THE PROFESSORS: Who They Are, What They Do, What They Really Want, and What They Need by Herbert Livesey

THE PROFESSORS: Who They Are, What They Do, What They Really Want, and What They Need

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The revisionist view of higher education is upon us, and has produced some forceful, illuminating studies like Caroline Bird's The Case Against College (p. 91). Livesey, the director of admissions at NYU, is by comparison a lightweight, a fiddler around edges. The Professors comes on like an expose, but it's basically a series of profiles: combative counterculturists, aging T.A.'s, young professorial dropouts, tenured eminences who also sell their services in the marketplace, secluded intellects who hardly know there is a marketplace, college presidents. Livesey spotlights both the obscure and -- rather disproportionately -- the renowned (Arthur Knight, S.I. Hayakawa, Alexander Bickel, Martin Duberman). Academics, articulate by occupation, make good interviewees, but these personal histories hardly add up to a cohesive vindication of Livesey's gripe against the breed. He charges that imagination ""is rarely a facet of the professorial personality,"" that consistency ""is rarely a professorial virtue,"" that courage ""has not proven to be a professorial commodity,"" but his critidsms take place in an conceptual vacuity. To deplore professors' greed, arrogance, resistance to change, and general superfluity without an overview of higher education in American life is an exercise in frivolity. For what it's worth, Livesey rounds everything off with a couple of fashionable pieties about the failures of moral leadership -- after all, somebody taught the rich, famous, and crooked.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1975
Publisher: Charterhouse/McKay