AMERICAN ACADEMICS: Then and Now by Logan Wilson


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Logan Wilson has closely observed and reported on higher education in America for some 40 years. He first comprehensively recorded his findings in Academic Man (1942), and now he offers a sequel, concentrating on continuities and changes in the social and institutional character of the college teaching profession since then. Surveying a dozen topics, including recruitment, administration, social and economic status, academic freedom, and individual and institutional prestige, he finds that the fundamental structure and purpose of higher education have remained constant: achievement is still measured by intellectual merit according to exacting standards, merit gets rewarded, and the discovery and dissemination of truth advance. But many problems and conflicts persist too--in the length of professional preparation, the insecurities of the lower ranks, the ""publish or perish"" rule, threats to academic freedom. Wilson does not conclude that education has remained static between 1942 and 1978 , but rather that it has come full circle: 1942 was before the postwar education boom, 1978 comes after the boom. One of his themes is thus the retrenchment of academe after the ""Golden Age"" of expansion. Another is that the Golden Age greatly benefitted education: the knowledge explosion continues; more good universities now exist; higher education is increasingly desired; the academic profession is more affluent; the federal government now subsidizes much education and research. Only the radical disturbances of the late '60s and the pressures to grant equal employment to minorities have shaken the profession's self-confidence. In all, Wilson's is an affirming book, descriptive and informative, yet lacking in the cultural vision and critical sense that have enlivened and lent substance to similar studies by, for example, Jacques Barzun and Russell Kirk.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press