary and moving forward land grant universities are reevaluating their futures, but to look forward, one must first look back.

Research Process:

While researching the role of higher education in civic engagement and civic education for a project last year I kept coming across mentions of the Morrill Land Grant Act.  I knew very little about the Act and the impact it had on education and society as a whole. During the course of this project I learned the bare minimum about the Act primarily from Wikipedia. I have continued to wonder though about the Morrill Act though and how it fits into today’s educational funding debates. This research project thus felt like the perfect opportunity to further my inquiry into this topic. The first thing I did was email some sample questions to the Professor to see if I was heading down the right track for this assignment. Fortunately for me, he sent back an email response with more sources then I possibly could have ever needed related to the Morrill Land Grant Act. http://history.msstate.edu/MorrillActWebSite/resources.html  Before beginning to sift through this site though I felt looking at the language of the original Act itself would be beneficial. Through a Google search I was able to find a scanned version of the original statute for both the 1862 and 1890 Act. Once I had read those I began the task of looking through the resources cited on the website offered by Jack. I began narrowing them down initially by the ones I had access to through Trinity and then I skimmed through the abstracts to see which were historical depictions of the Act. I then did a WorldCat search for “Morrill Land Grant Act”, “Morrill Land Grant Act” and “History”, and finally “Morrill Land Grant Act” and “150th anniversary”. I was able to find a substantial amount of relevant articles through these searches, I read a few and found the piece by Alperovitz and Howard to be particularly helpful so I looked at the bibliography for this article and was able to locate some of the pieces they cited. At this point I perhaps have too many sources. I am glad that I have a variety though- books, studies and editorial pieces. I have found that as a thesis and draft begin to come together some sources eliminate themselves and a need for further sources may arise naturally, but I feel confident with the initial list I am offering in this proposal.


Primary Sources-

Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, United States Statutes at Large 504 § 130-4 (1862). Print.

“1890act.pdf.” Accessed April 4, 2013. http://www.history.msstate.edu/MorrillActWebSite/1890act.pdf.

Secondary Sources-

Alperovitz, Gar, and Ted Howard. “The Next Wave: Building a University Civic Engagement Service for the Twenty-First Century.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 10, no. 2 (2005): 141–157.

Cross, Coy F., Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant Colleges. East Lansing, Michigan State University Press, 1998.
Dailey, Christie. “Implementation of the Land-Grant Philosophy during the Early Years at Iowa Agricultural College, 1859-1890.” M.A. thesis, Iowa State University, 1982.

Eddy, Jr., Edward D. Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land-Grant Idea in American Education (New York: Harper, 1957).

Geiger, Roger L. To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research universities, 1900-1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.1996. Taking charge of change: Renewing the promise of state and land-grant universities. Washington, D.C.: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.1999. Returning to our roots: The engaged institution. Washington, DC.: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.2000. Renewing the covenant: Learning, discovery, and engagement in  a new age and different world. Washington, D.C.: National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

Key, Scott. “Economics or Education: The Establishment of American Land-Grant Universities,” Journal of Higher Education 67(March-April 1996).

Levine, Arthur. “The Soul of a New University,” Op Ed, New York Times (March 2000).

Marcus, Alan I., “”If All the World Were Mechanics and Farmers: American Democracy and the Formative Years of Land-Grant Colleges.” Ohio Valley History (5/1), Spring 2005: 23-37.

Pates, Mikkel. “150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act.” AG Week, June 18, 2012. http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/19883/.

Ross, Earle D., Democracy’s College: The Land-Grant Movement in the Formative State (Ames: Iowa State College Press, 1942; New York: Arno Press, 1976).

Wechsler, Harold S., Lester F. Goodchild, and Linda Eisenmann, eds. The History of Higher Education. 3rd ed. Pearson Custom Pub, 2008.

Are we finally heading in the right direction with student centered financial aid?

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Governor’s Scholarship will direct funds to the neediest students first as it shifts state-funded financial aid from being institution centered to student centered. Armed with a 21 page Briefing Book, the Office of Higher Education (OHE), led by their Executive Director Jane Ciarleglio, broke down Governor Malloy’s proposed policy shift on financial aid into a palatable, comprehensive plan before the Higher Education subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee on March 5th.

