WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
I have tried in this book to tell a story of ideas and institutions while keeping people—students, teachers, academic leaders—at the forefront of the tale. I did not want to stick to any one of the genres to which such a story usually conforms—jeremiad (invoking the past to shame the present), elegy (gone are the greats of yesteryear), call to arms (do this or that and we will be saved)—so the result, no doubt, is a messy mixture of them all.
In fact, if there is one form to which most recent writing about college belongs, it is none of the above, but, rather, the funeral dirge. Here’s an example that appeared in the Washington Post soon after the economic meltdown whose consequences we are still trying to fathom:
Students starting school this year [2009–10] may be part
of the last generation for which “going to college” means
packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured
professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a