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Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great…

Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education

by Harry Lewis

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[T]he test of a civilization based on liberty is the use men make of the liberty they enjoy, and it is a failure not only if men use it to do wrong, but also if they use it to do nothing, or as little as is possible to maintain themselves in personal comfort. This is true of our institutions as a whole and of the American college in particular.... the warfare of civilization is waged not more upon the battlefield than in the workshop, at the desk, in the laboratory, and the library.... the crucial matter in civilization is the preparedness of young men for the work of the world; not only an ample supply of the best material, but a product moulded on the best pattern, tempered and finished to the highest point of perfection. —A. Lawrence Lowell, in a speech to Yale freshmen, 1916
Remember that our University was founded for the public good and that it has a great history—that steady progress is essential to its moral and intellectual health and that the health and true welfare of our University and our country go hand in hand. Thus have they been made and thus only shall they endure. —Henry Lee Higginson, presenting the Harvard Union to the University, October 15, 1901
To the memory of my parents and Marlyn's for what they gave us
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America's great research universities are the envy of the world—and none more so than Harvard. Never before has the competition for excellence been fiercer. But while striving to be unsurpassed in the quality of its faculty and students, Universities have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to turn young people into adults who will take responsibility for society. In Excellence Without a Soul, Harry Lewis, a Harvard professor for more than thirty years and Dean of Harvard College for eight, draws from his experience to explain how our great universities have abandoned their mission. Harvard is unique; it is the richest, oldest, most powerful university in America, and so it has set many standards, for better or worse. Lewis evaluates the failures of this grand institution—from the hot button issue of grade inflation to the recent controversy over Harvard's handling of date rape cases—and makes an impassioned argument for change. The loss of purpose in America's great colleges is not inconsequential. Harvard, Yale, Stanford—these places drive American education, on which so much of our future depends. It is time to ask whether they are doing the job we want them to do.
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Discusses how Harvard University, by focusing on competition for professors and financial support and a consumer model of education, has failed to live up to its primary mission of educating students to become responsible members of society.

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An edition of this book was published by PublicAffairs.

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