In this week’s New York Review of Books, Andrew Hacker looks at the desire for wealth and prestige in two facets of American life: business and academia. In Pursuit of Knowledge by Deborah Rhode, in Hacker’s words “a spirited book on what students and parents are—and aren’t—getting for their investments in higher education,” provides him with a lens into the desires and motivations of the country’s academics.
Although academia is one of America’s most trusted institutions, and higher education in the US is widely regarded as among the best in the world, Rhode exposes deep flaws in how our universities are structured and run. Because of tensions between research and teaching, the pull of the private sector, a lack of consensus on how to provide students with the best education, Rhode argues that students are not being very well educated by our universities, and shows how difficult it will be to change that.
From tenured professors who see no reason to work to students who choose a school for its dorm rooms, from adjunct professors who work incredibly hard for little pay to articles that devote “a third of [their] space to listing the names and institutional affiliations of 437 authors,” academia is revealed to be a troubled, if well meaning, institution.