Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 4, 2006 / 6 Nissan 5766

The diminution of the mission of a still-great university?

By Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When you consult a doctor, are you more impressed by the certificates on the wall or the practical experience of his competence? When you fly, would you care that the pilot had an aeronautics degree but only 10 hours' flying time? Academic qualifications are like bikinis: What they reveal may be less significant than what they conceal.


This had become the disturbing reality at Harvard when five years ago it brought in a new reforming president, Larry Summers. A Harvard degree remained prestigious, but most of those who graduated were dissatisfied with their undergraduate education there. It was not commensurate with what they expected from an outstanding faculty. Many asserted they learned less from the academic stars, most of whom they rarely saw, than from their fellow students.


Research, not teaching, has become Harvard's core purpose; the tenured faculty are scholars first and teachers second. More and more undergraduates are taught by graduate assistants and part-time faculty, who handle full loads for a third or less the salaries of full professors. (Last year, full professors at Harvard were paid an average of $163,200 and held 64 percent of the academic posts.) The emphasis on research, not teaching, results in a competition among universities for faculty stars. They are attracted less by money than by the freedom to do their own research, so they shun heavy teaching loads.


Summers was critical of this world of unengaged professors and overburdened teaching assistants. He understood that the core curriculum at Harvard was an antiquated mess, basically a way of enabling the faculty members to teach their esoteric specialties in the name of choice.


Getting A's. Harvard students, like others in many universities, often graduate without the core knowledge one would and should expect. One of Summers's remedies was to have faculty teach more, especially more overview courses that afford students an introduction to different disciplines. The faculty was resistant. Tenured professors prefer to teach courses that tend to track their research, even their latest book, rather than boning up on introductory material they left behind in graduate school. As a tenured professor responded when asked to teach an introductory art history survey, "No self-respecting scholar would want to teach such a course."


The departure of Summers, later this year, has been characterized by some as a failure of his management style, but this obscures the real issue — the inverse relationship between the privileges and perks of academic life and the quality of undergraduate teaching.


Summers was rightly critical of Harvard's own "solution," which is worse than the problem — the trend of keeping students happy by giving them high grades. An absurd 91 percent of Harvard graduates gain honors. Grade inflation mocks merit by promoting the fiction that most Harvard graduates are academic stars. Summers was determined to reduce grade inflation. He didn't want Harvard students to just get A's on paper; he wanted them to get an education.


Since worship of research was key, Summers asked individual departments to justify the time and money invested in them and their facilities. The faculty rejected the request. As one professor said, "Once someone is a tenured professor, they answer to G-d."


No wonder Summers refused to rubber-stamp all the tenured positions recommended by faculty. He wanted to seek out younger professors who had the potential to transform their fields. As several journals put it, he was determined to bestow grants and professorships on those fields deemed worthy and would not be constrained by the taboos that protect professorial privilege and self-regard.


Summers's departure marks the loss of one of the few major voices in higher education willing to talk about the forces undermining our institutions of higher learning. He may have been blunt, but his words were directed at issues everyone at Harvard must weigh seriously.


Given that Harvard is the emblematic American university, will Summers's departure signify a shift of power from presidents to tenured faculty? How can Harvard expect to recruit a genuine reformer now that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has tasted blood and the key leaders of the Harvard board have surrendered? Are modern universities ungovernable? Will Harvard's president now lose the role of public intellectual setting the agenda for higher education in America and become a mere fundraiser? Will universities become so dominated by political correctness that they are diminished as centers of intellectual freedom and free inquiry?


It is no answer to inadequate teaching to say that applications remain high. Harvard is the standard-bearer for the ideals of a university. It would be a shame if Summers's departure marked the diminution of the mission of a still-great university.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

ARCHIVES

© 2005, Mortimer Zuckerman

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles