BLUE-COLLAR JOURNAL: A College President's Sabbatical by John R. Coleman

BLUE-COLLAR JOURNAL: A College President's Sabbatical

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The memoir of Haverford College's president, who forsook a traditional sabbatical ""to see what was really there on the other side of the fence."" During his two month foray into blue-collarland, Coleman dug ditches in Atlanta, worked in a restaurant in Boston, and collected garbage in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Most readers will find his experiences insipid: formulating his weekly budget, observing an altercation between fellow workers, looking for a motel room, resenting scornful householders as a trashman, fearing that he may be recognized. But it is interesting that such trivia is significant to Coleman, whose naivete is striking. (He is, for example, surprised by his co-workers' obscenities.). When he remarks on ""how smug and isolated"" he has been, he is not far from the truth. Coleman suggests that the pressures of his work -- contending with impatient waitresses and broken garbage trucks -- impressed upon him the ordeals that the blue-collar world must endure; but one wonders how authentic the experience can have been given his option to return to the comforts of the Main Line at any moment. Moreover, the fact that Coleman chose to publish his journal suggests a Haverfordian self-conscious mea culpa advertisement of social concern and individual growth. While one admires the author for the realization of his seclusion and his attempt to overcome it, one recoils from the hoi polloi haughtiness that is intrinsic to his project.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1974
Publisher: Lippincott