Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University

Article excerpt

We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University David Damrosch. Cambridge: Harvard, i995. 225pp. $i5.95.

During the past few years, a spate of popular, conservative, often antiacademic diatribes have appeared. Works such as Anderson's Imposters in the Temple, Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, D'Souza's Illiberal Education, Kimball's Tenured Radicals, and Sykes's Profscam have undoubtedly had a chilling e∂ect on both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, administrators, and funders-especially state legislators, who may have been stimulated by reviews or actual acquaintance with these volumes to attempt to improve what they take to be the dismal state of education in their respective domains.

We Scholars is a positive epitome of this negative perspective, i.e., David Damrosch touches upon the concerns of these critics without attempting to restructure the entire academic enterprise. Indeed, Damrosch is primarily concerned with research and scholarship, which some people (including many educators) consider a secondary academic pursuit.

Traditional scholarship mandates precise specialization and an isolating individualism, both of which have negative consequences for American higher education; these include the degradation of general education, the creation rather than mere preservation of knowledge, the proliferation of uniformity among colleges and universities that have essentially di∂erent purposes, the expansion of coteries of jargon-spouting solipsists who only speak to a handful of fellow illuminati, and the existence of "deep structural tensions in the modern university." Damrosch's primary purpose is to investigate the reasons for our inability to collaborate and to suggest some alternatives to traditional scholarly modalities.

The author defends the reigning university structure against those critics who deplore the abrogation of teaching in favor of scholarship and who wish to return to the earlier model. He patiently explains that funding for research and student orientation control the academic marketplace. Universities and even colleges can no longer function without outside funding and young peo- ple now care more about vocational necessities and opportunities than Greek philology. Academia has evolved in order to meet these new demands. Furthermore, the general cultural ethos has changed: the melting pot metaphor is no longer acceptable and intellectual thought now echoes the multicultural consciousness that has always existed at the grassroots level. …

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