The grand vision of the public university as a place where people of diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds come together to learn and teach each other has been undermined by a conservative culture war, asserts English professor Newfield. He links the culture war with an economic war on the middle class that has resulted in a diminution of wages and weakening of political influence. The democratizing mission of public universities has been overrun by market forces that have chipped away at the hard-won benefits of the very people the universities were graduating. Newfield documents the influence of the market on everything from funds allocated to hot career areas of science and commerce while the humanities languish to universities outsourcing student services to tiered employment systems. He examines the historical vision of a knowledge society, represented by public universities, and the attacks of conservatives threatened by its egalitarianism, with raging debates over affirmative action and “political correctness.” Finally, he offers strategies for reclaiming the original mission of the public university. An authoritative, accessible analysis of change in higher public education. --Vanessa Bush
Newfield's argument is original, his evidence varied and rich, and his historical narrative coherent. He situates the university in its broadest social context, and shows that the 'culture wars,' far from being a sideshow, have in fact cleverly been fomented by conservatives to reshape the values of the university, the world-view of its graduates, and the economy which it significantly shapes and which shapes it.
--David L. Kirp, author of Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
In a crowd of recent works dedicated to the changing university and its place in society, Newfield's rich, cogently argued and readable book stands out. This is that rare thing, truly critical history: a solidly researched book that is at once a fine example of the sort of scholarship that the American university still makes possible and a serious argument about the university.
--Anthony Grafton, author of The Footnote: A Curious History
It is not every day that you get a meticulous analysis of higher education budgetary mechanisms within the same covers as reflections on Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
. And the sheer generosity of spirit that underlies Newfield's rather depressing reflections is deeply attractive.
--Alan Ryan (Times Higher Education Supplement
It is not often that even a first-rate scholar and writer manages to delve so deeply into a core problem of his society and time as to come out with an understanding of it that is so complete, so profound--indeed revelatory--as to illuminate the public muddled mind and open the way to recovery. This is what Christopher Newfield has achieved in his book, Unmaking the Public University
. The problem in focus is the decline of the American public university...Newfield's thesis is that this decline has been orchestrated by the American Right who, in the 1970s, got frightened by the democratizing influence higher public education was exerting on the American society. Conservative elites felt threatened by the post-World War II rise of a college-educated economic majority--a mass middle class--and started an assault against it. The Right did not dare to openly attack the economic position of the middle class. Instead, they waged culture wars against it.
--Emilia Ilieva (Daily Nation