by George H. Douglas ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1992
Another faithful-oppositionist lament over--and explanation of--the wreckage of American college education, this time from English professor Douglas (Univ. of Illinois; All Aboard!, The Smart Magazines, etc.). Citing Thorstein Veblen, William James, and H.L. Mencken, Douglas argues that the seeds of present woe in undergraduate education were sown back in the 19th century when two things happened: The structure of the university came to be modeled on the business corporation (where ""productivity,"" not individual students, is what mattered); and the Ph.D. (""an imported monstrosity"") became the new qualifying badge for professors, causing ""specialization""--instead of general liberal educating--to become the university's commodity of true prestige. These great historical errors went hand in hand with an erroneous but typicly American and efficiency-minded view of education as a passive receiving of information rather than (as in the English tutorial system) an intimate nurturing of individual knowledge and judgment. Douglas sees the student revolts of the 60's not as the cause of present-day ills, but as the moment when the already depersonalized universities ""made the complete adjustment to the masses that had arrived since World War II""--when what was left of liberal education ""was pummeled, shrunk, de-toothed if you will."" As it's left now, the corporate-style university offers little challenge, intimacy, guidance, or enrichment to undergraduates, its own prior hollowness making it easy prey to the self-serving anticanonists, Marxists, multiculturalists, theorists, and Mandarin specialists who may claim to bring reform but in fact bring only more forced-feeding and less liberating of individual minds than ever. Largely anecdotal in method and based on long, observed experience: a plea for simple intellectual honesty and a return of the human dimension in undergraduate education. Passionate, reasoned, and untendentious--easily deserving a visible place on the Crisis-in-the-Colleges shelf.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992
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