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

Overview

"In this book, Louis Menand argues that although the demographics, the mission, and the scale of American higher education have all changed dramatically, its institutional structure and educational philosophy have remained relatively static for the last hundred years. In examining the origins of the university in the nineteenth century, and how it evolved in the twentieth, The Marketplace of Ideas uncovers the anachronisms and anomalies in twenty-first-century higher education, and separates what is worth preserving from what we might be better

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Overview

"In this book, Louis Menand argues that although the demographics, the mission, and the scale of American higher education have all changed dramatically, its institutional structure and educational philosophy have remained relatively static for the last hundred years. In examining the origins of the university in the nineteenth century, and how it evolved in the twentieth, The Marketplace of Ideas uncovers the anachronisms and anomalies in twenty-first-century higher education, and separates what is worth preserving from what we might be better off without." "Along the way, Menand explains when the liberal arts became segregated from professional education, how general education programs developed in response to social change and world events, and why "interdisciplinary" has become a buzzword among professors, deans, and graduate students. He examines how the professoriate became professionalized, what happened to the humanities disciplines after the 1960s, and why, although a person can get a law degree in three years and a medical degree in four years, the median time to a PhD in English is nine years." More fundamentally, he asks whether we are training professors to do the things we are now asking them to do - to teach to people outside their own specialties, to connect their subject matter to issues that will concern their students after they graduate, and to collaborate in teaching and research with professors in other disciplines. Is trying to reform the contemporary university like trying to get on the Internet with a typewriter?

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Editorial Reviews

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.]
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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594011637
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/18/2010
  • Pages: 174
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (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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