Forty years ago, I published a little book called THE IDEAL OF THE UNIVERSITY in which, reflecting on my experiences as a student and professor at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Columbia, I attempted to think through the principles underlying my vision of university education. My mode of discourse was utopian, both in the good sense of being inspired by my conception of the ideal forms toward which I thought education ought to strive, and in the bad sense – mocked by Engels in his little book, SOCIALISM: UTOPIAN
For all of those forty years, I have continued to pursue my vision, in my classroom teaching, through a series of undergraduate and graduate programs that I created or had a hand in creating, and in my ceaseless musing and daydreaming about what a truly ideal college or university would look like.
I am no closer now than I was in 1969 to seeing my dreams become a reality. Indeed, in the past two decades or so, everything in higher education, worldwide, has been moving in precisely the wrong direction. The corporatization of education has proceeded apace, with profitability replacing knowledge as the measure of institutional success and students ever more strongly dissuaded by crippling loan burdens from following the arc of their curiosity.
Nevertheless, as I pass the middle of my seventy-sixth year, I find myself turning more and more frequently to the dream I have for so long cherished of an educational community that embodies the ideals to which I have devoted my life. This little blog, now visited regularly, I do believe, by at least eleven people, and perhaps a few more, offers me a forum for the deliberate articulation of that dream. In a series of postings, I shall spell out my vision with as much specificity as I can muster. I hope that for those of you who read this, it will be a source of reflection and even inspiration, and that a few of the people who have found something of value in my book over the past four decades will find their way to this site, in order to discover what more I have been thinking all that time.
My plan is to elaborate the vision in a series of postings, each of which is accompanied by a link to the entire series preceding it. [I believe I have figured out how to do this, without seeking the help of single young person!] I very much welcome your thoughts and responses, should you feel so moved. I remind you that my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org