Under Governor Malloy’s proposed scholarship program, the three programs currently in existence: Capitol Scholarship Program, Connecticut Independent College Student Grant Program (CICSG), and Connecticut Aid for Public College Students Program (CAPCS) will be streamlined into one program that has one single set of goals. Ciarleglio stressed that “at this point we are trying to make one single program with the same goals. One single way that people will be assessed on what your need is. This will direct funds to the neediest students first.” The goal is to have all students treated the same regardless of what institution they are attending.

As the state-aid program currently exists students were never assured the same award from differing institutions as aid was determined by the delta between Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as explained by Mark French, from the Financial Aid department of the OHE. Under this arrangement, cost of attendance will not be factored in meaning that the Governor’s program is just based on need.

The committee interrupted with questions constantly during the presentation as the “lingo” of financial aid and all the acronyms involved are dizzying.   Representative Walker asked for clarification on what “COA stands for?” indicating that she was unclear on some of the language used. Ironically, this is one of the points the OHE was attempting to get across- that financial aid as it exists on the state level and federal level is confusing, convoluted and lacking in transparency to students.

While they can only deal with state aid, their hope is that by creating this uniform system it will give students a base to work off of. Students will be flat funded under this program, meaning regardless of where they choose to go they will receive the same amount from the state.

Representative Fleischmann raised concerns that this flat funding may not incentivize students to move up and asked “are we creating an impediment to this ladder?”. The ladder he was referring to is the process of transitioning from either high school to higher education or from community college to a 4-year school. Ciarleglio emphatically stated “NO, this is not an impediment as students will actually know their award and this policy change directs the limited state funds to be used for direct educational costs”. Direct educational costs are tuition and fees, which these awards are limited to being used for.

She continued on to say that “the current programs were designed to encourage access to higher education and are funded and awarded based on institutional needs and goals. Because they are based on institutional priorities, they pit institutions against each other for state funds and their use of state funds cannot be measured in any consistent manner to meet state-wide results requirements such as the RBA. The policy change moves the programs to a single set of goals for access, retention and completion that are student centered.” The proposed program seeks to achieve retention and completion by providing “incentive awards” to students who are on timeline to graduate in two or four years (from community colleges and four year schools respectively) and who exceed the minimum satisfactory academic performance. This plan also includes a time limitation on how long you can receive the funds- 3 years for a 2 year degree and 6 years for a 4 year degree, which hopes to increase completion as this cap previously did not exist.

State aid only represents 9% of the available financial funding for students, this plan hopes to “make best use of that small money for the most needy kids” and in turn alleviate the debt burden for these students. Most of the committee was shocked that state aid represents such a small portion of funding available to students. In 2011-2012 47% of aid came from institutions themselves, 39% was federal aid and the remaining 5% from private funders.

Although initially it was indicated that awards will go to full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates at Connecticut non-profit colleges and universities. Representative Willis indicated that the Governor had indicated that part-time students will be included in these programs also during the course of the meeting.  This alleviates one of the many critiques of the plan, as funding only full-time students was strongly opposed when the proposal was first introduced.

While the proposal seemed to make sense at the end of the hour long presentation State Representative Roberta Willis, State Representative Victor Cuevas and State Representative Toni Walker still expressed having concerns about how these changes will play out in students receiving the funding they need to attend college. More explanatory sessions like these will occur in the future as more questions will arise regarding the state of financial aid in our state.


State Senator Beth Bye and myself


Rachael is a Trinity College IDP student. She is majoring in Educational Studies with a concentration in civic engagement in community colleges and how policy must change to reflect the shifting roles of community colleges in our new economy.   She is a proud graduate of Norwalk Community College.

