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The Degradation of the Academic Dogma (Foundations of Higher Education) Paperback – January 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


Robert Nisbet accuses universities of having betrayed themselves. Over the centuries they earned the respect of society by attempting to remain faithful to what he terms "the academic dogma", the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. The measure of a university's greatness and of the stature of an individual scholar was determined not by the immediate usefulness of the work done, but by how much it contributed to scholarship, learning, and teaching. American universities abandoned this ideal after World War II by welcoming onto their campuses academic entrepreneurs engaged in the 'higher capitalism", the highly profitable sale of knowledge. This practice has resulted in the greatest change in the structure and values of the university since their founding as guilds in the Middle Ages. It may also become responsible for their eventual demise as centers of learning. The Degradation Of The Academic Dogma is a signal work of scholarship and deserves the widest possible readership among academicians, scholars, politicians, and the general public. -- Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Robert A. Nisbet (1913-1996) was Albert Schweitzer Professor Emeritus of the Humanities at Columbia University. Some of his books include The Sociological Tradition, History of the Idea of Progress, and Metaphor and History.


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Product Details

  • Series: Foundations of Higher Education
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560009152
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560009153
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Bartley on August 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
Nisbet's excellent 1971 manifesto discusses the problems of the University and the aim to make a University universal in spite of the abilities and aptitudes of individual students (he argues that this phenomenon was in large part a bi-product of the GI bill, which de-valued the value of the degree by forcing Universities to lower their standards and admit students who did not have sufficient academic abilities).

He additionally writes of Professors abandoning the 'core' curriculum and attempting to enter into political arenas in which they had no expertise (and trying to engage in the daily politics rather than teaching students a classical education). Most fundamentally, he describes how Universities once -but no longer- represented the cornerstone for society's ability to pass down historical knowledge from one generation to the next.

A truly prescient book for its time, as Universities have abandoned these principles of passing down prior knowledge from centuries before. The means by which this has been achieved is largely through allowing Professors to invent departments and disciplines with little merit in order to boost their resumes and their egos, at the expense of teaching students historical knowledge. As students learn less-and-less while paying more-and-more, the University is forced to demonstrate its relevance based on higher salaried graduates. Yet, historically a classical education, regardless of one's major indicated the ability to read, write and to understand the great thinkers of the past which indicated potential leadership abilities.

One hallmark of the decline of the University is the rise in ethnic and cultural studies, driven by emotions, rather than facts --while hidden behind ridiculous and senseless multivariate econometric models.
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