May 13, 2013
David G. Savage:
Church-state, literally? Supreme Court weighing public school graduation in a church
May 10, 2013
Rabbi Berel Wein: Be all that you should be
May 8, 2013
Peter Ford: Why China is welcoming both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas
Obama administration quietly backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate
At Kerry-Putin meeting, US-Russia relations thaw --- a tad
The Kosher Gourmet by Leela Cyd Ross :
Almost too pretty to eat, this colorful salad with Sicilian inspiration will tickle the taste buds and delight your visual sensibility
May 6, 2013
May 3, 2013
Kids, kittens the Same?
With employee perks at struggling Internet pioneer Yahoo! it's hard to tell
Artificial kidney offers hope to patients tethered to a dialysis machine
April 29, 2013
Poland's new Jewish museum celebrates life, doesn't revisit Holocaust
Terrorism in America: Is US missing a chance to learn from failed plots?
Boston Bomber's 'Svengali' Revealed
Tiny satellites + cellphones = cheaper 'eyes in the sky' for NASA
April 26, 2013
Clifford D. May:
Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism
Sharon Palmer, R.D.:
How to feel your best -- with plenty of energy, a healthy weight and optimal mental and physical function -- without driving yourself batty
April 24, 2013
Admit it: No one has any idea what's going on
April 22, 2013
US man departing country arrested on terror charges
An unorthodox but growing treatment in a 9-year-old's battle against cancer
April 19, 2013
Caroline B. Glick:
Why Obama's visit to Israel had no impact on public opinion or government policy
Gold collapse: The start of something big?
Livable super-Earths? Two candidates among Kepler's latest finds
April 17, 2013
Too much of a good thing? 'Palestinians' realize downside of foreign aid boom
BAD NEWS: EVERYONE IS RIGHT!
April 15, 2013
Egyptian Christians respond with harsh words to attack -- rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire -- against main cathedral
Marcy Darnovsky and Karuna Jaggar:
High Court to decide if you should own your DNA
US bracing for more Russian blowback after taking action against 18 more human rights violators
April 12, 2013
New cybersecurity bill: Privacy threat or crucial band-aid?
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom:
The Kosher Gourmet by Susan Russo:
Jackie Robinson's Friend, Hank Greenberg; CNN's Jake Tapper; Texas County in the News is named for 19thC. Jewish soldier and Congressman
FRUITY QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS: A flavorful, colorful and edible vessel of delicately fluffy, mildly nutty filling combined with chewy apricots, tangy cherries, and crunchy pistachios
April 10, 2013
North Korean missiles: Could US shoot them down?
Warning: Don't waste your capital being fooled by profit prophets
Donald Hensrud, M.D.:
Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Take vitamin supplements with caution --- even approved, they may actually do damage
74 DNA discoveries move cure closer for three cancers
April 8, 2013
Jonathan Tobin: What Part of No Preconditions Do American Jews Not Get?
Is Putin finally trading his own party for a new power base?
Jewish World Review
April 4, 2006
/ 6 Nissan 5766
The diminution of the mission of a still-great university?
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.
© 2005, Mortimer Zuckerman
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Frank J. Gaffney
Victor Davis Hanson
A. Barton Hinkle
Judge A. Napolitano
Cokie & Steve Roberts
Debra J. Saunders
J. D. Crowe
Ask Doctor K