A Review of Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It
by Steven Knapp
Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus have written a lucid, passionate and wide-ranging book on the state of American higher education and what they perceive as its increasing betrayal of its primary mission — for them, the teaching of undergraduates. That both are academics — one a well-known professor (Mr. Hacker) and the other consigned to the adjunct, or what they call “contingent,” faculty (Ms. Dreifus, who is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times) — provides them with memorable, often acerbic anecdotes that neatly offset their citations of statistics and (it must be said) their sometimes rather sweeping generalizations.
These anecdotes take the edge off the polemical intensity a reader might expect from the book’s title, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It. That may be because these anecdotes display insiders’ familiarity, and often an implied intimacy, with distinguished academics and the elite institutions in which they reside.
This is not a book for those seeking a social-scientific explanation of how American higher education, from its simple beginnings as a training ground for gentlemen clergy, has evolved into a
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