From Publishers Weekly
Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, presents a biting, scattershot indictment of undergraduate education at America's flagship university. The curriculum, he contends, is a crazy quilt of courses that leaves students clueless as to what they should learn and why. Professors are ivory tower eggheads fixated on their narrow subspecialties and incapable of offering guidance about academics, career or character. And students, coddled by parents and plied by administrators with parties, pubs and concerts, remain dependent and infantilized instead of growing up. Lewis spares no one-least of all recently ousted Harvard President Lawrence Summers, a "bully" whose administration combined "arrogance" with "lack of candor" and "chaotic lurching"-and probes rarely-examined academic fundamentals (his comments on the meaninglessness of grades are especially incisive). Unfortunately, his remedies, like a sketchy proposal for general education courses, are vague at best. And while he deplores Harvard's failure to articulate "what it means to be a good person," his discussion of date rape-concluding that women should be encouraged to "move on" and "rise above severe trauma"-is an ethical muddle. Provocative and insightful, Lewis's call for an intellectually and morally coherent education does a much better job of raising important questions than answering them.
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About the Author
Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Harvard College professor, has been on the Harvard faculty for thirty-two years. He was Dean of Harvard College between 1995 and 2003 and chaired the College's student disciplinary and athletic policy committees. He has been a member of the undergraduate admissions and scholarship committee for more than three decades. Lewis lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.