In October of 2000 I was sitting in an audience listening to the late Robert Bellah field an array of probing questions. In response to one question he paused and then remarked how indebted he was to Andrew Delbanco’s then new book, The Real American Dream: Meditations in Hope. He described the book as one of the most penetrating he had read recently. When I returned home I ordered and read it. The book offered a simple analysis (though not simplistic) of America’s past: God; nation; self. The depth and craft of his argument grabbed me. I used the book several times as a text for a course.
Not long after that, Dave Guthrie was at a conference where he encountered Delbanco and was also drawn to his lucid and penetrating insights. Since Geneva was still luxuriating in Lily money, he invited him to campus. We spent a couple days with him listening, questioning and laughing. He was as delightful in person as he was on the page. While his literary specialty is Melville (he’s one of only two people to have won Columbia’s prestigious “Lionel Trilling Award” twice.), his interests are broad. So much so that in 2001 he was named “America’s Best Social Critic” by Time magazine.
At a faculty lunch he described himself as a “New York Jew,” not so much an ethic designation as much as his being identified as part of that next generation of scholars who had become known for their academic excellence, and had grown up in New York City, then rose to national prominence, and were also ethnically Jewish. He spoke very personally and talked about how his family had changed their name under the intense pressure to socialize in America. As a specialist in Puritan studies he noted his appreciation for a school that stood in the Puritan tradition (as Geneva does) though he didn’t share our faith commitments.
In our conversations Delbanco mentioned that he had been teaching a seminar on higher education at Columbia and was gathering information for a book he hoped to write. He had some in depth conversations with Dave Guthrie that led to Guthrie’s inclusion in the acknowledgements once the text was published. Chad Wellman (The Hedgehog Review, Summer 2013) describes the book as “the collegiate argument” for higher education. He believes Delbanco’s argument places him with others who want to reclaim colleges as places where students are intentionally molded into particular kinds of people.
As a noted scholar, social critic and recipient of Columbia’s “Great Teacher Award,” Delbanco seems appropriately credentialed to turn his attention to higher education. As a Harvard graduate (both under grad and PhD) plus a Columbia professor since 1996, he seems to have a vantage point high above the higher education world that is both privileged and strategic to assess how things are going. Last spring a group of Geneva MAHE students read and discussed Delbanco’s, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. Here are three different evaluations on how well he did from now graduated students.
Professor of Sociology and Higher Education
By Natalia Harris
Andrew Delbanco believes in the transforming power of authentic learning. A college should strive to be a place where its community members come together and seek purpose in life. He writes in his book, College: What it was, is, and should be (2012), that college should cause students to ask “how should I think, and how should I choose?” He describes college as a place that serves as “an aid to reflection, a place and process whereby young people take stock of their talents and passions and begin to sort out their lives in a way that is true to themselves and responsible to others” (p. 15-16). Delbanco asserts that college students have not changed over the past century in that they still ask questions of life and search for purpose. How do we answer these questions? There are many options, however Delbanco explains that some options are better than others. Indeed, he goes as far to say, “An American college is only true to itself when it opens its doors to all — rich, middling, and poor — who have the capacity to embrace the precious chance to think and reflect before life engulfs them” (p. 35).
The author directs a considerable amount of his reflections to the topic of America’s original higher education system. One of the key functions and beliefs of our institutional founders was that college is a place where the tension of humility and hubris contend. We have a tendency towards narrow self-aggrandizement, and we must seek to combat those evil effects of our pride. Lateral learning through community learning is the best way to work towards humility and true democracy. Delbanco echoes the words of Samuel Eliot Morison, explaining that the “American college was conceived from the start as more than narrowly ecclesiastical, with the larger aim to ‘develop the whole man…’ toward the formation of a person inclined to ‘unity, gentility, and public service” (pg. 40). This endeavor must be a democratic one. Faith in God and in His grace keeps one from placing judgment on who is or who is not worthy of development. There is an unseen force at work during learning—and it is up to that unseen force to enable and allow maturity to take place in one’s heart, mind, and body. The fact that this maturity is uncontrollable and dependent on grace allows teachers, students, and administrators a freedom in humility and democracy during the education process.
