The New School was founded in New York City nearly a century ago by a small group of prominent American intellectuals and educators, among them Charles Beard, John Dewey, James Harvey Robinson, and Thorstein Veblen. Frustrated by the intellectual timidity of traditional colleges, they envisioned a new kind of academic institution where faculty and students would be free to address honestly and directly the problems facing societies in the 20th century. In 1919, they created a school of advanced adult education to bring creative scholars together with citizens interested in improving their understanding of the key issues of the day through active questioning, debate, and discussion. The founders named their new school The New School for Social Research.
Over the years, The New School for Social Research, now formally named The New School, grew into an urban university with seven colleges. The university is enriched by the diversity of its students, who represent a wide range of ages, social backgrounds, aspirations, perspectives, interests, and talents.
The courses offered by The New School at first reflected the founders' interest in the emerging social sciences, international affairs, history, and philosophy. Faculty members and visiting scholars included Harold Lasky, Franz Boas, and John Maynard Keynes. Soon, the school added courses in drama and literature, followed by classes in writing, performing arts, fine arts, foreign languages, media studies, and information processing.
Some of the finest minds of the 20th century developed pioneering courses at The New School. In 1948, W.E.B. DuBois taught the first course in African-American history and culture ever taught at a university. Around the same time, Margaret Mead taught courses in anthropology and Karen Horney and Erich Fromm introduced their new approaches to psychoanalysis. The New School’s groundbreaking courses attracted students from around the world, including young Shimon Peres. In 1962, Gerda Lerner offered the first university-level course in women’s history.
The New School also became known internationally for courses in the creative arts taught by some of the 20th century’s most innovative artists. Among them were Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aaron Copland, and W.H. Auden. The New School was the first American university to teach the history of film and one of the first to offer college-level courses in photography and jazz.
As the timeline above reveals, The New School has evolved continuously through the years in response to changes in the marketplace of ideas, career opportunities, and human curiosity. Formed in 1919 to challenge the intellectual and artistic status quo, this institution continues to redefine higher education almost a century later.
Each of The New School’s colleges occupies a special place in the history of higher education.