By Faruk Abu Chacra
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More commonly, organizations such as the influential Franklin Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts in Philadelphia intended to cultivate politically moderate workers. Over time, these ventures attracted increasingly large audiences while migrating away from vocational subjects and toward scientific subjects with popular appeal. ”18 The evolution of these institutes revealed core tensions that would challenge subsequent efforts to create egalitarian forms of higher education. On one hand, mechanics institutes promoted the democratic ideals of self-instruction while intentionally avoiding the institutionalized curriculum, trained faculty, and formal pageantry of collegiate higher education.
However, when satisfied with the development of state agricultural colleges, Grangers did not hesitate to lobby legislatures for funding. In 1875, a Wisconsin legislature dominated by Grangers passed an appropriation for a new science building at the state university. The Michigan Grange opposed expenditures on a gymnasium “where the delicate sons of wealth may become athletes,” but supported increasing funding for faculty salaries at the state agricultural college after a beloved professor was lured to Purdue.
50 General Stephen Dill Lee’s administration of the Mississippi State Agricultural and Mechanical College also embraced the Grangers’ curricular priorities. In 1871, the University of Mississippi and Alcorn University were designated as the state’s land grant institutions for white and black students respectively (the Grange restricted membership to whites only and paid little attention to Alcorn). Although the University of Mississippi hired a soil chemist, it had attracted only a handful of students to its agriculture course by 1876, when it discontinued the department.