Not only does Delbanco stress those foundational principles of humility in response to hubris, but he also describes our current state of higher education as one of fragmentation and utility. The roots of this development can be traced back to when public doubt put colleges in a position of defense rather than authority: “Points that would have once gone without saying—the value of Christian education, of training in the Greek and Latin classics, of living at close quarters with one’s peers—were now proclaimed by colleges defending themselves against public doubt” (Delbanco, pg. 74). Instead of trusting the unseen forces, our public—the paying public—wanted to see measured growth and proof of their investment. Additionally, professors (experts in their field) cherish their loyalties not to a learning community, but to their fellow field experts. Specialization in the name of utility has led to fragmentation and fragmentation to a breakdown of what college should be about. The end of college education is not only to be useful somewhere, but to have answers to our life questions. We do not want our brothers and sisters capable of yielding seemingly infinite information but incapable of making distinctions of value much like our inventions of Google and Wikipedia. Indeed, “science. . .tells us nothing about how to shape a life or how to face death, about the meaning of love, or the scope of responsibility. It not only fails to answer such questions; it cannot ask them” (Delbanco, 2012, p. 99). It is when we encounter crises that we are reminded just how valuable those answers can be. Science can only get us so far. Delbanco finds that in the aftermath of our global financial crisis of 2008 many students are asking, “What, in fact, is useful for what?” (p. 148).
Delbanco asks for a return to the ethos of our founding colleges: a life of humility in tension with the reality of our hubris. He does not merely suggest this, but cries out: “We owe it to posterity to preserve and protect this institution. Democracy depends on it” (pg. 177). Indeed, college should serve as a community of learning–it is in community where our great questions are met with answers, or at least suggestions. Delbanco believes that the institution should not just be a place where answers may be sought, but a place that provides answers and ethical direction. Unfortunately, higher education institutions today do not assume that role often. Delbanco grieves this reality: “Unfortunately, by failing to reconnect their students to the idea that good fortune confers a responsibility to live generously toward the less fortunate, too many colleges are doing too little to help students cope with this siege of uncertainty” (p. 148). Ultimately, Delbanco desires that college not be a haven from the world, but a place where students share about their ideas of the meaningful life and find themselves fitting in and impacting a broader community (p. 177).
Quite a few critics have gone before Delbanco in offering cautions and suggestions for the institution of higher education. John Henry Newman (1899), Robert Maynard Hutchins (1936), and Clark Kerr (1963) have certainly influenced the dialogue and practice of higher education.
Kerr (1963) wrote at length about the idea of the “multiversity,” describing the direction of higher education as one moving away from “university.” What started as “e pluribus unum,” unity in multiplicity, has now become multiplicity in multiplicity. Kerr stressed that in order for a college to succeed, its leadership and mission must not only embody but also anticipate all the various directions of society, students, administration, faculty, and of course, the job market. Hutchins (1936) cautioned that colleges were moving in this direction as well. He warned that new technology and false notions of progress would lead to an “anti-intellectual university” and no longer regard the wisdom and knowledge of our ancient history. Newman (1899) offered the strongest critique of the multiversity. He believed that the highest aim of college is to give knowledge, knowledge that reflects the unifying truth of God. If higher education solely consists of methods and mechanical training, then students are losing an opportunity to engage in the greater gifts of truth and perhaps ultimately, their salvation.
So how should we respond to the reality we find ourselves in? How does Delbanco’s hope fit into the context of these former critiques? Delbanco calls for a return to unity. He desires that college would again provide communities for people to bring their pride to the table and interact with others to the point of humility.
Kerr (1963) says to forget unity. He believed we were too far down the road of the multiversity and that the only way to keep going was to claim ownership over the complex and maze-like institution. He described that those who are able to follow the various developments of our students, state of political affairs, and the job market are like “foxes.” Kerr declares this is the “century for the foxes” and says the fox is the only one “alert enough, clever enough, agile enough, not blinded by big visions, survivalist enough to make its way through all the complexities, all the traps [of higher education]” (1963, p. 226).
Hutchins, unlike Kerr, believes that there is yet a need for unity in our universities. He says, “I am not here arguing for any specific theological or metaphysical system. I am insisting that consciously or unconsciously we are always trying to get one” (p. 105). Like Delbanco, Hutchins affirms the study of ethics. Ethics are to be found in metaphysics; however he believes it will be close to a miracle to restore a return to this. Hutchins wrote, “[W]e may get in order the higher learning by removing from it the elements which disorder it today, and these are vocationalism and unqualified empiricism. If when these elements are removed we pursue the truth for its own sake in the light of some principle of order, such as metaphysics, we shall.. .be able to make a university a true center of learning…” (1936, p. 117). According to these conclusions, Delbanco would agree.
