7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Why (Not) Reform the University?,
This review is from: The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (Issues of Our Time) (Hardcover)
Without providing yet another synopsis of *The Marketplace of Ideas* -- several of which have already appeared on Amazon -- I want to posit a couple of points about Louis Menand's book that might be of interest to readers.
1. Given Menand's admirable summation of the rise of higher education in America, it seems to me one of the primary aims of the book is to explain why reform is so difficult to achieve in colleges and universities. Menand makes the point that the development of the "liberal arts" curriculum since the late nineteenth century has led to the disciplines' entrenchment in the academy as discrete departments of study (i.e., institutionalized bodies of knowledge). That is, disciplines-as-departments are always concerned with their institutional survival vis-a-vis the reproduction of scholars in the field. For this reason, any efforts to reform higher education are bound to run up against the intractability of disciplines' self-organization. Menand doesn't necessarily view this as a "good" or "bad" thing -- it just is, given the way the liberal arts have developed in American colleges and universities.
2. Following the thesis about disciplines' resistance to reform, Menand offers a few clarifying insights: that interdisciplinary is less a genuine form of interdisciplinary knowledge-sharing and more an administrative handle on disciplinary anxieties; that professors' suspicion of "general education" requirements reflects a (dated) suspicion of the liberal arts' relation to the "real world"; and so on. While it is true that Menand's book is weak on addressing the massive corporatization of the American university since the 1960s, *The Marketplace of Ideas* is worth reading for how it sheds light on the consequences (such as those mentioned above) of resisting reform in American higher education.