The Soprano State Cartel

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A cartel is an explicit agreement in which competing firms work in collusion to increase their own profits while eliminating the competition. This is accomplished as “producers and manufacturers agree to fix prices, marketing, and production”. [1] Typically, that word brings to mind visions of drug cartels or organized crime. Prior to watching The Cartel by Bob Bowdon, a documentary film that claims to be making a statement on the state of education in America, while narrowly focusing in on New Jersey, cartel and public schools would not be two words which I would have thought people felt were synonymous.  Bowdon, a reporter and news anchor, comes out swinging against teachers unions, the ring-leaders of the cartel, and cites “administrative bloat and lack of oversight” [2] being behind the failure of New Jersey public schools.

The film begins by stating that New Jersey spends more money than any other state on public education yet, students continue to receive poor test scores, no matter how much money they throw at the problem. Bowdon questions what do you get with all this spending and where is all the money going? Through the use of substandard graphics Bowdon presidents the superintendents of the New Jersey schools as a figure reminiscent of the Monopoly Man.

At one point he even goes so far as to count the amount of luxury cars in the parking lot of the Jersey City Board of Education.

Bowdon calls New Jersey the “soprano state” and discusses how administrators receive incredulous salaries, bad teachers can’t be fired and this whole process is protected as the New Jersey Educational Association (NJEA), the main teachers’ union, “exert a disproportionate influence on the public policies that most affect their members.” [3] This influence of the union, on politicians, school board members and even on election dates prevents administrators and policy makers from achieving educational equity and block policies that would allow for school choice.

The control exerted by the teachers’ union creates “the multi-billion dollar cartel” also known as the American educational system and Bowdon’s solution to the terrorism being committed by the cartel is to implement a corporate reform strategy resting on school choice and accountability. School vouchers are introduced forty six minutes and nineteen seconds into this documentary. Forty six minutes were spent narrating the problems: corruption, teachers’ unions, wasteful spending as the underlying problems in education. Forty six minutes were spent narrating a story with statistics on how American and New Jersey students in particular are as a majority not proficient in reading and math on standardized tests. Bowdon’s theory of school reform is that providing access to voucher and charter schools which are not run by the “cartel” will give them access “to the skills and behaviors necessary for access to economic opportunity.” [4]

The film captures pieces of a NAACP debate between Reverend Reginald Jackson, Orange Board of Education and Walter Farrell, Professor of Social Work at UNC Chapel Hill. In trying to diminish the argument of the CON speaker on voucher programs, Farrell, Bowdon criticizes the way Farrell uses the luxury cars owned by voucher supports as a statement that voucher supporters too are driven by profit and far removed from the inequality they claim they are trying to solve. Ironically, didn’t Bowdon count the cars in a parking lot earlier?

In his conclusion Bowdon says what we have learned is that:

“people think we should spend more on education, but they have no idea what we are spending now. When they find out they are amazed. People support higher education budgets because they think teachers should make more, but only a fraction of school spending goes to the teachers…. Schools that have to attract kids to exist are run better.  Schools that are guaranteed a supply of kids, no matter how well they do , are usually run worse. Teacher’s unions are designed to protect the jobs of adults, not help kids. Teacher tenure helps protect bad teachers, the good teachers are often just as frustrated with the system as anyone. Teacher unions are not like other unions because they have a huge hand in selecting the superintendents with whom they’ll later negotiate. School vouchers would give poor parents an alternative to terrible schools.  Defenders of the status-quo say poor parents should not have the option of a private school even if it’s better or cheaper.”[5]

What we do not seem to have learned though is how this corruption will be avoided in privately-run schools, how this competition is playing out in different states, how curriculum and teaching will be improved, if there are different ways to assess learning besides standard tests, how much of the money given to these school districts with a majority of minority students is spent on things considered obstacles to learning (such as malnutrition) and in providing those resources to students and when students stopped being students and became customers.

[1]  Sullivan, Arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 171.