Newman believed in unity of theology—all knowledge should point to the truth of God. I believe that Delbanco stands with Newman in his desire for humility in learning. Delbanco cites Newman when he describes that “all branches of knowledge’ are ‘connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself, as being the acts and the work of the Creator” (pg. 41). Delbanco reimagines a spirit of higher education poised between hubris and humility and admits that his view of the continuing pertinence of its religious origins may seem at odds with how the original clerics intended it. He affirms that no matter how intolerant they were to other forms of Christianity, they remained true to their convictions. Delbanco writes about the implications of their beliefs: “They tried to honor their cardinal belief that God in his omnipotence, not man in his presumption, determines the fate of every human being, and therefore that no outward mark—wealth or poverty, high or low social position, credentials or lack thereof—tells anything about the inward condition of the soul (pg. 171).” It is this kind of belief, Delbanco asserts, that will sustain our vision for enduring democracy.
I echo Delbanco’s cry. I, too, hope for a turn to authentic learning where students are confronted with answers to life’s questions. Learning should be a place where our hubris meets humility, because without humility, learning is severely restricted. Higher education has become an institution that guards and maintains our classes and Americanized caste systems. Colleges are not answering great questions about the world; therefore, privileged powers do the answering for us. It is up to the people to decide if they agree or not. I desire to see more lateral learning, as Delbanco terms it. Students should enter college aware of their pride and seeking to test it. Humbly we must submit our ideas about the way things are to the community of our college learning. Through friendship, mentoring, relationship, and service, we can better understand what we are learning and how that learning affects the community.
Ultimately, good education should strive for a beautiful balance of both learning for learning’s sake and learning for the sake of utility. Near the end of his book, Delbanco writes, “A college should not be a haven from worldly contention, but a place where young people fight out among and within themselves contending ideas of the meaningful life, and where they discover that self-interest need not be at odds with concern for one another” (pg. 177). I agree with Delbanco: college should be a place where students are given opportunity to consult a myriad of sources in their pursuit to understand the wisdom of living. This sort of learning will hopefully prompt them to do the same long after they leave the arms of their alma mater.
By Joe Cirelli
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Given the precarious state in which higher education finds itself, a multitude of experts are chiming in to provide some semblance of direction for its future. In the case of Columbia Professor Andrew Delbanco, answers for the present and a hope for the future can only be ascertained through the diligent study of the past. His 2012 work College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be is an attempt to answer some of the major questions currently facing higher education through an investigation of how history has answered the question: What is college for? This essay will attempt to accomplish three distinct purposes: (1) Formally review Delbanco’s work; (2) Place Delbanco historically among other influential writers in higher education namely, John Henry Newman, Robert Hutchins, Clark Kerr, and Neil Postman; (3) and, finally, provide some original thoughts on Delbanco’s philosophies and prescribed remedies for higher education.
Perhaps the most appropriate way to consider Delbanco’s work is by beginning with the end, for he concludes his thoughts in the same manner in which he began: staking a claim for the ultimate end of higher education. Delbanco’s final push–his last cry, if one will– contends that college must be more than it has been made to be in recent decades. Higher education and the college experience must prepare students to live well in a democratic society. On this, he writes: “College should not be a haven from worldly contention, but a place where young people fight among and within themselves contending ideas of the meaningful life, and where they discover that self-interest need not be at odds with concern for one another” (Delbanco, 2012, p. 177).
For Delbanco, education is, and has always been, primarily about character development and socialization. As education’s primary end, development and socialization are the avenues through which one becomes a valuable asset to their society. Mirroring his final comments, Delbanco begins his dissertation by stating that college must be a place that is primarily about progression- emotional, psychological, intellectual, etc. According to Delbanco: “At its core, a college should be a place where young people find help for navigating the territory between adolescence and adulthood. It should provide guidance, but not coercion, for students trying to cross that treacherous terrain on their way to self-knowledge. It should help them develop qualities of mind and heart requisite for reflective citizenship” (Delbanco, 2012, p. 3).
Delbanco’s primary assertion is that education, in one way or another has always primarily been meant to grow and enhance the individual. In spite of this original calling, education has faltered in the view of Delbanco (and many others). Sandwiched in between his first and last claim of the end of education is an examination of how — and where — education has lost focus of its most innate calling: the cultivation of critical thinkers who bring to their society a depth of character, spirituality, and morality.
At the heart of his examination is a study of the effect systemic changes have had on the parties involved in higher education–students, faculty, staff, and administrators. This central tenet of his research speaks even further to Delbanco’s conviction that higher education–and indeed education, in general–is about people. Institutions and ideas are discussed, but only to the extent to which they affect the people involved in the process. For Delbanco, the changing face of higher education due to a growing student populace, an increasing reliance on technology, financial difficulties, and rampant individualism, primarily affect those most pivotal to the educational process: the people.
