Getman, a veteran law prof at Harvard and Yale now teaching at the University of Texas, provides a troubled liberal's response to recent critiques of higher education by Allan Bloom and Roger Kimball. The nature of academic activity, Getman argues, is its split between the egalitarian ideals of its educational mission and the elitism of its institutions, which ends up infecting even its most idealistic aspirants. Using a long series of anecdotes about his experiences as a law teacher, visiting scholar, arbitrator, and general counsel to the AAUP, Getman chronicles his growing disillusionment with the self-serving hypocrisy and cynical careerism of his chosen profession, yet manages a repeated refrain of admiration for challenging teachers, respected mentors, and principled debaters of the social issues of the 60's. The result is a wide-ranging monologue, long on examples but short on perspicuous generalizations, that shows Getman rather endearingly muddling through to insights (e.g., the principal function of academic institutions is to protect themselves; most professors are more interested in prestige than money; effective college teaching is so ill-recompensed that it has become its own reward) that most of his readers are likely to have won on their own long before they pick up his book. Getman's tender-minded liberalism—engagingly self-critical but lacking the polemical cutting edge of either forebears like Trilling and Schlesinger or opponents like Bloom and Kimball—is more likely to provoke nods of recognition from other right-minded liberals than to convince hard-charging conservative reformers, or even to advance the current debate.
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