In the tradition of ""participant observation,"" a sober examination of the conflicts inherent in a college education and the ways in which students and institutions confront--or avoid--them. Cottle singles out a middle-aged man (jubilantly enrolled for the first time), a middle-class father drinking in his firstborn's educational attainments, a female professor whose token position in her department is a chronic strain, and an attractive, vital, failing engineering student whose strong personal needs have no extra-curricular place. He also contrasts the dissimilar philosophies of two schools: Earlham, tenaciously protective of its old-fashioned education and staunch communality, and Chicago's unaccredited, unorthodox Columbia, where politics and art converge in social protest murals and rock cantatas (""it is the moving, working process that matters""). Throughout, Cottle is dramatizing two opposed, seemingly irreconcilable traditions--the classical, stressing intellectual endeavors over teaching-touching, and the tradition of relevance, upholding the pre-eminence of emotional life. Implanted among these chapters is a virtuoso piece, ""The Pains of Permanence,"" jauntily out of step with the others, which chronicles Cottle's several years as a Harvard lecturer obsessed with tenure; disarmingly honest (like Erica/Candida spoiling for New Yorker status in Fear of Flying), it conveys the inner struggle of one who, fearful of dismissal, nevertheless wonders why the quality of teaching doesn't count for more--or much at all. Cottle raises more questions than he answers, and the nine chapters (five appeared, in a different form, elsewhere) don't really cohere, but his balanced probing advances important, relevant issues without inflating contemporary developments or overlooking their antecedents.