Each of these areas is reflected on by Delbanco in chapters two through five. Chapter two catalogues the rise of the university. Suddenly, the American college — which had for so long been predicated upon student interaction —was commencing additional endeavors such as new majors, research, and, eventually, branch campuses. The once-upon-a-time focus of education, the student was placed comfortably on the margins.
Chapter three identifies financial difficulties present in higher education. Education in the United States most recently (within the last 60 years, or so) has focused on access. As the gates have opened for previously underrepresented populations, higher education became for many a panacea, of sorts, capable of remedying the most injurious calamities. Many financial maladies have arisen due to the expansion of higher education, as well. Institutions are larger and in need of additional funding, creating a nebulous financial predicament where the quality of higher education cannot meet or exceed its price.
Chapters four and five consider increased dependence upon technology and rampant
individualism as plausible faults within the structures of higher education. Technology, for Delbanco, has not been properly managed so as to provide optimal service to education. Furthermore, it alienates the student from the teacher. Rampant individualism has been an unintended consequence of the personal development worked toward by faculty. Faculty worked to develop skills, abilities, and character, but without the proper end. Thus, students have been developed, in theory, for their own purposes.
In the end, Delbanco attributes a portion of blame for the state of higher education to each of these circumstances. The ultimate theme running through his work is that higher education needs to reconnect with its historical mission: the development of human beings. And to do this well, there must be an ultimate end which education serves. In his mind, that end is a more democratic society.
Placing Delbanco Historically
Each of the significant authors surveyed in the Masters of Arts in Higher Education program at Geneva College—John Newman, Richard Hutchins, Neil Postman, Andrew Delbanco, and Clark Kerr—present a unique view of purpose and philosophies of education. In a sense, each must be investigated on his own in order to better comprehend the nature of his claims. However, the most effective means by which to compare these authors is through a pseudo-continuum which places at one end the historical figures who believe the end of education to be the impartation of the knowledge of universal truth(s), and the other the figures who believe education can and does serve multiple purposes.
On the right (not in the American political sense) end of the continuum sits John Henry Newman. Newman’s educational philosophies have lasted more than a century-and-a-half. His belief in the nature of knowledge was two-fold. First, he believed all knowledge was connected. He coined the phrase “Circle of Knowledge” to illustrate that each sector of the academy– theology, art, music, history, science, etc.–was closely connected to the other sectors. In order for one to know truth, they must study each of these “portions” of truth. The removal any one parcel of knowledge came at the expense of the rest. Second, all truth came from God, and the study of a subject was, in fact the study of his created order.
Slightly to the left of Newman, one would find Robert Maynard Hutchins, former President of the University of Chicago. Much like Newman, Hutchins believed the ultimate end of education to be the development of individual for fruitful service. Also like Newman, Hutchins believed that knowledge had one source. Where Newman and Hutchins split is both on the nature of calling and the source of truth. Where Newman believed that one was called to serve God, Hutchins believed educated individuals were called to serve civil society. And, where Newman believed the source of truth was God and His Created Order, Hutchins believed truth originated in the Classics. In other words, the study of the Classics provided one with all the education necessary.
Neil Postman is positioned left of Hutchins. As a companion of Newman and Hutchins, Postman believed that education needed to serve an ultimate end. He posits his hypotheses in his work, The End of Education. Unlike Newman, however, Postman did not believe that knowledge of God was a sufficient end of education, nor did he agree with Hutchins’ assertion that the most effective (and only) form of education came from studying the classics. Instead, Postman felt that a more effective end to education came in the form of understanding cultures and the role each has played in the development of civilizations. Postman believed education from a Western perspective to be improperly suited for the Twenty-First Century. Therefore, education, in an effort to prepare students for life in this type of world, would need a curriculum that spoke of.and alluded to the value and contributions each culture has made to society.
Farthest to the left on the continuum sits Clark Kerr. This author would differ with each of the three previously mentioned in one very substantial facet: Where Newman, Hutchins, and Postman (to a certain degree) believed that education needed to serve one end, Kerr believed that education can and does serve a multitude of purposes. In describing his “multiversity,” Kerr speaks of an institution which serves various ends for various purposes. Kerr believed the multiversity was the optimal way for an institution to serve and lead society. The position of an educator in this system is simply to navigate the treacherous terrain surrounding the multiversity, and hold it together in the presence of obvious tension.
Delbanco, would fall between Hutchins and Postman on the continuum as it has been currently constructed. Like Hutchins, Delbanco believes in the ultimate end of education is the development of students in order to serve well as members of a democratic society. Where the connection between these two historians breaks down is how this development takes place. For Hutchins, this development takes place through the intentional study of the Classics, whereas, for Delbanco, the intentional development for which education has always been intended comes through effective interaction with faculty members. Ultimately, the main difference between these two historians of higher educations is the way in which education reaches its ultimate goal. For Hutchins, this comes through intellectual development, for that leads to better living. For Delbanco, education must be more holistic because students themselves are multifaceted individuals living in a very multifaceted world. In this regard, Delbanco mirrors Postman more than Hutchins, therefore placing him in between Hutchins and Postman on the pseudo-continuum of educational historians.
Critical Response to Delbanco
There are a number of tenets of Delbanco’s philosophy which I believe and find to be
extremely helpful in considering how to proceed with education in the state in which it finds itself. To begin with, I agree with Delbanco’s assertion that education is ultimate about character development. I accept this premise for two reasons. First, I believe this has always been the end of education and therefore education operates most effectively when it Is serving this end. Second, this premise is built on the philosophy that humans are beings capable of change and improvement. Adversely, that also indicates our ability to fall woefully short of our potential.
Secondarily, and closely tied to development of young people, I can back Delbanco’s assertion that education should teach effective living. In one sense, education should be a humanizing endeavor that seeks to promote equity, justice, and propel students to consider the meaning of the good life. The philosophies undergirding this idea of education are found all throughout Delbanco’s argument.
Lastly, I find myself agreeing with Delbanco’s assessment of why higher education is in the predicament in which it currently finds itself. As institutions continued to expand, the former systems in place were found to be insufficient. This created an increased dependency on technology, which further enabled higher education to move from its original purposes. In the end, perhaps–and almost certainly– the bubble has burst leaving professionals in the field to ponder how best to move into the future.
In spite of the uncertainty surrounding higher education, and my agreement with Delbanco on his perceived end of education and the problems precipitating this sphere, I cannot agree with his final analysis on a new end for education being democracy. Training students through an education led by democratic principles has the potential to do more harm than good.
I trouble Delbanco’s assertion with this question: Do we truly understand the contours of
democracy and how these contours play themselves out in our society? I question the viability of Delbanco’s argument because of our own ignorance as Americans, and because of the atrocities which have been inflicted in the supposed name of democracy. I worry that our lack of understanding coupled with the misuse of democracy in the past is an insufficient model for an educational system which promotes character development for the purposes of service.
In conclusion, I find many points in Delbanco’s argument to be rather deep with the potential to implement meaningful changes within this sphere of the world. However, Delbanco’s final plan for the end of education as education for life in democratic society to be both flawed and insufficient. I can greatly appreciate the author’s intent in trying to create and model a more influential education all experience which values the development of students for the purpose of serving their communities. In the end, I agree with Delbanco that education is a privilege which is accompanied by a necessary call to make society more equitable for everyone. Still, a more holistic model is needed in order for this end of education to have a real chance to bring about change.
By Jennifer Holbert
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Andrew Delbanco (2012) writes in the roles of both historian and professor, providing the perspective of his years of experience at Columbia University and Harvard, yet discusses major themes that have also been visited throughout the course of the Higher Education program at Geneva College. Delbanco expresses his own beliefs on how college ought to be while maintaining a determined stance on the importance of a liberal arts education.
Delbanco believes that a primary goal of higher education is the character development of undergraduate students. He makes this case throughout the book by detailing how a purposeful liberal arts curriculum, along with well-intentioned faculty, can foster the growth of sound character. He reduces and then ranks the reasons why college is important to three areas: economic growth, political stability and a love of learning. This is achieved by immersion into the subjects of art, history, philosophy and literature otherwise viewed by Delbanco as the “stepchildren of academia,” (p. 99). Students need to learn how to think and be able to discern what is worth knowing. In chapter two, “Origins,” he speaks to the importance and unpredictability of a third force in the classroom: when a student engages in learning. When this ignition of the mind, or breakthrough, comes alive, future learning is spurred, and Delbanco finds that the liberal arts education creates the most conducive environment for this to occur.
