Louis Menand: College-Bound

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Louis Menand, Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer and Professor of English at Harvard University argues that the structure of U.S. higher education is out-dated in his new book The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (Issues of Our Time) (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010).


Louis Menand

Comments [8]

Jennifer from Queens

What sort of academics does this man hang out with? My husband is a professor and throughout his career he and his colleagues have been actively involved with various organizations, public and private sector entities, etc. locally, nationally, and internationally. Professors in core disciplines work exceedingly hard for relatively low pay (relative to the level of preparation required). Menand is burning a straw man.

Jan. 26 2010 08:57 PM
clare from new york

Prof. Menand did not address the astronomical cost of a liberal arts education. The resulting huge debt burden makes the study of "knowledge for knowledge's sake" less and less relevant to most middle class students and families. The debt also hampers those who might wish to go into worthy, but lower-paying, jobs that might actually help society rather than their own personal bottom line.

Jan. 26 2010 11:46 AM
paulo from nyu

where can we find the track closing this segment?

Jan. 26 2010 11:43 AM
Mike from Manhattan

My father was a chemistry professor for 25 years, and always complained about pressure to publish. His passion was teaching, and felt the system did not support a good teacher. He eventually left teaching, since the system promoted publishing and getting grant money for university research.

Jan. 26 2010 11:40 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

Mr. Menand is just wrong when he asserts that there is a dogma regarding tension between the "practical" and the "true". The problem academics face today is the demand -- especially in the US -- that the "true" be "practical" where "practical" means "good for making money."

Jan. 26 2010 11:35 AM
C.B. from NYC

Yes, Martin Chuzzlewit, not at all a surprising comment from Commentary. Given the shrill title of the cover story, Commentary's analysis could be only more negative, not necessarily a better "critical assessment." I'll actually wait to hear from Louis Menand & Brian Lehrer directly before making my own assessment of this assessment. I might even read the book! Thanks for the preemptive strike, though.

Jan. 26 2010 11:21 AM

Several of my friends are earning humanities degrees, and for some probably self-destructive reason, I too find myself pulled towards this anti-lucrative field.

Could Mr. Menand comment on the miserable job prospects for this field (English/Creative Writing/Comp Lit especially)? The adjunct hustle/sharecropping existence? The lack of benefits and security?

The attempt by universities to turn humanities teaching over to temps is particularly interesting in light of something I read recently in The New Yorker, namely that English departments are money-makers for Universities because they are popular and have low capital (ie, lab) costs. They bring revenues that are then given to capital-intensive science depts.

Also, couldn't the country use a little more education on reading and writing? Do I have to frame it as a national security issue?

Jan. 26 2010 11:17 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Listeners who want a more critical assessment of this book than it is likely to receive here may want to check out this month's COMMENTARY MAGAZINE which has a cover story about the book entitiled "Louis Menandacious". Not surprisingly, Commentary calls it a "bloodless book" in which Menand (once again) refutes Allen Bloom's contention that radical "barbarians have seized the castle" and contends that claims that there is a homogeneity among the professoriat are absurd.

Jan. 26 2010 10:07 AM

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