Scholars of the World Unite!

Superficial analysis says America's universities are on a precipitous decline. The truth is that the U.S. academy has become a paragon of learning to which all the world aspires.

Issue: Jan-Feb 2011

[amazon 0805087346 full]Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do about It (New York: Times Books, 2010), 288 pp., $26.00.

Mark C. Taylor, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 256 pp., $24.00.

SINCE THE Reagan years, academics and journalists have scarified the American university again and again. Allan Bloom, that well-known advocate of classical education, drew up one of the first bills of particulars in his Closing of the American Mind; Charles Sykes, Martin Anderson and other prophets of the ivory tower’s demise enriched his analysis with vivid details—or at least decorated it with scurrilous anecdotes. Professors, these writers argued, are obsessed with producing highly specialized research to meet the priorities of their sclerotic, self-obsessed disciplines. We write more and more about less and less, producing articles and books cast in impenetrable jargon, babbling to one another at some ninety thousand conferences a year for the liberal arts alone.

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