Poisoning the Ivy: The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Vices of Higher Education in America

Poisoning the Ivy: The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Vices of Higher Education in America

Poisoning the Ivy: The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Vices of Higher Education in America

Poisoning the Ivy: The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Vices of Higher Education in America

Synopsis

Anyone who teaches in higher education realizes that "the Academy" has significant and pervasive problems in its self-governance, effectiveness, and in according value for soaring costs. Although there is a widespread sense that something is badly wrong, few are well positioned to challenge the system. Lewis has written an honest, spirited account of what, in his view, ails the nation's universities and colleges, making them "wasteful, inefficient, and increasingly unresponsive to the needs of (their) constituencies".

Excerpt

Since beginning this book, I have come up against a persistent concern. Many of my academic colleagues--either because they apparently view my effort as little different than treason or because they view it as an exercise in symbolic self-immolation--keep asking why: Why would I write a book the avowed purpose of which is to present an unrepentant critical attack on what they take to be the most honorable of institutions, a book that, in their eyes, will only give aid and comfort to the most implacable foes of higher learning? Why would I take on a project that will likely earn the enmity of many professors and make me the target of their vilifying slings and arrows?

During the several years it has taken me to complete the writing of this book, I have at times embraced the position that I need not explicitly address this matter. It can, after all, be justifiably maintained that the value of an argument should be established independently of the motivations driving those who advance it. I have now, however, concluded that there is indeed a compelling reason to visit the concern in question before getting on with the business of these pages.

My motives for writing this book are likely to be mischaracterized by those whose interests are offended by its contents. In what is rapidly becoming a standard ploy, critics bother less and less with efforts to defeat arguments hostile to their own positions, opting instead to attack the interests, motives, and character of those who have made them. It is a tactic having reference points in the overly reductive class-bound relativism of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud's equally reductive emphasis upon the unconscious overdetermination of ideas, and the postmodern insistence on context as the only reality. Whether or not they seek to justify themselves in terms of this intellectual provenance, many contemporary critics seem unable to resist the intuitive allure of ad hominem attacks. What they engage in is criticism by association. The . . .

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