THE HOLLOW MEN: Politics and Corruption in Higher Education by Charles J. Sykes

THE HOLLOW MEN: Politics and Corruption in Higher Education

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Another installment--this one very convincingly done--on the follies of liberal college education in America. Sykes' indictment is on more solid ground than some others (e.g., Page Smith's slapdash Killing the Spirit, p. 90) because his focus on one ivy-league college, Dartmouth, is more persuasive than the scattershot condemnation of critics. The familiar assertion that the principles of higher education are being restructured by political advocates of race, class, and gender seems to be supported by the example of Dartmouth. Sykes (Profscam, 1988--not reviewed) regards Dartmouth's great years (and by extension those of other colleges) to have been before 1945. Under the leadership of Ernest Martin Hopkins, the college strongly supported general education by highly motivated teachers who advocated a belief in Western values and taught them in the classic Great Books and Contemporary Civilization courses. After the war came the deluge of special interests. The faculty, Sykes says, turned away from teaching in order to win research grants and to write books. The student became, in effect, the property of the graduate assistant. With the rise of civil rights causes in the 1960's, the inattentive university itself became easy prey for shrill groups demanding reform in the name of gender and ethnic identity. The once-proud curriculum, Sykes aruges, became eviscerated by courses catering to Marxist-feminists and Third-World victims. The ultimate victim is the student, who, entering college with high hopes, graduates as one of the ""hollow men,"" his head stuffed with ""the straw of academic confusion."" Despite an exaggerated argument (Sykes himself admits that a Dartmouth student. can select teachers and courses sufficient for an above-average education) and a failure to fully credit the political pressures of the 1960's for consequent educational turmoil, Sykes sounds the alarm against current academic abuses with much perception, wit, and skill.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Regnery Gateway