[2] The Cartel, (00:08:11)

[3] Adrianson, Alex. “The Cartel: How Special Interests Block Real Education Reform.” The Foundry Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 30 July 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

[4] Brion-Meisels, Gretchen. “Editor’s Review.” Harvard Educational Review (2011): 753-754. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

[5] The Cartel, (1:28:44)

Not everyone thinks The Lottery hit the jackpot

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How do you find reviews and essays about video documentaries? Describe your search strategy and cite the 5 most thoughtful reviews or background essays on a designated video documentary. Your search results may include scholarly and/or popular press, but do your best not to include those featured on the film’s companion site. (Hint: the goal of this question is to help your classmates identify thoughtful sources that do not necessarily agree with the policy stance taken by the film.) Add a brief explanation for why you recommended each of the five sources you selected

I have been anxiously awaiting being assigned my Source Detective[1] question. The format of this assignment has had me imagining myself as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Harriet the Spy scouring various resources, following the clues and sharpening my “information literacy skills”.

I was assigned question #10 with my designated video documentary being, The Lottery (2010) by Madeleine Sackler. With that said I put on my best deerstalker hat[2] and began my search. I started at the International Movie Data Base website (IMDB) http://www.imdb.com/[3]. I started here because this is not the movie which I will be watching for class and I wanted to have an idea of the storyline, cast, previous work by the director, etc… IMDB is probably one of the main apps I rely on in life. I’m not quite sure what I did before it.

**At this juncture I would like to insert a little helpful tip borne out of personal experience. When undertaking any kind of search it is imperative to make sure your results are for the correct item! In my initial IMDB search I came across two other movies named The Lottery. One stars Keri Russell and debuted in 1996 and the other is a short horror film made in 1969.


This is a good general rule to follow, and while it seems like common sense it’s worth repeating. In all subsequent searches I made sure to include the director, Madeleine Sackler’s name when possible. Moment of truth, in the world we live in it’s easy to assume to the first result you get is the best result. Last semester when ordering books on-line at Amazon I only entered the titles of books- needless to say, there were two books called “Freedom Summer”; one of which I needed for my class, and the other was a children’s book. I ordered the children’s book.  Paying attention to the result is important! **

Now back to the task at hand. So at this stage of my search I know I need to be very specific when searching for reviews and thoughtful background on my film as there are other films with the same name. I also know an overview of what my film is about which can help me discern which reviews are touting this documentary and which are taking an oppositional stance. I also have the link to the website for the film, as this was posted on the assignment page.

I proceeded to check out the official website for the documentary, http://thelotteryfilm.com/[4]. I did this so I could compile a quick list of the 23 sources cited on the film’s companion site as part of the assignment urged us to find something not featured there.

Armed with all this information I made my way over to LexisNexis and searched for The Lottery by Madeleine Sackler in all Major World Publications. This search retrieved 25 results. With two windows open, my results page on the left and the list from the companion site on the right I began to go through the results avoiding those on the companion site.

What I started to notice as I went through the articles on LexisNexis is that many of them were articles jointly reviewing my assigned documentary, The Cartel (2009) and Waiting for Superman (2010). These three films came out in a relatively short span of time, share a similar subject matter and therefore seem to be spoken of together often.  

Result 14 was the first article that was neither on the companion site and was exclusively dedicated to The Lottery. From the Washington Post on June 25, 2010 Jen Chaney’s Article, Competing for a chance to succeed, provides a succinct summary of what differentiates this film from the rest in its genre. Chaney criticizes Sackler’s limited inclusion of opposing viewpoints in her film stating this” would have made for a stronger movie”. Here is the link to this review which gives the film 2/4 stars: http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/movies/the-lottery,1164454/critic-review.html [5]

Result 16 which is from the Daily Variety is a scathing review of the film accusing it of being “advocacy to the point of propaganda”. I found this review by John Anderson to be incredibly thoughtful: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117942939/ [6]

Result 24 is a New York Times review published on June 11, 2010 by Jeannette Catsoulis that concisely questions if the heart-wrenching tactic of this film is “ the best foundation on which to build successful education reform.” http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/movies/11lottery.html [7]

I then made my way over to Google Scholar and came up with these two reviews:

http://www.greenwichmag.com/g/March-2011/School-of-Thought/ [8]I chose this one because it gives a lot of background information on Madeleine Stackler. Apparently, she was a resident of Greenwich, CT!! This article is less about the movie itself, but rather Madeleine’s educational experiences and her process of coming to making this documentary. I found this an interesting way to understand Stackler’s motives, biases and as a former Greenwich resident myself, I felt this piece was relevant.

