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The Confusion on Campus

Vincent J. Cannato

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A Harvard prof reflects on the hollowness of higher ed.

Are American universities now in their golden age? Many rank as the leading research institutions in the world. A college education is within reach for more Americans than ever before. Applications continue to rise as colleges attract the best and the brightest from the U.S. and from overseas. And yet it is hard not to get the feeling that there is something amiss at American schools.

Recent headlines certainly suggest troubles at individual universities--Duke with its lacrosse scandal, Yale with its admission of a former Taliban member, Harvard with its routing of president Lawrence Summers. But Harry Lewis, a former dean at Harvard who still teaches computer science there, thinks the problem is deeper than a handful of alarming anecdotes might suggest. In "Excellence Without a Soul," Mr. Lewis decries the "hollowness of undergraduate education."

He takes Harvard as his case study, but many of his conclusions apply to the rest of American higher education. Mr. Lewis finds American universities "soulless" and argues that they rarely speak as "proponents of high ideals for future American leaders." He bluntly states that Harvard "has lost, indeed willingly surrendered, its moral authority to shape the souls of its students ... Harvard articulates no ideals of what it means to be a good person."

Read the entire article on the Wall Street Opinion Jornal website (new window will open).

Posted: 26-May-06



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