THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING by Henry Steele Commager

THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Commager is a very moderate, logical, soft-spoken man befitting his status as ultra-emeritus professor of American history. His logic leads him to attack the ossified lecture-required course-grades-exams system with its costly bureaucracy, its conformity, its treatment of students as infants, its overemphasis on non-academic subjects. Other targets are the film ""Why Vietnam,"" on-campus recruitment from Dow and CIA, and in general, domestic interference from intelligence agencies while the universities ""co-operate in their own subversion."" What he favors: everything from McGuffey's Reader to free tuition which challenges the status quo of privilege and chauvinism. Indeed the virtues of cosmopolitanism and the defects of narrow patriotism constitute the main thread between his discussion of high school, college, and ""academic freedom."" It's hortatory without being pompous -- the references to Western man, the American character, and European universities become tiresomely middlebrow, however, and the main problem is its unmemorability. Convincing in particulars, dull overall, it lacks the sociological and psychological zip of recent preschool/primary analyses, or of higher-education critiques like Friedenberg's or Goodman's. Nonetheless, Commager's name and good faith -- and good sense --deserve the hearing they'll get.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1968
Publisher: Harper & Row