My final and in my humble opinion, best review is http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/TTR-Lottery-Tate_0.pdf [9]. This piece, published by the National Education Policy Center, was written by William Tate from the Washington University in St. Louis. Tate is the Chair of the Department of Education. This article is a scholarly review and thus is able to provide the most thoughtful and thorough review of all the sources I found.

So there it is, and I saved the best for last. At points during this assignment I had more windows open than screen space available, but I appreciated the opportunity to be exhaustive and take you all through my process.

*Citation list added on Wednesday February 27,2013*

[1]   Dougherty, Jack. “Source Detective Questions | Educ 300: Education Reform, Past and Present.” Educ 300: Education Reform, Past and Present. Accessed February 27, 2013. http://commons.trincoll.edu/edreform/assignments/source-detective/.

[2] “Deerstalker Hat – Google Search.” Accessed February 27, 2013. https://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=les%3B&gs_rn=4&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=ifR48xB6L7kJ_CykzEBLfQ&pq=what%20kind%20of%20hat%20does%20sherlock%20holmes%20wear&cp=15&gs_id=ao&xhr=t&q=deerstalker+hat&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=deerstalker+hat&gs_l=&pbx=1&fp=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&cad=b.

[3] “IMDb – Movies, TV and Celebrities.” Accessed February 27, 2013. http://www.imdb.com/.

[4] “The Lottery.” The Lottery Film, 2013. http://thelotteryfilm.com/.

[5]Chaney, Jen. “Critic Review for The Lottery on Washingtonpost.com.” The Washington Post, June 10, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/movies/the-lottery,1164454/critic-review.html.

[6] Anderson, John. “The Lottery | Variety.” Variety, June 8, 2010. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117942939/.

[7] Catsoulis, Jeannett. “Movie Review – ‘The Lottery’ – Documentary About the Harlem Success Academy – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times, June 11, 2010. http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/movies/11lottery.html?_r=1&.

[8] Sawicki, Stephen. “School of Thought – Greenwich Magazine – March 2011 – Greenwich, Connecticut.” Greenwich by Moffly Media. Accessed February 27, 2013. http://www.greenwichmag.com/g/March-2011/School-of-Thought/.

[9] William Tate, “Review of The Lottery”, National Education Policy Center (January 2011). Accessed February 27, 2013. http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-lottery.



Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Instability will always exist in the rankings. Although real performance changes will be reflected it is problematic to have faith in a performance rating system in which a coin toss would give you the same odds of getting the same rating the following year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Instability will always exist in the rankings. Although real performance changes are reflected it is problematic to have faith in a performance rating system in which a coin toss would give you the same odds of getting the same rating the following year. (Ravitch 271)

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

While a margin of error is to be expected in the results of any survey, in examining the teacher evaluation systems in both New York City and Houston economist Sean Corcoran found a statistic that diminishes the amount of confidence one could have in these systems. The New York City margin of error was plus or minus 28 points. (Ravitch 270)

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

While a margin of error is to be expected in the results of any survey, in examining the teacher evaluation systems in both New York City and Houston economist Sean Corcoran found a statistic that diminishes the amount of confidence one could have in these systems. The New York City margin of error was plus or minus 28 points meaning that “a teacher who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile.” (Ravitch 270)

 Work Cited

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Reform Through the Red Tape

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I spent the last two and a half years working at a community college. More often then not in attempting to implement a new program, activity or initiative I was met with a daunting series of bureaucratic red tape. It was all incredibly frustrating to me and I constantly was asking myself, “Why is change so hard?” along with “Where does this resistance stem from?” Attending Trinity and in particular taking this course is my attempt to begin to answer those questions. I want to learn about the process of change in our educational system, how and why some reforms succeed, what are the catalysts for educational reform and how all the moving pieces come together to break the barrier of inertia, as I have experienced it, in education.  Additionally, I have limited experience with many of the technologies being used in this course and look forward to gaining exposure to these.