Higher education in America is an economic bubble that’s about to burst, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has been saying all summer. When Brooklyn College—a college with an undergraduate Jewish enrollment of twenty-seven percent—assigns a book to all incoming freshmen to serve as the basis of their “common experience,” and when that book is by a radical pro-Palestinian who claims that the government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” you begin to suspect Reynolds may just be right.
The problem is not the assignment. In my experience, few if any of the Brooklyn Collge freshmen will even bother to open the book. I can remember the title of the book that was assigned to all incoming freshmen at U.C. Santa Cruz the year I went up there (it was Arthur Koestler’s Act of Creation), but that’s the sum of what I remember about the book. I bought a copy, but never heard it discussed anywhere on campus. Same for the various books that were assigned to incoming freshmen at Texas A&M University over the years. After the English department made a fuss over choosing them, they were never mentioned again.
The problem is the reaction to Brooklyn College’s choice, as reported by Bruce Kesler (h/t: Instapundit). Donna F. Wilson, dean of undergraduate studies, replied to objections from the retired sociologist Werner Cohn by saying:
Yesterday I made the personal acquaintance of such immunity. An English professor at a nearby college dismissed the complaints of the writing majors in a senior seminar, who did not see the point in reading Jacques Derrida.
Rather than an economic “bubble” that is about to “burst,” it is this self-satisfied immunity to public incomprehension and criticism which may at last be fading. There is no way to defend the time and expense of a four-year education which is founded, not upon its economic benefit nor upon the freedom-making greatness of the texts and authors that are assigned, but upon the soi-disant privilege of the book-choosing class.
Note: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Stay awhile, why don’t you? Have a look around. If you are interested in academic questions, this post on why university faculties are dominated by the Left might be to your taste. And here the opposite question is considered: namely, why aren’t there more conservatives in the university?