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This is without question THE best book I have ever read concerning higher education, about what it proclaims to be and do, about what it actually does and the wide gulf that separates the two. I found this gem of a book via Impostors In The Temple written my Martin Anderson which is excellent in its own right, but from a different angle that this book.Smith is a history professor, strikes me as having a streak of dissidence and defiance and honor that is not terribly prevalent in academics. Seems to stride with the working and common man over the powerful and elite as well. I always think its important to be aware of the authors background and biases and their perspective. Smith is an academic whistle blower.You dont often see discussion of the spirit or soul or psyche of the educational complex, they try to limit the talks to what is objective and scientific and can be measured and Smith calls them out on it, there is no such thing as scholarly objectivity. Smith is quite critical and uses withering comments to call attention to his insights. You can tell he doesnt hold the system in high regards and he used plain and forceful language to help you understand why.I have two degrees, have worked in higher education for over 10 years on and off and this man tells it like it is. It confirms my own insights and suspicions about what it really going on. Heres a sample from page 294 - Specialization is another common disease of the spirit - that is, excessive specialization at the cost of any capacity for generalization or any awareness of the unity of life.Knowledge for its own sake, which denies any moral structure in the world, any absolutes, any finalities. Everything is relative, of equal importance or unimportance. You cannot indefinitely omit one-half or more of human experience without paying a heavy price. Then, finally, there is simply the brute fact of size, the disease of giantism. True learning is clearly incompatible with immensity. Formalism, lifeless routines, bureaucratic obtuseness, coldness of heart and impoverishment of spirit are the inevitable consequences of excessive size.On the cover of this book is a portion of a mural (this is panel #17: Gods of Modern Civilization) painted by Jesse Clemente Orozco as part of 150 foot work which is at Dartmouth University called The Epic of American Civilization. This depiction gives me the chills, but yet is quite accurate and telling of the real spirit of higher education, not what I call the illusion of care or the illusion of relevance which youll hear coming form those with vested interests. Take a look at this image - [...] and you will see the death force, that which literally kills the spirit and all that it comes into contact with. My conclusion about higher education coincide with Smiths, that it is a sterile, barren environment populated my almost pathological and sadistic/masochistic personality types who have little to offer of real use. Its almost as if they are an endangered species hiding in a wildlife refuge from reality. Which would be fine, if they werent entrusted to teach and develop real intellect and potential, a charge that they have betrayed. They need to be exposed and held accountable and this book sheds much needed light on these vermin.
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