The Journal of Higher Education 75.3 (2004) 364-365
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The "city of intellect" referred to in this book are the top 100 or so American universities—the research-oriented universities. Editor Steven Brint has assembled a star cast of authors to reflect on the current situation and future prospects for the research universities. This book is concerned with how knowledge is created, disseminated, organized, and funded at the top levels. The chapters are all organized around this set of concerns. And most of the analyses are not especially optimistic that the future is very bright. On the other hand, none takes the position of management guru Peter Drucker, who has argued that the American university will, in its present form, disappear in a few decades because it is no longer relevant to the knowledge-based economy of the twenty-first century and will be overtaken by distance education—although one chapter comes quite close.
While all of the chapters in this book discuss in broad terms future trends in higher education—ranging from the role of distance education and the use of technology for research and instruction, patterns of disciplinary change, the role of the market, and issues of governance and curriculum—and they are all essays based on research in the social sciences, there is considerable variation in the topics considered and the perspectives of the authors.
Clark Kerr provides an effective, and sobering, introduction to this book. He analyzes the current condition and future possibilities of the American university, and he is not optimistic. Kerr's viewpoint has gotten more and more pessimistic since the publication of his classic Uses of the University in 1963. Kerr sees a growing segmentation of academe—a pattern which he himself pioneered with the California Master Plan that divided public higher education in California into the elite and research-oriented University of California system, the California State University for the mid-range, and the community colleges for the rest. Kerr argues that the higher education market has become increasingly differentiated and that this trend will continue. He also worries about whether academe can respond effectively, and with sufficient speed, to the new challenges. Decisive action, he points out, is not a hallmark of traditional patterns of academic governance.
There is a considerable emphasis in this book on the academic disciplines—a topic not usually at the top of the agenda when considering today's challenges. It is entirely appropriate to think about the disciplines, and the multidisciplines as well, since the way we create, classify, and ultimately teach about knowledge is at the core of the academic enterprise. Sheila Slaughter looks at how the curriculum is made, and how it is transformed, in American universities. She looks as well at new fields such as women's studies, as well as more traditional fields. Slaughter argues that a variety of external forces, including the "market," government funding agencies, foundations, and others, are redefining the disciplines and reshaping the curriculum. Andrew Abbott focuses more on forces internal to the university in his analysis of the future of the disciplines. [End Page 364] He looks at how the disciplines were established and points, as does Slaughter, at the powerful external forces affecting the universities.
Not surprisingly, technology is a key theme in this volume. While most of the chapters in The City of Intellect are based on careful research and are generally respectful of the university as an institution as an ideal, Richard Lanham provides a full-scale critique of the contemporary university. Starting with the assumption that the Internet will fundamentally transform the university, he, like management guru Peter Drucker, argues that the traditional university is dysfunctional and will not survive. He critiques the idea that education offered in a classroom setting is the most effective means of...