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Searching for Utopia: Universities and Their Histories
– December 7, 2011
Searching for Utopia, Hanna Holborn Gray reflects on the nature of the university from the perspective of today’s research institutions. In particular, she examines the ideas of former University of California president Clark Kerr as expressed in The Uses of the University, written during the tumultuous 1960s. She contrasts Kerr’s vision of the research-driven multiveristy” with the traditional liberal educational philosophy espoused by Kerr’s contemporary, former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins. Gray’s insightful analysis shows that both Kerr, widely considered a realist, and Hutchins, seen as an oppositional idealist, were utopians. She then surveys the liberal arts tradition and the current state of liberal learning in the undergraduate curriculum within research universities. As Gray reflects on major trends and debates since the 1960s, she illuminates the continuum of utopian thinking about higher education over time, revealing how it applies even in today’s climate of challenge.
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“A contemplative ‘pep talk’ urging colleges and universities to rediscover a sense of both mission and individuality and a ringing endorsement of protecting the academic freedom to explore truth.”
About the Author
Hanna Holborn Gray was President of the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993 and is presently the Emeritus Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Professor of History there.
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