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Harvard Rules: Lawrence Summers and the Battle for the World's Most Powerful University Paperback – Bargain Price, November 22, 2005
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But for all his controversy he may have been the greatest president of Harvard in the last thirty years. This book is partially a critique and partially a discussion of the ins and outs of the controversies surrounding him. He was critiqued so much because he tried to rock the boat at Harvard and he dared to question whether it was still providing the best education. Although this book might be a little heavy handed in claiming that Harvard students are groomed to run the world, it is an interesting examination of the role of Summers at the prestigious University.
Seth J. Frantzman
Bradely has written a book that is very easy to read and draws almost all of the issues enveloping Harvard in easy to digest, black-and-white dramas between Summers (always in the black hat) and various members of the faculty and student body (always portrayed sympatetically). This book makes no pretence of being objective or looking any further than skin-deep at the controversies that surrounded Summers before the most recent blow-up over his comments on women in science. Several chapters end with essentially the same line: by doing X, Summers had further consolidated his rule over the university. If all of this is true (it's not), Summers would be the absolute dictator of Harvard Yard by now.
In fact, what has been written here is basically an expanded, book-edition copy of the Harvard Crimson from 2000 to the present. There is little new in the book that readers of Harvard's student newspaper don't already know other than a few re-interviews that Richard Bradley has done with various personalities involved in the recent events at Harvard.
What's lost here is that what is going on at Harvard is a microcosm of what's going on at many other American universities, and that much of it isn't new. As far back as I can remember (and I come from a family of academics), students and faculty alike have hated their university presidents, viewing them as uninterested in academics or out of touch with their student bodies. As at Harvard, with the decibel level of campus politics higher today than at any time since the 1960s, there is a lot of talking (or complaining, depending on one's perspective) going on and less respect for opposing viewpoints. Harvard is hardly unique in this respect.
Bradely castigates Summers for his handling of several episodes with faculty (most noteably the Cornel West debacle) but misses the broader trend that acadmics as a whole have been getting into narrower and narrower specalties that prevent their work from being of much use to anyone. This doesn't mean that Summers was justified in how he treated West, who was (and is) a true educator, but it does deny this book some much-needed context.
Similarly, Bradley's comments on Summers' stress on achievement by students misses that the same line was toed by the genteel Neil Rudenstine, who once told the Crimson that 'students don't come to Harvard to have fun' when asked why the university maintains an academic schedule that places fall term finals immediately after winter break. This was a particularly poor-timed comment after a rash of student suicides on campus and reports that Harvard's student suicide rate was twice the national average.
Overall, only the most die-hard Summers haters will find anything valuable in Harvard Rules. Everyone else interested in the state of campus would be better of reading the Crimson from time to time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reason. The cause of the fear is that West might accuse Bradley of being a "racist" and ruin his...Read more