The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (Issues of Our Time Series)

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Overview

Has American higher education become a dinosaur?
Why do professors all tend to think alike? What makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects should be required? Why do teachers and scholars find it so difficult to transcend the limits of their disciplines? Why, in short, are problems that should be easy for universities to solve so intractable? The answer, Louis Menand argues, is that the institutional structure and the educational philosophy of higher education have ...

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The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (Issues of Our Time)

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Overview

Has American higher education become a dinosaur?
Why do professors all tend to think alike? What makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects should be required? Why do teachers and scholars find it so difficult to transcend the limits of their disciplines? Why, in short, are problems that should be easy for universities to solve so intractable? The answer, Louis Menand argues, is that the institutional structure and the educational philosophy of higher education have remained the same for one hundred years, while faculties and student bodies have radically changed and technology has drastically transformed the way people produce and disseminate knowledge. At a time when competition to get into and succeed in college has never been more intense, universities are providing a less-useful education. Sparking a long-overdue debate about the future of American education, The Marketplace of Ideas examines what professors and students—and all the rest of us—might be better off without, while assessing what it is worth saving in our traditional university institutions.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
To anyone who has spent time on the inside, as they say, The Marketplace of Ideas is alternately bracing and chilling.... As ever, Menand writes like an angel, with the wry élan that made his previous book, The Metaphysical Club, such a winning exploration of the history of ideas.— Kirk Davis Swinehart
Kirk Davis Swinehart - Chicago Tribune
“To anyone who has spent time on the inside, as they say, The Marketplace of Ideas is alternately bracing and chilling.... As ever, Menand writes like an angel, with the wry élan that made his previous book, The Metaphysical Club, such a winning exploration of the history of ideas.”
Michael Berube
In the four rigorously reasonable essays in The Marketplace of Ideas, Louis Menand takes up four questions about American higher education: "Why is it so hard to institute a general education curriculum? Why did the humanities disciplines undergo a crisis of legitimation? Why has 'interdisciplinarity' become a magic word? And why do professors all tend to have the same politics?"
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Like Charles Muscatine's Fixing College Education, below, this work examines issues related to the curriculum and the approach of the faculty; unlike Muscatine, Menand (English, Harvard; staff writer, The New Yorker) focuses on selective colleges and universities and especially on the humanities, explaining the importance of general education for all undergraduates, even though they may be more interested in career preparation than ideas. He links the difficulties for universities in promoting general education to tensions in academic careers emerging from faculty selection and training, uncertainties about disciplinary and interdisciplinary frameworks, and the strong frustrations in current academic career patterns. Menand puts these issues in a historical perspective in a thoughtful and graceful style but offers little hope that the structure of academic knowledge production and dissemination will support reforms. VERDICT An important, if traditional, view on the content of higher education. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/09.]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393062755
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/18/2010
  • Series: Issues of Our Time Series
  • Pages: 174
  • Sales rank: 434,883
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis Menand, professor of English at Harvard University, is the author of The Metaphysical Club, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in History. A longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 13

1 The Problem of General Education 21

2 The Humanities Revolution 59

3 Interdisciplinarity and Anxiety 93

4 Why Do Professors All Think Alike? 127

Conclusion 157

Acknowledgments 159

Index 163

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Customer Reviews

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