Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Good Old College Days

Rick Perlstein has an essay on college life which the New York Times Magazine will publish in September; in a clever marketing ploy, they're inviting college students to submit responses for the issue.

Perlstein's essay reminded me of Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, except backwards, where the aging liberal laments the decline of the good old times when campus radicals were radical, before corporatization infected everything. I'll admit that I'm a little skeptical of these nostalgic writings, whether from the left or the right, because the past was never anything like what they remember or imagine, and the present is never quite so bad. Personally, I think the 60s upheavals were a terrible time for academia, full of mindless violence and intolerance from the left and the right. Today's polite generation is much better, I think. And, of course, the University of Chicago can never be extrapolated to the wider world. When students try to use Chicago-style thinking in their protests against the administration, I think that's very clever, not a decline. Yes, the U of C is becoming much more corporate and much less distinctive, to the lament of both the left and the right (back in 1999 the left and right united together for our "Fun-In" protest). But for all the flaws and corporatization of higher education today, I think it's better than it was in the past, whose faults tend to disappear in reverent memories.

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