The State of the American University

Anthony Grafton in the New York Review of Books reviews eight serious books on the current state of US higher education here.

Money quote:

Yet American universities also attract ferocious criticism, much of it from professors and from journalists who know them well, and that’s entirely reasonable too. Every coin has its other side, every virtue its corresponding vice—and practically every university its festering sores. At the most prestigious medical schools, professors publish the work of paid flacks for pharmaceutical companies under their own names. At many state universities and more than a few private ones, head football and basketball coaches earn millions and their assistants hundreds of thousands for running semiprofessional teams. Few of these teams earn much money for the universities that sponsor them, and some brutally exploit their players.

Nevertheless, aspirants from the entire world still gravitate here. Why? I’d like to think it’s because US colleges still offer a combination of the potential for real upward mobility along with the ability to chart one’s own curricular course.