The desire for a return to a liberal arts core curriculum education also encompasses Delbanco’s belief in the need to tend to undergraduate students. College administrators make decisions that affect and reform programs and classes with little thought as to what is best for college students. With the advent of land grant schools and top tier research universities, undergraduates, particularly freshmen and sophomore students, are relegated to cash cows yielding a high return on a low investment. Delbanco recognizes how this emphasis directed away from undergraduates is misallocated in the role of higher education for character development. Frequently, the most esteemed professors often choose not to teach undergraduate courses resulting in the classes being relegated to inexperienced or part time instructors leaving the students feeling lost and bored. Not only are the schools neglecting to deliver on the promise of what may have initially enticed the students to attend said school, but are possibly affecting their attrition. When this scenario is coupled with an indistinguishable core curriculum, students can take almost any classes in any order resulting in feeling of being lost and carried away. One clear example of this was when I was helping a student transferring from the a major university to my community college. He showed me his first year transcripts including such classes in “Vampire Literature” and “Magic and Medicine,” in which he was interested in the content but did not learn anything to help guide his decision making for choosing a major. Delbanco names Google and Wikipedia as examples of similar providers of vast amounts of information without discernment of what is worth knowing or providing distinctions of value.
This subject of a liberal arts education feeds into another prevalent theme that Delbanco observes: colleges and universities are unrecognizable from their former selves. Whether due to financial need or competition with admissions selectivity, schools are adjusting priorities away from their founding missions. The idea of “universal commodification,” that is reducing people and experiences to something that can be packaged, marketed and sold, ultimately produces “a conception of themselves (colleges and universities) that is the reverse of where they began,” (p. 137). The first institutions of higher education in America were founded upon deep religious convictions and designed for reasons that are no longer relevant today, resulting in the schools often turning a blind eye to the founding mission of the institution. Delbanco tells a beautiful story of the how vast numbers of student soldiers who were wounded or killed in battle were honored by their respective institutions. In modern times, veterans comprise a minimal portion of the student body at HYP (Harvard, Yale and Princeton) and the outlook on military service has significantly changed at colleges and universities.
Another poignant issue for Delbanco is access for all. He ends chapter one, “What is College For,” with the following quote, “An American college is only true to itself when it opens its doors to all rich, middling and poor who have the capacity to embrace the precious chance to think and reflect before life engulfs them,” (p. 35). Succinctly put, college is not for everyone, but as it exists now, postsecondary education in the United States propagates the economic divide in our country. With all attributes being equal, or even some more in favor of those from lower socioeconomic status, the rich still have greater access to college education than others. This disparity was starting to come into focus until the recession of 2008 where concentration was put on keeping the doors open.
Many times while reading College, I thought of Robert Hutchins and how Delbanco is the positive alter-ego to Hutchins’ negativity. They both champion a liberal arts education and the need for colleges to maintain integrity to their respective missions. Delbanco and Hutchins believe in the importance of teaching students how to think for themselves, summarized in my favorite quote from Hutchins, “An educated man knows what he is doing and why” (p. 51). Hutchins sees the role of the academy as cultivating intellect, thereby instilling character in students, but only to those he deems worthy. Unlike Hutchins, Delbanco is fond of undergraduate students and believes that they are worthy of the character development provided through an ideal higher education.
I also think the two professors would agree with the influential role that finances play on decision making at colleges and universities. Whether institutions are chasing their higher ranking counterparts on lists such as the U.S. News and World Report or funneling money into “fine associations, fine buildings, green grass and good food,” (Hutchins, p. 29), colleges are continually straying from their purpose in pursuit of recruits or prestige. Both Delbanco and Hutchins believe in a fundamental education based on the classics and a study of history. Hutchins is clear that he does not see a need for other activities outside of the classroom, such as student life and activities. Delbanco does not reflect much on the role and relevance of student affairs, and I am curious if we would agree with Hutchins in this respect.
I agreed with many of the premises that Delbanco raises prior to reading the book, but found some of the defenses for the conclusions enlightening. One example Delbanco uses is the idea that schools are not only making decisions in conscience for what is best for the students but what is best for the institution to perpetuate itself. I understand that colleges and universities need to be financially secure and, like other institutions, “colleges are no more independent of the larger culture than any other institution,” (p. 147) yet this idea distorts the principality of higher education. Even if colleges did consider what was in the best interest of students, with the advent of multiversities, how could they find consensus on what that would be? I also enjoyed the distinction he made between the belief in civic duty and honor between current time and previous centuries. I wonder if Delbanco is implying that the lack of civility, duty and honor found in today’s college students is attributed to the current generation or more applicable to the class system that has developed with those of lower SES being more likely to join the military than their more privileged counterparts.