From Publishers Weekly
In an attempt to place Harvard's current president, Larry Summers, in historical perspective, this intriguing study explores his policies, leadership style and previous career in reference to other presidents as far back as Charles W. Eliot (president from 1869-1909). Bradley, author of the bestselling American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, writes with tactful reserve about the backroom intrigues and infighting that have characterized Summer's presidency, always showing both sides of the issues-and the book is no less gripping for it. These struggles, involving such luminaries as Cornel West, Skip Gates, Robert Rubin and Alan Dershowitz, are riveting even when handled with kid gloves. But Bradley addresses much more than simply the contentious start to Summer's tenure at Harvard. On the one hand, he offers an insightful look at how the role of the American university president has changed from a moral and intellectual leader independent of political and corporate power to the administrator of an institution largely dependent on corporate and government largesse for its continued existence. On the other, he places Harvard's development and growth in a larger context, exploring its shifting goals, pedagogy and values in reference to other prestigious American universities such as Princeton, Stanford and Yale, as well as to American society in general. On a whole host of issues-including unionization, civil rights, affirmative action and militarism-Bradley uses events at Harvard to illuminate wider social trends and vice versa. Although Harvard alums will naturally gravitate toward this timely volume, it will also appeal to anyone concerned with the evolving relationship between higher education and American society.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Its very name a cultural weapon, Harvard arms the fortunate few it admits with such social power that they can "drop the H bomb" on overawed listeners merely by mentioning where they attend school. How this revered institution and its students acquired such daunting social power and whether they still deserve it are the questions at the heart of this incisive critique written from the Left. Bradley agrees that the evolution of Harvard in recent decades has seriously imperiled intellectual life on campus. He acknowledges pervasive problems--a weak undergraduate curriculum, a faculty more interested in extending resumes than in mentoring students, an institutional surrender to external political and economic imperatives. But he blames one man--the current president, Lawrence Summers--for creating (or at least ignoring) these problems. Though Summers won his political credentials as a warrior for liberal Democrats such as Dukakis and Clinton, Bradley characterizes him as the tool of malign conservative forces alien to the university. Bradley apparently believes that the vexing problems besetting Harvard would have been resolved if only Summers had fostered rather than suppressed the high idealism of his distinguished faculty. ' Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved