Magazine February 22, 2010, Issue

The Hollow and the Ivy

Students in front of a fountain at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., September 21, 2009 (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University, by Louis Menand (Norton, 176 pp., $24.95)

What accounts for the de­cline of humanities and liberal-arts education on college and university cam­­puses? Why have faculties found it so difficult to agree on a replacement for the core curriculum of old? Why do professors tend to have the same politics? These are some of the questions raised by Louis Menand in this extended essay. Menand, a professor of English at Harvard and author of a prize-winning book on William James and pragmatism, speaks with some au­thor­ity on these questions by virtue of having chaired a Harvard faculty committee charged with revising the general-education curriculum. That experience impressed upon

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