The Parsons College Bubble: A Tale of Higher Education in America

The Parsons College Bubble: A Tale of Higher Education in America

The Parsons College Bubble: A Tale of Higher Education in America

The Parsons College Bubble: A Tale of Higher Education in America

Excerpt

JACQUES BARZUN

If the saga of Parsons College were not attested fact, it would be necessary to invent it. Every American citizen who is concerned with "trouble in the universities"—not excepting the academic citizen who has the trouble on his doorstep but thinks himself free of Parsons' complaint—must take in and ponder the events described in these pages. And he must not believe for a moment that that tragicomedy was something which occurred at Fairfield, Iowa, and which is now over.

The story of Parsons is an image, only slightly magnified, of what has overtaken American higher education during the last quarter century, and has brought it to a state of moral, financial, and administrative bankruptcy. The magnification inherent in the causes and effects at Parsons is what makes Dr. Koerner's brilliant and deadly recital not a document, but the document of highest importance to the academy and to the nation at the present time.

The principle at work in the educational debacle we are witnessing is the ancient one of corruptio optimi pessima — the corruption of what is best turns out the worst; the fallen angel is the deepest-dyed sinner. And as usually happens, it is out of the best motives that the worst errors come. So it was in the present case. The fundamental cause of the corruption of higher learning has been the desire of college and university to "serve the community" in a direct, visible, measurable way, and earn the rewards of "service."

The first false step was to assume that study was not enough to justify an educational institution; that is, study by the . . .

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